21st Annual Gypsy of the Year: The Skits, the Songs and the Satire

News   21st Annual Gypsy of the Year: The Skits, the Songs and the Satire
This year's Gypsy of the Year got off to a defiant start with an opening number that poked vicious fun at the TV series "So You Think You Can Dance?" and its dismissal of dancers as being "too Broadway."
Hosts Julie White and Seth Rudetsky
Hosts Julie White and Seth Rudetsky Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Actual Broadway gypsies proved they have more talent in a single run in their tights than can be found in the entire TV show, including the judges. It was conceived, directed and choreographed by Melissa Rae Mahon and Sean McKnight.

The event, one of the strongest for talent in recent memory, emphasized feats of virtuosity. Satellite radio host (and Forbidden Broadway alumna) Christine Pedi deployed many of her best impressions in a salute to the musical Dreamgirls, performing the roof-raiser "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" with alternating lines in the vocal style of Angela Lansbury, Katharine Hepburn, Bernadette Peters, Christine Ebersole, Ethel Merman, Julie Andrews and others.

Chicago's "9th Avenue Story," transcended its campy PG-13 premise to win the Gypsy of the Year Award. Ryan Lowe played an older gypsy from West Side Story lusting after a younger dancer from Bye Bye Birdie. To the tune of "A Boy Like That," Lowe's fellows tried to convince him that "These little twinks cannot love." Lowe then burst into a falsetto parody of "I Have a Love" in which he chided, "You all are tops — or so you say! You should know better!" and proclaimed that he wanted to "Be with him now, tomorrow or most of the night," hitting all the high notes at full power.

Russell Fischer and Taylor Steinberg of Jersey Boys presented dueling impressions of "Star Trek" star William Shatner doing over-the-top dramatic readings of showtune lyrics, including "Popular," "Mamma Mia!," and "Turkey Lurkey Time."

Host Rudetsky performed several of his patented "deconstructions" of favorite (and less-than-favorite) moments from cast albums. One of the most popular contrasted the final notes of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein song "Do-Re-Mi" from the stage and film versions of The Sound of Music. Noting that he usually prefers the Broadway cast album, he went on to compare Mary Martin's low-low note finale with Julie Andrews' clarion high note on the soundrack. The New Vaudeville act was punctuated with frequent repetitions of Rudetsky's "I'm obsessed!" catchphrase. Classical Action sent pianist Natasha Peremski to perform Prokofiev's frenzied "Sonata No. 7," which stopped the show. When the audience wouldn't stop applauding, Rudetsky brought her out for a second bow.

Keigwin & Company, representing Dancers Responding to AIDS, performed Larry Keigwin's lighthearted and imaginative "Fly," in which dancers attired as flight attendants turned mundane airport activities like wheeling luggage and the seatbelt drill into a sprightly dance, to the Fifth Dimension song "Up, Up and Away."

Two skits involved both dance and nightmares. Hair presented a drug-fueled nightmare by Gavin Creel, Michael James Scott and Nadia DiGiallonnardo in which the characters from the Hair tribe take Claude on an acid trip through Broadway showtunes from "Sunrise, Sunset" to "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." When he recovers and says, "Oh my God, what did you put in that joint!?" he's told, "Shipoopi!"

A more innocent nightmare was performed by the cast of Bye Bye Birdie. Thinking about all the great talents lost to AIDS, including Freddy Mercury of the rock group Queen, one of the youngsters takes a nap on the Equity cot, and finds himself propelled into Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" as performed by the Sweet Apple [Ohio] Glee Club.

Another trend this year was to present small groups of instrumentalists and singers performing non-showtunes, while members of the company performed modern dance. Mary Poppins, Mamma Mia!, Rock of Ages, Wicked and the "Gypsy Presentation Representing National Tours" were among those who went this route.

The event also featured plenty of the satirical skits that have become a Gypsy of the Year mainstay.

Naked Boys Singing cast
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Naked Boys Singing performed "Something Better Than Naked," a parody of the Sweet Charity song "There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This," in which they tried to imagine what sort of change they could make to their show so it would finally move to Broadway. In the end, they concluded that their best hope was to cast Hugh Jackman, and they finished their number with a foamcore cutout of the star. Most skits were performed by the casts of musicals. But the cast of the drama Superior Donuts, which originated at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, poked fun at A Steady Rain, in which Australian Hugh Jackman and Brit Daniel Craig play Chicago cops. In the skit, the actual Chicagoans tried to teach the two stars how to pronounce "Chicago" properly.

First runner-up for Best Stage Presentation went to the actual West Side Story for "Gypsy Nation," in which the chorus danced in a series of different, tightly-choreographed styles.

Other fundraising awards:

Top National Tour fundraisers: Rent with $242,383, Wicked (Emerald City Tour) with $237,000, Jersey Boys (Sherry Company) with $225,225, and Jersey Boys with $190,466.

Top Broadway Musical Fundraisers: Phantom of the Opera with $161,060, Billy Elliot with $153,677, Hair with $153,648, and Wicked with $147,611.

Runner-up for Broadway Play fundraiser was Superior Donuts with $76,309.

The top fundraiser among Off-Broadway shows was Avenue Q, which gathered $27,918.

The 21st annual Gypsy of the Year brought in a record-breaking $4,630,695 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman at Gypsy of the Year
Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman at Gypsy of the Year Photo by Aubrey Reuben
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