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February 29, 2004

Tom Titone and Tevye (Alfred Molina)

Tom Titone is ecstatic about the Gypsy Robe

Roxanne Barlow and Alan Eisenberg

Photo by © Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.


Broadway Opening Night Tradition Continues For Over 50 Years!

Tom Titone, currently performing in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, is the newest recipient of Equity's famous "Gypsy Robe." The colorful icon was presented to the chorus member at a special backstage ceremony at the Minskoff Theatre on Thursday, February 26, 2004 (opening night), recreating an historic, theatrical ritual that began on Broadway over 50 years ago. Mr. Titone has appeared in a number of Broadway shows, including THE MOST HAPPY FELLA, CAROUSEL, MY FAVORITE YEAR, ONCE UPON A MATTRESS and THE RED SHOES.

Terry Marone, Director of the Gypsy Robe, introduced Roxanne Barlow, the previous winner of the robe from NEVER GONNA DANCE. Joining Roxanne were previous robe recipients including Vince Pesce, (WONDERFUL TOWN), Gina Lamparella (GYPSY), Roger Preston Smith (PETER PAN), Austin Colyer (SINGING IN THE RAIN), Bill Nabel (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST), Harvey Evans (SUNSET BOULEVARD, OKLAHOMA!), Richard Korthaze (DANCIN’) and Joyce Chittick (CABARET, SEUSSICAL). Marone also introduced Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg, who attended the opening night performance. Equity Chorus Councillors Thomas Jay Miller and Bill Bateman assisted the proceedings.

After explaining the robe’s tradition, Roxanne presented the robe to Mr. Titone, who accepted on behalf of everyone in the show, “including folks who’ve done a lot more than me!” Tom donned the garment and swept around the stage three times, as everyone in the cast touched the robe to bring “blessings” to the new musical.

The Gypsy Robe began as a lark in 1950, when Bill Bradley, in the chorus of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, borrowed a dressing gown and sent it to a friend in CALL ME MADAM on opening night (Oct 12, 1950) saying it was worn by all the Ziegfield 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 done 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, Actors' Equity recently donated two robes into permanent collections at the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of American History; three robes are permanently loaned to the Museum of the City of New York. Eight "elderly" robes are still maintained by the Union at its national headquarters on West 46th Street, and one is always on display in the Equity Audition Center.

Photos and a list of robe recipients may be viewed on Actors' Equity's website.


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