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December 6, 2002

Moving on from MOVIN' OUT - the Gypsy Robe goes to MAN OF LA MANCHA
La Mancha cast
Photo by Sabrina Gordin

catch the gypsy
Photo by Walter McBride/Retna

Gregory Mitchell of MAN OF LA MANCHA received Equity’s Gypsy Robe yesterday in an opening night backstage ceremony at the Martin Beck Theatre.

Mr. Mitchell is no stranger to Don Quixote - he performed in the 1992 production of MAN OF LA MANCHA along with Sheena Easton and Raul Julia. The new cast is headed by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Ernie Sabella and Broadway matinee idol Brian Stokes Mitchell. Gregory has performed on Broadway since 1983 when he was in the cast of MERLIN. He has also performed in STEEL PIER, CHRONICAL OF A DEATH FORETOLD, KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, ASPECTS OF LOVE, DANGEROUS GAMES, and SONG AND DANCE.

Terry Marone, the keeper of the Gypsy Robe, kicked-off the latest Robe ritual by recounting the Gypsy Robe legend, which dates back to 1950 when Bill Bradley of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDS sent a chorus friend in CALL ME MADAM a chorus girl's dressing gown on MADAM's opening night. The friend added a rose from Ethel Merman's gown to the dressing gown and passed it on to another opening night show, and a Broadway tradition was born. Eventually it became customary to award the Robe to the chorus member (aka "gypsy") of each show with the greatest number of Broadway shows under his or her belt. There is more information about the Gypsy Robe tradition on the Actors’ Equity web site at http://www.actorsequity.org/gypsyrobe/gypsyrobe_home.html.

Pascal Faye, who received the robe several weeks earlier for her role in MOVIN’ OUT, was on hand to pass the robe on to her sucessor. Alan Eisenberg, Executive Director of Actors’ Equity, who is usually on hand for the Robe ritual was unable to attend the ceremony due to the surprise storm that dumped 6-8 inches of snow up and down the East Coast and stranded him out of town.

Actual gypsies are portrayed in MAN OF LA MANCHA, and it was perhaps with this in mind that Gregory did a wild tarantella as he circled the stage counter-clockwise three times (as specified in the Rules of the Ritual) while cast members, including the three principles, chased after him in order to touch the robe for good luck. This was the second time Gregory had received the Robe - he was a receipient for his role in ASPECTS OF LOVE in 1990.

At the end of the ceremony, Gregory posed for photos with cast members and said: “There is nothing like what we do. Those who have never been up on stage can’t understand what it’s like. It’s magic.”

On December 9 the Robe will travel to the Minskoff Theatre for the opening of DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES.

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