Father's Day wouldn't be Father's Day without another installment of Broadway Bares, the annual burlesque event founded by the great Jerry Mitchell to raise cash for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Joe Beauregard at left
Even though I'm old enough to be the dad of a large percentage of the dancers, I suppose I can look at them as “zaddies,” or just use the millennial “dad” for anyone hot, regardless of whether they're 18 or 80. (They're usually not 80.)
This year's show, Broadway Bares: Game Night, riffed on a theme of classic games — sometimes board (Clue, Battleship), never boring — on its way to raising a whopping $1,875,090 at two standing-room-only performances at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The event was all fun and games, but left out the childhood favorite Risk in favor of encouraging audience members to instead play it safe sexually.
Less a game of chance than a game of dance, Game Night was packed with players, strokes of luck, and oodles of team effort.
It all paid off with a series of performances as successful artistically as they were financially — and all for a good cause ...
Choreographed by Nick Kenkel & Laya Barak; book by Troy Britton Johnson; music by Lynne Shankel; lyrics by Amanda Greene
The opening number was a take on Clue, a wise choice since the core audience — not to mention the participants — seem to be increasingly obsessed with the (surprisingly meh, when you re-watch it!) 1985 movie based on the classic board game.
In this version, singer Mila Jam, The Phantom of the Opera's Jay Armstrong Johnson, Marissa Rosen of The Marvelous Wonderettes, and The Lion King's L. Steven Taylor happened upon a creepy mansion being tended by a cackling maid (all-time BB MVP Lesli Margherita) and Rocky Horror-fying butler (Wesley Taylor of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical).
Hilariously, their characters were dubbed Miss Harlett, Colonel Must-Hard, Mrs. Pee Pee Cock, and Professor Plums. The number was so chock-full of randy queer content it left us feeling like we had flamers on the sides of our faces. When Jam produced a candlestick from within, it killed, and she definitely got away with it.
The number featured some knockouts, including Mark MacKillop — who went on to be named the year's top fundraiser, as well as the top fundraiser of all time for the event — Michael Pugliese, Matthew Griffin and Steven Wenslawski.
I became enchanted by Griffin, who danced near our corner of the stage — he's the total package for even the most discriminating package.
The number had a big finish, but the all-too-short night was just getting started.
Now is as good a place as any to point out that Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Michael Benjamin Washington and Tuc Watkins of The Boys in the Band showed up to both performances to gamely run through a raunchy routine that ended with Carver baring his butt.
Zachary Quinto, unscheduled, appeared as a total surprise for the midnight crowd. No Jim Parsons or Brian Hutchison to be found. They're so ... helpful.
Choreographed by Laya Barak & Jonathan Lee
I had a sinking feeling about the next number, but the Battleship-themed blast was ship-shape, filled with able-bodied seamen who, in turn, looked to be filled with able-bodied semen.
The tip-top hip-hop number was driven by swinging dicks Robert Walters (Hamilton) and Juan Zapata, whose moves were smooth sailing and who successfully navigated the audience's underwear far from dry land.
The sequence was an impressive show of force so threatening that Donald Trump sent it an invite for brunch in Singapore.
The all-male cast didn't coast through this one, instead cruising for the bruising tryst between the lead characters that was implied once they reached their dramatically shadowed destination.
Choreographed by Michael Lee Scott
A birthday party for a nerd (Joe Beauregard of Kinky Boots) drew some interesting characters in a send-up of Pictionary that was reimagined as a better game called Striptionary.
As players' naked ambition came out, things got a li'l sketchy, thanks to the expertly drawn clues by Bares veteran Steve Bratton.
This tongue-in-cheek (if only!) confection had plenty of cake, lots of candles got blown, and it should go without saying that Beauregard wound up in his birthday suit.
None of the above is technically allowable on an Amazon wish list, but it's worth a try.
Choreographed by Richard Hinds
One stand-out number was “Pinball,” in which Jena VanElslander's silver-mommy character slinked out of a pinball machine, looking like a descendant of that chick from Metropolis, except loaded up with female Viagra. All kidding aside, she was stunningly coifed and styled, and was an essential element in her team's final score.
The dancing was full-tilt, and how could it not be with Dancing with the Stars stud Henry Byalikov leading the way?
The choreography seemed to mimic the herky-jerky fast pace of the game that inspired it, and it was peopled by a bumper crop of contenders.
In the end, I have to give it to this team for making the entire audience into shameless banana flippers.
Choreographed by Nathan Peck
Doing her part to battle ageism and the sexism inherent within, resident Old Maid Karine Plantadit demonstrated that appearances can be deceiving, revealing she still had plenty of life under her housedress in a clever, Old Maid-inspired number by Nathan Peck.
Not since Moonstruck has a makeover urged audiences to snap out of it so convincingly.
Choreographed by Kellan Stancil; aerial choreography by Mathieu Leopold
A bedeviling ouija board led to the night's most unabashedly sensual and romantic sequence, in which Spencer Clark (Frozen) — who was totally committed and danced with abandon — fell for dark and mysterious Reed Kelly after conjuring him with the necromancy of the board.
The lush number was enhanced by Mathieu Leopold's aerial contributions, which Kelly handled with aplomb.
Beautiful from start to finish — and nobody had to cheat by getting handsy with the board.
Choreographed by Al Blackstone
Of course there had to be a parody of Candyland for this game night, and of course Christina Aguilera's song “Candyman” came into play — sweet!
The number, starring Frozen stud Donald Jones Jr. as Lord Licorice as well as Ehizoje Azeke, Justin Keats and Ricky Schroeder (another of the night's biggest money-raisers), featured a tasty ensemble of yummy-but-bad-for-you dancing tarts, including one of my personal faves, Twinkie™ Josh Cotham.
I must admit that their dancing went straight to my hips, or thereabouts.
Choreographed by Olivia Cipolla
A highlight of the bawdy evening was a video game-inspired number by Olivia Cipolla, partly due to the crisp dance moves she dreamed up and partly due to the chemistry between leads Matthew Skrincosky (one of the best overall performers to ever participate in Broadway Bares, making a cumback!) and Tony-nominated glamazon Ariana DeBose (Summer: The Donna Summer Musical).
The sequence was described as being Indiana Jones-esque, but I immediately associated it with the Atari game Pitfall (itself an Indy rip-off).
Regardless from where in the jungle it emerged, it was a tightly controlled sensation. Skrincosky seemed less naked (any amount is welcome) than usual, but his performance gave the illusion that much more was on the floor, fed by his appropriately animalistic energy. Grrr.
DeBose's fab females were no plain Janes either, Tarzan!
I kept wondering, with all those vines, if everyone onstage swung both ways?
Choreographed by Charlie Sutton
Biggest laugh of the night for me was when the parody of Operation began with a part of TLC's “No Scrubs” — laughter is the best medicine, with good booty following close, er, behind.
The Phantom of the Opera's Nicholas Cunningham starred as an out patient who submits to a let's-get-physical from Frozen's Kali Grinder, marking the first time anyone could ever say, “Hey, I saw Grinder on you.”
The male nurses failed to ward off the vapors, leaving all onlookers in heat.
Choreographed by Lisa Stevens
An example of cultural inappropriation (wink), the parcheesi-inspired number by Lisa Stevens featured Julius Rubio as a charming snake who didn't even get paid scale.
But anyways-s-s-s, the color-saturated number was no Indian bummer, offering a Bollywood sextravaganza of hot bodies and far out Far East movement.
Choreographed by John Alix; aerial choreography by Armando Farfan Jr.
The best of the night — and they knew it — was the wildly inventive salute to flashlight tag. It was not only a creative inspiration to choose this variety of the classic game, it was also quite out-of-the-box to make this the big aerial number, allowing for the truly dazzling use of flashlights that kept us on the edges of our feets (it was standing room only for most of us) while keeping us, tantalizingly, mostly in the dark.
Hard to shoot it, but just as hard to look away. It was the most unexpected number, beat for beat, and butt for butt, led confidently by Javier Perez.
High-flying, and I adored it.
Choreographed by Karla Puno Garcia
With the finale, Margherita's character revealed herself to be Mr. Body, declaring #TimesUp on the sexism that led us all to believe Mr. Body was a Mr. in the first place. (Should future editions call him M. Body?)
Broadway bombshells Alison Luff, Ryann Redmond, Rema Webb, Kirstin Maldonado, Ashley Park, Chondra Profit, and Lauren Zakrin did the honors with this one, strutting their stuff and ending the testosterone-fueled proceedings with a dose of estrogen. The sight of The Lion King's Chondra Profit — great with child, and great with high heels, too — stalking up and down the stage was a yaaasss-queen moment for the ages, as was watching everyone (200+ bodies) return to the scene of the crime for a goodbye.
After announcing the dancers who raised the most cash and urging us to remember that safe sex is hot sex (and that sex with someone who is POZ but undetectable counts as safe sex), the show devolved into “Rotation,” that portion of the show where the dancers bump and grind and you get to stuff cash into their nethers.
“Rotation” alone earned nearly $29,000 this year — that's like $145 per participant, and they (1) don't all do it, and (2) aren't all physically reachable due to the scrum of fans in the awkward space that is the Hammerstein. It's a truly impressive amount. They coulda doubed it had Bomer given it a whirl.
I'll leave you with the “Rotation” pics — aka scenes from a maul — and with the permission to share any of my pics on social media, especially with anyone I was unable to name in them. Everyone did a great job, and all deserve a pat on the ass. I mean back.