On May 1, the New York theater community heaved a collective gasp when the beloved Broadway Bares fundraiser, scheduled for June 21, was officially shelved until 2021. It was to be the 3oth anniversary of this sizzling, signature event benefiting Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS.
Not only does the annual extravaganza, which features hundreds of wildly costumed dancers, aerialists, and other artists doing eye-popping stripteases set to music, deliver much needed support for those living with HIV/ AIDS, but it draws the community together to celebrate Broadway, the art of movement, and the beauty of the human physique. Last year’s event, “Take Off,” raised more than two million dollars, and the recent cancelation hit hard.
Not so fast. Recognizing that during the COVID crisis folks need support and connection more than ever, “Broadway Bares” founder Jerry Mitchell and his team devised a way to keep the show alive and kicking online.
Annual striptease fundraiser goes digital and still packs heat
On August 1, “Broadway Bares: Zoom In” streamed on Broadwaycares.org, Playbill.com, and other partner outlets. The creators were faced with a daunting challenge: These days, when touching or even being near another human is largely taboo, how to generate palpable heat?
They managed quite nicely, as it turns out. The 80-minute prerecorded show, introduced by Mitchell of course, made good on delivering their trademark “Class, Sass, and Ass.” It presented glimpses of scores of sexy Broadway dancers showing off their best moves from the safety of their own homes. Who says social distancing can’t be sexy?
The frisk-fest opened with a slickly edited video, enhanced with animation, of these ethnically diverse performers shaking their oft-naked booties gyrating to Todrick Hall’s throbbing dance hit “Attention.”
For another video segment, they spliced together steamy snippets of highlights from past shows. The real meat of “Zoom In” was the stunning footage of complete numbers from their 29-year history. These crowd pleasers were introduced by choreographers and directors such as Nick Kenkel, Laya Barak, John Alix, Al Blackstone, Denis Jones, and Charlie Sutton, among others.
Celebrity guests who made cameos praising the Broadway Bares mission included Nathan Lane, Charles Busch, Lea DeLaria, Jane Krakowski, Beth Leavel, Judith Light, Andrew Lippa, and Christopher Sieber. The adorable “showmance” couple Nick Adams and Kyle Brown appeared together from their home to make a bid for donations. Who could say no to them?
While the stream was free, viewers were urged to make donations to Broadway Cares, which were matched by the Dream Alliance up to $200,000. This year, the fundraiser benefits those affected by COVID-19 in addition to its original aim of helping those with HIV/ AIDS by providing lifesaving meals, medications, housing, counseling, and other services.
According to Broadway Cares, tens of thousands of fans across the globe tuned in to the event, which raked in nearly $600,000. You can still donate to their offshoot campaign called Stripathon at broadwaycares.org/stripathon. The show is currently archived on BroadwayCares.org if you want to check it out.
“Broadway Bares: Zoom In,” directed by Mitchell and written by Troy Britton Johnson, was never meant as a substitute for the real thing. Yet it succeeds as a celebration of the vital, nearly three-decades old tradition of helping those in need. With its titillating, often homoerotic fare, it salutes the theater community and, by extension, the LGBTQ community.
But most of all, it made me nostalgic for the days when thousands of people were packed like sardines into the Hammerstein Ballroom, sharing one of the most astounding entertainments in the world of theater, all for a good cause. And being amazed that every single artist involved is a volunteer, sacrificing their time, often on their off night from a taxing eight-show-per-week schedule.
And when the next Broadway Bares does happen in the flesh, I plan to be among the first in line.
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