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November 20, 2003

Oooh's for Robe in TABOO!

Felice B. Gadja, the winner of the TABOO Gypsy Robe, with Raul Esparza, Jeffrey Carlson and Sarah Uriate Berry
photo by Walter McBride/RETNA

Felice B. Gadja (left) makes the rounds in the Robe while Brian J. Marcum, the winner of the Robe for THE BOY FROM OZ and TABOO cast members including Sarah Uriate Berry touch the Robe for luck.
photo by Walter McBride/RETNA

Felice B. Gadja (left) and Jennifer Cody, the winner of the Gypsy Robe for URINETOWN
photo by Walter McBride/RETNA


Felice B. Gajda is the newest recipient of Actors' Equity's famous "Gypsy Robe" for the musical TABOO. The colorful garment was presented backstage on the new musical's opening night (Thursday, November 13, 2003), recreating an historic, theatrical ritual that began on Broadway over 50 years ago. Felice's chorus credits include URBAN COWBOY, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, KISS ME, KATE, FOSSE, HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, and TOMMY.

Equity's Robe Director, Terry Marone, kicked off the ceremony at the Plymouth Theatre by introducing Equity's Second Vice President Jean-Paul Richard and Communications Director, David Lotz. Equity Executive Director, Alan Eisenberg could not attend but sent best wishes to the company.

Kisha Howard, the previous robe recipient from WICKED, explained the rules and history of the robe before announcing the newest "winner." The cast and crew burst into applause while Felice donned the resplendent costume and circled the stage three times in accordance with the robe tradition to bring "blessings" to the new musical. Also joining the celebration were previous robe honorees: Carmen Ruby Floyd (AVENUE Q), Brian J. Marcum (THE BOY FROM OZ) and James Dybas (PACIFIC OVERTURES, SCARLET PIMPERNEL).

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 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 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. Seven "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 of the Gypsy Robes can be viewed on Equity's website, www.actorsequity.org.

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