Watch Video: Avenue Q Pokes Fun at Lion King in Easter Bonnet Competition

News   Watch Video: Avenue Q Pokes Fun at Lion King in Easter Bonnet Competition
 
The 29th Annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition raised a new all-time record $4,711,386 in six weeks of nightly curtain-call appeals. That total eclipsed the $4.53 million previous record set one year ago. The number was revealed at the April 21 performance of skits, songs, dances and giant hats that make up the unique fundraiser-show, at the Minskoff Theatre.

This year's top fundraising award went to the national touring company of Wicked (Munchkinland Company) which raised $348,552, the most of all 52 participating Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring shows.

But the big upset came in the category of Outstanding Bonnet Presentation, which was won by the Off-Broadway company of the long-running Avenue Q, whose skit, "The Bonnet of Life," parodied the opening number of perennial Easter Bonnet winner, The Lion King. Here is a video clip of the winning skit:

The winner for Outstanding Bonnet Design went to the Broadway musical Jersey Boys, for a hat with a globe of the Earth, illustrating the show's worldwide success.

Special guests Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), Helen Mirren (The Audience), Matthew Morrison (Finding Neverland) and Andy Karl (On the Twentieth Century) presented the awards at the Minskoff following the two Easter Bonnet performances (one on Monday, one on Tuesday). Significantly, national touring companies continued the trend of contributing an ever-growing share of the Easter Bonnet take. This year, 16 national tours raised $2.3 million of the $4.7 million grand total, while the 36 Broadway and Off-Broadway shows raised a collective $2.4 million.

The new total for 29 years of events is $63 million.

Some other facts and figures:

Broadway Musicals that Raised the Most:
Book of Mormon at $325,556; Aladdin at $150,869; The Phantom of the Opera with $147,178 and Jersey Boys with $142,765

Touring Shows That Raised the Most:
Wicked (Munchkinland Company) at $348,552; Book of Mormon (Latter Day Company) at $347,943; Kinky Boots with $265,917; and Book of Mormon (Jumamosi Company) at $168,545.

Broadway Plays That Raised the Most:
Fish in the Dark with $140,374 and It's Only a Play with $120,720.

Off-Broadway Shows That Raised the Most:
Hamilton at $96,819 and Into the Woods at $29,084

Dollar totals may change after a detailed accounting is completed.

Similar to BC/EFA's annual Gypsy of the Year event, the Easter Bonnet Competition presents cast members from various shows performing skits, songs and/or dances frequently spoofing themselves and other shows before unveiling their elaborate "Easter Bonnet" presentation (literally, a trouper wearing an outsized novelty bonnet).

<i>Jersey Boys</i> won Outstanding Bonnet Design
Jersey Boys won Outstanding Bonnet Design Photo by Monica Simoes

Modern dance pieces and funny skits laced with insider jokes once again predominated at Easter Bonnet.

The event opened with "Broadway in Vegas," directed and choreographed by Rommy Sandhu and written by Stacia Fernandez and Jim Hindman, which poked fun at the truncated versions of Broadway shows presented in the gambling mecca. The company performed microscopic versions of a dozen Broadway shows, singing "There's no show like a short show" to the tune of "There's No Business Like Show Business." The Vegas Book of Mormon consisted of the cast doing its trademark, doorbell-ringing "Hello!," followed immediately by the word "Goodbye." In the finale, the puppeteer from Hand To God appeared in a bonnet designed to look like a roulette wheel while the show's satanically outspoken hand puppet asked, "Does this hat make me look queer?" It then answered audience reaction with a cheerful expletive.

Runner-up for the Outstanding Bonnet Presentation came from the cast of Jersey Boys, celebrating its tenth anniversary on Broadway this year. The company gave comically exaggerated examples of how the show is being performed around the world, including a mariachi version of "Sherry Baby" supposedly from Mexico, a liederhosen-clad version from Germany, a spliff-smoking version from Jamaica, topped by the grand finale, a Bollywood-style rendition of "My Boyfriend's Back."

Taking up the slack from absent "Bonnet" regulars Officer Lockstock and Little Sally, Ann Harada (Cinderella) and Micah Stock (It's Only a Play), served as presenters who laced their repartee with insults, mainly playing on Stock's youth and Harada's veteran status. Harada was dressed in a silver lame gown while Stock wore jeans and a plaid shirt, a look he described as "matinee lumberjack."

When she upbraided him for not getting dressed up, he returned wearing a grey cummerbund, which he said was designed to match her "lame dress."

"It's pronounced 'la-may'," she said. After a long pause while he sneered at her dress, he replied, "I know."

Precocious performances by youngsters usually go over very well, and this year was no exception. After a funny setup showing producer Cameron Mackintosh trying to find a fresh face to play Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, 10-year-old prodigy Joshua Colley bristled with grave stage presence as he belted "The Confrontation" with the show's Javert understudy John Rapson and ripped the chain from Rapson's hands. The lines "I've hunted you across the years" and "I'm the stronger man by far" were never so funny.

Audience favorite Christine Pedi (NEWSical) performed one of her popular group impressions, singing the witch's rap from Into the Woods in the style of divas Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, Elaine Stritch, Julie Andrews and Patti Lupone, successively.

On the Town presented a skit called "Miss Turnstiles for May?," which tried to imagine what would have happened if super-shlump Lucy Schmeeler had been chosen "Miss Turnstiles" in the show instead of her glam roommate Ivy Smith. The ungainly Lucy (Allison Guinn) stumbled and sniffled her way comically through the show's elegant Jerome Robbins-style ballets by Joshua Bergasse.

However, the high point of the afternoon (and the winning bonnet presentation) came from Off-Broadway's Avenue Q, which voiced the frustrations of years of Easter Bonnet also-rans about The Lion King's domination of the award with its elegant modern dances performed by perfectly toned Pride Rock dancers. Avenue Q's spoof version stared with Trekkie Monster intoning the Swahili-sounding opening words to "Circle of Life." But if you listened closely, he was speaking nonsense including "Schadenfreude pinot noir," etc. The other puppets joined him, chanting "Pink pajamas, penguins on the bottom/Pink pajamas, penguins on the bottom."

The parody lyrics went on to complain that it was hard for puppets with no legs to compete with dancers who have flawlessly buffed legs, growing into a full-on jab at the show's opening number, including a giant-headed Lucy Monster bouncing down the aisle, gazelle-like Rod and Nicky puppets leaping through the air, and other puppets being whirled in the air on sticks. The winning number was written and directed by Michael Liscio Jr. and Jed Resnick, and choreographed by John Bantay.

The Lion King itself, which presented a pounding, rhythmic chant and dance "Shosholoza," didn't have a chance.

Judges this year were Joseph Benincasa, Michael Cerveris, Corey Cott, Robert Fairchild, Vanessa Hudgens, Judith Ivey, Judy Kuhn, Nathaniel Parker, Jake Perlman, Peg Wendlandt, Christopher Wheeldon and Rufus Wright.

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