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    Posted March 26, 2009

AEA's Gypsy Robe Goes to West Side Story Chorus Member Manuel Herrera!

Gypsy Robe Winner Manuel Herrera follows tradition and circles the stage 3 times
Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.

"Tonight, tonight won't be just any night," and it surely wasn't. Manuel Herrera was presented Actors' Equity Association's coveted Gypsy Robe prior to the opening night of the long awaited revival of WEST SIDE STORY, Thursday March 19th, 2009 backstage at the Palace Theatre.

The Gypsy Robe ceremony began as the cast and crew gathered onstage just 90 minutes before curtain and formed a large circle. Recreating an historic event, Equity's National Chorus Business Representative David Westphal noted that the Gypsy Robe tradition began at the Imperial Theatre more than 50 years ago, when Bill Bradley, a member of the chorus of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, sent a dressing gown to a chorus member in CALL ME MADAM.

Since that night, the Gypsy Robe has become a long-standing tradition among the Equity chorus in the Broadway community. At each opening of a 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.

Mr. Westphal acknowledged the special guests who were in attendance: AEA 1st Vice President Paige Price, AEA 3rd Vice President Ira Mont, Eastern Regional Director Carol Waaser, Executive Director John P. Connolly, Robe Historian Gloria Rosenthal and Gypsy Robe volunteer Terry Marone. However, it was AEA President Mark Zimmerman who received the loudest round of applause as he is currently in the cast of WEST SIDE STORY.

It was then time to introduce the more than 25 performers who were making their Broadway debut, and then the performers who received their Equity Card from this musical. Terry Marone then introduced the prior robe recipients who were in attendance: Adrian Bailey, Jennifer Cody, Lorin Latarro, Michael Balderrama, Steve Konopelski, Eileen Casey, Megan Sikora, Curtis Holbrook (who's in the cast as a Principal), Joey McKneely (who did the Choreographic recreation on the show), and Harvey Evans (who was a replacement in the original production and was in the film).

It was then time for the main event. Lorin Latarro who received the robe in GUYS AND DOLLS, following tradition, stepped into the circle and announced the winner, Manuel Herrera.

This gorgeous robe lavishly decorated with mementos from recent Broadway musicals, such as WHITE CHRISTMAS, A TALE OF TWO CITIES and BILLY ELLIOTT swooped by as Manuel circled the stage three times as company members touched the robe to receive its "blessing."

Manuel has done three Broadway chorus musicals prior to WEST SIDE STORY, including LEGALLY BLONDE, SWEET CHARITY, and WICKED.

Manuel Herrera with ensemble cast members featuring Haley Carlucci, Isaac Calpito, Matt Cavanaugh, Joey Haro, Karen Olivo, George Akram, Josefina Scaglione & Mileyka Mateo
Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.

WEST SIDE STORY Director and bookwriter Arthur Laurents with Herrera
Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.

AEA President Mark Zimmerman receives applause from his fellow castmates
Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.

Over 25 Actors made their Broadway debut on Thursday, March 19th
Click here for larger image
Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.

More Gypsy Robe info...

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