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    Posted April 19, 2011

Grady Bowman Nabs the Gypsy Robe in WONDERLAND

Presentation is made by '65 recipient Diane Coupé

Grady Bowman
Photo: Walter McBride

On Sunday, April 17, 2011, Alice, Edwina, Chloe, The Mad Hatter, The Queen of Hearts and other denizens Wonderland were on hand to witness a backstage Broadway tradition at the Marquis Theatre: the passing of the iconic Gypsy Robe from Broadway chorus member to Broadway chorus member. Minutes before the curtain went up on WONDERLAND on the Great White Way, Grady Bowman received the legendary, colorful Gypsy Robe and became a part of this illustrious tradition.

Equity's National Chorus Business Representative David Westphal welcomed everyone onto the stage and invited company members to form a circle to begin the ceremony. First, cast members who were making their Broadway debuts came forward and took a bow. Then previous robe recipients were called out and introduced: Adrian Bailey, Eileen Casey, Austin Colyer, Pi Douglass, Harvey Evans (who gave a shout-out to Karen Mason (the Queen of Hearts), who worked with Harvey in SUNSET BOULEVARD) and Richard Korthaze. Westphal also introduced robe historian Gloria Rosenthal, Terry Marone Gypsy Robe volunteer, and Eastern Regional VP Kate Shindle (who plays the Mad Hatter) as things got under way.

Diane Coupé
Photo: Walter McBride

Jennifer Frankel, who received the robe in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, was unable to attend due to her matinee, so she invited her mother, Diane Coupé, to do the honors. Ms. Coupé recounted that she received the robe in December 1965, for a short-lived Broadway show called LA GROSSE VALISE. The robe was given to her by Bella Shalom (THE YEARLING) and subsequently went to Helen Gallagher (SWEET CHARITY). When Jennifer received the robe in CATCH, she and Diane became the first mother-and-daughter "gypsies" to receive the robe.

Ms. Coupé read the history of the robe and announced the newest recipient, Grady Bowman. Bowman rushed to the center of the circle, donned the robe and circled the stage three times as everyone reached out to touch the robe to receive its blessing.

Janet Ducal, Grady Bowman, Danny Stiles
Photo: Walter McBride

The Gypsy Robe began on October 12, 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, 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 the next Broadway musical on opening night. The tradition evolved so that the robe is now presented to the "gypsy" who has performed in 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.

Eastern Regional VP Kate Shindle and Grady Bowman
Photo: Walter McBride

Recognizing their cultural and historic value, Gypsy Robes can now be seen at Equity's Offices around the country. National Headquarters in New York now houses two of the historic Robes. The second floor Audition Center's newly designed case displays the 1982-1983 robe. The 2007-2008 Robe, dedicated to Broadway veteran Adrian Bailey, can be viewed on the fourteenth floor Council lobby. In Orlando, the robe from the 2003-2004 season can be viewed during business hours. In October, a Gypsy Robe went on display at Equity's new Chicago office at 557 West Randolph Street. It covers Broadway musicals between May 2005 and May 2006.

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.

Broadway debuts
Photo: Walter McBride

Click here for more Gypsy Robe information...

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