Ask BWW: What is the Legacy Robe?
You asked, and we've answered! We asked BroadwayWorld readers to give us their most burning questions about theatre's inner workings, and we received a question asking about the Legacy Robe. We've put together a guide to let you know all about the history behind the ritual of the robe and to give you a glimpse inside what the ceremony is like. Check it all out below!
The History of the Legacy Robe
This ritual of the Legacy Robe, originally known as the Gypsy Robe, began in 1950 when Bill Bradley, a chorus member from the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, persuaded fellow chorus member Florence Baum to give him her dressing gown. Bradley then sent it to his friend Arthur Partington, who was a chorus member at Call Me Madam chorus member, on the show's opening night. He told Partington that it had been worn by all the Ziegfeld beauties. Partington then added a rose from star Ethel Merman's gown and sent it to a chorus member on the opening night of Guys and Dolls. It was then passed from show to show and was often presented to a friend of the previous recipient or awarded to a chorus member based on popularity.
Today, the Robe is awarded on a Broadway musical's opening night to the chorus member who has the most Broadway chorus contracts. The awarded cast member then puts on the robe, circles the stage three times while cast members reach out and touch the Robe for good luck, and visits the theatre's dressing rooms in order to bless the show. The recipient then presents the Robe to the next recipient at the next Broadway musical opening night.
The robe itself is a patchwork, with spaces dedicated for each production that the robe gets passed to. The patches are conceived and designed by the show's cast and crew. Three retired Robes are currently on public display: one at the Lincoln Center Library of the Performing Arts, one at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and one at the Museum of the City of New York.
The robe's original name as the Gypsy Robe was chosen to honor the chorus members or "gypsies" as they were known. The name was changed to the Legacy Robe in July 2018 because of the word "gypsy" due to discussion about the cultural implications of the term in today's context. The new name of the Legacy Robe was chosen by members of Actors' Equity in a survey. Upon the name change, Mary McColl, executive director of Actors' Equity, stated "The Legacy Robe reminds us why our tradition exists. It emphasizes the history of Chorus performers, their years of dedication and hard work and just how essential they are to every Broadway musical."
The Theatrical Development Fund (also known as TDF) gave fans a full overview of the ceremony as part of its Theatre Dictionary series, back when the Robe was still named the Gypsy Robe. Check it out below to learn even more!
Get a peek at some of Broadway's most recent recipients of the robe, including cast members from Mean Girls, The Prom, and more!
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Vasthy Mompoint - Robe Recipient for The Prom
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Brendon Stimson - Robe Recipient for Mean Girls
E. Clayton Cornelius - Robe Recipient for Ain't Too Proud
Catherine Ricafort - Robe Recipient for Miss Saigon
Legacy Robe Ceremony Examples
Actors' Equity is giving us a look inside some of their most recent ceremonies! Check out the videos below to get a peek inside Moulin Rouge, Spongebob Squarepants, and more!
Moulin Rouge Robe Ceremony
Frozen Robe Ceremony
Spongebob Squarepants Robe Ceremony