At the Tony Awards, after the statues are given to the winners, they are taken to the media room, where they speak to journalists about their prizes. Playbill was able to have some one-on-one time with some of the 2023 Tony winners. We spoke with director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell about what it means to him to receive the 2023 Isabelle Stevenson Award for his philanthropic work.
"This represents every dancer who's ever taken their clothes off at Broadway Bares," Mitchell states. "Every stagehand who's built a piece of scenery, every makeup person, every wig person, every costume person, and the thousands and thousands...it's just a massive undertaking, and the community steps up to the plate and volunteers and donates time, energy, and love. That's what you do to save your community."
When Mitchell arrived in New York City in the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic had already begun. To help those affected, Mitchell organized his fellow Broadway dancers from The Will Rogers Follies for a burlesque performance that raised $8,000, and Broadway Bares was born. To date, the annual fundraiser, performed annually in New York and in London, has raised more than $21 million for Broadway Cares, including $1.9 million in last year's edition alone.
When Mitchell reflects back on the very first edition of Broadway Bares, he can't help but laugh. "I was stripping in the first Broadway Bares, and I was so nervous. I was in Will Rogers Follies dancing, and I was naked every night. But about an hour before I had to go to Splash [the nightclub that served as the fundraiser's first venue] I looked in the mirror, and I had a big red boil forming on my behind! And I thought, 'Oh my god, I have to strip! What am I gonna do!?'"
Thankfully, the shops that catered to the more risque performers in Times Square were able to save the day. "I sent my dressing roommate Jack Doyle to 42nd Street (the old, dirty 42nd Street) and he bought a Sweet Charity press-on heart. They put a heart over it and nobody knew!"
Director-choreographer Mitchell previously received Tony Awards for Best Choreography for Kinky Boots and La Cage aux Folles. He was also Tony-nominated for Best Choreography for The Full Monty, Hairspray, Never Gonna Dance, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Legally Blonde, and for Best Direction of a Musical for Kinky Boots.
For Playbill's complete coverage of the Tony Awards, visit Playbill.com/Tonys.