Lucky Guy Is Top Earner in Easter Bonnet Competition; Event Raises Record $4.25 Million

By Robert Viagas
April 23, 2013

The 27th annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition raised an all-time record of $4,250,542 in six weeks of nightly curtain-call appeals. The number was revealed at the April 23 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 Tom Hanks starrer Lucky Guy, which raised $301,549, an unusual win for a non-musical play.

The total leaped ahead of the $3,734,000 previous record set in pre-recession 2007. This year's total was raised by 47 participating Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring shows.

Special guests Hanks, plus Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein (both of Kinky Boots) presented the performance/bonnet awards at the Minskoff following the two Easter Bonnet performances (one on Monday, one on Tuesday).

The 2013 Bonnet competition resulted in a first-ever tie for Outstanding Bonnet Design: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and The Lion King shared the event's signature accolade – Lion King for a smoke-breathing lion mask hat, Spider-Man for its salute to Pippin: a circus tent hat with a spider web design traced out in light on the top.

Kinky Boots took the prize for Outstanding Bonnet Presentation with "Your Truest Colors," a parody of some of the more serious dance numbers that grace (and often win) the Bonnet competition. Members of the Boots company, several of them clearly not dancers, danced in form-fitting body suits to composer Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors." Lauper herself appeared at the song's climax to model the show's bonnet, an inverted red pump.

Runner-up for the Outstanding Bonnet Presentation was an audience favorite, a collaboration between the orphans of Annie and the newsboys of Newsies, in which they pretended to compete in the categories of rap, evilest villain (helped by the adult villains of the two shows), and best Roosevelt, as one show features Teddy, the other Franklin D.

Among national touring companies, the two Wicked tours were finally knocked off their perennial pedestal by the tour of Book of Mormon, which collected $278,054 in the fight against AIDS.

The Lion King bonnet
photo by Monica Simoes

Some other facts and figures:

Broadway Runners-Up for Fundraising
Wicked at $244,431, Book of Mormon at $232,260 and The Phantom of the Opera at $172,435.

Touring Runners-Up for Fundraising
Wicked (Munchkinland tour) at $273,637,  Wicked (Emerald City Tour) at $241,030, and Book of Mormon (Jumamosi tour) at $188,621.

Off-Broadway Shows That Raised the Most
Avenue Q at $33,426 and My Name Is Asher Lev at $33,149.

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).

Though top prize for presentation went to Kinky Boots' dance parody, funny skits laced with insider jokes once again predominated at Easter Bonnet.

The show opened with a production number that used "It's Today!" from Mame with new lyrics by Seth Rudetsky, poking fun at the fact that the Easter Bonnet event seems to become more disconnected from actual Easter every year. With Marin Mazzie, Ann Harada and Rudetsky (carrying a parasol), the three joined a dancing chorus in a salute to "the new holiday Broadway Cares invented."

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella poked fun at the fact that people like to stage marriage proposals on the stage after performances. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof showed various composers from Andrew Lloyd Webber to Jerry Herman and Lionel Ritchie auditioning to write a musical based on the Tennessee Williams drama. The result, "Cats on a Hot Tin Roof," including a salute to the absent character of Skipper.

Off-Broadway's Avenue Q presented a series of "Puppet Public Service Announcements," in which the show's puppets found themselves humorously stuck at the moment when things had gotten intimate enough that they needed to use condoms, at which point a singing chorus appeared and urged them to do the right thing and "wrap it up."

After taking a year off in 2012, longtime Easter Bonnet stalwarts Don Richard and Jennifer Cody made a special encore appearance in their characters of Officer Lockstock and Little Sally from Urinetown, throwing their patented poison-tipped darts at a wide selection of Broadway's sacred cows. They entered just after Lilla Crawford and Sandy of Annie, to which Cody responded, "I can't believe I had to follow that bitch…I meant the dog."

A lot of their vaudeville-style dialogue was R-rated, but Cody poked fun at Matthew Broderick's low-energy performance in Nice Work If You Can Get It, saying, "That guy's so lazy they even have to carry him on the poster."

Referring to Shia LaBoeuf's early departure from the revival of Orphans, she said, "When you're in a cast with Alec Baldwin and people say you're the crazy one, you deserve a special Tony Award for crazy."

They also paid tribute to late Bonnet regular Doris Eaton Travis who died in died in 2010 at age 106, saying that if she were alive today, she'd be "the youngest person in the cast of Chicago."

Several productions showcased their athletic dancers, including Mamma Mia!, Wicked and a consortium of national tours, which cavorted to Willie Nelson's apropos "I've Been Everywhere."

Wicked did an emotional dance tribute to the children killed in Newtown, CT, earlier this year, in a number showing people dancing happily around a classroom then, after the sound of gunfire, trying to recreate the same patterns with people missing.

The dance highlight of this year's Bonnet was a solo by Jennifer Chicheportiche representing Momix and Dancers Responding to AIDS. She whirled in a headdress consisting of beaded strings that reached from her head to her toes. But as she spun she made the beads imitate an umbrella, bird wings, a cone of light, etc.

In a live embodiment of the saying that some people are so talented they could get laughs reciting the phone book, Nathan Lane (The Nance) and Andrea Martin (Pippin) did not appear in a scripted skit, but the two pros brought the house down repeatedly by their ad-libbed clowning as they read the names and credits of the judges.

Easter Bonnet judges included costume designer Gregg Barnes (Kinky Boots), choreographer Josh Bergasse (TV’s "Smash"), Deborah Cox and Constantine Maroulis (Jekyll and Hyde), Cady Huffman (The Nance), Paul Libin (executive vice president of Jujamcyn Theaters and president of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' Board of Directors), Holland Taylor (Ann) and Michael Urie (Buyer & Cellar). Hollis Stern and Peg Wendlandt, who were the high bidders on VIP packages at the Broadway Flea Market, are also part of the judging panel

Jessie Mueller (Nice Work If You Can Get It) concluded the show with the traditional performance of "Easter Bonnet" anthem "Help is on the Way."

Easter Bonnet judges included costume designer Gregg Barnes (Kinky Boots), choreographer Josh Bergasse (TV’s "Smash"), Deborah Cox and Constantine Maroulis (Jekyll and Hyde), Cady Huffman (The Nance), Paul Libin (executive vice president of Jujamcyn Theaters and president of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' Board of Directors), Holland Taylor (Ann) and Michael Urie (Buyer & Cellar). Hollis Stern and Peg Wendlandt, who were the high bidders on VIP packages at the Broadway Flea Market, are also part of the judging panel.

Other Broadway stars who appeared at the event included Nathan Lane (The Nance), Billy Porter (Kinky Boots), Victoria Clark, Ann Harada and Harriet Harris (Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella), Andrea Martin (Pippin), Robert Cuccioli (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark), Katie Finneran (Annie), Shalita Grant (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike), Andy Karl (Jersey Boys), Ron Kunene and Tshidi Manye (The Lion King), Christopher McDonald and Peter Scolari (Lucky Guy), Judy McLane (Mamma Mia! ) and Mark Nelson (My Name is Asher Lev).

The Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark bonnet
photo by Monica Simoes

 
Cyndi Lauper and the cast of Kinky Boots.
photo by Monica Simoes

 
The final fundraising number is unveiled.
photo by Monica Simoes