"Broadway Bares" Fundraiser is One for the (Gay) Gods
Posted by pozlife on June 13, 2007
June 13, 2007
“All of Mount Olympus will tremble at this year’s edition of Broadway Bares, which will feature a pantheon of gods and goddesses (and a few mere mortals for them to toy with). From the chiseled physiques of Narcissus and Poseidon to the deadly alluring Medusa to the debauched Bacchus and the legendary Amazons, a veritable clash of the titans will take place on stage at the Roseland Ballroom as hundreds of Broadway’s hottest bodies bare it all for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.”
Such is the promise made by the promotional materials for this years’ Broadway Bares fundraiser. And if past year’s performances are any indication, few attendees are likely to be disappointed.
The 17th edition of Broadway Bares, the annual event in which some of theater’s sexiest male and female dancers perform spectacular production numbers in various degrees of undress, will raise the roof at Roseland in New York City for two performances on Sunday, June 17, at 9:30 p.m. and midnight.
So how did this most famous of AIDS fundraisers come to be?
Broadway Bares began in 1991 as the brainchild of dancer-choreographer-director Jerry Mitchell (Legally Blonde: The Musical), who at the time was dancing nearly naked on a drum in The Will Rogers Follies. He and some other Broadway dancers stripped in rotation on the bar at the gay club Splash, raising $8,000 to help fight AIDS. All told, the 16 editions to date of Broadway Bares have raised nearly $4 million for BC/EFA — a testament to the truth of the old saw that “sex sells.”
“I never thought it would turn into this,” said Mitchell, who now functions as executive producer of BB. “If someone had asked me, ‘What do you think you’ll be doing for Broadway Bares XVII?’ back in 1991, I would have said, ‘What are you talking about?’ We raised $660,000 last year alone.”
All proceeds of Broadway Bares go to support a very worthy cause: Since BC/EFA’s inception in 1988, the organization has raised more than $130 million to help provide critically needed services for people with AIDS, HIV or HIV-related illnesses.
Given the buzz that can surround the show, it’s no wonder so many theater folk are thrilled to participate in BB. Broadway and television star Christopher Sieber and his partner, actor Kevin Burrows, were show-stoppers in 2002 when they played Batman and Robin in an erotic sequence that had the Caped Crusader and his young cohort doing the kinds of things we only wish we saw George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell do on the big screen. (The YouTube clip of their performance has had nearly 20,000 views.)
Other special guest performers that year included TV heartthrobs John Stamos and Steven Weber, who at the time were performing on Broadway in Cabaret and The Producers, respectively. The theme that year was “comic books” and, after reading a “fairy tale” comic, Stamos allowed himself to be stripped down to his g-string.
Then there was the year when hunky Jarrod Emick, who had created quite a stir with his Broadway debut in Damn Yankees, showed up and obligingly took his shirt off. Among the many other notables who have guested in Broadway Bares through the years are Christina Applegate, Charles Busch, Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Cheyenne Jackson, Jane Krakowski, Eartha Kitt, Michele Lee and Bruce Vilanch.
Broadway Bares was one of the first major events to use sex appeal as a weapon against AIDS, and though the show is great fun for folks of all orientations, it has a very pronounced gay sensibility. Through the years, performers have devoted their talents to sexing up all sorts of themes and subjects from comic books to movies to burlesque. One of the hottest editions was Broadway Bares 15: Rxxx, in which the cast cavorted as humpy young orderlies, naughty nurses and other medical personnel.
Denis Jones is directing the show this year for the third consecutive time, and he’s having a lot of fun putting it together.
“Mythology turns out to be a natural theme for this kind of entertainment,” he said. “I remember reading mythology in high school — which was a few years ago! — but I haven’t really read it since then, so I had to study up on it. It’s been both entertaining and educational!
“Mythology is so sexy. Everybody is sleeping with everybody else; men are sleeping with men; people are sleeping with people who are half-horses. It’s ripe with possibilities for strips and good, old-fashioned nastiness. We’re going to take these myths as a jumping-off place and present them in the style of different eras: Pandora and her box, the Amazons, and the rest of the crew.”
Mitchell elaborated: “The theme was all Denis’ decision. This show is his baby. He’s my assistant on Legally Blonde, but I’m not sure if our Greek chorus had any effect on his choice of theme — although Leslie Kritzer [one of the members of Blonde‘s Greek chorus] will be playing some crazy character in the show. You’re going to be seeing a lot of her!”
“It’s amazing how many people are turned on by this theme,” said Jones, who played a stripper in Broadway’s The Full Monty (which was choreographed by Mitchell). “The ad campaign is incredibly beautiful, and we’ve had more dancers show up this year to get involved that we’ve ever had before. It’s going to be quite an evening.
“I’ve been involved with Broadway Bares for 12 years now; I started out as a go-go dancer, worked my way up to a lead stripper, started choreographing about five years ago, and now I continue to choreograph plus directing the show. It’s such a blessing in my life. People are really passionate about it, and we’ve raised so much money. It’s win-win all around.”
As is the case every year, the show will feature special appearances by Broadway headliners, gay and straight. Among those set to strut their stuff are Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins), Laura Bell Bundy (Legally Blonde), Harvey Fierstein (soon to return to Broadway in A Catered Affair), Deidre Goodwin (A Chorus Line), Capathia Jenkins (Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me), Leslie Kritzer (Legally Blonde), David Hyde Pierce (Curtains), Bebe Neuwirth (Chicago) and Daphne Rubin-Vega (Jack Goes Boating). Jeffrey Lane (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) has scripted the show, and the opening number was written by Gary Adler (Altar Boyz).
Mitchell is enormously gratified by the success of Broadway Bares. “I was thinking about it in the shower today,” he said. “If this were a Broadway show and you could sell that many tickets at those prices, you could make about $2 million a week. It would be the highest-grossing Broadway show in history.”
Indeed, there have been rumors that a commercial run of BB is on the horizon, but according to Jerry Mitchell, those rumors aren’t entirely accurate. “I’m definitely working on a commercial burlesque show for Las Vegas,” he clarified. “Denis will be involved with it. We did a workshop of it here in the city. It will be very female heavy, obviously, for the Vegas strip. And it won’t be titled Broadway Bares.”
He continued: “We are working on a book with Rizzoli [Publications], but the original idea is morphing into something else. We were going to focus on the men of Broadway Bares, but the event has grown so much — and so many people have contributed it — that I want the book to reflect that and be more all-encompassing. The 20th year of Broadway Bares is almost upon us, so we might gear the book towards celebrating that anniversary.”
In addition to this year’s regular tickets, Broadway Bares has introduced a $10,000, limited-availability “VIP Backstage Pass”. If you can pay the big bucks, you and a guest will be escorted into Roseland for a sneak peek at the dress rehearsal, where you’ll meet Jerry Mitchell and a guest celebrity; you’ll enjoy dinner and drinks at one of Jerry’s favorite local restaurants with your personal escort and the guest celeb, then you’ll return to Roseland and meet the entire company backstage before being shown to your table in the VIP lounge, where you may remain for both shows. Following the midnight show, you’ll be escorted to the after-party.
You’ll have a great time and all for a wonderful cause.
Tickets for Broadway Bares XVII may be purchased through BroadwayCares.org or by calling 212-840-0770 x268.
Michael Portantiere is the Senior Editor of Theatermania.com.