‘Broadway Bares’ finds new ways to raise more money

bwaybares4You would think that a one-night benefit that keeps a lid on ticket prices would hit a fundraising ceiling, but the spectacular annual “Broadway Bares” show sponsored by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS hit a new peak last week by earning $1,430,241 from the two shows at the Roseland Ballroom.

The 23rd edition of the fundraiser exceeded last year’s take by almost $200,000. As usual, the two performances were sold out, but BC/EFA has found creative ways to increase the one night haul by lining up corprorate sponsors such as the MAC cosmetics company which pass along big checks as well as their product services.

“Broadway Bares” has increased its fundraising total every year for the past 23 years with the exception of the June 2009 show, which reflected the financial disaster the country faced just a few months earlier.

The more than 200 dancers who appear in the show have also started to raise money independently by gathering pledges from friends and other members of the Broadway community, adding tens of thousands to the pot.

The bottom line on the annual event, however, is that “Broadway Bares” is always among the most spectacular live performances of the theater season, with one great, bawdy dance number after another.

This year’s theme, “United Strips of America,” inspired a series of mock-patriotic tributes to bwaybares6places like Las Vegas (represented by a gay variation on “The Hangover”), Idaho (a spoof of Middle American religious hypocrisy), and, of course, both coasts.

“Broadway Bares” creator Jerry Mitchell got the star of his new hit “Kinky Boots” — Billy Porter — to appear in a very funny skit in which he managed to show off the Tony he won a few weeks earlier.

Mitchell protege, Nick Kenkel, directed the show with great flair, coordinating hundreds of performers, several different choreographers, and an awesome stage crew, most of whom had to rehearse separately in the run-up to June 23 (nearly all of the dancers work on Broadway shows, which means squeezing “Broadway Bares” rehearsals in between eight performances a week).

I’ve been going to the show for many years, and one of the biggest kicks I get out of it is bringing friends who haven’t seen “BB” before and watching their amazement at the talent on display. The $65 general admission ticket is one of the great Broadway bargains.

Joe Meyers