Broadway Bares 23: United Strips of America, a randy road trip of modern-day burlesque featuring 220 of New York's sexiest dancers, raised an all-time record high for the fourth year in a row, hitting $1,430,241 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
The 23rd edition of the consistently sold-out annual show celebrated America's fruited plains and mountains majesties with a host of spectacular stripteases. As more than 6,000 people packed Roseland Ballroom for two performances on June 23, 2013, they encountered an appropriately undressed opening act: The Skivvies, featuring Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley with a mash-up of more than a dozen Americana-themed songs. As the show kicked into gear, the audience experienced beach babes and a uncovered lifeguard in California, a sexy Chicago speakeasy, a sensual under-sea adventure in Maine, rowdy cheerleaders riding stripped-down Texas cowboys and more.
The 23 editions of Broadway Bares have now raised more than $11.3 million for Broadway Cares. Last year's 22nd edition of Broadway Bares raised $1,254,176. Broadway Bares started in 1992 and featured seven dancers stripping on a bar, raising about $8,000.
In this year's edition, Michael Cusumano and Max von Essen portrayed a bi-coastal couple who set out on separate, sexy journeys through a dozen states.
The opening number set the stage for the evening as Cusumano and von Essen planned their road trip while watching as a classically cheesy beauty pageant magically turned into a sexy drag show fantasy. Two-time Tony nominee Christopher Sieber and Lesli Margherita served as cheeky pageant co-hosts, each revealing a decidedly naughty side. For the third year, the opening was written by Tony nominees Chad Beguelin and Matthew Sklar. Nick Kenkel, director of this year's show, choreographed the number.
A trio of beautiful bikini-clad babes turned a quiet day at a California beach into a high-energy party, much to the chagrin of a by-the-book lifeguard, played by Daniel Robinson. After saving drowning damsel-in-distress Allyson Carr from "shark-infested" waters in the Derek Mitchell-choreographed number, the lifeguard lightened up – and loosened up – until he was left in the buff, holding only a strategically placed rescue buoy.
Veteran Broadway hunk Jim Newman found himself in stripped-down trouble with his sassy sister wives when he tried heading down the aisle with new bride Stephanie Gibson. Choreographed by Michael Lee Scott, the comedic number poked fun at fabled two, three, four and five-timing Utah men before ultimately leaving the jilted – and clothesless – Newman at the altar.
Grammy nominee and American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert made a surprise appearance at the midnight show, delivering a roof-raising rendition of the national anthem that led into a gritty, Georgia-based military boot camp number choreographed by Jon Rua. A host of muscled men in fatigues, led by Julius C. Carter, used each other as weights before stripping down to white cotton shorts and dancing a racy and bouncing version of barrack calisthenics.
A lost night in Las Vegas had von Essen falling victim to a beautiful hustler, played by Shiloh Goodin. After hitting it big at the craps table, his evening, cleverly choreographed by Al Blackstone, included surprise encounters with Siegfried and Roy, a buxom female Elvis impersonator and a mesmerizing illusionist. The forgetful night ended with von Essen wearing nothing but a tight set of handcuffs and a well-positioned money bag.
A Latin-influenced ballroom dance championship in Miami revealed a fiery competitiveness as couples vied for the trophy. Choreographed by Marcos Santana, the series of one ups-manship turned into a hair-pulling fight between the ladies that ended with a handsome duo finding a steamy salsa dance for themselves more to their liking.
A bevy of bosomy cheerleaders lusting after three deliciously hunky cowboys showed that everything really is bigger in Texas in a boot-scooting, bare-bottomed boogie choreographed by Peter Gregus.
A mythical mermaid, played by Celia Mei Rubin, lured ship captain Ryan Worsing into sensual waters off the Maine coast as 10 muscular men created the ocean's tides in a hypnotic, underwater striptease choreographed by Paul McGill.
At a Prohibition-era speakeasy in Chicago, the drinks flowed the more lead dancers Samantha Zack and Jamal Story high-stepped and stripped. The Great Gatsby-inspired number, choreographed by Kenkel, also included high-flying aerialists from the Living Art of Armando and Grounded Aerial.
The Bares stage became a Fashion Week runway in a tribute to New York, also choreographed by Kenkel, as 16 stunning dancers-turned-models strutted down the catwalk in chic, revealing high fashion, reviving the stylized linear poses that made "voguing" all the rage 25 years ago.
Timothy Hughes portrayed a randy drum major leading an all-male Nebraska marching band through its paces in a number choreographed by Mark Myars. The band gave way to an Independence Day picnic complete with a flying human fireworks display created by Armando Farfan Jr. and his aerial troupe The Living Art of Armando. The summer-hot, ground-based picnic was choreographed by Marc Kimelman.
On their respective road trips, Cusumano and von Essen each had unexpected "rest stop encounters." Cusumano ran into a Texas version of 2013 Tony Award winner Billy Porter, wearing a pair of red cowboy boots he described as "kinky." Von Essen was propositioned by Tony winner Alan Cumming, a fanny pack-wearing Tea Partier quoting Macbeth while looking for love in all the wrong places.
Rock of Ages' Kate Rockwell tore up a fiery rendition of "I Drove All Night," surrounded by three sensual couples eager to make it home, expressively choreographed by Wes Veldink.
Motown the Musical's Eric LaJuan Summers and Tony-nominated Charl Brown brought the show to its patriotic finale, singing a soulful combination of Neil Diamond's "Coming to America" and James Brown's "Living in America" in a number choreographed by Kenkel.
Two-time Tony winner Judith Light saluted the dancers and applauded the event's sponsors. A longtime friend and supporter of BC/EFA, Light reminded the audience: "Safe sex is hot sex. And we can best love each other by always remembering to protect each other." Kenkel then joined Light and the entire company on stage to share his gracious thanks as director.
To close the evening, Sieber led the show's famous "rotation" where the entire cast appears on stage to receive individual tips from audience members. Mitchell demonstrated how the tipping should be done by gently sliding a $50 bill into one lucky dancer's thong. The last-minute dash to donate added $26,240 to evening's total.
Presenting sponsor M•A•C Viva Glam delivered a $250,000 check, presented by M•A•C Senior Make-up Artist Fatima Thomas, on behalf of Nancy Mahon, M•A•C senior vice president and executive director of the M•A•C AIDS Fund. Thomas saluted the extraordinary skills of 70 M•A•C make-up artists who volunteered on the show.
More than 300 people participated in Strip-a-thon, an online fundraising competition among Bares 23 cast, crew and supporters, raising $382,807. Special guest Andy Cohen, TV executive and host of Bravo's Watch What Happens Live, announced that the team of dancers from "Nevada" raised the most money, an impressive $54,195. Fundraising runners-up were "New York" with $37,637 and "Nebraska: Marching Band" with $34,342.
For the fourth year in a row, Reed Kelly was the top individual Strip-a-thon fundraiser, generating $20,949 in donations, closely followed by Adam Chandler with $18,218 and Andrew Glaszek with $16,015. Runners-up among the Strip-a-thon women were Madeline Reed with $6,440 and Jennifer Dunne with $3,840.
Eight additional fundraisers received special recognition for individually raising at least $5,000: Jim Newman, Ben Ryan, Steve Bratton, Cody Lancaster, Joshua Pilote, Ricky Schroeder, Jeff Metzler and Johnny Milani.
Broadway Cares thanks more than 900 volunteers of every stripe, variety and department whose generosity of time and talent make such an intricate and complicated event like Broadway Bares possible.
Fun Facts About Broadway Bares 23
As production stage manager, BC/EFA's Kimberly Russell led an incredible stage management team of 32 men and women. Their tireless efforts were joined by an outstanding community of choreographers, designers, technicians and volunteers onstage, backstage, under the stage, upstairs in the VIP area and front of house.
In addition to Broadway Bares 23 presenting sponsor M•A•C Viva Glam, generous support came from corporate sponsor United Airlines, as well as DIRECTV, Get Services, Here Media, Mark Fisher Fitness, Marriott Marquis New York, Next Magazine, Showtime Networks and the Zarley Family Foundation.
Special thanks to this year's Broadway Bares photographers: Kevin Thomas Garcia, Ryan Mueller, Matthew Murphy, Danny Roberts and Tomas Vrzala.