Deafening cheers, copious laughter, roaring ovations, and a smattering of tears all filled the New Amsterdam Theatre on Tuesday, December 4 for the concluding performance of the 24th Annual Gypsy of the Year competition, benefiting the charity Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA). The event marked the end of a six-week fundraising campaign by a total of 51 Broadway, off-Broadway, and national touring shows, which raised $3,902,608 for BC/EFA.
Radio personality Seth Rudetsky served as the host for the show, which featured the talents of more than 200 singers, dancers, and musicians in its celebration of the contributions of Broadway's beloved "gypsies" (i.e. chorus dancers).
The expansive opening number, "We're Gypsies," included loving tributes to many of Broadway's most inventive choreographers, including Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, Gower Champion, Susan Stroman, Tommy Tune, and Michael Bennett, along with crowd-pleasing appearances by Broadway veterans Harvey Evans (West Side Story) and Shannon Lewis (Fosse).
Recognizable stars who participated in some of the show's more memorable segments included the current star of Annie, Lilla Crawford, who belted the show's signature anthem "Tomorrow" side-by-side with the role's originator; Tony nominee Andrea McArdle; NEWSical the Musical's marvelous mimic Christine Pedi, who mixed impressions of Cher, Julie Andrews, Liza Minnelli, and Elaine Stritch throughout her hilarious "Lovely Ladies of Les Miz"; Evita's Rachel Potter, who sang her country music hit "Live the Dream" alongside young co-stars Ava DeMary and Mavis Simpson-Ernst; Tony winner Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd) who made a well-timed cameo in Mamma Mia!'s "Yesterday" skit, mocking young audiences' infatuation with technology; and current Chicago leading man Billy Ray Cyrus, who sang a soulful "Bye Bye Blackbird," before the company danced a dynamic version of Bob Fosse's immortal "Sing, Sing, Sing."
Particularly joyful was the show's final number, which was performed in tribute to the late, Tony-winning lyricist Fred Ebb, who has contributed nearly $7 million to BC/EFA through his foundation. (Ebb's songwriting partner, John Kander, was one of the event's judges and received the strongest ovation of the afternoon). After a short speech by Tony winners David Hyde Pierce and Debra Monk, the pair joined cast members from both Curtains and Chicago – including Jill Paice, Edward Hibbert, and Noah Racey -- in a vibrant rendition of Curtains' "Show People."
Tony winners Judith Light (Other Desert Cities), Steve Kazee (Once), and Katie Finneran (Annie), Peter and the Starcatcher co-stars Celia Keenan-Bolger and Adam Chanler-Berat, Sonia and Vanya and Masha and Spike co-stars Billy Magnussen and Genevieve Angelson; and Chaplin's Wayne Alan Wilcox were on hand to talk to the crowd about BC/EFA, introduce the judges, and present the annual moment of silence for those who have died of AIDS.
At the event's end, two-time Tony Award winner Chita Rivera (The Mystery of Edwin Drood), Evita star Ricky Martin, and Dead Accounts star Katie Holmes came on stage to announce the winners of the artistic presentation and the top fundraising efforts. The Lion King was named Best Presentation for a remarkable modern-dance piece entitled "Tossed Around," choreographed and directed by cast member Ray Mercer, while Bring It On! earned runner-up status for its flashy, hip-hop inspired number "Feel Ur Beat."
The national tour of The Book of Mormon took top honors for raising $478,130, followed by the Emerald City and Munchkinland tours of Wicked, who raised $357,379 and $252,152 respectively. Once was Broadway's champion musical fundraiser with $232,770; The Heiress was Broadway's top play earner with $50,254; and Avenue Q was the top off-Broadway fundraiser, collecting $24,940 for BC/EFA.
As cast members from the winning shows crowded the stage, the audience leapt to its feet, thrilled to be celebrating such a worthy cause, yet always wishing the day would come when such dedicated fundraising efforts might no longer be necessary.