Easter Bonnet Competition Raises Record $2.8 Million

By Robert Viagas
20 Apr 2005

The Producers skit "La Vie l'Orange", a take off on Christo's "The Gates" at the 19th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition
The Producers skit "La Vie l'Orange", a take off on Christo's "The Gates" at the 19th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition
Photo by Aubrey Reuben

A new record of $2,849,067 was raised by more than 50 participating in the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' 19th annual Easter Bonnet Competition, it was announced.

In six weeks of post-show appeals from their respective stages, the shows raised a sum that was up sharply from last year's $2,149,744 and 2003's $1,826,392, and beat out the previous record, $2,275,659, raised in 2001.

The 17-year-old Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera showed it could still hit the high notes April 19, winning the grand prize at the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' 19th annual Easter Bonnet Competition by raising $209,615 for the fight against the deadly disease. The prize for best bonnet presentation went to Movin' Out, which performed the dance number "Voices of Wings" ending with Elizabeth Parkinson in a cap flanked by a pair of white wings.

The awards were presented at the New Amsterdam Theatre following two days of performances April 18 and 19.

Other awards:



  • The Broadway play that raised the most money: Twelve Angry Men — $88,803.

  • The national tour that raised the most: Mamma Mia tour #2 — $154,441.

  • The Off-Broadway show that raised the most: Altar Boyz — $22,888.

  • Runners-up for fundraising: Wicked ($155,966), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels ($147,469), The Lion King ($144,829), La Cage aux Folles ($125,596).

  • Runners-up for bonnet and skit: Twelve Angry Men, Altar Boyz.

  • Special award for Best Designed and Constructed Bonnet: The Lion King.

  • Special guests and presented the awards at the New Amsterdam Theatre Similar to BC/EFA's "Gypsy of the Year" event, "Easter Bonnet" has cast members from various shows performing songs and frequently spoofing themselves and other shows before presenting their elaborate "Easter Bonnet" entry.

    The opening number, "Easter Bonnet in Drag," set the tone for this year’s event, singing about the joy of cross-dressing while dancing to snatches of aptly titled show tunes, including "I Enjoy Being a Girl," "Dreamgirls," "Pretty Women," and "California Girl."

    Perennial special guest Doris Eaton Travis, an original Ziegfeld Follies dancer, took a brief tap solo and earned a standing ovation by leading the high-heeled male chorus in a dance routine. Going along with the drag theme, the 101-year-old hoofer bantered about the old days with "Miss Mahogany" while wearing a top hat and tux.

    Then came the skits. Potential Tony rivals Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Spamalot joined forces for a skit called "Spama-Rotten Story," a parody of the opening scene of West Side Story. Jet-like DRS dancers were shown enjoying dominance of the Broadway playground when suddenly one of the Spamalot knights made an unwelcome appearance. A Jerome Robbins-like rumble ensued, with both sides fighting for a Holy Grail representing the Tony Award. The rivalry took a twist when the grail unexpectedly landed in the hands of one of the contenders from The 20th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee who spelled the word "grail" T-O-N-Y and sauntered off with it.

    An audience favorite (and eventual runner-up in the sketch contest) was the cast of Twelve Angry Men, composed primarily of middle-aged Caucasian men, rapping "Funky Old Revival," patterned after "Funky Cold Medina" and other hip-hop numbers. Wearing black fedoras and dark glasses, they chanted about the surprise success of their courtroom drama: "Don’t need no luck/To make big bucks/In a funky old revival!"

    Septuagenarian co-star Tom Aldredge strutted on wearing rainbow dredlocks in the company’s bonnet: a saggy rasta hat, claiming to be "real old school," and adding, "We’re pretty fly/For old white guys."

    In a running gag that got funnier as it went along, Little Women star Sutton Foster parodied the video series "Girls Gone Wild" by pretending to be drunk and disorderly and trying to rip her top open -- but repeatedly being foiled by the complicated Victorian underwear of her Little Women costume.

    The cast of Mamma Mia! took the stage with a gripe: critics who constantly compare other shows to theirs. Their least favorite was a Variety review that said, "Good Vibrations makes Mamma Mia! look like Sunday in the Park With George"—but it did inspire them to recreate the Act I finale of Sunday in the Park, but filled with references to their show, along the lines of, "We’ll be at the Winter Garden/Forever!"

    In a skit that left people unfamiliar with Wicked scratching their heads, Michelle Federer, who plays the show’s underwritten third witch, Nessa Rose, sang a parody of Gypsy’s "Rose’s Turn." "Nessa Rose’s Turn" outlined her fantasy of becoming the star of the show—or at least its sequel.

    The Off-Broadway musical Altar Boyz gave a sacred spin on profane songs, including "Stairway to Heaven," "Heaven Knows," "Heaven Is a Place on Earth," "I’m a Believer" and "All I Need Is a Miracle," topped by their assembling a pile of boom boxes into the shape of a crucifix, which became their bonnet.

    In a favorite routine, Don Richard and Jennifer Cody showed up in their characters as Officer Lockstock and Little Sally of long-gone Urinetownto hurl barbed-wire insults and mourn that their routine will probably guarantee they’ll never work again.

    They brought an overstuffed bag marked "Jokes," which Lockstock claimed was "full, like Harvey Fierstein at an all-night Sizzler."

    "Why did we come back if they obviously didn’t want us?" Sally wondered. "It didn’t stop Pacific Overtures," Lockstock observed.

    Lockstock pulled out a pack of envelopes, identifying them as comp tickets to Brooklyn. "Are there any other kind?" Sally deadpanned.

    When Lockstock tried to make a joke about Good Vibration, Little Sally complained that the bag was supposed to contain only jokes about shows that were still running. Lockstock whispered something in her ear, likely that GV was not, in fact, yet closed. "Well, that’s embarrassing," Little Suzy murmured.

    Adding sting to the zinger was the fact that GV had in fact posted its closing notice that same day.

    Not all the numbers strove for laughs. Winning presentation was "Voices of Wings," a dance number in which dancers in white leaped and intertwined in pools of white light. At the conclusion, dancer Elizabeth Parkinson carried on her newborn, who jumped (but didn’t cry) when the audience burst into applause.

    Afterward, co-host Cherry Jones marveled, "From Doris [Eaton Travis] to Elizabeth’s baby, all in one afternoon!"