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28th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition Raises $4.5 Million for BC/EFA!

28th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition Raises $4.5 Million for BC/EFA!

The generosity of theatre fans during six weeks of fundraising by 57 Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring companies helped push the 28th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition to another record high, raising $4,532,129 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Broadway veterans Idina Menzel and Denzel Washington joined newcomers Bryan Cranston and Fran Drescher on Tuesday to announce the final total following the finale of two stunning Easter Bonnet Competition shows filled with song, dance, comedy and 17 elaborate, creative, custom-made bonnets.

Since the Easter Bonnet Competition (#bcefabonnets) began in 1987, the event has raised more than $58 million for Broadway Cares. Last year's event raised $4,250,542.

The Minksoff Theatre, current home to Disney's The Lion King, was packed as a standing-room audience cheered for Cranston, Drescher, Menzel and Washington, who also presented awards to the companies who raised the most for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS as well as the winner for most outstanding bonnet design and presentation.

The company of The Lion King won best bonnet presentation for an uproarious take-off of their own frequently winning presentations, this time featuring the booty-short wearing "two white guys" from their show aerobically dancing to Frank Stallone's "Far from Over." After Midnight took runner-up honors for a sultry, crowd-pleasing number set in a speakeasy with gorgeous flappers, their gentlemen callers and two lounge singers who delivered a steamy, jazz-infused take on Beyonce's "Crazy in Love."

The special award for bonnet design was given to the company of Once for its bonnet, created by Becky Bodurtha.

Broadway's biggest names this season served as hosts for show, including Brandon Victor Dixon (Motown The Musical), Jerry Dixon (If/Then), Hunter Foster (The Bridges of Madison County), Ramin Karimloo (LES MISERABLES), Andy Karl (Rocky), Ron Kunene (Disney's The Lion King), Tshidi Manye (Disney's The Lion King), Jefferson Mays (A Gentlemen's Guide to Love and Murder), Cass Morgan (The Bridges of Madison County), Jessie Mueller (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), Bryce Pinkham (A Gentlemen's Guide to Love and Murder), Christopher Sieber (Matilda The Musical) and Karen Ziemba(Bullets Over Broadway).

The judges were introduced by the stars of Of Mice and Men: James Franco, Chris O'Dowd and Leighton Meester.

Jeremy Stolle from The Phantom of the Opera performed David Friedman's "Help is on the Way," BC/EFA's traditional Easter Bonnet finale, in a salute to the show's longtime production stage manager, Craig Jacobs.

The Easter Bonnet Competition proved once again to be a stunning celebration of this year's fundraising efforts. Participating shows ask audience members for donations as they exit the theatre and often sell autographed posters, Playbills and other unique, show-specific keepsakes to help raise money.

This year's top fundraisers were:

Broadway Musicals

Top Fundraiser: Kinky Boots - $284,170

First Runner-up: Beautiful - $208,697

Second Runner-up: Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella - $206,941

Third Runner-up: The Book of Mormon - $181,065

Broadway Plays

Top Fundraiser: All the Way - $186,424

First Runner-up: Mothers and Sons - $100,102

National Touring Shows

Top Fundraiser: The Book of Mormon - Latter Day Company - $405,009

First Runner-up: Wicked - Munchkinland - $277,109

Second Runner-up: The Book of Mormon - Jumamosi Company - $209,023

Third Runner-up: Wicked - Emerald City - $182,704

Off-Broadway

Top Fundraiser: Avenue Q - $28,577

First Runner-up: Heathers - $24,363

Highlights from the 28th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition:

· This year's original opening number, directed and choreographed by Al Blackstone with music direction by Ben Cohn and lyrics by Vanessa Brown, featured Rory O'Malley (The Book of Mormon) making a deal with devil, played with flair by New York Post theatre writer Michael Reidel. Reidel promised O'Malley "Broadway's greatest award" - the coveted Easter Bonnet Competition winner's trophy - but only if he completed an exhaustive scavenger hunt for unique memorabilia snatched from all of Broadway's shows.

· The youngest stars of Disney's Newsies, Luca Padovan and Zachary Unger, offered a spot-on Broadway version of the legendary Abbott & Costello act "Who's on First?"

· With an introduction by playwright Terence McNally and surprise appearance by Tyne Daly, the cast of Mothers and Sons shared a glimpse into the first run-through of a comedic sketch about two gay fathers attempting to raise their son to be gay among the Broadway culture.

· Celebrated television and stage actress Kim Zimmer, who recently finished 15 months on the road with Wicked, helped whining tour performers appreciate life on the road in a fun send-up of Avenue Q's "It Sucks to Be Me," directed and choreographed by Adam Fleming and written by Tim Fitz-Gerald.

· Eight cast members from Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella danced to Air Supply's "I'll Find You" in memory of those who are no longer with us. Cast member Joe Carroll sang, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar with Jeffrey Pew on piano. The piece featured pairs of dancers who delicately tossed what appeared to be a dilapidated fedora until - in true Cinderella fashion - it transformed into a BC/EFA collection bucket.

· Other shows represented by stellar performances included Broadway's If/Then, Kinky Boots, The Lion King, Mamma Mia! and Once and Off-Broadway's Avenue Q, Disaster! and Murder for Two. ASTEP shed light on its mission to connect artists with underserved youth in a piece performed by Nathan Madden and Phoebe Pearl. A visually stunning performance of "Man Fan" by MOMIX represented Dancers Responding to AIDS, a program of Broadway Cares. The Easter Bonnet Competition also featured special bonnets by BC/EFA's affiliate organizations: Broadway Green Alliance, Broadway Impact, Broadway Serves and R.Evolución Latina.

· In a special tribute to BC/EFA Producing Director Michael Graziano, Sutton Foster (Violet) joined Executive Director Tom Viola to honor Graziano and the extraordinary work, commitment, passion and creativity he's shared with Broadway Cares and the entire theatre community for the past 20 years. Graziano is leaving the organization at the end of the summer.

The Easter Bonnet judges were costume designer Gregg Barnes (Kinky Boots) and actors Christopher Hanke (Buyer and Cellar), Carly Rae Jepsen (Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella), Michael McKean(All the Way), Jim Norton (Of Mice and Men), Patrick Page (Casa Valentina), Annie Potts (Pippin) and Anthony Rapp (If/Then). Also joining the judging panel were Eric Forst and Peg Wendlandt, who both won their spots by being high bidders on exclusive VIP packages at the 27th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction in September.

This year's Easter Bonnet Competition was directed for the eighth time by Kristin Newhouse, with music supervision by Ben Cohen, sound design by Alain Van Achte and lighting design by Martin E.Vreeland. Jason Trubitt served as production stage manager.

The Easter Bonnet Competition is generously sponsored by The New York Times and United Airlines.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation's leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. By drawing upon the talents, resources and generosity of the American theatre community, since 1988 BC/EFA has raised more than $250 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.

Broadway Cares awards annual grants to more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations nationwide and is the major supporter of the social service programs at The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative and the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic.

For more information, please visit Broadway Cares online at broadwaycares.org, like us on Facebook at facebook.com/BCEFA, follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/BCEFA, watch us on YouTube atyoutube.com/BCEFAtv, pin us on Pinterest at pinterest.com/BCEFA and tag us on Instagram at instagram.com/BCEFA.

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