Over the past six weeks, 58 shows (on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and national tours) engaged in the annual Red Bucket fall fundraiser on behalf of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. On December 10, the theatre community gathered at Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre for the 30th annual Red Bucket Follies (formerly Gypsy of the Year) as a culmination of the fundraising efforts.
As always, the afternoon featured the ensembles of musicals like Broadway’s Chicago, American Utopia, The Phantom of Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, The Lion King, Frozen, as well as plays like The Rose Tattoo and The Great Society, plus Off-Broadway ensembles from shows like A Musical About Star Wars and Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. Hosted by Seth Rudetsky, the show also featured performances by Dancers Responding to AIDS and Broadway Inspirational Voices and appearances by cast members of Ain’t Too Proud and Moulin Rouge!.
This year’s campaign raised over $5 million. (To find out which shows topped their fundraising categories click here.) But the afternoon is also a celebration of the power of theatre, including these nine memorable moments.
1. The Opening Number
The 2019 Red Bucket Follies nailed it from the downbeat. Numerous Broadway kids started out spoofing Tina: The Tina Turner Musical quoting her intro to “Proud Mary” about how audiences might think their jobs are “nice and easy.” But no. Then Aladdin’s Clinton Greenspan reminded them that they’re living their dreams—and they’re only 10 years old! “I’m 6,” one of Frozen’s Young Anna’s quipped. Mean Girls star Renée Rapp joined Greenspan in a rendition of “Stars” with rewritten lyrics from the musical she stars in eight times a week. Lyric highlights include: “I see stars / here on the Broadway stage / before your drinking age.”
2. Seth Rudetsky
Hosting for his 11th year, Rudetsky proves again why there is no alternative for a Master of Ceremonies. His dizzying pace only highlights his comedy as offers his famous deconstructions. But the best had to be his first, where he “deconstructed on a budget”—a budget of time that is. He chose a single line sung by Barbra Streisand to demonstrate her brilliance of: starting a phrase with vibrato, breath control, turning a one-syllable word into a two-syllable word, singing in head voice and then going higher on a full belt, “acupuncture vibrato” blue note combo, finished with “drums, drums, brass.” He even managed to squeeze in comparisons to Marin Mazzie and Chris Jackson in the process.
3. What Would Fosse Do?
The cast of Chicago found their niche and executed it with flawless Fosse technique, Broadway precision, and brilliant comedy. The cast set famous Fosse choreography to tracks from other Broadway shows, like dancing Sweet Charity’s “Big Spender” choreo to “Hello” from The Book of Mormon—full on ballet bars in Mormon uniforms—and Pippin’s “Manson Trio” routine to “Meet the Plastics” from Mean Girls.
In a performance from Dancers Responding to AIDS, dancer Khori Petinaud stunned the audience with a routine (choreographed by Josh Prince) set to Carol Channing reading an ad/poem/monologue about housework. We’re obsessed.
5. Homage to Harold Prince
While his full memorial will be held December 16, this year’s Follies featured a poignant tribute to the man who, as George Lee Andrews reminded us, brought us Company, Cabaret, On the Twentieth Century, Parade, Fiddler on the Roof, The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, Sweeney Todd, Evita, Pacific Overtures, The Phantom of the Opera—and that doesn’t even cover it all.
6. The Evita Supercut
In honor of Evita’s 40th anniversary, Rudetsky and his SiriusXM co-host Christine Pedi performed the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice-Hal Prince musical in under six minutes—but as way more than six actors. With Rudetsky as a sort of stage manager/narrator/accompanist, Pedi navigated excerpts of the entire score in the voices of Angela Lansbury, Julie Andrews, and Liza Minnelli—to name a few. Pedi’s been mastering the impressions for so long, you’d think you’ve seen it all. You’d be wrong. Some things never get old.
7. André De Shields
The 73-year-old Tony winner walked out onstage. That would have been enough. Donning a three-piece cotton candy suit and top hat, the man knows how to command an audience. But this year, he was the one to remind us of why we do what we do. That every year, 400,000 new instances of HIV arise across the globe. That he lost his partner prematurely to the illness. Before leading the theatre in a moment of silence, De Shields thanked Broadway Cares: “They held my hand because I needed to be led, they held my heart because it was breaking in two, and they held my home so that I would not end up on the street.” He left us with one word: ubuntu, a Bantu word meaning, “I am because we are.”
8. Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish
In 2018, the Off-Broadway production led one of the most heartfelt moments of the afternoon singing “Sabbath Prayer” and noting the celebration of Channukah. This year, Fiddler turned to its comedic side for their version of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, appropriately renamed the “Radio City Channukah Spectacular.” Mimicking the plot of the staple holiday show, a dreidl replaced the tin soldier, a kickline of menorackettes, and some clever lyrics won them the trophy for best performance at the Follies.
9. Broadway Cares raised $5,631,888!
The afternoon was full of fun and games, as well as moments of contemplation and thoughtfulness, but nothing was more meaningful than learning how much the theatre community—from national tours to Off-Broadway to Broadway—raised to continue to support the crucial programs of Broadway Cares.