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    Posted May 10, 2011

Spread the Love Around !

Kevin Ligon Garners Gypsy Robe in SISTER ACT

Kevin Ligon
Photo: Walter McBride

Kevin Ligon is the latest recipient of AEA's fabled Gypsy Robe. The colorful icon was presented to Kevin backstage at the opening of SISTER ACT on Wednesday, April 20, recreating an historical tradition that is 61 years old.

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: Jim Borstelman, Eileen Casey, Richard Korthaze, and Amber Stone. Westphal also introduced AEA President Nick Wyman, AEA 3rd VP Ira Mont, AEA Executive Director Mary McColl, robe historian Gloria Rosenthal, robe volunteer Terry Marone.

Patina Miller, Kevin Ligon, Victoria Clark
Photo: Walter McBride

Next, Grady Bowman, who received the robe in WONDERLAND, stepped forward to read the robe's history and explain the ceremony. He then announced that Kevin Ligon was the newest recipient and the entire company broke out in applause. After donning the robe, he circled the stage three times as everyone reached out to touch the robe to receive its blessing.

Kevin has appeared in the chorus of five Broadway shows, including: FINIAN'S RAINBOW, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, THE PRODUCERS, KISS ME KATE, and THE SECRET GARDEN.

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.

Mary McColl, Kevin Ligon, Ira Mont, Nick Wyman
Photo: Walter McBride

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.

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 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.

Cast members making their Broadway debuts
Photo: Walter McBride

Kevin and the cast of SISTER ACT
Photo: Walter McBride

Kevin circles the stage as cast members reached out to touch the robe
Photo: Walter McBride

Click here for more Gypsy Robe information...

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