Gypsy of the Year Raises Nearly $2.1 for BC/EFA; Lion King, Miss Saigon Win

By Christine Ehren
December 6, 2000

It was Miss Saigon's last year at Gypsy of the Year (the long running musical closes at the Broadway Theatre Jan. 28, 2001), but in almost ten years of fund-raising, the company has raised $2,026,253. Their skit, sung to selections from “Carmina Burana” by over fifty performers spanning the original Broadway cast to the current company, celebrated not only their cast members but the past skits and past earnings of nine Gypsies of the Year.

It was Miss Saigon's last year at Gypsy of the Year (the long running musical closes at the Broadway Theatre Jan. 28, 2001), but in almost ten years of fund-raising, the company has raised $2,026,253. Their skit, sung to selections from “Carmina Burana” by over fifty performers spanning the original Broadway cast to the current company, celebrated not only their cast members but the past skits and past earnings of nine Gypsies of the Year.

For their display, which included projections of former cast members lost to AIDS, Miss Saigon was awarded Best Skit at Gypsy of the Year by the panel of judges, including Chita Rivera and Graciela Daniele. Naked Boys Singing’s sing-a-long to The Sound of Music and Fosse's dedication to Gwen Verdon tied for first runner-up.

The Lion King collected the most money, bringing in $189,195. Rent was first runner-up with $166,300.67, followed by Miss Saigon ($119,483), Aida ($114, 606) and The Phantom of the Opera ($105,000).

For the first time, plays were honored separately from musicals, much as Off-Broadway is honored apart from Broadway. The Best Man took the play award for raising $65,577 and Naked Boys Singing! again won the Off-Broadway award with $25,229.

In total, after six weeks of fundraising, Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring companies raised $2,056,666 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The figure is only slightly lower than last year’s sum of $2,074,870.

The Gypsy of the Year competition, held Dec. 4-5 at the Palace Theater, kicked off with a glance back to 1975 when a new musical moved from Joseph Papp's Public Theatre and revitalized Broadway. Many of the original cast members of A Chorus Line - including Wayne Cilento, Donna Drake, Robert LuPone and Priscilla Lopez - reassembled for a memorial salute to the 25th anniversary of the ground-breaking show. The audience erupted into a standing ovation that lasted several minutes at the mention of the performers and again after each person had been introduced.

A run-down of the Gypsy of the Year skits follows:

* Kiss Me, Kate saluted - in rhyme - all the upcoming Broadway shows, from Follies to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with bad puns ("Will Bells be Ringing? Have Faith!") and a "Gool Duck" sign.

* The boys of Beauty and the Beast had a special Christmas wish for 2000. Things would be better if their wrangler (the usually- female caretaker of children working on a Broadway show) was married a la "If Mamma Was Married" from Gypsy. They urged her to join wardrobe (it can't be that hard - and at least it's union!), to get a boyfriend (they'll find one that's not gay) or a life and to give up on the summer stock dreams of getting cast in a Broadway show.

* Saturday Night Fever, in a "Stayin' Alive" effort, imagined choreographer Arlene Philip reconceiving the show as a 42nd Street-esque tap show. The number included a Penny Foyer (pronounced "foy-eh" - "it's French!") who took over for Orfeh after a disco ball fell on the show's diva because Penny was the only cast member who could actually sing.

* What if Susan Stroman had won a bid to direct The Lion King? To Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal," the musical's cast showed what the Disney show would have looked like, complete with lionesses in yellow dresses and a refrain of "Nala, are you okay? Are you okay, Nala?"

* Michael Hall, current Emcee at Cabaret, revealed one of his extracurricular talents as Michael Flutely, the Lord of the Recorder. Skills included playing the theme from "WKRP in Cincinnati," along with several Irish favorites and demonstrating a "Look, Mom, no mouth!" method of playing.

* Swing! gave a sexy rendition of "Fever" with five couples dancing to Robert Royston's choreography and Stacia Fernandez on vocals.

* Rent's East Village became Beauty and the Beast's "little town" in a "Belle" parody entitled "Angel." The drag queen celebrated the unique charms of her home, complete with homeless bums and drug dealers.

* Four Guys Named Jose...and Una Mujer Named Maria parodied both Aida and Side Show ("Come Look at the Spics") with look alikes of Jennifer Lopez, Christine Aguilera and Enrique Iglesias (he's a producer on the show).

* It was a sing-a-long Naked Boys Singing! for the popular Off-Broadway show. Dressed as nuns with a taste for bad puns and tasteless names, the boys sang "How do you help a boy without a costume?" before leading the audience in the chorus.

* "Lost in Boston" is a popular CD series of musical numbers cut from shows pre-Broadway and it was material "lost in Boston" that the Seussical cast chose to share with the Gypsy crowd. In a parody of Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham," the Cat in the Hat (David Lowenstein) went through a list of the critics who had panned the show - Ben Brantley, Michael Riedel and Clive Barnes - while admitting "I do like Jeffrey Lyons, though / He's the one who liked our show!", before coming to a heart warming conclusion about the joy of putting on theatre and pleasing audiences, no matter what the critical conclusion is.

* Les Miserables, while losing 14 minutes from its show, also decided to revamp the entire production. The new, X-rated Les Miz featured a Rocky Horror-esque Javert in fishnets, a lesbian Cosette and Fantine and pelvic choreography, sung to "You Gotta Have a Gimmick" from Gypsy.

* Off-Broadway's Berlin to Broadway lamented that their blue-hair crowd can only hear one tune out of the thirty Kurt Weill tunes they perform and that's "Mack the Knife." In fact, they insisted, to the tune of "Mack the Knife," that that's all their audiences want to hear, despite the wealth of Weill material.

* End of the World Party and Aida combined in a double effort that, through the societal boon of cell phones going off in a museum, bring Party's Jim J. Bullock and Aida's Adam Pascal together. The two move from ancient Egypt to Fire Island where Party's friends have some bitchy comments before eagerly submitting to handcuffing and a promised job in the "crystal" mines. Before Bogart and Bullock can be broken up, a special guest Aida (Harvey Fierstein) whisks the boys off to Burlington, Vermont where they are "civil unionized."

* Phantom of the Opera celebrated a special union allowance - the disability (aka maternity leave) clause - by bringing out the string of children born since the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical began performances 13 years ago.

* The Music Man parodied their own auditions with Susan Stroman. One auditionee suffered from residual movements left over from a 10-year stint with Cats, while another, who couldn't dance but was sleeping with the casting director, was given the Boyd Gaines treatment a la Contact. One child auditionee, labeled as having "Ritalin written all over him," secured his place on the show by yelling as he was cut "Thhit! I thought I had it!"

* Christine Pedi became a mouthy middle class woman from Yonkers for Forbidden Broadway's skit. While mocking her own show and the shows around her, she also talked about the next generation's desire to be a part of the theatre and the continuing need for AIDS fund raising.

* Gwen Verdon was remembered in a Fosse dance number never performed live on stage. Verdon originally danced the three-hander piece on the Bob Hope Show in 1968, then taught it to original Fosse dance captain Lanie Sakakura, who danced Verdon's part in the trio.

* Miss Saigon, performing in their last Gyspy (the show is closing Jan. 28, 2001), remembered their past casts, bringing out performers from the 2000 company back to the original Broadway cast; the company members they've lost and how much they've raised in almost 10 years of fundraising. - over $2 million dollars.

The Best Man's Jonathan Hadary hosted. Hadary performed with the first Gypsy of the Year, sponsored by the company of the Tyne Daly revival of Gypsy and held at the St. James Theatre.

Henry Winkler and John Ritter of The Dinner Party made a surprise appearance to read off the names of the Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring companies who raised money in the fall drive and to clown around for the audience. Lily Tomlin in the persona of Ernestine the Operator joined Hadary to announce the winners of Gypsy of the Year.

Judging the skits this year were The Best Man's Michael Learned, theatrical legend Chita Rivera, director-choreographer Graciela Daniele, Barbara Anne Klein and Marion Duckworth Smith, who both bid for the honor, Continental Airlines' BC/EFA trustee Paul Stevens and AIDS Initiative's Eric Stamm.