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    Posted November 12, 2012

You're Never Fully Dressed Without A...Gypsy Robe® !

Merwin Foard Garners AEA's Fabled Gypsy Robe®

Following a week in which New Yorkers endured a devastating hurricane and nor'easter, Broadway got back on track with the opening of ANNIE on Thursday, November 8, 2012. Merwin Foard, a veteran of 15 Broadway shows, garnered AEA's fable Gypsy Robe® at the joyful pre-opening ceremony onstage at the Palace Theatre.

Merwin Foard, David Westphal
Photo: Walter McBride

Equity's National Chorus Business Representative David Westphal welcomed everyone and invited company members to form a large circle to begin the ceremony. He then introduced AEA President Nick Wyman, 2nd VP Rebecca Kim Jordan, Eastern Regional Director Thomas Carpenter, and Business Reps Walt Kiskaddon and Keith Sklar.

Westphal invited cast members who were making their Broadway debut to come to the center of the stage for a high energy photo op. This included the four-legged Sunny, who plays Sandy in the production. David then introduced Gypsy Robe® volunteer Terry Marone, who brought former robe recipients forward, including: Eileen Casey, Harvey Evans, Rod Harrelson, Grasan Kingsberry, Rommy Sandhu, Jennifer Smith and three ANNIE cast members, Dennis Stowe, Sophie Solie, and Merwin Foard.

Lisa Gadja, who received the robe in CHAPLIN, recited the robe's history and then announced the newest recipient: Merwin Foard. The stage burst into applause as Merwin donned the robe and circled the stage three times while everyone reached out and touched the garment to receive its blessing.

Merwin Foard, Nick Wyman
Photo: Walter McBride

Merwin has appeared as a Chorus Member in 9 previous Broadway shows, including LES MISERABLES, BEAUTY & THE BEAST, JEKYLL & HYDE, OKLAHOMA, ASSASSINS, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, THE LITTLE MERMAID, MAME, and SHOWBOAT. He previously received the robe in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES and ASSASSINS.

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 three 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. A robe from the 2005-2006 season is on display in the Chicago office.

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.

Cast Broadway Debuts
Photo: Walter McBride

Katie Finneran, Merwin Foard, Anthony Warlow, Lilla Crawford
Photo: Walter McBride

Click here for more Gypsy Robe® information...

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