"Easter Bonnet" Competition Raises $3.4 Million; 33 Variations Breaks Record

News   "Easter Bonnet" Competition Raises $3.4 Million; 33 Variations Breaks Record
The 23rd annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition raised $3,402,147 in six weeks of nightly curtain-call appeals. The number was revealed at the April 28 performance at the Minskoff Theatre.

Jane Fonda and Liza Minnelli at the Easter Bonnet Competition
Jane Fonda and Liza Minnelli at the Easter Bonnet Competition Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Last year, a record $3.7 million was raised. This year's $3.4 million total was raised by 56 participating Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring shows.

Special guests Susan Sarandon (Exit the King), Jeremy Irons (Impressionism) and Jane Fonda (33 Variations) presented the awards at the Minskoff Theatre April 28 following the two Easter Bonnet performances (one on Monday, one on Tuesday).

The Broadway production of 33 Variations proved to be the little engine that could, winning both Best Bonnet and Best Presentation. Adding to its triumph was the fact that the drama collected $183,546, the most of any Broadway play or musical, and the all-time record for a non-musical.

33 Variations was helped by its star, Jane Fonda, who not only led the nightly fundraising at the theatre, but also led her cast at Easter Bonnet in the winning skit, "Voluntary Rehearsal," by Michael Winther, Don Amendola and the company. At the climax of the skit, Fonda threw off a fur coat to reveal scarlet togs from her exercise video days and, still looking fit, led her cast in a mini workout as the crowd cheered. Fonda also introduced David Masenheimer's winning bonnet, a bouquet of sheet music gathered with a musical staff, which demonstrated the ability to fire off volleys of ticker tape. The bonnet was modeled by Zach Grenier, who plays Beethoven in the show.

However, the fundraising champ of this year's competition was the national touring company of Rent, which continued that show's winning ways, taking in $352,060. Other awards:

  • The Off-Broadway show that raised the most: Distracted — $31,820.
  • Runners-up for fundraising (all Broadway musicals): Wicked $176,714, Billy Elliot $155,103, Shrek $139,304.
  • Runners-up for best bonnet and skit: Billy Elliot (a hat resembling a tutu) and Naked Boys Singing (a hat consisting of an outsize glittery ribbon spelling out the word "Live" in script.) 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 presenting their elaborate "Easter Bonnet" presentation (literally, a trouper wearing a giant novelty bonnet).

    The 2009 Bonnet sketches ranged from the solemn to the touching to the outrageously satirical, with the latter dominating. Favorite targets were Patti LuPone's YouTube rant against an audience member who photographed her during Gypsy, the economy's effect on shows, and the tabloids' "Octomom."

    As a bonus there were at least three Liza Minnelli impressions, including the most authoritative of them all, essayed by Minnelli herself singing "New York, New York" as the capper to the opening number.

    The first half of this Bonnet skirted taste with Shrek's demonstration of how fart sound effects could "improve" shows like West Side Story and Billy Elliot. When The Little Mermaid's turn came, an Ariel stand-in emitted adorable bubbles from her tail.

    The neatly pinafored quintet of The Marvelous Wonderettes sang an R-rated version of "Let's Talk Dirty to the Animals," topped with them mooning the audience in their brightly colored panties. The cast of Hair presented an infomercial for "BroadwayMatch.com," which paired virile Hair cast members with characters from other shows, including the leading lady of Mary Poppins who promised a sample of "my spoonful of sugar."

    Things moved back into PG territory with Mary Poppins' witty demonstration of how some of the same shows could be improved by tap dancing, including "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific and "Walk Like a Man" from Jersey Boys. At the climax, a stand-in for Wicked's Elphaba tore off her long skirt to reveal green tights and proceeded to tap her way through "Defying Gravity."

    West Side Story showed the cast contritely apologizing to a Minnelli impersonator for elbowing her concert show out of the Palace Theatre. As penance, they invited Liza with a Z to join forces with their show, resulting in a Vegas-flavored hybrid rechristened Wezt Zide Ztory.

    Avenue Q showed what would happen if the puppet Rod were magically sundered from his puppeteer: They would sing "You're Nothing Without Me" from City of Angels..

    Phantom of the Opera poked fun at Andrew Lloyd Webber's plans for a sequel by showing Lord Lloyd Webber working on a computer terminal in a salute to [title of show], parodied here as [sequel of show], after which one of the kitties from Cats sneaked in and hit "delete."

    Bonnet fixture Doris Eaton Travis, one of the few surviving original Ziegfeld Follies girls, was escorted onstage during Billy Elliot's presentation, which featured that show's corps of little girl ballet dancers. The sight of the 105-year-old Travis teaching "Ballin' the Jack" to dancers nearly a century her junior brought the audience to its feet.

    Perennial favorites Officer Lockstock and Little Sally (left over from long-closed Urinetown) made their anticipated appearance to claw some of the season's sacred cows. When Lockstock expressed concern that perhaps, after years of appearances they were becoming over-exposed, Sally reassured him with a poke at the event's ubiquitous co-host, "On a scale of one through Seth Rudetsky, I think we're fine."

  • The cast of the Easter Bonnet Competition reveal this year's total
    The cast of the Easter Bonnet Competition reveal this year's total Photo by Aubrey Reuben
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