The Pulitzer and the Grammy were not not enough for the Broadway musical Hamilton. The musical juggernaut came away from the 30th Annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition having won two of its top awards, Best Presentation and Most Money Raised, leaving only Best Bonnet for the cast of An American in Paris.
Along the way, the combined effort of more than 50 Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring shows raised a new all-time record $5,528,568 in six weeks of nightly curtain-call appeals. That total far outstripped the $4.7 million previous record set one year ago. The number was revealed at the April 26 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 Hamilton, which, on its own, raised nearly a tenth of that total—$516,029. The show also won Best Presentation, “Fleet Street Remix,” which stopped the show cold as it retold the story of the musical Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, rapped to the music of Hamilton’s own opening number, with creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda as the razor wielding title character.
The cast of An American in Paris rolled out its winning Best Bonnet in a skit titled “Turn It Off, Seriously,” which invoked Patti LuPone and other fierce opponents of cell phones and other electrical devices being used in the theatre. The winning bonnet was topped with a giant iPhone. When the wearer turned around, the cellphone was revealed with a smashed screen.
The Best Bonnet Moments:
The event opened with a salute to the 25th anniversary of the 1991 musical The Will Rogers Follies, winner of that year’s Tony Award for Best Musical. Tony winner Cady Huffman introduced two other original cast members who led a corps of dancers costumed as cowboys and cowgirls performing “Willamania,” “Favorite Son” “Give a Man Enough Rope” and other songs and dances from the Cy Coleman/Betty Comden/Adolph Green score.
The performance added a contemporary twist by having the numbers led by non-traditionally-cast performers as Will Rogers, topped by Huffman herself playing Will, and revealing that her dream is to play Lafayette in Hamilton. The number ended with the proclamation, “It ain’t just the great White way anymore!”
Eventual double-winner Hamilton was the butt of jokes throughout the afternoon’s performance. Most notably by the kids from the cast of Fun Home, who did an extended parody of “Gee, Officer Krupke” from West Side Story, but retitled “Gee, Mr. Miranda.” The premise was that they would all soon outgrow their roles, so could Miranda please write a musical about teenagers for them? They then asked themselves what Lin-Manuel Miranda would do, and concluded that they would be better off not waiting for someone to write a show for them, but to write a show for themselves, as Miranda did.
Guest hosts Jennifer Simard and Kerry Butler both claimed they are doing one-woman shows also titled Hamilton. Simard’s is going to be a show about Wizard of Oz star Margaret Hamilton. Butler’s is going to be about skater Dorothy Hamill as a child, which is actually titled Hamill, Ten.
Kinky Boots took a page from the Hamilton playbook and performed the oft-heard Stephen Schwartz audition song “Meadowlark”—entirely in rap.
Hamilton’s own winning skit, the aforementioned “Fleet Street Remix” recrafted Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd lyrics to fit the 2015 song “Alexander Hamilton,” with the words “Demon barber Sweeney Todd” replacing the name “Alexander Hamilton.”
Examples: “On Fleet Street, clean sweep, cut ’em all down,” “The world will never be OK,” and ending with “Me, I’m the young Toby that got ’im!”
Renee Elise Goldsberry wore her hair in two clumps at the side of her head to suggest Mrs. Lovett.
The Hamilton Easter bonnet had a hand emerging from the crown holding a razor blade. An AIDS ribbon hung from the blade like dripping blood.
Among the non-Hamilton-related offerings, the cast of Disaster! shared backstage jokes, including a Roger Bart doozy about an amorous lobster and clam. Just hours before the opening night of his musical Tuck Everlasting, Andrew Keenan-Bolger joined fellow Seussical alum Kevin Chamberlin of Disaster! to perform a heartfelt rendition of that show’s ballad “Alone in the Universe.”
The cast of School of Rock arguably delivered the most unexpected and thrilling performance of this year’s Easter Bonnet Competition with a special appearance by rock goddess Stevie Nicks performing her hit “Rhiannon,” backed but the show’s all-kid rock band. Nicks and the SOR cast received a standing ovation from the shocked crowd.
In one of the few presentations that made serious mention of the ongoing AIDS crisis, the cast of Chicago performed a dance titled “We Know Where We’ve Been” to the Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman song from Hairspray, dramatizing people whose lives had been touched and improved by the funds raised in BC/EFA events like this one.
Also on the serious side, the Broadway Inspirational Voices choir sang a thrilling, 35-voice gospel arrangement of Sondheim’s “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George.
The event was capped with Rachel York’s rendition of the BC/EFA anthem “Help Is on the Way,” but not before the Off-Broadway cast of Avenue Q bid an intermittently-fond farewell to the year 2015 with the song “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye.”
As the cast, including puppets, sang in close harmony, various images from 2015 were shown on an easel. Some were serious, like Jon Stewart to represent then end of his hosting The Daily Show; some were rueful, like an image of Bill Cosby to suggest the sex scandal that has torpedoed his career; some were pop, like the marquee of the late lamented Ziegfeld Theatre; and some got laughs, like departed Republican presidential candidates. The latter were accompanied by an actor in an enormous furry red wig meant to suggest Donald Trump’s hairdo. He trampled a sign that said “The Republican Party 1854-2015.”
Special guests Christian Borle (Something Rotten!), Jennifer Hudson (The Color Purple) and Jessie Tyler Ferguson (Fully Committed) presented the awards at the Minskoff following the two Easter Bonnet performances (one on Monday, one on Tuesday).
Facts, Figures and Funds Raised:
Broadway Musicals That Raised the Most:
Hamilton at $516,029; Jersey Boys at $266,996; The Book of Mormon with $259,496 and The Lion King with $164,151.
Touring Shows That Raised the Most:
Book of Mormon (Latter Day Company) at $362,842, Wicked (Munchkinland Company) at $320,581, Kinky Boots with $266,812 and Newsies with $246,523
Broadway Plays That Raised the Most:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time with $68,282 and The Humans with $68,083.
Off-Broadway Show That Raised the Most:
Avenue Q with $27,501.
Dollar totals may change after a detailed accounting is completed.
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).
Judges for this year’s Easter Bonnet were Nicholas Barasch, Reed Birney, Sierra Boggess, Joseph Leo Bwarie, Robert Creighton, Jayne Houdyshell, Alix Korey, Lee Perlman, Amy Rocchi, Kyle Scatliffe and Nancy Van Duyne.