With one look—and a lot of hard work—Glenn Close and the cast of Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard dominated the fundraising race at the 31st annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition, posting a record $509,246.
The cast of A Lion King reclaimed their show’s longtime crown as they took home the prizes for Best Bonnet and Best Bonnet Presentation.
Along the way, the combined effort of 57 Broadway, Off-Broadway, and touring shows raised a new all-time record $6,379,572 in six weeks of nightly curtain call appeals. That total outstripped the $5.5 million record set one year ago.
The numbers were revealed at the April 25 performance of skits, songs, dances, and giant hats that make up the unique fundraiser show at the Minskoff Theatre.
The cast of The Lion King rolled out its winning Best Bonnet in its Best Presentation skit, titled “To Be Fruitful,” which invoked dance from around the world. Dancers from China, India, Africa, and the Polynesia each did steps from their cultures, then contributed a piece of cloth that was used to nourish a plant. At the conclusion of the song, the plant rose from below the stage, appearing to grow into a beautiful dancer wearing the winning bonnet: a globe of the Earth embraced by the branches of a flourishing vine. The bonnet was designed by Mikey Clifton, Matthew Keating, Brenda O’Brien, and Ilya Vett.
Some additional facts and figures:
Broadway musicals that raised the most:
Sunset Boulevard at $509,246; Sunday in the Park With George at $382,780; Dear Evan Hansen with $381,732, last year’s champion Hamilton with $348,585, and Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 with $288,166
Broadway play that raised the most:
The Price with $122,114
Off-Broadway show that raised the most:
Avenue Q with $49,485 (nearly doubling last year’s total of 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). Modern dance pieces and funny skits laced with insider jokes once again predominated at Easter Bonnet.
The 2017 edition included guest appearances from Denée Benton and Lucas Steele from Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Barrett Doss and Andy Karl from Groundhog Day, Bongi Duma and Tshidi Manye from The Lion King, Gideon Glick and Sas Goldberg from Significant Other, and Rachel Bay Jones and Ben Platt from Dear Evan Hansen. Nick Kroll and John Mulaney were also on hand to reprise their curmudgeonly characters Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland from Oh, Hello on Broadway.
Judges for this year’s Easter Bonnet were music director Kristen Blodgette from Sunset Boulevard, Jon Jon Briones and Eva Noblezada from Miss Saigon, Kate Burton and Kristine Nielsen from Present Laughter, Ed Dixon from Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose, and costume designer Catherine Zuber from Oslo and War Paint. Also joining the panel were Lee Perlman and Peg Wendlandt, who won their judging spots by bidding on VIP packages at the 30th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction in September 2016.