The soon-to-close musical Jersey Boys gave Broadway a golden farewell handshake, winning the award as top fundraiser by collecting $322,211 for the 28th annual Gypsy of the Year competition, which benefits the charity Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
The cast of Hamilton added to its trove of awards, taking the honor for Best Stage Presentation with a dance to a poem by creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, pondering the promise of the lyrics of the anthem “America,” as company members performed a dance choreographed by Karla Puno Garcia. “Who said it’s free? Not me. ‘America’ was never America to me. But I swear it will be.”
The 2016 Gypsy of the Year, which took place December 5 and 6 at the New Amsterdam Theatre, collected a grand total of $4,492,636, landing at the fifth-highest total in the event’s history.
The second-highest fundraiser among all shows was the Broadway company of Hamilton, whose collection baskets brought in $293,186.
First runner-up for Best Stage Presentation went to The Lion King, whose “Alone” featured dancers in black outfits and red scarves to suggest red AIDS ribbons, performing L. Steven Taylor’s piece about facing adversity alone, and promising not to let others suffer the same fate.
Other top Broadway musical fundraisers were The Book of Mormon with $202,844 and The Lion King, with $116,361.
Top national tour fundraisers included Wicked (Munchkinland tour) with $268,802, Book of Mormon (Jumamosi tour) with $164,383, Fun Home with $147,065, and The Lion King (Gazelle company) with $146,600.
The top-earning Broadway plays were Oh, Hello on Broadway with $127,633, followed by The Humans with $92,776. The top fundraisers among Off-Broadway shows were Cagney, with $28,125, followed by Avenue Q, with $24,323.
These are the figures as announced from the stage December 6. Some changes may be announced when accountants review totals received.
As has become custom, the afternoon show featured a vaudeville-like mixture of satirical skits, inspirational songs and virtuoso dance numbers, all performed by the “gypsies,” the Broadway dancers who go from show to show and provide singing and dancing support to the leads.
This year's Gypsy of the Year featured more than 100 Broadway and Off-Broadway performers. Shows and dance companies that rolled out original numbers and skits included Avenue Q, Fiddler on the Roof, School of Rock—The Musical, Waitress, Paramour, The Color Purple, Chicago, Jersey Boys, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo for Dancers Responding to AIDS, On Your Feet! and Wicked.
The mood at the event was more restrained that in recent years. Poems, serious readings and dance presentations outnumbered the signature comedy skits.
Among the highlights:
- The opening number paid homage to the 1968 musical Promises, Promises. Original company members, Baayork Lee, Donna McKechnie, and Margo Sappington, recreated part of the Michael Bennett choreography for the holiday-themed number “Turkey Lurkey Time,” joined by a corps of young dancers. The dance turned into a skit involving a bullying orange Oompa-Loompa from the forthcoming musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, who bore a strange resemblance to a certain recent presidential candidate. It was the first of the Donald J. Trump references that cropped up in many of the presentations. McKechnie blasted him as “you xenophobic Cheeto!” At the conclusion of the skit, the Oompa-Loompa decided to see a Broadway show, observing “People suggested Hamilton, but I think I’ll just grab Cats”—an oblique reference to his infamous comment about assaulting women.
- The original star of another Michael Bennett musical, Sheryl Lee Ralph of Dreamgirls, led the Wicked company in a performance of the song “Family.” She gave a heartfelt speech recalling the ecstasy of appearing in the hit Dreamgirls, while enduring the agony of the early years of the AIDS epidemic and watching helplessly as friends and acquaintances died around her from what was then referred to as “the gay disease.” She asked audience members who are able to walk arm in arm with their lovers and who are able today to marry legally, to remember “my friends…who lived and died and fought for that right.”
- The cast of On Your Feet! interrupted a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance with a dance in which they sang “Seasons of Love” in Spanish while wearing shirts emblazoned with phrases used by Trump and his supporters during the campaign, including “bad hombre,” “illegal,” “terrorist” and “nasty woman.”
- The talented kids of School of Rock—The Musical did a parody of the Hamilton opening number, complaining about their rival show vacuuming up all the year’s awards, e.g. “there’s a million things we haven’t won.”
- Led by their star, Jessie Mueller, members of the Waitress cast sang an original Christmas carol, “Love Is Christmas” written by the show’s composer Sara Bareilles and filled with lush, close harmony.
- Gil Faizon and Nick Kroll, the two comedians from Oh, Hello on Broadway, turned the usually-dry introduction of the judges into a 15-minute comedy riff on the scandals of “Bridway,” as they call it in their idiosyncratic pronunciation. Mueller picked up on it and called it “Bridway” when giving out the awards.
- The cast of Fiddler on the Roof performed a where-are-they-now riff for the characters in their show, in which Motel “rises to the top of the fashion industry” and Hodel sings “Don’t Cry for Me, Anatevka.” The skit ended with Yente trying to imagine a future for Tevye’s two youngest daughters, Bielke and Shprintze, to the tune of Hello, Dolly!
- Hosting for the ninth time, Seth Rudetsky paid homage to the late Broadway leading lady Florence Henderson, deconstructing her performance in "The Sound of Music” on the 1971 Tony Awards broadcast.
- Powerful singers from The Color Purple offered a soulful sextet on the song “I Won’t Complain.”
- Appearing on behalf of Dancers Responding to AIDS, Joshua Thake of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo brought some humor into the proceedings with a parody of Fokine’s The Dying Swan, struggling through his splits clad in a tutu that kept shedding feathers.
- The finale spot went to Jersey Boys, making its final Gypsy of the Year appearance, and saying farewell by filling the stage with several dozen actors who have appeared in the show throughout its run. Their mass performance of “Who Loves You” was upstaged by a tiny girl, one of the many “Jersey Babies” born to cast members over the years, who got into the spirit of the event by performing her own ad-libbed choreography.
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