Y’all know well and good how much I love Broadway. Nothing makes me happier than dance belts, spray glitter, jazz hands, and huge choreographed numbers. Truth be told? I have to bite my lip each and every time I settle into my seat and that first swell of music washes over me, just to keep from crying at the beauty and excitement of it all. The quickest way to make me feel like an eight year old again is plop me in a velvet covered chair and hand me a program.
And I love the Broadway community. Hell, I love talent in general, especially when that talent is tempered with a strong sense of humor – like when the guys from the current production of The Importance of Being Ernest (which is just delicious and you should go see it) put together some videos of Jersey Shore transcripts in the style of Oscar Wilde.
But what I love most about the Broadway community is their heart. As I already mentioned, I was lucky enough to attend a performance of 25th annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition. I LOVE this charity and always jump at the chance to attend any of their events. I just think there’s something so beautiful in watching people that passionately love what they do harness that passion into devotion to helping their fellow man. Obviously I’m just a big softy.
As it does every year, the show consists of various skits, songs and/or dances performed by cast members from various shows, often spoofing themselves (and other shows) before unveiling their elaborate “Easter Bonnet.” Mind you, the bonnet is usually the size of a small rhinoceros and is probably equally as heavy. See this example from the performance by the cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
This year, the event raised over $3.7 million to “fund the social service work of The Actors Fund and award grants to AIDS service organizations nationwide.” And pardon me while I brag, but Rocco’s show raised the most money of any Broadway production with a whopping $270k! You go, Harry Potter! And I have to give mad props to my friend Tree for c0-designing the winning bonnet for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo!
La Cage aux Folles won the award for best bonnet presentation. Frankly, it was no contest. I’m still haunted by that performance.
Twenty-five years ago, the very first Easter Bonnet presentation took place at La Cage’s theater, during its first run on Broadway. That was in 1987, the same year AZT was first approved for the treatment of HIV/AIDS by the FDA. Between lines of song, each of the dancers stepped forward and somberly spoke the name of one of the original company members who has since died of AIDS. Those dancers were then joined by members of the original 1983 company and the 2004 revival to sing “The Best of Times.” The performance ended with the unveiling of the bonnet – a reproduction of the original bonnet from 1987.
Obviously I bawled. I mean, you’d have to be dead inside to not be moved, right?
Between numbers, stars of stage and screen would take the podium to recount the accomplishments and gifts the charity made over the past year. I was particularly touched by the letter they read from someone in South Carolina. Forgive me, I didn’t have anything to write with at the show so I have to paraphrase, but essentially the letter went something like, “I never thought I could feel the warmth of the lights of the Great White Way all the way down here in Charleston, but I do.”
Some days I just love people. Let’s face it, I love beautiful gay male dancers EVERY day – especially in drag. But it’s nice to have reaffirmation that the beautiful people I so love to watch tap dance in the spotlight are just as beautiful inside.
So come visit New York. Go see a show. Support this beautiful community. And leave an hour or two in your calendar to split a piece of cheesecake with me.
If you’d like to support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, you can make a donation here.