In its ninth year, the Broadway Bares benefit uncovered just as much skin but moved up a few notches in size and production values. Held twice on May 23 at New York's Roseland Ballroom, the performance comprised 12 numbers, 140 dancers, and 160 lighting cues. Most importantly, this annual benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS took in $240,000: $80,000 more than last year.
Such a windfall is made possible by the donated services of everyone from the dancers and IA electricians to director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell and lighting designer Chris Lee. Hudson Scenic Studio contributed the set, and much of the show's razzle-dazzle came from lighting equipment provided gratis by Altman Stage Lighting, Four Star Lighting, GAM Products, Production Arts, Vari-Lite, and Wybron. Such donations were particularly crucial this year, because Roseland doesn't have a house lighting system.
"I set up a dream list of 30 wash units and 30 spot units, and it worked," says Lee, who has designed five Broadway Bares and who started working on this year's edition last October. We got 30 VL5s(TM) and 22 VL6s(TM) from Vari-Lite, and an Artisan(R)Plus. Richard Tyndall, who didn't know what he was getting into, programmed it and did a fabulous job. I have never been let down by any company; it's their way to pay back the industry."
Vari-Lite was Lee's wild card participant, but it came through generously. "One of the reasons we needed automated lighting was time, as we did not have enough to focus a show that size. We loaded in the rig on Saturday, and on Sunday I had five hours to cue the whole show, without the dancers. The first time we saw it with the dancers was at the 9:00 show. I also called the show, because we finished programming five minutes before door. But this year, [associate LD] Dawn Chiang called followspots, so I didn't have to worry about that."
A few hip-hop numbers allowed for more movement in the show. "In a Broadway show, if there was a surge in the music, and you swooped a rack of VL5s out into the audience, it wouldn't fit. But here it does," Lee says.
This year's theme, "Calendar Girl," found colorful ways to get dancers out of their clothes on a month-by-month basis, with the aid of Wendall K. Harrington's thematic projections. "I get a scratch tape of songs by January, and do my light renderings, which are really color and focus impressions," says Lee. "The opening is a fully lit musical number, then the music changes and it becomes a sexy strip light--backlit, saturated, sculpted bodies. The guys really do get naked out there, and the dark, shafty light is somewhat of a safety for them."
Lee will once again be on board for the 10th anniversary of Broadway Bares in 2000, and in the meantime, will supervise a less fleeting installation of the show in Las Vegas. For information on Broadway Bares or the organization's other charitable activities, contact Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, 165 West 46th Street, Suite 1300, New York, NY 10036.