Broadway Cares Executive Director Tom Viola Shares the History of the Broadway Snow Globe Tradition

The 2014 Broadway Cares snow globe is a great holiday gift…but you’ll probably end up keeping it for yourself.

Each holiday season, Broadway Cares, a leading nonprofit fundraising and grant-making organization, unveils a specialized snow globe paying tribute to the musicals on Broadway that season. The 2014 snow globe features the logos of 30 shows including Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Cinderella, Matilda, and The Phantom of the Opera — the famous shattered mirror logo has the distinction of having appeared on every globe since the tradition's inception.

"They're the largest-selling item in our gift catalog," said Broadway Cares Executive Director Tom Viola in a conversation with TheaterMania. And each year's is unique, with the 2014 globe featuring a design by Tony Award-winning set designer Donyale Werle (Peter and the Starcatcher). Viola went on to detail the history and impact of this benevolent Broadway tradition.

The 2014 Broadway Cares snow globe features dozens of Broadway logos.
The 2014 Broadway Cares snow globe features dozens of Broadway logos.
(© Seth Walters)

What's special about the Broadway Cares snow globes?

There's only one snow globe design every year. There are folks who have been collecting these since 1998, so I think there's probably a handful of collectors who have them all and then folks who have a variety of them through the years. They're very much a collectible item, and people really do look forward to adding to their collection, or starting them.

How did the snow globe tradition begin?

In 1998…we were approached by at the time what was called Bloomingdale's By Mail. They had a catalog that they sent out every year, and they were eager to do a snow globe representing Broadway. They knew that to get permission from all the Broadway shows — to actually incorporate those million-dollar logos into one snow globe — there would need to be a charitable component. Otherwise you'd have snow globes that would cost about $5,000 apiece. So they came to us and we were very successful in getting about sixteen or seventeen Broadway musicals to agree to give them permission to use their logos. And a large percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the snow globe came to Broadway Cares.

When Bloomingdales decided to wrap up the campaign, the snow globes were so popular that we decided that we didn't want them just to go away…So since then, we've created these ourselves every year and sold them. The reason why we're able to do this is because of the incredible generosity of the Broadway community. Nothing else exists like it. There's no other snow globe anywhere that has such an extraordinary representation of Broadway.

Broadway Cares Executive Director Tom Viola is proud of the snow globe tradition.
Broadway Cares Executive Director Tom Viola is proud of the snow globe tradition.

How does the sale of these snow globes benefit Broadway Cares?

They are really exceedingly popular, [they] net $100,000 from the sale of these items. [This] goes a long way toward our national grants program and also our support for The Actors Fund. Last year Broadway Cares awarded $10.6 million to the Actors Fund and over 450 other AIDS and family-service organizations across the country. That's everything from food banks to health clinics to case management to addiction and recovery services — a wide variety of programs helping hundreds of thousands of folks across the country.

Other than committed collectors, whom do you see buying the snow globe?

Many people who come to us because they type "snow globe" into Google and we pop up. Then [they] actually get involved in other benefits. It's a great first hello that allows us to reach out to many folks who might not find us otherwise. We take a lot of pride in creating [the snow globe] and have a tremendous amount of gratitude in the producers and the Broadway shows who allow us to be a part of their world.

To purchase the 2014 Broadway Cares snow globe, click here.