Posted April 10, 2013
AEA’s GYPSY ROBE®
Everybody Say Yeah! Charlie Sutton Receives AEA's Iconic Gypsy Robe® for KINKY BOOTS
Recreating 60 Year Historic Broadway Backstage Tradition
On Thursday April 4, AEA's iconic Gypsy Robe® was presented to Charlie Sutton on the opening night of KINKY BOOTS at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. This colorful ceremony, which honors a chorus member who has the most Broadway chorus credits on opening night, is one of Broadway's most cherished backstage traditions.
Equity's National Chorus Business Representative David Westphal welcomed everyone and invited company members to form a large circle to begin the ceremony. After introducing AEA President Nick Wyman, Executive Director Mary McColl, Eastern Regional Director Thomas Carpenter, and robe historian Gloria Rosenthal, he invited cast members who were making their Broadway debut to come to the center of the stage for a photo.
Excitement continued to build as Terry Marone invited former Robe recipients to the center of the stage, including: Adrian Bailey, Bjorne Buchtrup, Carlos Encinias, Harvey Evans, Richard Korthaze, Arbinder Robinson, Roger Preston Smith, Jennifer Smith, Judine Sommerville, Dennis Stowe, Adrian Bailey - and last but not least - KINKY BOOTS director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell.
Next, Linda Muggleston, who received the Robe in CINDERELLA, stepped forward to recite the Robe's history and announce the newest recipient: Charlie Sutton.
"It was such an honor receiving the gypsy robe for Kinky Boots. I did my first original show for Mr. Mitchell ( a past robe recipient). Ten years later, he's there to watch me receive it, like a football coach watching his player win MVP. I could've never dreamed of a day like that and have never been so proud to be a Gypsy!" - Charlie Sutton.
Charlie attended the ceremony in full make-up and wig for his role in the show. When his name was announced, he dropped his dressing gown to reveal a bikini that he wears in the show, causing a flash fest from all of the Photographers, before donning the Robe. He then circled the stage 3 times counter-clockwise as everyone reached out to touch the garment.
Charlie Sutton's Broadway chorus credits include HOW TO SUCCEED, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, WOMEN ON THE VERGE, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, CRY-BABY, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, and WICKED.
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 Robe from the 2008-2009 season is now on display in the Times Square Visitor Center; and 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 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.