Wicked Tour Boosts 2011 Easter Bonnet to Near-Record $3.7 Million; La Cage and Bengal Tiger Are Winners

News   Wicked Tour Boosts 2011 Easter Bonnet to Near-Record $3.7 Million; La Cage and Bengal Tiger Are Winners
The 25th annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition raised a near-record $3,706,085 in six weeks of nightly curtain-call appeals. The number was revealed at the April 26 performance of skits, songs and dances that make up the unique fundraiser-show, held at the Minskoff Theatre.

La Cage aux Folles, with Christopher Sieber, won Best Presentation.
La Cage aux Folles, with Christopher Sieber, won Best Presentation. Photo by Peter James Zielinski

The total bested last year's $3.27 million but fell just short of the $3,734,000 record set in 2008. This year's total was raised by 52 participating Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring shows.

Special guests Daniel Radcliffe (How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), Harvey Fierstein (of La Cage aux Folles) and Sutton Foster (of Anything Goes) presented the performance/bonnet awards at the Minskoff on April 26 following the two Easter Bonnet performances (one on Monday, one on Tuesday).

Radcliffe's show was the top moneymaker among Broadway productions, bringing in $271,916.

As they did in 2010, the various companies of the musical Wicked took three major fundraising awards. The show was the first runner-up among Broadway shows, bringing in $208,880. The "Emerald City" touring company was also a big moneymaker among national tours, taking in $242,212. But the "Munchkinland" touring company of Wicked stood the tallest of all, winning the grand fundraising prize for the second year in a row, collecting $360,021 in the fight against AIDS.

The award for outstanding bonnet design went to Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo — a rare win for a non-musical. The cap consisted of a replica of the show's tiger cage set containing an incarcerated toy tiger. The winning bonnet was created by Moira MacGregor-Conrad and Tree Sarvay. When the show's star Robin Williams fired a prop gun at it, the tiger doll erupted in ribbons of blood.

The company of Broadway's La Cage aux Folles took the top prize for bonnet presentation, with a performance called "25 Years of Easter Bonnet," hosted by current co-star Christopher Sieber. He reminded the audience that the very first "Easter Bonnet" competition took place at the Palace Theatre, then home to the original production of La Cage. He then introduced members of the current revival who spoke the names of members of the original company who died of AIDS. They were then joined by members of the original 1983 company and the 2004 revival to sing "The Best of Times."

The winning La Cage company skit concluded with the presentation of their bonnet, a recreation of the bonnet that won that first competition, as designed by the late Howard Crabtree: a Zaza doll whose billowing skirt opened to reveal a stage with figures from the show.

Named runner-up for performance were The Addams Family cast members Adam Riegler (Pugsley) and Zachary James (Lurch), who did a soft shoe in costume to a Frank Sinatra song, topped off by hairy Cousin Itt wearing the bonnet — a large Easter egg costume whose top popped open to reveal Thing, the character of a disembodied hand. When the skit won its award, Thing gave a big thumbs-up and accepted the plaque.

Some other facts and figures:

Off-Broadway Shows That Raised the Most
Avenue Q at $44,072 and Freud's Last Session at $24,500

Broadway Plays That Raised the Most
That Championship Season at $163,542 and Lombardi at $86,099

Broadway Runners-Up for Fundraising
Wicked at $165,979, Billy Elliot at $151,363, Phantom of the Opera at $149,194

Touring Runners-Up for Fundraising
Mary Poppins at $150,472, Les Miserables at $124,019 and Billy Elliot at $116,384

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).

Though top prize went to La Cage's bittersweet remembrance of those we've lost, funny skits laced with insider jokes once again predominated at Easter Bonnet.

Favorite satirical targets included the injury-plagued Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark musical and TV reality shows that feature dancers who think they're as good as Broadway dancers.

The show opened with a parody of the hit TV show "Glee," with characters from Broadway shows (led by Matthew Morrison lookalike Derek St. Pierre) dancing to show tunes for supremacy over a wedge of pop dancers (led by Jane Lynch soundalike Natalie Joy Johnson). The number ended with the appearance of an actor in a Spider-Man costume who entered in a wheelchair. Once dancer observed that Spider-Man, which is on hiatus for rewrites, could become the first show in Broadway history to win the Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Revival in the same season.

They were followed by Robin Williams, who entered with the shout, "Goooood afternoon Broadway!," a reference to a catchphrase in his Oscar-nominated film "Good Morning Vietnam." He marked Bonnet's 25th anniversary with a comic monologue about other things that originated in 1987, including the "This Is Your Brain on Drugs" commercial of a frying egg, which he claimed gave him the munchies. He ended soberly, recalling the explosion in the number of AIDS cases from 1987 to today.

The Off-Broadway company of Avenue Q poked fun at itself in a skit sarcastically titled "Avenue Q Goes Green," which bemoaned how Broadway shows like theirs are "recycled" in reduced versions.

The Off-Broadway company of Freud's Last Session did an imaginatively updated version of the vaudeville-inspired routine "Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean," complete with canes and straw hats, in which they debated science versus religion, as they do in their play.

The Lion King departed from its usual serious dance presentations to do a parody of TV's "RuPaul's Drag Race" in which lead male characters from Phantom, The Addams Family and even Driving Miss Daisy were reconceived as drag queens, to the music of Ethel Merman's disco "Everything's Coming Up Roses."

The 2011 Bonnet show marked the return of Officer Lockstock (Don Richards) and Little Sally (Jen Cody), refugees from the long-closed musical Urinetown, who offered sharp commentary on the latest backstage gossip. Lockstock said he was now part of the NYPD Disaster Response Team, protecting Broadway from disasters. To which Little Sally drily replied, "Too late." Lockstock said people would be alerted to trouble by a loud blaring noise, to which Little Sally asked if he was referring to the Wonderland cast album. When he said evacuation plans would lead to "large empty spaces," she asked if he was referring to Million Dollar Quartet at 8 PM. When he mentioned Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, she said the only thing Spanish about the show was the "stampede at intermission." Instead of her usual rag-doll prop, she carried a Spider-Man doll which, at one point, fell out of her arms and plunged into the orchestra pit, which was enough of a comment on its own to slay the audience.

The cast of Phantom of the Opera performed Michael Jackson's "Heal the World," with a staging by Kris Koop Ouellette that started with one little girl in a communion dress, and eventually incorporated much of the company — with their children of various ages, plus one making its Broadway debut in-utero.

The star spot in the Bonnet event went to a special salute to Doris Eaton Travis, the onetime Ziegfeld Girl who returned to the Broadway stage for the 1997 Easter Bonnet and returned each year until 2010, when she made her final Bonnet appearance just two weeks before her death at age 106. The tribute consisted of a young dancer moving to Travis's signature song, "Mandy," in front of a large photo of Travis while recordings of Travis' first and last Bonnet speeches were played. Travis ended with the admonition to "keep on dancing."

The winning <i>Bengal Tiger</i> bonnet.
The winning Bengal Tiger bonnet. Photo by Peter James Zielinski
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