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    Posted April 27, 2012

AEA’s GYPSY ROBE®

James Brown III Garners Gypsy Robe® for GHOST THE MUSICAL


Da'Vine Joy Randolph, James Brown III
Photo: Walter McBride

Like the adage "the show must go on," so does tradition and that was never truer than at the Gypsy Robe® Ceremony prior to the opening night performance of GHOST THE MUSICAL Monday, April 23, 2012. The cast, crew, producing team and many special guests gathered on the stage of the Lunt Fontanne for the traditional passing of the Gypsy Robe®.

But unlike other Gypsy Robe® ceremonies, this one would have a twist. When his name was called, all eyes turned to James Brown III, standing with a pair of crutches under his arms and a cast on his foot. Laughter broke out as he donned the robe and looked around with a wide grin. Tradition calls for the newest Robe recipient to run circle the stage counter clockwise three times so that everyone can touch the robe to receive its blessing. This time it would be impossible so Production Stage Manager and Third Vice President Ira Mont instructed everyone to circle around James as he stood mid-stage. The cast gleefully obliged and the tradition was upheld!

The Gypsy Robe® is presented to the seasoned chorus member on opening night of a Broadway show, recreating a theatrical ritual that began 60 years ago. For GHOST, the ceremony was the start of the excitement and exhilaration every company feels on opening night. Equity’s National Chorus Business Representative David Westphal welcomed everyone to the stage, acknowledging First Vice President Paige Price among the guests in attendance. To start things off with special flourish, David invited to the center of the stage cast members making their Broadway debut. Gypsy Robe® volunteer Terry Marone called forward past robe recipients, including Adrian Bailey, Grasan Kingsberry, Eileen Casey, Jennifer Smith, J.D. Webster, Roger Preston Smith, Michael X. Martin, Steven Konopelski, Michael Balderrama (who is in GHOST) and Judine Somerville. Matt Wall, who received the Gypsy Robe® for EVITA and whose honor it was to pass the robe to the next recipient, read the history of the robe.


James Brown III, Ira Mont
Photo: Walter McBride

Part of the Gypsy Robe® tradition requires the recipient to visit each and every dressing room. Despite the stairs and the physical challenge they presented, James would not let the opportunity to bless the show pass by. Resplendent in the robe, James visited everyone and returned to the wings, tired but triumphant!

James Brown III has appeared on Broadway in PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT, MEMPHIS, THE LITTLE MERMAID, THE COLOR PURPLE, WICKED, and THE FROGS.

"It made me proud, honored, and humbled to have received the Gypsy Robe for "Ghost". I didn't grow up with the dream of becoming an actor, I was supposed to be a doctor, but obviously "someone" had other plans for me. Getting the robe made me look back on the journey I've had over the last 11 years, and be thankful that I've had the privilege to be passionate about my work and make a very good living doing it. The theater and everything it entails is my life and will always be a part of my life and the robe was a token of my hard work and all those before me who've made Broadway and Gypsies so special. I'm thankful, I will wear the robe proudly and I will wear the ruptured achilles I got during the show proudly. Broadway's Hard!"

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 case displays the Robe from the 1982-1983 season. 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.


Da'Vine Joy Randolph, James Brown III, Richard Fleeshman, Caissie Levy, Bryce Pinkham
Photo: Walter McBride


James Brown IIIn
Photo: Walter McBride


Click here for more Gypsy Robe® information...

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