Hugh Jackman Goes Shirtless to Make Gypsy of the Year a Record-Breaker; The Skits, Spoofs and Tributes | Playbill

News Hugh Jackman Goes Shirtless to Make Gypsy of the Year a Record-Breaker; The Skits, Spoofs and Tributes The Lion King dancers and Hugh Jackman’s juggernaut fundraising skills proved a potent combination once again at the 26th annual Gypsy of the Year Competition, which raised an all-time record-breaking $5.2 million for the charity Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman Photo by Monica Simoes

The Lion King won Best Presentation for the third year in a row with “Is the Writing on the Wall?,” in which the show’s limber dancers circled a man in a top hat who sketched a dove of peace in chalk on a black wall.

Jackman’s auctioning of his sweaty shirts after each performance of his play The Rivera strategy he perfected in 2011 on his show Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway — helped loft that show’s total to $549,725 so far beyond the next-highest earner (It’s Only a Play, with $464,559) that the judges took The River out of the competition and gave Jackman a Special Award for extraordinary effort, as they did in 2011.

The 2014 Gypsy of the Year, which took place Dec. 8 and 9 at the New Amsterdam Theatre, collected a grand total of $5,229,611, up sharply from last year’s $4,343,234, and finally besting 2011’s record $4.9 million. As has become custom, the afternoon show featured a vaudeville-like mixture of satirical skits, inspirational songs and virtuoso dance numbers, all performed by the "gypsies," the Broadway dancers who go from show to show and provide singing and dancing support to the leads.

As listed above, the second-highest fundraiser among all shows was the Broadway company of It’s Only a Play, whose collection baskets brought in $464,559, marking the first time that the two top fundraisers in any category were both non-musicals.

First runner-up for Best Stage Presentation went to Pippin’s "The World,” a death-defying pas de deux for two acrobats from that show, Nicholas Jelmoni and Charlotte O’Sullivan, that had audience hearts in their throats as he kept flinging her into the air, Apache-dance style, and catching her at the last possible moment.

<i>Pippin</i>'s presentation
Pippin's presentation Photo by Monica Simoes

Fundraising awards were handed out by Jackman, Nathan Lane (It’s Only a Play) and Judith Light (Transparent).

Top Broadway musical fundraisers were  The Book of Mormon with $193,181, Beautiful with $195,773, Cabaret with $217,699, and Kinky Boots with $233,544.

Top national tour fundraisers included Wicked (Emerald City Tour) with $205,386, Book of Mormon (Latter Day Tour) with $242,756, Wicked (Munchkinland Tour) with $257,880 and Kinky Boots with $329,734.

The runner-up for Broadway play was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time with $115,980. The top fundraiser among Off-Broadway shows was Avenue Q with $219,237.

These are the figures as announced from the stage Dec. 9. Some changes may be announced when accountants review totals received.

This year's Gypsy of the Year featured more than 200 Broadway and Off-Broadway performers. Shows that performed original numbers included Aladdin, Avenue Q, Chicago, Kinky Boots, The Lion King, Mamma Mia!, Motown: The Musical, Once, Pippin, Rock of Ages, Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella and Wicked.

Judges for the 2014 "Gypsy of the Year" competition were performers Julie Halston (You Can’t Take It With You), Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed (Aladdin), Alex Sharp (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), Micah Stock (It’s Only a Play), NeNe Leaks (Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella), Jujamcyn Theaters Executive Vice President and BC/EFA Board of Trustees President Paul Libin and original Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS staffer Yvonne Ghareeb, who is retiring in January after 26 years with the organization; plus two winners of a fundraising bid to help adjudicate, Lee Perlman and Peg Wendlandt.

Click through to read more about the special performances, including spoofs of Peter Pan Live!; tributes to The Wiz, featuring members of the original cast; and a rap from Tony Award-winning Aladdin star James Monroe Iglehart.

To honor the 40th anniversary of the Broadway musical The Wiz and its director Geoffrey Holder who died Oct. 4, Gypsy of the Year opened with a medley of songs and dances from that musical featuring original cast members André De Shields and Dee Dee Bridgewater, who performed their memorable numbers from the show, along with Ken Page (who replaced as the Lion in the original production) and Lillias White. Host Seth Rudetsky pointed out that Page sang in the original key and the svelte De Shields wore his original Wiz costume, a white jumpsuit with matching cape and an emerald pendant.

The cast of Wicked presented a timely spoof of last week's broadcast of Peter Pan Live!, imagining that Lady Gaga had originally been cast as Tinkerbell, and then showing how various of her songs would have fit comfortably into the show.

De Shields returned at the end of the event to say The Wiz had been "dear to my heart and dear to the hearts of African-Americans" in part because "for the first time we looked at the Broadway stage and saw ourselves reflected"… "and we knew we could find a home on the Great White Way."

Child actors from various shows saluted Love Letters with LUV TXTS, showing what the show would be like if written for today's kids, full of texting jargon, duckfaces and selfies. When one kid admitted I don't get this play because it lacks "$12 million scenery" and "scantily-clad chorus girls," the skit veered into a parody of Linus' "true meaning of Christmas" speech in "A Charlie Brown Christmas." A boy explained that playwright A.R. Gurney was just trying to demonstrate "the simple power of the written word"—as long as it is spoken by "a couple of big-name stars."

The cast of Mamma Mia! parodied the opening combination from A Chorus Line, and showing what happens when Broadway shows reach their 13th anniversaries and all dancers must audition to keep their jobs. "I kinda like this job," they sing, "I want to keep this job." In the end the satanic director allows them to keep their jobs…but "you'll all stay in Mamma Mia!…forever!" The puppets of Avenue Q offered "Sponsor a Muppet," a parody of heartbreaking holiday charity appeals. Revealing that his subscription to a porn website had run out, Trekkie Monster whined, "Me no want to turn into Bill Cosby," to which the host agreed, "One Bill Cosby is enough."

Host Seth Rudetsky offered two of his patented "deconstructions" of songs from cast albums, demonstrating the right and wrong way to "button" (conclude) a showtune; and giving his account of how Betty Buckley produced the longest sustained a cappella high E note in Broadway history in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart, who plays the Genie in Aladdin, demonstrated his freestyle rapping skills by taking two words shouted by the audience—"jewelry" and "Jewry"—and ad libbing a rap about Rudetsky and a trip to Zales.

After being compared to great Broadway couples including Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in their introduction, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick (It's Only a Play) managed to put the audience in stitches simply by reading the over-the-top credits of the Gypsy judges.

Chicago celebrated its recent surpassing of Cats to become the second-longest running show in Broadway history with "What's New Pussycat," a dance skit in which the bowler hatted Chicago dancers drove one of the Cats dancers from the embrace of the Phantom of the Opera, but then joined forces with their rivals to display the sign saying, "Neighbors on Broadway for over 17 years/What we do together makes a difference."

The cast of Kinky Boots poked fun at director John Doyle and his penchant for using actors as his orchestra with a skit titled Kinky Boots Denuded. The sunny show about drag queens who help a down-and-out shoe factory was turned into something resembling Doyle's darkly impressionistic 2005 revival of Sweeney Todd.

Among the displays of dance virtuosity, 12 dancers from various national tours wearing brightly colored clothes swirled around a woman with curly red hair in a red dress, choreographed by Adam Fleming. Members of the "Bucket Brigade" who collect money in red BC/EFA buckets at various shows also got their moment to dance in the sun in "Bucket Brigade" with steps by Shea Sullivan.

The 26th Gypsy of the Year, 2014

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