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    Posted March 27, 2012


Mark Cassius Receives Colorful Chorus Icon

Mark Cassius
Photo: Walter McBride

Broadway’s Spring Season blossomed as Mark Cassius received AEA’s fabled Gypsy Robe on the opening night of JESUS CHRIS SUPER STAR on Thursday, March 22, 2012. The colorful garment was presented to the Chorus member onstage at the Neil Simon Theatre, recreating a theatrical ritual that began on Broadway 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 debuts jumped to the center for a high energy photo op.

Mr. Westphal then introduced Gypsy Robe volunteer Terry Marone, who invited prior robe recipients to come center stage, including Austin Colyer, Richard Korthaze, Adrian Bailey, Judine Sommerville, Jim Borstelman and J.D. Webster, who received the robe in THE GERSHWIN’S PORGY AND BESS. Westphal also introduced AEA Business Rep Walt Kiskaddon.

Mark Cassius, Des McAnuff
Photo: Walter McBride

J.D. recited the robe’s history and then announced the newest recipient: Mark Cassius. The stage burst into thunderous applause as Mark put on the robe and raced around the stage three times while everyone reached out and touched the garment to receive its blessing.

Mark has appeared in the Broadway choruses of RAGTIME and SHENADOAH. After the ceremony, he wrote:

"I could not have anticipated how very joyful and exciting it was to receive the Gypsy Robe. I guess the most profound feeling was the absolute sharing of the moment with my cast mates, representing their passion, commitment and dedication to always doing one's best. Putting a show together can be the greatest puzzle, you may know absolutely what the picture will be, but you can't make it until you utilize every single piece. We must never under estimate our importance as a piece, only together, can we complete that wonderful puzzle. Nothing hones your craft like ensemble work, honor it and you are ready for anything. This company lifts me up."

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.

J.D., Mark Cassius, David Westphal
Photo: Walter McBride

Josh Young, Paul Nolan, Mark Cassius, Chilina Kennedy
Photo: Walter McBride

Mark Cassius and J.D. Webster
Photo: Walter McBride

Click here for more Gypsy Robe information...

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