The Gypsy Robe is a tradition in which a chorus member with the most Broadway credits receives a robe on the opening night of a Broadway Musical.
Before curtain on the opening night of a Broadway Musical, actors, stage managers, crew and everyone associated with the play gather onstage for the Gypsy Robe ceremony. At the center of the stage will be representative from Actors' Equity Association, and a recently honored gypsy. The honored gypsy wears the robe that's decorated with mementos and drawings from past shows. The Equity representative tell the history of the ritual, and announces the newest recipient from the company. The new recipient puts on the robe, and circles the stage counter clockwise three times as everyone touches the robe for good luck. The Gypsy Robe recipient then makes their way throughout the theatre to continue bringing good luck.
Rules of the Ritual
- The Gypsy Robe goes only to Broadway musicals with a chorus.
- Robe goes to a chorus member only, with most number of Broadway Chorus credits
- It must be delivered by 1/2 hour on Opening Night to member selected.
- 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.
- 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.
- Opening night date and recipients name is written on or near memento and cast members only sign that section of Robe.
- Recipient will attend next Broadway musical opening and will present the Robe to the next "Gypsy" in that show.
The ritual dates to 1950, when Florence Baum, a chorus member in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, entered the men's dressing room wearing a robe, pale pink with white feathers. The men took turns trying it on. Fellow chorus member, Bill Bradley, sent a dressing gown from one of his fellow performers to his friend performing in Call Me Madam. A feathered rose from Ethel Merman's costume was attached to the robe and it was then given to a chorus member in Guys and Dolls. The robe continued to be passed from one show to another, each time with a memento added on.
The ritual is now more formal, with rules about how it is presented, worn, and displayed. When robes are full of artifacts, a new robe is started. Retired robes are kept at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, at the Smithsonian, and at Actors' Equity.
In 2005, Brynn Williams from the Broadway cast of In My Life became the youngest recipient of The Gypsy Robe at age 12.
- Who are Gypsies? at the Actors' Equity Web site—background on "gypsies" and the Gypsy Robe
- Broadway's Gypsy Robe at City Lore
- Bill Bradley obituary, New York Times
- The Gypsy Robe, CBS Sunday Morning
- The Gypsy Robe, Ask Playbill.com
- Broadway World.com: CBS Sunday Morning features segment on Broadway Gypsy Robe