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Harvey Evans and Merwin Foard

Merwin Foard is flanked by Vince Pesce and Tom Titone

Neil Patrick Harris, Merwin Foard, Mario Cantone, Marc Kudisch

All photos by
Walter McBride/Retna

April 23, 2004


Broadway Opening Night Tradition Continues For Over 50 Years!

Merwin Foard, currently performing in ASSASSINS, 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 Roundabout Theatre Studio 54 on Thursday, April 22, 2004 (opening night), recreating an historic, theatrical ritual that began on Broadway over 50 years ago. Mr. Foard has appeared in a number of Broadway shows, including OKLAHOMA! KISS ME, KATE, JEKYLL & HYDE, 1776, LES MISERABLES, and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

Terry Marone, Director of the Gypsy Robe, introduced Tom Titone, the previous winner of the robe from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. Joining Tom were fellow cast members from FIDDLER… and previous robe recipients: Vince Pesce, (WONDERFUL TOWN), Gina Lamparella (GYPSY), Harvey Evans (SUNSET BOULEVARD, OKLAHOMA!, Joyce Chittick (CABARET, SEUSSICAL), and Jack Dabdoub (SHOWBOAT). Equity Chorus Councillor Thomas Jay Miller, Gypsy Robe Historian Gloria Rosenthal, and the Broadway Theatre Institute’s Helen Guditis also attended the ceremony.

Marone introduced Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg, who congratulated the winner and reminded cast members that they are invited to attend the Production Contract negotiations and encouraged everyone to sign for the Members Only website. “We need your support,” he emphasized.

After explaining the robe’s tradition, Tom presented the robe to Merwin, who 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.

The next Gypsy Robe presentation will take place on Thursday, April 29 at BOMBAY DREAMS.

Mario Cantone, Marc Kudisch, Merwin Foard and the rest of the cast of ASSASSINS

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