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May 2, 2003

Equity's "Gypsy Robe" goes to GYPSY!


Gina Lamparella and Bernadette Peters and cast of GYPSY

(L to R) Jenna Gavigan, Chandra Lee Schwartz, Gina Lamparella, Bernadette Peters, Ginifer King, Dontee Kiehn, & Julie Martell (kneeling in blue)

photo by Walter McBride/Retna

Gina Lamparella and company

Members of the Gypsy circle touch the Robe for luck: (L to R) Tim Federle, Graham Bowen, Benjamin Brooks Cohen and Gina

photo by Walter McBride/Retna

Gina Lamparella and Alan Eisenberg

Gina Lamparella and Actors' Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg

photo by Sabrina Gordin

Gina Lamparella 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 Shubert Theatre on opening night, recreating an historic, theatrical ritual that began on Broadway over 50 years ago. Ms. Lamparella has appeared in a number of Broadway musicals including JANE EYRE THE MUSICAL, LES MISERABLES and MISS SAIGON. She also appeared in IMAGINARY FRIENDS earlier this season.

Terry Marone, Director of the Gypsy Robe, introduced Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg along with David Lotz, AEA's Communications Director, and Equity Chorus Councillors Thomas Jay Miller and Mary Leigh Stahl. Also on hand were Gloria Rosenthal, the Robe Historian, and Helen Guditis of the Broadway Theatre Institute.

Choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who received the robe for THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES, was acknowledged along with two previous robe recipients: Harvey Evans (who received the robe for OKLAHOMA and SUNSET BOULEVARD), and Michelle Kittrell (URBAN COWBOY). Evans was in the original chorus of GYPSY when it opened in 1959!

Sara Gittelfinger, the robe winner from NINE, introduced Ms. Lamparella, who then circled the stage three times according to the time-honored tradition.

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.

At the conclusion, Terry Marone acknowledged Peter Lawrence, the Production Stage Manager for GYPSY, who is celebrating his 13th collaboration with Assistant Stage Manager Jim Woolley. They received a warm round of applause.

The next Gypsy Robe will be presented on Sunday May 4, 2003 at the opening of THE LOOK OF LOVE at the Brooks Atkinson theatre.

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