Wicked Companies Help Easter Bonnet Fly to $3.27 Million; Skits, Songs and Dances Revealed

News   Wicked Companies Help Easter Bonnet Fly to $3.27 Million; Skits, Songs and Dances Revealed The 24th annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition raised $3,265,700 in six weeks of nightly curtain-call appeals. The number was revealed at the April 27 performance of skits, songs and dances at the Minskoff Theatre.
Bebe Neuwirth, Nathan Lane and Catherine Zeta-Jones
Bebe Neuwirth, Nathan Lane and Catherine Zeta-Jones Photo by Matthew Blank

In this recessionary year, the total still nearly equaled last year's $3.4 million but fell short of the $3.7 million record set in 2008. This year's total was raised by 55 participating Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring shows.

Special guests Catherine Zeta-Jones (A Little Night Music), Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth (both of The Addams Family) presented the awards at the Minskoff Theatre April 27 following the two Easter Bonnet performances (one on Monday, one on Tuesday).

The various companies of the musical Wicked took three of the top fundraising awards. The Oz musical was the top money-raiser among Broadway shows, bringing in $208,880. The "Emerald City" company was also a big moneymaker among national tours, taking in $239,883. But the "Munchkinland" touring company of Wicked stood the tallest of all, winning the grand fundraising prize with $251,332 in the fight against AIDS.

The award for outstanding bonnet design went to the cast of Fela! for a huge turban of brightly colored African cloth.

The company of Broadway's Memphis took the top prize for performances, with "Love Terrorist," in which the company danced in army fatigues to a glowering song about the militant spreading of love, including the lyric, "Love is a weapon of mass construction." Their bonnet consisted of a stack of dynamite sticks and a timer that tilted up to reveal a heart. Other awards:

  • The Off-Broadway show that raised the most: Avenue Q — $22,326.
  • The Broadway non-musical that raised the most: Next Fall — $49,946.
  • Runners-up for fundraising: Broadway: Phantom of the Opera $153,444, Billy Elliot $134,642, In the Heights $117,660, and The Lion King $114,684. National Tours: Jersey Boys $142,434, Wicked "San Francisco Company" $131,815 and Mary Poppins $128,553. (Dollar totals may change after a detailed accounting is completed.)
  • Runner-up for best performance: Next Fall (a self-deprecating skit about how none of the cast members is a star). 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 presenting their elaborate "Easter Bonnet" presentation (literally, a trouper wearing an outsized novelty bonnet).

    Jones, Lane and Neuwirth made comic hay of the fact that both they and the awards were being upstaged by the buff and shirtless dancers who kept coming onstage to bring them the award plaques.

    Though top prize went to a dance with serious intent, funny skits laced with insider jokes predominated at the 24th annual event. Favorite satirical targets included the delayed opening of the Spider-Man musical, Stephen Sondheim's numerous 80th birthday celebrations and non-Broadway celebrities joining the casts of Broadway shows.

    The show opened with a parody of pop singer Lady Gaga, in which she and her dancing entourage were shown dancing in the styles of Broadway choreographers from Twyla Tharp to Michael Bennett, Bob Fosse and Bill T. Jones.

    At the climax of the number, 106-year-old Ziegfeld Girl Doris Eaton Travis, a Bonnet staple, made her entrance aboard a giant rolling Easter basket. She did a few steps and thanked the crowd for its standing ovation.

    "You make my life terrific," Travis said.

    As an homage to the first "Easter Bonnet" show, which was organized in the basement of the Palace Theatre by the original cast of La Cage aux Folles, the "Notorious and Dangerous Cagelles" of the current revival offered a drag fashion show, with outfits inspired by everyone from Eliza Doolittle to Cruella de Vil.

    Presenters Jan Maxwell and Dylan Baker asserted that the recent Icelandic volcano eruption prevented Broadway producers from traveling to London to see the latest stripped-down Menier Chocolate Factory revival, this time I Do! I Do! which they said was performed by "no one."

    The audience was treated to an elaborate running gag from the cast of The Phantom of the Opera, in which a pistol-packing ballerina kept trying to shoot Christine Daae, but wound up hitting the Phantom and Raoul instead.

    When she finally plugged Christine late in the show, the homicidal tersichorean deadpanned that apparently it wasn't true that "Love Never Dies" — the title of the Broadway-bound Phantom sequel.

    "High School Musical" alumnus Corbin Bleu poked fun at his own claim to stardom, enacting bizarre encounters with super-fans at In the Heights (he took over the lead role of Usnavi earlier this year).

    Jim Brochu, who impersonates the late Zero Mostel in his Off-Broadway play Zero Hour, performed a version of "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof in which he and a group of singers added flowers, sequins and ribbons to a plain top-hat and built their colorful Bonnet right there on the stage.

    Not all the skits were lighthearted. The cast of Billy Elliot, most of whom play miners and their families in the show, had the "Easter Bonnet" audience in tears with a tribute to the families of the recent West Virginia mine disaster. The dancers showed a miner waking up and bidding his family farewell before going off to work; then, the family's reaction when a mine representative comes to tell them of his death, and to give the miner's helmet to his young daughter.

    Young Marquis Rodriguez told his tragic tale of winning the role of Young Simba in The Lion King, but then losing the part when his voice started to change. He told of commiserating with the Billy Elliots and of his attempts to stunt his growth with coffee and cigarettes. He ended with a ray of hope: By time the long-delayed Spider-Man opened, he speculated that he'd be old enough to audition for the title role.

    Kid performers were highlighted in an audience-favorite skit from South Pacific in which Luka Kain, Kimber Monroe and Laurissa Romain enumerated "All I Really Need To Know I Learned on Broadway." Among their pearls of wisdom: "Follow your heart but listen to your director." "When in doubt, fill out an accident report." "There is no bogeyman under my bed and there is no Spider-Man at the Hilton." "The secret to a long career: moisturize, moisturize, moisturize." "If at first you don't succeed — call in Jerry Zaks." And, "You don't have to be gay to work here, but you do have to be faaaabulous."

    Along the latter lines, the pink top-hat wearing Leslie Jordan of Off-Broadway's My Trip Down the Pink Carpet brought down the house with his account of his yearning to get a bride doll for Christmas when he was three.

    In the runner-up for best performance turn, the cast of the gay-themed Next Fall paid homage to their producer, composer Elton John, with an R-rated parody of his song "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," with the lyric changed to "They won't let their son go down on me."

    The 2010 "Easter Bonnet" concluded with a rendition of the BC/EFA theme song "Help Is On the Way," performed by Montego Glover of Memphis.

  • The final tally at the Easter Bonnet competition
    The final tally at the Easter Bonnet competition Photo by Matthew Blank
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