A tour guide leads eager young gypsies visiting the Gypsy Museum, in the skit that opens the 2002 Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Gypsy of the Year. She — no, make that, he — is producer Fran Weissler (played by Seth Rudesky), introducing her charges to the history of Broadway's chorines and chorus boys.
That history includes the up-from-the-chorus triumphs of Tommy Tune, Bebe Neuwirth and Donna McKechnie (who returns to dance her famous A Chorus Line number, "The Music and the Mirror"). Deidre Goodwin recreates Neuwirth's dance in Sweet Charity, Sean Martin Hingston leads a number from On the Town; and Mary MacLeod is Gwen Verdon's Lola in the Damn Yankees number, which also featured the three of the recent Gypsy robes and a performance by Aida's Felicia Finley. Aida hosts the Gypsy of the Year Dec. 9 and 10 performances in its house, the Palace Theatre.
The annual skit parade was, as always, a mixture of serious and playful numbers, highlighting the pressing issues of the day, with a special focus on non-Equity tour casting and the so-called "special Equity contracts."
Skit highlights include: The Phantom of the Opera, which put in a bid for the 2012 New York City Olympics with a "mixed rhythm gymnastics" event, performed to "Also Spract Zarathustra," played by the worst possible non-union brass section.
Thoroughly Modern Millie's Sutton Foster, accompanied by a chorus singing "Away in a Manager," read a poem about all the great performers who have used her dressing room toilet, ranging from Bernadette Peters and Julie Andrews to Victor Garber, Jerry Lewis and Tom Wopat.
Movin' Out's Elizabeth Parkinson and Keith Roberts danced one of Twyla Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs, "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)," dedicated to the dancer, William Marrié, killed in a motorcycle accident.
Flower Drum Song presented a snippet from the "Year of the Pig, Asian Music Awards" featuring performers from "'N Chink," with performers dressed like members of 'N Sync (one cast member was even in full-on Mark regalia, ala Rent's Joey Fatone).
Hairspray's Katy Grenfell sang an ode to the big girls in her show in a number called "Fat Is Where It's At," in which a chorus line of large ladies (some of which were played, in good Hairspray fashion, by the male cast) vie for Marissa Jaret Winokur's role.
Oklahoma! created a memorial dance to Adolph Green while the cast sang "Some Other Time." Green's widow Phyllis Newman (whose Women's Health Initiative is also benefitted by BC/EFA) movingly sang part of the song.
The Aida cast danced to the number "I'll Stay Strong." The skit also featured actual testimony from persons aided by the Actors Fund and the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative.
Naked Boys Singing!, known for their nude skits, came out dressed for their "We're Still Nude," which ended, naturally, with the boys getting nude with only BC/EFA collection buckets to cover their "full monty."
The always acidic Urinetown took shots at everyone on Broadway from Hairspray (whose uniquely cast chorus is never going to work again) to Thoroughly Modern Millie—Little Sally wonders why they didn't win best skit at Easter Bonnet last year even though they won Best Book of a Skit, Best Score of a Skit and Best Director of a Skit. to which Officer Lockstock replied "because Easter Bonnet is partial and biased, not at all like the Tonys."
Metamorphoses tenderly recreated the myth of Achilles to "In the Heart," sung by Sinead O'Connor.
Les Miserables, in their final appearance at a BC/EFA fundraiser (the show will close in March, missing out on the Easter Bonnet in April), was introduced, via a recording, by original Jean Valjean Colm Wilkinson. The actor announced that Les Miserables has raised $1.5 million for BC/EFA in their years on Broadway. The cast, joined by one hundred former cast members, sang the musical's closing number, "Do You Hear the People Sing?."
Other numbers include Cabaret's comic dance "A Dresser and His Diva"; Mamma Mia!'s interpretation of Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror"; 42nd Street's Bjork ballet, set to a number from movie musical "Dancer in the Dark"; The Producers' Top Ten Reasons Why We Don't Have a Gypsy Skit; Betty Rules's interpretation of "Feed Your Head"; The Lion King's dance "Electric Musical Revival"; and Hollywood Arms' Carol Burnett Show parody performed by the cast's children.
Awards are presented in two categories: for best skit and for most money raised for BC/EFA. They will be presented Dec. 11 at the 3:30 PM show.
Last season, Mamma Mia! won the fundraising award, bringing in $174,088, topping The Producers ($144,331), 42nd Street ($143,515), The Phantom of the Opera ($125,355) and The Lion King ($124,325). Lion King, whose chorus members strutted to a dance music rendition of "America," took home the honor of being named Gypsy of the Year.
For further information, visit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS on the web at http://www.bcefa.org.
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA) is the nation's leading industry based, not-for-profit AIDS fundraising and grant making organization.
—By Christine Ehren
and Andrew Gans