What happens when you blend Broadway, burlesque and a great cause? You get the annual one-night-only Broadway Bares charity show. The event brings together the theater world’s best and brightest to shake their money-makers and raise cash for Broadway Cares/Equity Fight AIDS. Broadway Bares debuted in 1992 and was created by two-time Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell. So far, Bares has brought in more than $14.3 million for charity, with last year’s edition alone raking in $1.6 million.
For the fourth year in a row, Broadway Bares will be directed by Nick Kenkel, a veteran of the show who first danced in the production back in 2001. Kenkel says after his first performance, he “fell absolutely madly, truly, deeply in love with the show. It was something like nothing else I had ever experienced. I literally had the best night of my life and then I wanted to do it again.”
“It’s a night like no other in that it’s bigger than a Broadway show,” Kenkel says. “It’s like no other show you’ve ever ever seen.” More than 150 dancers and 700 production staffers all volunteer their time for the two shows that will be staged June 19 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York.
Surprise guests often pop up in the show, and in the past, stars ranging from Vanessa Williams and James Franco to Cyndi Lauper and Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox have all dropped in to perform. In fact, the Emmy Award-nominated Cox — who performed in the show for the first time in 2015 — says it was her gig in Bares that led to her upcoming role in Fox TV’s live staging of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“Interestingly enough,” Cox told Billboard last month, “Kenny Ortega [Rocky’s director] saw my Broadway Bares performance and started thinking maybe I would be the right person [to play] Dr. Frank-N-Furter.” Cox’s casting was announced in October 2015.
Broadway Bares always boasts a unique theme for the evening, to provide a storyline of sorts for the show, and this year is no exception. Broadway Bares 26: On Demand, is described by the organization as “everything you love about television with a brand ‘nude’ look.” Tickets for the show range from $50 to $3,000, and can be purchased at Broadway Bares’ website.
“I’m a cable news junkie,” says Kenkel, “and I was kicking around [the idea]: ‘Is there a way to do a cable news 24-hour cycle [theme]?’ And then that spread to ‘What if I did a whole new network? Let’s create a mock network called Bares TV… and all the audience members will be watching a day of programming.’”
Of course, said programming gets sexed up, by way of a frustrated TV executive who is disappointed with the network’s ratings. They have a bright idea to transform the network and its slate of shows into an “all-strip programming, all-nude, all-the-time, ‘bare and balanced.’”
For those that cannot attend the show but still want to donate, you can support by sponsoring a dancer in the show via their Stripathon fundraiser. Through June 15, the Stripathon alone has already raised $463,000.