The 15th and grand finale edition of THE BROADWAY BEARS, the annual auction of handmade, one-of-a-kind, theatrically costumed teddy bears, raised a record-setting $198,300 on Sunday, benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Broadway lovers and teddy bear collectors came together yesterday, March 18 at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill (237 West 42nd Street) for one last time to bid on – and bid adieu to – museum-quality bears representing legendary theatrical characters and autographed by the stars who made those characters famous.
The cumulative fundraising total for the 15 editions of THE BROADWAY BEARS auctions is a remarkable $2,048,427. The previous fund-raising record was $170,000 set in 2002.
“What started as a one-time event with 20 bears in 1998 turned into a remarkable run of auctioning 643 bears raising more than $2 million,” said Broadway Cares Executive Director Tom Viola. “Led by BC/EFA producer Scott T. Stevens, an extraordinarily talented team of Broadway designers, costume shops, and wardrobe personnel designed, costumed, draped, dressed and frocked, painted, outfitted, stuffed and lipoed, shod and hatted, feathered, tattooed and armored, bedecked and bedazzled these furry masterpieces, giving of their time, energies and amazing talent over 15 years to create this unique and delightful fundraising event. THE BROADWAY BEARS truly reflects the creative vision, sheer artistry and technical skill that are the hallmark of all of Broadway.”
The top bid for the 2012 auction went to a stunning recreation of Joey from the Tony Award-winning War Horse. Designed by Barak Stribling and Jamie Filippelli and based on the working drawings the Handspring Puppet Theatre used for the Broadway production, the Joey bear came complete with his own bear handlers. Seth Numrich, who starred as ‘Albert’ in the Broadway production, signed the bear and helped lead the live auction bidding to a staggering $20,000 final price tag.
Other high bids included:
- The Lion King – An intense bidding battle between an in-person bidder and a telephone bidder helped propel a masterful recreation of ‘Simba,’ complete with his lion-head headdress, to a winning bid of $18,000. Designed by Katie Falk, Ilya Vett and Islah Andul-Rahim, the ‘Simba’ bear was signed by Julie Taymor, the show’s Tony Award-winning director and costume designer.
- How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – The bear embodiment of everyone’s favorite corporate climber had little trouble finding a home among a flurry of bids. ‘J. Pierrepont Finch’ bear, designed by Amy Micallef, wore a replica of Daniel Radcliffe‘s complete opening outfit of green poplin coveralls over a dapper three-piece suit, including his trademark blue bow tie. Radcliffe’s two successors in the show, Darren Criss and Nick Jonas, both contributed their own smartly colored bow ties and all three heartthrobs signed the bear. The high bid for the Finch bear was $11,000.
- Priscilla Queen of the Desert – a trio of bears from the Australian outback collectively brought in $10,900. These three bears represented the three leads of the show in their Tony Award-winning costumes. Stars Tony Sheldon and Nick Adams made special appearances at the auction, which helped boost the final totals. Adams’ ‘Felicia’ bear fetched $4,500. Sheldon’s ‘Bernadette’ bear, or as Sheldon called her, “Bear-nadette,” raised $3,400. And the Mitzi bear, signed by Will Swenson, added another $3,000 to the total. All three bears were designed by Amy Micallef.
- Follies – One of the most visually spectacular bears was the Dragonfly Showgirl from the recent revival of Stephen Sondheim‘s Follies. Designed by Polly Isham Kinney and Judith E. Marsh, the Showgirl bear featured a glimmering, jewel-encrusted headpiece and handmade jeweled-and-sequined wings. Signed by Follies stars Bernadette Peters, Danny Burstein and Jan Maxwell, as well as by Sondheim and costume designer Gregg Barnes, the Showgirl bear raised $8,000.
- Bette Midler’s Clams on the Half Shell Revue – The bikini-clad bear representing the Divine Miss M’s 1975 Broadway show arrived in her very own clam shell, a repurposed drum case that recreated the show’s memorable opening number. Designed by Kevin Phillips, this Broadway bear snatched a high bid of $7,000.
- Cats – It’s been almost 30 years since Cats opened on Broadway, but it continues to thrive at THE BROADWAY BEARS auction. ‘Skimbleshanks,’ the 12th character from Cats to be immortalized as a bear, raised $5,500. ‘Skimbleshanks’ was designed by Therese Stadelmeier-Tresco and signed by Tony Award-winner Betty Buckley.
- Beauty and the Beast – An exquisite replica of ‘Cogsworth,’ the stern but endearing timepiece from the Disney classic, raised $5,250. Designed by Zoë Morsette, Cogsworth bear featured sculpted gold cabinetry complete with a decorative pendulum and his removable wind-up key.
- Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway – America’s favorite Australian returned to Broadway last year and Hugh Jackman‘s standing-room-only performance inspired this Matthew Hemesath-designed Hugh bear. Dressed in the Peter Allen costume that opened Jackman’s second act, Hugh bear, autographed by Jackman, sold for $5,000.
- Wicked – ‘Elphaba’ returned for one final, triumphant visit. Wearing an exact reproduction of Elphaba’s “Emerald City/Defying Gravity” costume, this year’s Elpha-bear was designed by John Henson and raised $4,750.
Three other lots each raised $3,600 for Broadway Cares: a pair of bears representing The Book of Mormon‘s ‘Elder Cunningham’ and ‘Elder Price,’ designed by Robin McGee; a ‘Frankie Valli’ bear from Jersey Boys, designed by Rosi Zingales; and a bear representing Disney’s newest musical sensation, Newsies, designed by Cailin Anderson.
The unique event was again hosted by the always entertaining Broadway, television and film star Bryan Batt (“Mad Men,” Jeffrey) with the delightful Lorna Kelly reprising her role as auctioneer.
Several other Broadway stars dropped by to lend their support to the event including Danny Burstein, Faith Dane, Harvey Evans, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Zach James, Jeremy Jordan, Donnie Kehr, Ilene Kristen, Norm Lewis, Rebecca Luker, Andrea McArdle, Michele McConnell, Judy McLane, Laura Osnes, Patrick Page, Justin Matthew Sargent and Jennifer Smith.
The evening’s opening number was performed by Christine Pedi, Kurt Peterson and music director Michael Lavine. It was written by Douglas Braverman.