Broadway Bares It All Over the USA
New York City, Broadway. Hundreds of thousands of the world's most talented artists descend on the Big Apple with dreams of making it on "The Great White Way." Landing a coveted position on one of the legendary stages along the most famous theater district in the world is many a chorus boy's - and girl's - greatest ambition. But there's one tradition that generates almost as much excitement among the theater community as perhaps the annual Tony Awards.
Heralding the beginning of PRIDE Season Broadway Bares the annual fund-raising event created by Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell (still riding high from his well-earned wins for the Broadway hit "Kinky Boots") that continues to support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is now in its 23rd year. To celebrate the occasion and especially all that is occurring around the country in our dedicated efforts to promote marriage-equality, this year's event took on - or rather took off on a very patriotic motif.
Always delivering on the audiences' anticipating expectations of the stage production which returned to the Roseland Ballroom on Sunday, June 23, this year's program of Broadway Bares was dedicated to the 50 states (of undress) of the United States with a show entitled "The United Strips of America." Spotlighting more than 250 dancers in the company - all Broadway's best - it featured appearances from "Kinky Boots" Tony winner Billy Porter, Alan Cumming, with pop-star Adam Lambert delivering a rousing rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner."
Baring It All
Dancer/choreographer Tony Guerrero, who had finished a run performing for the Metropolitan Opera, was among the returning participants to Broadway Bares this year. He appeared in the show’s ode to California.
The most challenging part of participating in Broadway Bares aren’t necessarily the intense rehearsals leading up to the two back-to-back staged performances, or the personal fund-raising effort. Nope - the hardest part is becoming part of that year’s company. There is a hierarchy that includes a number of years’ experience on Broadway, and concentrated ability to successfully gather donations. This was Guerrero’s fifth year performing.
"My very first summer in the city," Guerrero, a Houston, Texas transplant recalled, "I was still trying to figure things out." He took up an offer for a free ticket to Broadway Bares. "I remember just being blown away by the scale of it. I was just dazzled, and to look around the room and know that every person there represented a ticket bought - I was so moved that I knew I had to be a part of Broadway Bares one day. "
Guerrero made the rounds, established himself, and before long participated in his first Broadway Bares event including "Solo Strips" - an intimate, smaller-scale, burlesque version which recalls the feel of Jerry Mitchell’s very first show. When dancers make the cut and are invited to participate in the show it becomes crunch time! "There’s an orientation meeting," Guerrero describes. "Jerry speaks and the choreographers introduce themselves." Hopefuls must fill out an extensive questionnaire that lists their dance skills and specialties. "And then it becomes like trading baseball cards." The choreographers negotiate for the cast based on a dancer’s look, experience and skill set as it pertains to their assigned act.
Putting It On
The duty of directing this year’s show passed on to the ample shoulders of Nick Kenkel, long-time choreographer and protege of Mitchell’s. Kenkel has been a long-standing presence and participant in Broadway Bares’ success, including having choreographed sets for the Vegas version. "Nick has brought a fresh, new take directing the show this year," says Guerrero. "My favorite part is the first run through with everyone in the studio," he said. "It’s the very first time that everyone gets to see each other’s numbers. It’s the most supportive environment - it’s explosive." For the finale of Broadway Bares, the entire company appears on stage for the final number leading into "Rotation."
Explosive is one way to describe the 23rd Annual Broadway Bares that wowed the crowd on Sunday night. There was some "Harlem Shaking" going in Georgia, a Chicago speakeasy came under fire, New York City was definitely in vogue, and they do really grow it big down in Texas. "It’s overwhelming," said Guerrero, "when you look at the entire cast on that stage."
Stand-out moments, including the California number Guerrero appeared in, also included the drumbeats set off from Nebraska, and the cowboy frenzy of the aforementioned Texas number which included in its cast the very hunky Patrick Boyd who creatively contributed to this year’s most talked-about show on Broadway, "Pippin." Boyd had this to offer about last night’s performance: "The event itself is hard work and great fun, but there were times I was completely emotional last night when I stepped back to absorb it all. Nowhere do you have the sense of community and family than when participating in a Broadway Bares event - it’s the most important thing I can do to help those living with HIV/AIDS"
Great Care & Dedication
After incredibly show-stopping performances and more burlesque beauties among the beefcake than ever before - this year’s Broadway Bares did justice to showcasing as many of the ladies as it has always its cast of muscled male dancers - Broadway Bares creator/executive producer Jerry Mitchell emotionally thanked the cast, and commemorated them on their dedication and efforts to support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Actress Judith Light, herself a Tony Award winner this season, and Bravo television personality Andy Cohen passed out the awards to the cast members and teams who raised the most donations through their fund-raising efforts. At show’s end the tally was still coming in but it appeared that Year 23 was preparing to break another record, raising a speculated $1.5 million from last year’s milestone of $1.2 million. Nick Kenkel, the show’s director, thanked his mentor Jerry Mitchell and his "new family" the incredible cast of dancers who made it happen - among Tony Guerrero and Patrick Boyd - two additional names in a sea of 200 who bare it all, mostly their hearts in support of an effort to keep love alive.
For more of our "Broadway Bares" coverage check out the exclusive album for all the behind-the-scenes action as the cast bares it all. Follow the link here.