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    Posted March 14, 2008


Gypsy Robe Recipient for In the Heights Michael Balderrama
Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.


The excitement backstage at the Richard Rodgers Theater Sunday was palpable. It was March 10th, the opening night of IN THE HEIGHTS and the cast was gathering onstage for the GYPSY ROBE ceremony. As the opening had drawn closer, the buzz about who would get the robe had been swirling among the cast for days. The Gypsy Robe is a long-standing tradition among the Equity chorus in the Broadway community. At each opening of a chorus musical, the robe is presented to the chorus member who has the most chorus Broadway credits. Receiving the robe is an honor and a symbol of accomplishment and the cast waited eagerly to hear whose name would be called.

Equity’s National Chorus Business Rep and former chorus gypsy, David Westphal, stepped into the center of the large circle of cast, crew, former recipients and VIPs to welcome everyone and begin the ceremony. A history of the Gypsy Robe, which began as an amusing “good-luck on opening night” gesture among friends in the 1950’s, was given. Gypsy Guardian Angel Terry Marone introduced prior robe recipients - Harvey Evans (OKLAHOMA!, SUNSET BOULEVARD), Ramon Flowers (HOT FEET!), Dennis Stowe (APPLE TREE), Bill Nabel (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, MOST HAPPY FELLA), Krysta Rodriquez (SPRING AWAKENING) and Eileen Casey (MARILYN) – all of whom were on hand to welcome the newest recipient into this very special family of Gypsy Robe winners. Dressed in the robe as tradition calls for, Adrian Bailey, a four-time recipient, most recently for THE LITTLE MERMAID, announced the winner – Michael Balderrama – and the stage erupted in exuberant cheers!

Following the time-honored tradition of the recipients who received the robe before him, Balderrama donned the Gypsy Robe and circled the stage counter clockwise three times so that each member of the IN THE HEIGHTS cast and crew could touch the robe for good luck. Balderrama, whose chorus credits include MOVIN’OUT, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, URBAN COWBOY, was very excited to receive the robe for the first time: “When they announced my name it created a real buzz inside me. I wasn’t expecting it. Everyone was so happy for me. It was a culmination of the work I’ve put into the show, and to have everyone confirm that with the excitement they raved was great.” As the cast and crew continued to congratulate him, he added: “I realize how lucky I am to be a part of history of the entire community of Broadway.”

Equity Executive Director John P. Connolly, National Director of Policy Mary Lou Westerfield and Tom Miller, Director of Outreach and Career Development, were among the VIPs at the ceremony. Connolly observed the ceremony, saying: “This is one of the opening night highlights of a chorus musical. These men and women are talented, gracious and dedicated professionals and it is thrilling to be part of the excitement of the Gypsy Robe ceremony.”

Among the cast of IN THE HEIGHTS, which transferred from a successful Off Broadway run, are 12 actors making their Broadway debut and several who received their Equity cards with the production.

Fellow Cast Members Congratulating Michael Balderrama
Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.

Michael Balderrama & cast member Priscilla Lopez
Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.

Michael Balderrama with cast member Lin Manuel Miranda & AEA Executive Director John P. Connolly
Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.

More Gypsy Robe info...

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