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March 27, 2003

EQUITY'S "GYPSY ROBE" PRESENTED TO FIRST BROADWAY MUSICAL OF THE 2003 SPRING SEASON

CAST OF URBAN COWBOY CARRIES ON BROADWAY OPENING NIGHT TRADITION

Matt Cavanaugh, Michelle Kittrell and Barrett Martin

Matt Cavanaugh (left) and Barrett Martin (right) get some Gypsy luck from Michelle Kittrell

photo by Sabrina Gordin

Michelle Kittrell and Michael Balderrama

Michelle models the Robe

photo by Walter McBride/Retna

Michelle Kittrell, currently performing in URBAN COWBOY, 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 Broadhurst Theatre on opening night, recreating a historic, theatrical ritual that began on Broadway over 50 years ago.

Ms. Kittrell has appeared in a number of Broadway shows, including THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, HAIRSPRAY, GREASE, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, FOOTLOOSE and SEUSSICAL.

Jenny Lynn Suckling, the last recipient of the robe for her work in the recent production of DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES is currently in LA working on a new project and was unable to present the robe to Ms. Kittrell. In her place, Marc Oka, the recipient of the robe from FLOWER DRUM SONG, presented the robe to Broadway's newest Gypsy. Along with the cast of URBAN COWBOY, were several Equity Council members to help congratulate Ms. Kittrell.

Marc Oka and Terry Marone, the director of the Gypsy Robe, explained that tradition started in 1950, when a dancer, Bill Bradley, took an old robe from a female chorus member in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, decorated it and gave it to a chorus member in CALL ME MADAM. According to Marone, the robe is presented to the "gypsy" who has done the most Broadway musicals on a chorus contract. The robe is then passed along from show to show on opening night as a token of good luck for a long run. 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. Through the years, the tradition grew into a cherished opening night ritual.

The next Gypsy Robe will be presented on April 10, 2003 before the opening of NINE. Ms. Kittrell is the seventh recipient of the Gypsy Robe for the 2002-2003 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, and three robes 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.

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