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    Posted April 17, 2013

AEA’s GYPSY ROBE®

Nadine Isenegger Receives AEA's Iconic Gypsy Robe® for MATILDA The Musical

Recreating 60 Year Historic Broadway Backstage Tradition


Nadine Isenegger
Photo: Walter McBride

On Thursday April 11, AEA's iconic Gypsy Robe® was presented to Nadine Isenegger on the opening night of MATILDA The Musical at the Shubert 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 introduced AEA President Nick Wyman, Executive Director Mary McColl, Eastern Regional Director Thomas Carpenter, and AEA 3rd VP Ira Mont. He then 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: Aaron J. Albano, Adrian Bailey, Bjorne Buchtrup, Jim Bortelsmann, Eileen Casey, Joseph Medeiros, Bill Nable, Sarah Schmidt, Jennifer Smith and Charlie Sutton, who garnered the robe in KINKY BOOTS.

Charlie stepped forward to recite the robe's history and announce the newest recipient: Nadine Isenegger! Putting on the garment as cast members cheered her on, Nadine circled the stage three times according to the tradition as everyone reached out to touch the robe.

Nadine's Broadway chorus credits include A CHORUS LINE, CATS, FOLLIES, 42ND STREET, KISS ME, KATE and PAL JOEY.

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.



Ensemble Cast
Photo: Walter McBride


Broadway Debuts: Bertie Carvel, Lesli Margherita, Karen Aldridge & Ensemble Cast members
Photo: Walter McBride


Charlie Sutton (Recipient for 'Kinky Boots' ) with David Westphal & Company
Photo: Walter McBride


Nadine Isenegger
Photo: Walter McBride


Charlie Sutton (Recipient for 'Kinky Boots' ), Nadine Isenegger with David Westphal
Photo: Walter McBride


Nadine Isenegger with Ryan Steele, Ben Thompson & Cast
Photo: Walter McBride


Gabriel Ebert & Nadine Isenegger
Photo: Walter McBride


Nadine Isenegger with young ensemble cast
Photo: Walter McBride


Executive Director of AEA Mary McColl, AEA Eastern Regional Director Thomas Carpenter & Nadine Isenegger
Photo: Walter McBride


Click here for more Gypsy Robe® information...

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