Two SRO performances of the 23rd Annual “Gypsy of the Year” competition held recently at the glorious New Amsterdam raised an all-time high of $4,895,253 – over a million more than 2010 – for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS thanks to the tireless efforts of 53 Broadway, Off-Broadway and tour companies during the six-week Fall drive.

Since 1989, the competitions have raised more than $49 million to benefit BC/EFA and Actors Fund programs here and around the country.

Songs, skits, parodies and dances were performed by more than 300. Valerie Lau-Kee Lai directed, with Seth Rudetsky hosting. Stars making appearances included Nick Adams, Danny Burstein, Beth Leavel, Jan Maxwell, Patrick Page, Elaine Paige, Leslie Uggams and Terri White.

The original Broadway cast of Grease opened with a spirited celebration of the show's 40th anniversary. Among the cast were Adrienne Barbeau (who knew her other famous asset was a great singing voice? She should be offered a musical!), Walter Bobbie (yes, the one and same!), Barry Bostwick, Carole Demas, Katie Hanley and Ilene Kristen (the infamous Roxy on TV’s “One Life to Live”) .

Hugh Jackman, Bernadette Peters and Daniel Radcliffe announced the grand total on the second day and presented awards to top fundraisers: musical, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying; play, Other Desert Cities. Jackman was honored for raising $857,740 in three weeks at Hugh Jackman Back on Broadway, where he's literally been auctioning the shirt off his back.

The company of Billy Elliot, in their farewell appearance, took honors for the best onstage presentation, while four young members from Mary Poppins were runners-up and wholesale scene stealers performing bits from A Streetcar Named Desire, Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Somebody had to do it: break the levity, be serious and tell everyone why they were there; to put the mission of BC/EFA out there. No one could have done it better than actress and activist Judith Light. It was one of those rare times you couldn't hear a peep or a cough or see a cell phone light. It was as if you were the only person out there in the dark, and Ms. Light had your rapt attention.

“It's been many years since we came together for the first `Gypsy of the Year’ competition in 1989," she began. "At that time, the AIDS epidemic had taken from us a staggering number of people in just our community alone. People infected and affected by the virus lived in fear and desperate sadness, too often isolated and alone.

"No one in the audience that day had not been deeply affected by the disease in some way. For those of you too young to know anything of the disease other than today's medications and services, count yourselves lucky for it was indeed worse than anything you can imagine.

“Those of us who remember the early days," she continued, "surely recall the frustration and anger that spread as we faced an epidemic head on and fought to be heard. It would have been impossible to gather for an afternoon such as this and not remember what brought us all together.”

Ms. Light then asked for a moment of silence. It's the only one at any BC/EFA event. "Today, 23 years since that first `Gypsy of the Year,’" she stated, "we take a moment to reflect on those we love who cannot be here and those whose voices still cannot be heard – not just because of AIDS but for a variety of reasons and a multitude of challenges.

"Let us now, together, take a moment to recommit to reaching beyond ourselves," Ms. Light added, "to those who need us most – and to each other – with gratitude for the simple fact that we are together, here in this beautiful theater – able, willing, and as ever, compelled to do our part, however small, to ensure that all are embraced in times of trouble, isolation or crisis. Thank you. Indeed, no one is alone. Now, let's have some fun!"

BC/EFA exec director Tom Viola said, "Judith's an extraordinary advocate and friend. Her reading of the moment of silence is like no other. It's truly the heart of the show. She does it with such deliberate care and emotional understanding of what she's expressing that it resonates even in the middle of a show that's raucous, outrageous, sentimental and funny. We're so grateful."


2011 <i>Gypsy of the Year</i> - Jordan Dean
Key Subjects: 
Gypsy of the Year, Hugh Jackman, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, BC/EFA, Mary Poppins, How to Succeed in Business..., Judith Light.
Ellis Nassour
December 2011