Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ 24th annual “Gypsy of the Year” competition, held Monday and Tuesday afternoon (December 3 & 4, 2012) for two SRO performances at Disney’s historic New Amsterdam Theater, was the culminating celebration of six weeks of fundraising by 51 participating Broadway, Off-Broadway, and national touring companies. This event alone, with local and national campaigns, raised just short of $4-million!

The competition, the theater’s festive lead-in to the end-of-the-year holidays, showcased the dancers and special guests from Broadway, Off Broadway, and national tours in original skits and dance numbers performed by more than 200 of theater’s best singers, dancers and musicians.

Chita Rivera, Ricky Martin, and Katie Holmes (even, as tall as she is, towering over just above everyone onstage in at least nine inch heels) presented the awards. Winners/final tallies for just Broadway musicals were Once - $232,770; Evita - $224,105; The Book of Mormon - $209,265; and Wicked - $165,370. Among Broadway plays, the top fundraiser was The Heiress - $50,254; Off-Broadway’s top play/musical fundraiser was Avenue Q - $ 24,940. However, the overall top fundraiser was the national tour of The Book of Mormon, with over $478,000.

Amid the annual festivities, there is a tradition of a moment of silence to remember those no longer here. BC/EFA’s “dear friend,” the tireless Tony winner Judith Light, arrived onstage to a thunderous ovation. “It’s been many years since we came together for the first `Gypsy of the Year’ competition. At that time, the AIDS epidemic had taken a staggering number of people in just our community... 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, “recall the frustration and anger that spread as we faced an epidemic head on and fought to be heard... We take a moment to reflect on those we love who cannot be here and those whose voices that cannot be heard – not just because of AIDS, but for a variety of reasons and a multitude of challenges. We especially want to embrace with love our friends, neighbors and co-workers whose homes and livelihoods have been so severely challenged by the hurricane. Let us now, together, take a moment to recommit to reaching beyond ourselves, to those who need us most – and to each other – with gratitude for the simple fact that we are together, here in this beautiful theate r– 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.”

It is always, as it was Monday and Tuesday, a solemn moment; and one of those rare times in theater where there’s a hush of total silence.

This year’s Gypsy, hosted by Seth Rudetsky, saluted multiple award-winning late lyricist Fred Ebb of the Kander-and-Ebb team. David Hyde Pierce and Deborah Monk led a reunion of the cast of Curtains and alumni from Chicago to Curtains’ apt "Show People." Ebb’s foundation has donated an astonishing $8-million to BC/EFA’s programs, the largest single gift ever.

”Gypsy of the Year’s” opening number celebrated Broadway dance with choreography from West Side Story, Fosse, 42nd Street, The Will Rogers Follies, Crazy for You, Legally Blonde and A Chorus Line.

Broadway’s Lion King company took honors for the best onstage presentation. Bring it On was runner-up with a jaw-dropping, high-flying, acrobatic hip-hop number.

BC/EFA awards grants to 450 AIDS and family service organizations nationwide and is the major supporter of the social service programs of The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative and the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic.

Recently, BC/EFA donated $350,00 to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, AmeriCares, the American Red Cross of Greater New York, and The Actors Fund to help provide immediate assistance for those in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut affected by the devastation from Hurricane Sandy.

“Gypsy of the Year,” directed by Kristin Newhouse with a team of 12 very professional stage managers, was sponsored by United Airlines and The New York Times.

Key Subjects: 
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, BC/EFA, Gypsy of the Year, Judith Light, Fred Ebb.
Ellis Nassour
Publication Credit: 
This article originally apeared in City Guide Cultural Arts Blog, Dec. 2012
December 2012