Rock of Ages Wins Gypsy of the Year; Event Earns $3.78 Million for BC/EFA

By Robert Viagas
December 7, 2010

A pair of acrobatic dancers performing a sinuous pas de deux titled "The Puppet Master" earned Rock of Ages the title of 2010 Gypsy of the Year/Best Stage Presentation.



The national tour of Jersey Boys proved to be the champion fundraising production, earning $285,398 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The annual fundraiser took in a total of $3,776,720, the third-highest gross in the 22-year history of the event.

This year's Gypsy of the Year was held Dec. 6 and 7 at the New Amsterdam Theatre, hosted by Seth Rudetsky.  (Last year's show earned a record $4,630,695, far outdistancing the previous record of $3,927,000 set in pre-Recession 2007.)

First runner-up for Best Stage Presentation went to The Addams Family for a gag-laced monologue by young Adam Riegler (Pugsley) parodying the popular "It Gets Better" campaign to stop schoolyard bullying. In his talk, Riegler assured incoming Broadway shows that they can survive bullying by hostile critics and bloggers and become a hit like Addams Family.

Other fundraising awards:

Runner-up National Tour fundraisers: Wicked (Emerald City Tour) with $247,571, Wicked (Munchkinland Tour) with $236,352, and Shrek with $137,888.

Top Broadway Musical Fundraisers: Promises, Promises with $195,011, Wicked with $181,609, Billy Elliot with $149,268, and The Addams Family with $145,915.

Top Broadway play fundraiser was Driving Miss Daisy with $94,044, followed by runner-up A Life in the Theatre, which collected $72,452.

The top fundraiser among Off-Broadway shows was Charles Busch's Divine Sister, which took in $24,444.

(Totals may change slightly once audited.)

As has become custom, the event featured a 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.

The 2010 Gypsy of the Year started with the audience on its feet for "Carol for a Cure," featuring guest star Carol Channing singing and dancing (with a tiny bit of help) numbers from her hits Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello, Dolly! Warbling the latter's title song, Channing drew wild cheers with the lines about being "back where she belongs" and how she'll "never go away again." The star seemed surprised and grateful at a five-foot-high cake celebrating her 90th birthday, accompanied by an audience sing-along of "Happy Birthday."

Channing looked like she was going to be a tough act to follow, but the gypsies of 19 Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring companies did their best with a strong mixture of comedy and dance.

The comedy highlight proved to be Riegler's "It Gets Better" monologue, in which he introduced himself as a member of the cast of "the worst-reviewed show since Moose Murders, but noted with satisfaction that Addams Family is now grossing over $1 million a week. He said the critics made punching bags of Mamma Mia!, Wicked, Good Vibrations..." then he paused and added, "Well, that show was just ridiculous, but you get the idea."

Though only a teen, Riegler played the house like a veteran comedian, drawing a comment from co-host Colin Quinn ("Saturday Night Live" and Long Story Short) that even he couldn't top Riegler.

Another "SNL" vet Molly Shannon (now in Promises, Promises) brought down the house with her Sally O'Malley persona, portrayed here as pretending to audition dancers for the show while showcasing her high-kicking "I'm 50!" shtick.

Off-Broadway's My Big Gay Italian Wedding drew laughs by re-enacting some of the post-show comments from the audience, including a group of macho guys protesting that the title of the show in big letters on the poster was insufficient warning that the show would depict gays. The skit ended warmly with one audience member thanking them for showing gay marriage in a positive light.

The soon-to-close musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson argued in song that "We're Much More Like Broadway Than You Think," filled with funny stretchers like pointing out that both Andrew Jackson and Billy Elliot didn't much like the British.

La Cage aux Folles poked fun at the upcoming revival of Annie, showing the transvestite Cagelles fairly quivering at the chance to audition as orphans. Tony winner Douglas Hodge gave a preview of his drag version of Miss Hannigan. The new title of the show? "TRAnnie."

Shea Sullivan choreographed a tribute to the Gypsy Robe, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary. The robe (actually a series of robes) is passed from musical to musical, and each show adds a decorative commemorative piece. Five of the actual robes dating back to the 1980s were incorporated into a dance number that offered a stylized version of the robe presentation ceremony that takes place behind the curtain on the opening night of each new musical.

More than a few tears were shed at the final presentation of the night, an original rap about the upcoming closing of the musical In the Heights featuring many members of the original cast and three different Usnavis, including the original (and composer) Lin-Manuel Miranda.

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This year's judges included Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley (Next to Normal); Alison Fraser (The Divine Sister); Boyd Gaines (Driving Miss Daisy); Bebe Neuwirth (The Addams Family); Eve Plumb (Miss Abigail’s Guide…); Patricia White (President, Local 764 – Theatrical Wardrobe Union); and Nick Wyman (President of Actors' Equity).

Celebrity presenters included Hunter Ryan Herdlicka (A Little Night Music), Cherry Jones (Mrs. Warren's Profession), T.R. Knight (A Life in the Theatre), Judith Light (Lombardi), Bernadette Peters (A Little Night Music), David Hyde Pierce (La Bête), Billy Porter (Angels in America), Colin Quinn (Colin Quinn Long Story Short) and Elizabeth Stanley (Million Dollar Quartet).

Among the shows that performed dances or skits: The Addams Family; Billy Elliot; Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson; Chicago; Fela; In The Heights; the national tour of Jersey Boys; La Cage aux Folles; The Lion King; Mamma Mia; Mary Poppins; the national tour of Mary Poppins; My Big Gay Italian Wedding; Promises, Promises; Rock of Ages; Wicked; and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

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Last season, Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig made a unique place for themselves in the history of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraising when it was announced that they had raised $1,549,953 in the 21st annual Gypsy of the Year competition in six weeks of curtain appeals at their hit Broadway drama, A Steady Rain. The figure was not only the most ever collected by a single show in the history of BC/EFA fundraisers, but totaled more than was raised in entire Broadway-wide Gypsy of the Year events in any of its first nine years. The Steady Rain bonanza boosted the 2009 Gypsy of the Year total to a record $4,630,695.