Sunday night's dual performances of Broadway Bares XXX — which celebrated the annual (give or take a pandemic) fundraiser's 30th anniversary — fishnetted $1,893,715 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
The creation of super choreographer Jerry Mitchell had been sidelined by COVID concerns in 2020 and 2021, but came roaring back to the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC under the direction and choreography of Laya Barak.
The opener was a preemptive showstopper, featuring vocals from Jason Tam and Bonnie Milligan as a cast of thousands tens razzledazzled us, providing a recap of 30 years of Bares.
The whole show was a self-homage, with all of the brand-new numbers relating to a bygone theme.
MacKillop, Hughes & the opening-number troupe
Hotter-than-hot (and even hotter than that) Tim Hughes was the lead dancer for the number, which also featured Mark MacKillop.
The host with the most ... interference
Host Maulik Pancholy pretended (?) to be nervous about his job, leading to the appearance of spirit guides Lesli Margherita and Nathan Lee Graham, who kept returning to step on Maulik's efforts in a recurring gag. All this debate about hosting opened the door for Tonys host Ariana DeBose to slink in, demonstrating how to hold a stage — by doing a split on it! We stan a flexible Oscar winner.
Other stars included Funny Girl's stacked Ramin Karimloo, who puts brick shithouses to shame everywhere and fiery trio Julianne Hough, Julie White and Suzy Nakamura. White said the women had jettisoned a marginally funny sketch in favor of imploring us to vote, vote, vote in the wake of the barbaric SCOTUS decision on abortion. (I was a little surprised Hough is such a liberal firebrand.)
Lesli Margherita was right — we needed this.
But the real draw of the show is its 150+ sexy-in-all-shapes-and-sizes dancers and their artistic, funny, aphrodisiacal numbers.
Jason Williams led a dance to Whitney Houston's “Love Will Save the Day” that included a solo strip by Elliott Mattox.
Whitney Houston, we have no problem.
One of my faves, Alex Ringler, was in the backwards baseball capped troupe. It was an early-'90s throwback in thought, word and deed, a great kickoff following the opening.
Giving haunted houses a good name
This year's WHO'S THAT?! award goes to Darius Wright, who proved himself with leading lady Afra Hines in a haunted house-themed routine set to Missy Elliott & Da Brat's “Sock It 2 Me.”
Don't you love when the circus goes to town?
Elliott with 2 Ts (from Season 13 of RuPaul's Drag Race) and Ryan VanDenBoom played ringmaster and servant for Britney Spears's “Circus.”
Serving the night's quickest and hottest moves, the two were fully three-ring — and remember that everything Ryan did, Elliott did frontwards and in high heels.
Collin Heyward of The Lion King harnessed his outer Black Panther for a rap number that culminated with a cane dance. Always impressive to see such a big guy moving with such poetic ease.
“Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” by Paul Simon provided a musical curveball in a number that started like it could be inspired by West Side Story. Nobody got cut, and I'm glad this sweet slice of buddy-bonding didn't get cut, either, especially with Michael Scott Gomez and Jon Beauregard's ample talents.
Marie Rose Baramo was a siren to watch out for in a number devoted to Greek mythology with god-bodded Justin Prescott.
Fire Island's Tomás Matos arguably stole the show as one wicked queen in a number set to a dramatic remake of “Man in the Mirror” that co-starred Brandon Stonestreet as the mirror. When it abruptly changed course with a song switch to Todrick Hall's “Queen” (Hall was an honored guest), it really started hopping. Just A-plus, top-of-the line fare, so it's no wonder it was choreographed by Kellen Stancil.
Another standout of the show was Akira Armstrong, whose passionate dance to mashup including Pat Benatar's “Love Is a Battlefield” was soaring, a reminder that body positivity is a bit condescending — she positively has the body for the job.
Encanto was visited by Shani Talmor and Christopher Hernandez, with salsa on the side. It was epic!
The most unexpected aspect of this session of Bares was that the main body of the show closed with an in memoriam segment devoted to past Bares dancers who have died. Particularly sad to see Casey Lee Ross's face among the departed. The number itself began somberly, but escalated into Armando Farfan Jr.'s trademark aerial choreography. It was so moving, and yet still brought the skin. Maybe all in memoriams should end with a butt reveal. Then people would forget to be angry over exclusions.
The finale was hysterical — Courtney Mack, Andrea Macasaet, Brittney Mack and Keirsten Nicole Hodgens led the entire company on a take-off of Rihanna's “We Found Love” with such lyrics as: “We found love in a topless place / We found love in a naked place / We found love with our derrières / We found love at Broadway Bares.”
After, when the troupe appeared onstage to honor its Top 10 money-earners, I was proud my pal Mark MacKillop was #1 — with over $70K! He's now raised $273K for BC/EFA, and got his crown from Jerry Mitchell and Michael R. Jackson.
Finally, it was time for Company's Christopher Sieber to lead us into “Rotation,” the frantic, handsy minutes when patrons are invited to stuff the dancer's g-strings with even more cash. I would say “Rotation” has become less, not more, raucous over the years. It's definitely shorter, and I witnessed less mayhem, but it's still fun as hell.
Some “Rotation” postcards:
If you ever get a shot, give Broadway Bares a chance. It's better than many Broadway shows, and the $100 ticket price goes to a worthy cause. Plus, you'll see a sea of high-end ends.