Easter bonnets, Broadway style

As Easter Sunday drew to a close last weekend, it suddently dawned on me. For the first time since we’ve had children, there were no Easter baskets at our house.

We’ve long celebrated Easter as more of a cultural tradition than a religious observance, so bunnies and baskets are the mainstay of our celebration.

I suggested to my husband James a few years ago that it might be time to let the baskets go. All three kids were in high school and college — so they knew not to wait up for the bunny to magically appear.

But he wasn’t ready to give up the tradition. I suspect his affection for chocolate was to blame, or perhaps it was his hesitance to admit that our children weren’t really children anymore.

Oddly enough, I found myself missing those Easter baskets on Monday. Even wondering how Christmas might be different once our youngest heads to college in the fall.

But then I heard about the “Easter Bonnet Competition” — a 25-year-old tradition that “celebrates and concludes six intensive weeks of fundraising by the theatre community benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.”

I’m starting to question my decision last Saturday to actually get on that plane from the East Coast back to Arizona. Were Lizabeth and I still near NYC, I’d be hopping over to the Minskoff Theatre for Monday or Tuesday night’s “Easter Bonnet” event.

This year’s “Easter Bonnet Competition” features “more than a dozen companies of Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring productions offering skits, songs and dances, as well as bonnets created specially for the event.”

The celebration features a cast including “many of the season’s biggest Broadway performers.” Those scheduled to appear include Robin Williams, Judith Light, Dan Lauria, Christie Brinkley, John Leguizamo, Heidi Blickenstaff, Roger Rees, Josh Gad, Andrew Rannells, Jose Llana, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jayne Houdyshell, Maxwell Caulfield, Ron Kunene and Tshidi Mayne.

Think “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” “Lombardi,” “Chicago,” “Ghetto Klown,” “The Addams Family,” “The Book of Mormon,” Wonderland,” “Good People,” The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Cactus Flower,” and “The Lion King.”

You get extra points if you can match the actors to their respective shows, although the only prize I might have to offer is a cracked or crushed chocolate bunny from the half-price bin up at the local drug store.

You can click here to check your answers. Or here to see highlights of last year’s competition. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS reports that “the previous 24 competitions have raised more than $42 million.” Makes me wonder if we need to suggest a similar event for Congress.

Tuesday night’s performance will honor select actors with “top fundraising” and “best presentation” awards. Awards are being presented by Harvey Fierstein (“La Cage aux Folles”), Sutton Foster (“Anything Goes”) and Daniel Radcliffe (“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”).

For those of you who missed the memo, consider this a gentle reminder that we can all stop calling Radcliffe “Harry Potter” now. And you can drop the “Equus” wand jokes too. Better to tastefully applaud Doris Eaton Travis — an original Ziegfeld Girl who died last year at the age of 106.

Several productions, including “Billy Elliot,” are scheduled to perform and present their own fabulous takes on the Easter bonnet. I’m big on “Billy” this week because the touring production opens Tuesday night, April 26, at ASU Gammage in Tempe.

Also “The Addams Family,” “Avenue Q,” “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” “Chicago,” “Freud’s Last Session,” “La Cage aux Folles,” “The Lion King,” “Mamma Mia!,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.”

Others taking part include the national tours of “Les Miserables,” “The Lion King,” and “Wicked” — all shows we’ve enjoyed at ASU Gammage in recent years. Those who’ve missed it on previous tours can watch for “Wicked” to return to Tempe Feb 15-March 11, 2012.

Valley families eager to see the school edition of “Les Mis” can head to Peoria for the Creative Stages Youth Theatre production running through April 30. The new 25th anniversary production of “Les Miserables” comes to ASU Gammage June 7-12, 2012.

Folks attending the 2011 “Easter Bonnet Competition” in NYC will also experience the work of “Dancers Responding to AIDS” and “R.Evolucion Latina.”

I’ll be glued to the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS website later this week in search of photos of the 2011 event and news of dollars raised in the ongoing effort to beat AIDS.

But first, I’m off to hit the clearance bins in search of hollow chocolate bunnies and fluffy marshmallow chicks. I just hope James hasn’t beat me to it.

— Lynn

Coming up: More new season announcements

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