Imagine a musical that starred Julie Andrews, Carol Channing, Betty Buckley, Donna McKechnie, John Cullum, Melba Moore, Davis Gaines, Andrea McArdle, Donna Murphy, Tony Roberts, Lynn Redgrave, Alan Campbell, Joe Piscopo, Tony Randall, Lou Diamond Phillips -- not to mention the corps of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Sounds like a million dollars? That's just what Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS earned ($1,304,525 to be exact -- the all-time record for a BC/EFA event) with their tenth annual Easter Bonnet Competition April 8 and 9. The show featured all those stars, plus members of the casts of 31 shows, in a two-hour extravaganza of music and comedy on the set of Beauty and the Beast at Broadway's Palace Theatre.
Playbill On-Line was there.
Each of the shows competed, not only to create the biggest, wildest, most imaginative Easter Bonnet and to present it with an inspirational song or a Broadway tune parody, but to collect money -- generally via curtain speeches in the weeks before the Competition -- to help BC/EFA help AIDS sufferers and to support research into a cure for the disease. The winner in both categories was Victor/Victoria, which raised $170,000 and designed a half dozen hats that came together to create a single mega-hat with the show's logo. Vic/Vic also won in the two top categories in BC/EFA's fall Gypsy of the Year Competition. Star Julie Andrews was on hand to present the award to her cast -- with the help of her Thoroughly Modern Millie co-star Carol Channing and National Actors Theatre producer Tony Randall.
And now, some highlights from the fun: * The cast of Sunset Boulevard staged an elaborate and surreal sequel to the show, Sunset II, in which Norma Desmond's murder trial winds up looking very much like the O.J. Simpson trial. Soon, other fading stars get the idea to start killing people for publicity. Tommy Tune, in Busker Alley costume, shot his own foot. Sonny & Cher sang "I Shot You, Babe." Somehow, one of England's mad cows got involved in the carnage. At the climax of the show, unannounced, star Betty Buckley appeared wearing a huge silver bonnet with Joe Gillis's head on it, and singing the line from the show's Salome musical about wanting his "head upon a platter."
* Grease! made unabashed fun of its producer, Fran Weissler, and her policy of moving pop stars in and out of the show at a rapid clip. To the tune of "The Telephone Hour" from Bye Bye Birdie they sang about their frustrations at reading in the paper who their new guest stars will be and preparing for the "weekly put-in." Their bonnet consisted of a stack of fluorescent hula hoops topped with a revolving door.
* Campiest moment: Belle from Beauty and the Beast began singing the number "Belle" from the show: "Little town, it's a quiet village./ Every day like the one before./ Little town, full of . . . Village People . . . Then, out of nowhere, the actors dressed as the disco group The Village People appeared, and Belle joined them in hustling to the group's hit "YMCA," but with the lyric changed to "BC/EFA."
* The cast of Victor/Victoria sang a medley of Julie Andrews' hits from Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady and others, then, again unannounced, Andrews herself appeared, in tuxedo, from the men's chorus to a huge ovation.
* State Fair poked fun at the hog contest that forms the centerpiece of their show's plot. Blue Boy's celebrity competitors were heard from, including Porky Pig, Miss Piggy, Babe, et al. One of the "pigs," in a mask, sang a version of "Tomorrow" from Annie: "Tomorrow, tomorrow/ I'm pork chops tomorrow/ If I don't win . . ." The actress then removed the mask to reveal herself as Andrea McArdle, the original Annie.
* The Four Plaids from the national tour of Forever Plaid did an insane medley of tunes that at one point managed to combine "Pick a Little" from The Music Man with "As If We Never Said Goodbye" from Sunset Boulevard. Metro and Chu Chem also were cited.
* The Royal Shakespeare Company, now appearing on Broadway in A Midsummer Night's Dream did a parody of Ian McKellen's modern-dress Richard III film, with Richard fighting not for the crown of England, but for, well, an Easter Bonnet.
* Cutest number: Two of the youngest cast members of The King and I, Brandon Ngai and Amy Tai, appeared in scale models of the King and Mrs. Anna costumes and performed the entire "Shall We Dance" scene, complete with dialog. At the end, stars Lou Diamond Phillips and Donna Murphy appeared in dressing gowns, supposedly grumpy that their parts had been stolen, and chased the imps around the stage.
* The most moving moment was created by the cast of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which told the story of a dying Japanese girl who believed that if she folded 1000 origami cranes, she would live. Singing the original song "A Garland of Hope," the cast applied the story to the AIDS crisis by folding paper cranes on stage, then coming on with a hat that consisted of a spiral of hundreds of tiny paper cranes.
Picasso at the Lapin Agile won in the Off-Broadway category by raising $44,690. Runners-up in the Broadway category were Sunset Boulevard with $104,055, Les Miserables with $90,070 and Phantom of the Opera with $87,050.