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    Posted November 25, 2009


Michael X Martin and Stephanie Wise
photo: Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.

Bravo! Michael X. Martin, currently performing in RAGTIME, is the newest recipient of Equity's fabled "Gypsy Robe." The colorful icon was presented to the chorus member at a special ceremony at the Neil Simon Theatre on Sunday, November 15, 2009, recreating an historic, theatrical ritual that began on Broadway almost 60 years ago.

Equity's National Chorus Business Representative David Westphal welcomed everyone on stage and invited company members to form a large circle to begin the ceremony. Then, cast members who were making their Broadway debut (including Equity Chorus Councillor Mark Aldrich) came forward as everyone applauded and welcomed them to their opening night on Broadway!

Mr. Westphal introduced Terry Marone, who invited prior robe recipients to come center stage, including Bill Nable, Eileen Casey, Pi Douglass, Harvey Evans, Michelle Kittrell and Eric Jordan Young (from the current RAGTIME cast). She then introduced Lisa Gajda, who received the robe in FINIAN'S RAINBOW.

Brimming with excitement, Lisa quickly proclaimed that Michael X. Martin was the newest recipient of the iconic garment. Michael has performed on a Chorus Contract in six Broadway shows, including: 9 TO 5, ALL SHOOK UP, MAN OF LA MANCHA, OKLAHOMA!, KISS ME, KATE!, and LES MISERABLES.

Michael donned the robe and circled the stage, as company members reached out to touch the robe to complete the ceremony. A few minutes later, in accordance with the robe tradition, he visited everyone's dressing room and RAGTIME was blessed.

Also observing the ceremony was Chorus Councillor Melissa Robinette.

The Gypsy Robe began in 1950, when Bill Bradley, in the chorus of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, borrowed a dressing gown from Chorus member Florence Baum and sent it to a friend in CALL ME MADAM on opening night (Oct 12, 1950) saying it was worn by all the Ziegfeld beauties and would "bless" the show. A cabbage rose from Ethel Merman's gown was added and the robe was passed along to next Broadway musical on opening night. The tradition evolved so that the robe is now presented to the "gypsy" who has performed the most Broadway musicals on a chorus contract. Along the way, the robe is decorated, painted, patched, stitched, and signed by everyone in the show, becoming a fanciful patchwork for an entire Broadway season.

Recognizing their cultural and historic value, Gypsy Robes can now be viewed at two of Equity's Offices. The National Headquarters in New York now houses two of the historic Robes. The second floor Audition Center's newly designed case displays the Robe from the 2006-2007 season, which was dedicated by the ACCA to the memory of Patrick Quinn. The 2007-2008 Robe, dedicated to Broadway veteran Adrian Bailey, can be viewed on the fourteenth floor Council lobby.

The Robe from the 2003-2004 season is now housed in the Orlando office and members can stop by to view the Robe during business hours. In the coming year, the Los Angeles and new Chicago office will have their own Gypsy Robes for display. Periodically, the Robes will be rotated so members may have the chance to see various Robes. Robes are also on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, The Museum of the City of New York and the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts.

More Gypsy Robe info...

Cast members making their Broadway debuts
photo: Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.

Michael X Martin, Christiane Noll, Ron Bohmer
photo: Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.

More Gypsy Robe info...

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