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    Posted April 19, 2013


JASON WOOTEN Receives AEA's Iconic Gypsy Robe® for JEKYLL & HYDE

Jason Wooten receives the Gypsy Robe from David Westphal (left) and MOTOWN robe recipient Michael Arnold (right)
Photo: Stephanie Masucci

Jason Wooten, currently performing in JEKYLL & HYDE, is the latest recipient of Equity's coveted Gypsy Robe®, the second to last robe ceremony in a wonderfully busy month of musical show openings. The Gypsy Robe was presented on Thursday, April 18, 2013, in the heart of Times Square, at the Marquis Theatre. This opening night tradition honors a member of the chorus who has the most Broadway chorus credits.

The energy was electric as David Westphal, Equity's National Business Rep for Chorus Affairs, asked the buzzing cast, crew and show-supporters to gather in a large circle on the stage. Michael Arnold, the previous Gypsy Robe recipient for MOTOWN modeled the ornate robe while Mr. Westphal gave a brief history of the long-standing tradition that has its roots in a simple back stage opening night gesture that began more than 60 years ago.

In keeping with ceremony tradition, it was time for the seven JEKYLL & HYDE cast members who are making their Broadway debuts (Brian Gallagher, Courtney Markowitz, Haley Swindal, Ashley Loren, Stephen Mitchell Brown, Dana Costello, Wendy Fox) to step forward to the center of the stage for a special acknowledgement and photo op moment.

Mr. Westphal then introduced Equity's President Nick Wyman, 1st Vice President Paige Price, Executive Director Mary McColl, Gypsy Robe historian Gloria Rosenthal and Gypsy Robe volunteer Terry Marone. Also in attendance were three prior Gypsy Robe recipients, Pi Douglass, Adrian Bailey and J.D. Webster, who were invited to step inside the circle, center stage. After explaining the robe's history, Mr. Arnold announced to thunderous applause, that Mr. Wooten was the newest recipient. Beaming with pride, Mr. Wooten circled the stage three times accordingly as the cast touched the Gypsy Robe to bring "blessings" to their new musical. Everyone cheered enthusiastically, honoring the storied tradition while show stars Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox posed for "family" photos with Mr. Wooten as Mr. Westphal officially welcomed the cast and crew of JEKYL & HYDE to Broadway!

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 (October 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 appeared in 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.

When Gypsy Robes are completely embellished with artifacts, souvenirs and sketches, they are retired and a new robe is started. Recognizing their cultural and historic value, two retired Gypsy Robes are in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History; three are in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center; three are in the Museum of the City of New York; and one is in the lobby of the Times Square Museum & Visitor Center.

Gypsy Robes can also be viewed in Equity's three regional offices: the 2007-2008 robe, dedicated to Broadway veteran Adrian Bailey, is located on the fourteenth floor in the New York Council Room lobby; Chicago holds the 2005-2006 robe; and Orlando houses the robe from 2003-2004.

The supervision and guardianship of the Gypsy Robe is maintained by the Actors' Equity Association Advisory Committee on Chorus Affairs (ACCA).

JEKYLL & HYDE'S seven cast members marking their Broadway debuts with the show: Brian Gallagher, Courtney Markowitz, Haley Swindal, Ashley Loren, Stephen Mitchell Brown, Dana Costello, Wendy Fox
Photo: Stephanie Masucci

Veteran Gypsy Robe recipients Pi Douglass, Adrian Bailey and J.D. Webster celebrate Jason Wooten
Photo: Stephanie Masucci

Deborah Cox, Jason Wooten and Constantine Maroulis
Photo: Stephanie Masucci

Click here for more Gypsy Robe® information...

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