"Why did the circus have to come to town?" That thought must have crossed the mind of at least one of the runners-up of the Broadway Beauty Pageant, which took place Monday, May 20 at the NYU Skirball Center. The winner of this year's contest was circus performer Orion Griffiths of the Broadway revival of Pippin. His all-American good looks got him into the pageant, but his daring acrobatic performance of "Rich Man's Frug" from Sweet Charity sealed the deal.
Born into a circus family, Griffiths is making his Broadway debut in Pippin, but he has been performing since he was four years old. When not jumping through hoops and leveraging his body weight, he works as a model for Calvin Klein and Abercrombie & Fitch.
The other contestants were Callan Bergmann (Silence! The Musical), Julius C. Carter (Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark), Yurel Echezarreta (Matilda), Matthew Goodrich (The Nance), and Paul HeeSang Miller (Mamma Mia!). It should be noted that all of these guys are ridiculously good looking — but seriously, how can you compete with multiple successive backflips and freakish upper body strength?
The judges, all newly minted Drama Desk Award winners, didn't think you can. The panel of three included Michael Urie (Buyer & Cellar), Griffiths' Pippin castmate Andrea Martin (conflict of interest?!?!?), and Billy Porter (Kinky Boots), who has a history of working with the Ali Forney Center, the beneficiary of this charity event.
Because beyond the bragging rights, The Broadway Beauty Pageant actually serves a very important purpose: This year, it raised $50,000 for the Ali Forney Center. Founded in 2002, Ali Forney offers services and shelter to homeless and at-risk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) youths. According to Executive Director Carl Siciliano, an estimated 25 to 40 percent of homeless youths (ages 16-24) are LGBTQ.
So everybody wins. And if you're still not sold on Griffiths, check out the talent portion of the contest and prepare to be amazed: