1776 and Rent Win '98 B'way Easter Bonnet Competition

News   1776 and Rent Win '98 B'way Easter Bonnet Competition
Photos clockwise from upper left: The "chorus line" of 1776; Patti LuPone apres ski; Douglas Sills explains what a Scarlet Pimpernel is to the TKTS line; 94-year-old Ziegfeld Girl, Doris Eaton Travis, recreates her tap routine from 79 years ago.
Photo by Photos by Starla Smith

Photos clockwise from upper left: The "chorus line" of 1776; Patti LuPone apres ski; Douglas Sills explains what a Scarlet Pimpernel is to the TKTS line; 94-year-old Ziegfeld Girl, Doris Eaton Travis, recreates her tap routine from 79 years ago.

With an Easter Bonnet that hatched a tricorn-wearing eagle, and a skit in which the Founding Fathers sang "Big Spender" in their 18th century underwear, the cast of 1776 won the 12th annual Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition April 14.

A record $1,793,137 was raised by the casts and crews of shows in New York and on the road for the competition's true mission -- the fight against the ravages of HIV-AIDS. The figure was more than $300,000 higher than the 1997 total.

Nathan Lane and Liza Minnelli were on hand at the New Amsterdam Theatre on New York's 42nd Street to hand the grand fundraising prize to the cast of Rent for raising the most money of any single show -- $129,000.

Appearances by five original Ziegfeld Girls, who returned to the refurbished Follies home stage stage for the first time in six or more decades, was a sentimental highlight of the show, prompting three standing ovations during the first 15 minutes of the show alone. Runners-up for most money raised: $113,500 by Ragtime, $98,000 by Phantom of the Opera. Most raised by an Off-Broadway show: $12,700 by As Bees in Honey Drown..

Runners-up for best Bonnet and skit: Titanic for a newspaper hat and AIDS "lifeboat" made from newspapers and Playbill covers representing the Broadway and Off-Broadway shows that contributed to BC/EFA. Ragtime for a bonnet bearing dolls in the likenesses of the many cast members, and a skit in which Marin Mazzie sang "Come to the Garden" from The Secret Garden and appeared to dig up the symbols of various current Broadway shows from a garden. See more detailed descriptions of the skits below.

Here's an account of the first of two performances, on April 13.

The 12th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition began with a question -- Which theatre to choose for the Competition?

In parody of the opening to Ragtime, three theatre groups presented their case--the Ford Center reprentatives, complete with parasols, sang their praises to "Ragtime," while the Kit Kat Klub's, dressed in black and with sexually explict gestures, tried to entice the Bonnet to come to the cabaret. The winner, however, was the New Amsterdam, whose areobatic dancers literally kicked out the other two theatres.

In tribute to something the New Amsterdam had that the other two theatres couldn't claim, the show introduced five Ziegfeld girls who had originally danced on the New Amsterdam stage -- Nona Otero Friedman, Yvonne Arden Hyde, Doris Eaton Travis, Lucile Layton Zinman, and Eleanor Dana O'Connell. The ladies were escorted by men in top hats and tails and stood next to pictures of themselves from their Ziegfeld days.

The crowd gave them a standing ovation.

That still wasn't quite enough for Travis, who then proceded to dance the original choreography for her Ziegfeld number, "Mandy". The chorus of Bonnet dancers joined her, then turned the number into "42nd Street".

The Easter Bonnet Competition exists as the springtime fundraising special event for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. This year's competition was held for the first time in the New Amsterdam, home of Disney's The Lion King. The show gives Broadway and Off-Broadway shows a chance to create a skit or musical number and an Easter bonnet.

Most of the pieces parody other shows or mock the cast's show itself and the bonnet usually follows along the skit's theme.

The Life's number began to Gilbert and Sullivan's "Three Little Maids" but quickly dissolved into "Play That Funky Music". All kinds of '70's classics followed, including "Shaft" and "Turn The Beat Around" as cop Don Lennon is enlisted to stop the chaos and then gets sucked in. Lip-synching to the theme from Shaft, Tony-winner Chuck Cooper made his entrance wearing the Life bonnet: a colossal stereotyped pimp hat covered in purple sequins and trailing a raccoon tail.

Miss Saigon first parodied Cabaret with the Engineer, complete with blue eye shadow and pink lipstick, serving as the Emcee before becoming "The Saigon Project," a mocking of Fosse dance styles and the upcoming Fosse Project. Their bonnet featured a Barbie in a go-go cage with a light up Miss Saigon marquee.

Dressed in 60's Grease fashions, the cast of Jekyll & Hyde sang their parody to -- what else -- "This Is The Moment," maintaining that their show stays open because, among other reasons, "New Jersey love us". In a twist on Robert Cuccioli's "hair up good, hair down bad," Jekyll's bonnet had boas that, when dropped down off the hat, converted the bonnet model from good into evil.

As Douglas Sills introduced his own cast as the people who made his life better, the crew rolled out The Scarlet Pimpernel's set--a representation of the TKTS booth. Standing outside of the TKTS booth, the cast debated what a Pimpernel is before their bonnet ended the question. The hat was a representation of the pimpernel flower, complete with stem.

Smokey Joe's Cafe interrupted a performance of "Tracks of My Tears" by Street Corner Symphony's Stacey Francis, singing to "Charlie Brown" "Noone knows--why we don't close."

Dressed as flowers and with Marin Mazzie as the lead, Ragtime asked the audience to "Come to our garden," where Mazzie dug up a Simba stuffed animal, the Titanic, a red high-heeled shoe, and finally, their easter bonnet, a representation of the whole cast in authentically costumed Barbie dolls.

Jack Klugman and Tony Randall did a new version of Abbott & Costello's "Who's On First," imagining a BC/EFA concert featuring rock bands: Klugman struggled to understand who was "on" (stage) first, as Randall confused him with bands the Who, Yes, U2, etc. Sunshine bonnet, a two person hat, depicted a sun, clouds, and a rainbow on a gold base.

The cast of When Pigs Fly discovered cross-dressing in their Ragtime parody that included "Dragtime" ("Ragtime") and "Heels Of A Queen" ("Wheels of a Dream"). Their bonnet, "always in good taste," was a huge rhinestone tiara set on a horrendeously high blond wig.

1776 used their skit (which subsequently won top honors) to beg for a new advertising campaign, a sexier campaign that might just grab the attention of Rosie O'Donnell. To "Hey, Big Spender" and in their underwear, the wild-colored wigged congressmen flaunted their "Johns" and their "Hancocks". 1776's bonnet, an egg, cracked open to reveal a stuffed eagle and exploding confetti.

Chicago's dancing was the dream of The Phantom Of The Opera, who wore leotards and sang to "Roxie Hart". The ballet rats joined him, dancing Fosse en pointe. Phantom's easter bonnet represented the stern of the Phantom's gondala, in black and complete with pillows.

The Off-Broadway shows stuck to mocking themselves. I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change revealed that although they are in "the straightest show on earth," they are really all gay. Their bonnet, complete with turnable woman/man bride/groom and rainbow banners. Tony 'N' Tina's Wedding imagined their show if they were bought by Disney--good bye to the gay guy and the unwed mother--before unveiling their torso length wedding cake bonnet. R&J tried to explain to Shakespeare why four guys were playing Romeo And Juliet to the tune of "Officer Krupke," then revealed their bonnet, draped in their one prop, the red cloth. Forbidden Broadway went to court, sued by Ragtime's Marin Mazzie and Titanic's Mara Stephens for criminal impersonation, then showed off their "scales of justice" hat, representing a balance between Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.

The Metropolitian Opera's Elaine Flynn sang La Boheme before breaking into a helium-induced Donald Duck version of Marguerite's "Jewel Song". The Met's bonnet was an 18th century style wig with the Met set in the middle of the curls.

Les Miserables' Fantine sang the blues in "Fantine's Lament", flanked by four convict dancers. Their bonnet was a spirling barricade featuring Les Mis characters.

David Mamet's The Old Neighborhood was written in Mamet style, complete with censor, who bleeped out the offensive words uttered by Kelly Maurer and Mary McCann as they complained about being Patti LuPone's understudy. McCann, citing recent ski-slope accidents, suggested offing LuPone with a pair of skis -- which almost worked as LuPone appeared in Neighborhood's bonnet -- a pine tree, draped in caution signs, complete with a ski pole skewering a rabbit.

Other casts choose to focus on the serious issue behind the event -- AIDS.

Rent's cast sang "Pura Vida (Pure Life)," a song written by Jonathan Larson, while unraveling material representations of the earth, sea, and sun which were later added to the silver globe that served as their bonnet.

Puppetry became the center piece for The Lion King's presentation, a reading of the Carl Sandburg poem, "Evening Waterfall," by John Vickery. The bird puppets from the show were used and even the bonnet itself, shaped like the top of a parrot's beak, became a puppet, lifted high and extended over the audience.

Cats, led by Ken Prymus and Heidi Stallings, sang a gospel version of "You'll Never Walk Alone," in memory of Laurie Beechman, who recently died of cancer. Cats' white bonnet displayed white and lavender flowers that cascaded down to bonnet model Meg Gillentine's shoulders.

Deborah Gibson wrote the number Beauty And The Beast sang, a ballad called "I Believe". The bonnet, draped in pink, purple, blue, and yellow flowers, also featured a fan that opened.

The cast of Titanic read back-to-back facts about the Titanic disaster and AIDS before the company lauched into a Maury Yeston-penned song, "Lifeboats". During the song, several cast members created the bow of a lifeboat out of newspapers and Broadway show Playbill covers. At the end of the song, Charles McAteer (Jack Thayer in the show) was held aloft behind the bow, wearing their bonnet -- a simple child's hat folded out of newspaper.

Chicago, dressed entirely in white and led by Marcia Lewis, gave an ironic reading of its "Nowadays," set against the chorus saying the names and shows of actors who have died of AIDS. Chicago's bonnet, which sat on the back end of an empty wooden chair, was their trademark bowler hat in white with names written on the brim.

The final number of the show, "Help Is On The Way" was written by David Friendman and sung by The Capeman's Ednita Nazario and Ruben Blades, along with several Capeman cast members. They were joined by all the easter bonnet models and a special appearance by The Lion King's Rafiki, Tsidii Le Loka.

Three bonnets were worn by persons who paid for the honor to wear them: Marion Duckworth Smith wore As Bees In Honey Drown's hive shaped hat complete with circling bees. Alan Novich modeled Wait Until Dark's refrigerator shaped bonnet. Barbara Ann Klein wore The Sound Of Music's stained glass hat, designed by understudy Marta/Gretl, Marissa Gould.

A gaggle of celebrities presented the acts, including Rebecca Luker (The Sound of Music), John Vickery (The Lion King), Douglas Sills (The Scarlet Pimpernel), Tyne Daly (Mystery School), Christianne Noll (Jekyll And Hyde, Gary Beach (Beauty and the Beast), T. Scott Cunningham (As Bees In Honey Drown), Kelly Bishop (The Last Night of Ballyhoo), Debra Monk (Ah, Wilderness!), Brian Stokes Mitchell (Ragtime), and Judith Blazer (Titanic).

-- By Christine Ehren and Robert Viagas

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