Broadway Cares, But ‘The Color Purple’ Cares Most

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Yesterday endeth the giving season on Broadway. Every year since 1988, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has asked the theater world to spend six weeks raising funds for the charity — hence all those post-ovation pleas for donations — and shows' casts compete to raise the most dough. This year's big winner was The Color Purple, which brought in $194,500 of the almost $3 million total. How do casts try to wring more money from their audiences? By offering for sale or auction all manner of services and tchotchkes. In 2003, most notably, Hugh Jackman, then in Boy From Oz, and Harvey Fierstein, then in Hairspray, faced off for the most coveted trinket: Jackman auctioned off his autographed, sweaty towel after each performance, while Fierstein promised to record an outgoing message for his highest bidder. (Jackman triumphed, bringing in more than $3 million.)

Who was this year's big draw?

Marc Shaiman, the Tony-winning Hairspray composer currently co-starring in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me. At each Martin Short performance he auctioned off an original song. (Most requests, Shaiman revealed at yesterday's Gypsy of the Year Awards, where the fund-raising totals were announced, involved "wives' body parts.") The Off Broadway prize, meantime, went to The Clean House, which raised $26,700. The cast of that show — about an uptight doctor who hires a housekeeper; her housekeeper, who doesn't want to clean; and her sister, who adores cleaning (and delivers perhaps the stage's greatest soliloquy on the joys of dusting) — had offered their own maid services to the highest bidder, with minimum of $5,000. There were no takers. —Emma Pearse