Though it may sound like an old Schubert operetta, it's a cherished theatrical tradition that began back in 1950.
It all started with the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Bill Bradley, a gypsy in that show (dancers in Broadway musicals are called "gypsies" because they wander from show to show), took a fancy to a dressing gown worn by one of the show girls.
He persuaded her to let him send the robe to a friend of his in Call Me Madam as an Opening Night gift. When he sent it, he attached a note stating that this was no ordinary robe this was the famous Gypsy Robe that had been passed from show to show for generations. And so the tradition was born.
The passing of the Gypsy Robe from musical to musical has become such a holy ritual that it operates according to strict rules. According to tradition, the robe should be presented no later than one-half hour before the Opening Night curtain of the latest Broadway musical.
The recipient should be the gypsy (male or female) who has been in the most Broadway shows. However, this rule is sometimes broken. Superstars like Sandy Duncan, Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera have received the robe because all chorus members agreed that these luminaries were gypsies at heart.
Titanic, the Musical
Jesus Christ, Superstar
A Funny Thing Happened
on the Way to the Forum
Joseph and the Amazing
Jekyll & Hyde, The Musical
Thomas d. Iwankow
West Side Story
Annie Get Your Gun
Guys and Dolls
Ardyth Van Scoy
Beauty and the Beast
Fiddler on the Roof
Into the Woods
Guys and Dolls
Sheila Peace Rambacher
The Pajama Game
Mary Kay Worth
The Shortie Trench Coat
2016Ron Aaron...Mary Poppins
2015Ryan Wheeler... Seussical
2014 Tammy Aaron... Funny Girl
2013 Ken Roberts... Annie
2012 Zach Donner... Guys and Dolls
2011 Bob Bender... Nunsense II
2010 Kevin McClelland... Beauty and the Beast
2009 Nathan Malick... Peter Pan
2008 Dan Donner... Fiddler on the Roof
2007 Nathan Bell... Into the Woods
2006 Kathy Malick... Titanic
2005 Bobby Clemons... Jesus Christ Superstar
2004 Charlotte Roberts... A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
2002 Caddy Greenidge... Jekyll & Hyde, The Musical
ACTORS' EQUITY Broadway Tradition:
The Gypsy Robe
HISTORY OFTHE GYPSY ROBE
The ritual of the Gypsy Robe takes place on the stage of every Broadway musical on opening night, before the audience is admitted. It began in 1950 when Bill Bradley, in the chorus of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, persuaded a chorus girl to let him have her dressing gown. As a lark, he sent it to a friend on opening night of CALL ME MADAM, telling him it had been worn by all the Ziegfeld beauties. The friend added a rose from Ethel Merman's gown and sent it to a chorus member on the next opening night. It was then passed from show to show in a haphazard way and was often presented to a friend of the previous recipient, or awarded to a chorus member based on popularity. Through the years the passing of the Robe became a specific ceremony with official rules stating how it is presented, worn and paraded on stage.
When Robes are completely covered with artifacts, souvenirs and sketches, they are retired and a new one started. Three retired Robes are at the Lincoln Center Library of the Performing arts; two are in the Smithsonian; and all others are with Actors' Equity.
THE RULES OF THE GYPSY ROBE
The Gypsy Robe blesses every Broadway musical! Please keep the tradition and stick to the rules.
1. The Gypsy Robe goes only to Broadway musicals with a chorus.
2. Robe goes to a chorus member only, with most number of Broadway Chorus credits.
3. It must be delivered by 1/2 hour on Opening Night to member selected.
4. New recipient must put on Robe and circle the stage 3 times, while cast members reach out and touch Robe for good
luck; new recipient visits each dressing room while wearing the Robe.
5. New recipient supervises addition of application from show to Robe. Important rules for adding mementos: For
wearability, durability and longevity, add-ons must be lightweight, sturdy and reasonably sized so each Robe can
represent a full season.
6. Opening night date and recipients name is written on or near memento and cast members only sign that section of Robe.
7. Recipient will attend next Broadway musical opening and will present the Robe to the next "Gypsy" in that show.
Information excerpted from the Actors' Equity Association website.
Gypsy Robe® is a registered trademark of Actors' Equity Association.
Watch the 2010 Tribute to the
60th Anniversary of the
Original Broadway Gypsy Robe®
(scan forward to 1:45 to see the robes enter)
OCT's Golden Robe Award was first presented in 1988 after our production of Carousel. And it has been presented each year since then. Inspired by the legendary Broadway tradition of the Actors' Equity Gypsy Robe (see story below), OCT's Golden Robe is passed on from chorus member to chorus member each year at the cast party of our winter musical.
Each year's recipient is chosen only by the Robe's current holder and the choice is not revealed until the presentation. The Robe is awarded to the cast member who, in the opinion of the current holder, exemplifies best the spirit of the show and of the cast.
According to OCT tradition, the presenter attaches a token from the current show to the Robe inscribed with the name of the new owner and the show title and production year. As a Golden Robe recipient it is then incumbent upon this latest recipient to return to the cast party of next year's musical production and pass the Golden Robe on to a member of that musical's cast. Thus, in the true spirit of community theater, the torch is passed. Congratulations to each and to all of our Golden Robe honorees!
A former OCT techie, Charles Baldwin, was given a trench coat worn by John Shortencarier shortly after John's passing. Charles came up with the idea of honoring our set designer friend and mentor "Shortie," as he was known, by using his coat to honor a tech person who had worked several OCT shows and, by example and work ethic, deserved to be recognized. Charles made the first presentation to Caddy Greenidge in 2002. He chose something symbolic from that show, attached it to the coat, and gave it to Caddy at the cast party of that year's winter musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The tradition has continued each winter since then in Shortie's memory.