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Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig shake down the house on Broadway -- for record AIDS donations

December 10, 2009 |  4:30 pm

Gypsy_final_186 Never, never, never underestimate the power of a famous, well-sculpted and motivated actor, times two.

Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig have been combining their stage savvy, film star dossiers and sex appeal on Broadway in Keith Huff's drama, "A Steady Rain," playing a pair of Chicago cops who are lifelong friends and raking in box office grosses of more than $1 million a week.

Now they have broken the record in an annual friendly competition among Broadway casts, in which each tries to outdo the others in raising money for the theater world's top AIDS charity, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Making appeals after each performance from Oct. 23 to Dec. 6, Jackman and Craig raked in $1,549,953, shattering the past record of $612,000 that Jackman helped set in 2003 when he was making his Broadway debut in "The Boy From Oz."

JackmanCraig The duo worked hard for the money, says Tom Viola, executive director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which calls the competition "Gypsy of the Year" in honor of the unheralded chorus performers who make their living going from show to show.

Besides the customary curtain appeal to drop cash in collection buckets on people's way out, Viola said, Jackman and Craig would sign and auction the T-shirts they'd worn under their costumes. That brought in $3,000 to $15,000 per night. As much as $20,000 per performance would come from playgoers who took up the stars' offer to pose for photographs backstage with anyone willing to ante up $2,000.

"This is so huge, I can't imagine how it could happen again," Viola said. According to Playbill, at the Dec. 8 ceremonies for "Gypsy of the Year," Jackman thanked all the donors who "we bullied, cajoled and slept with" to set the mark.

The Jackman-Craig tandem's performance as super-schnorrers keyed a $4.6-million take overall that broke the old record of $3.9 million set in 2007.

The four runners-up, "Phantom of the Opera," "Billy Elliot," "Hair" and "Wicked," raised $617,000 combined. On the road, where touring Broadway companies typically play in much larger houses, "Rent" led the way at $242,000 for the six weeks.

There's probably something in it for Southern California: in 2009, according to the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS website, grants to AIDS charities in the region came to $245,000, led by $25,000 for Project Angel Food in L.A. and $20,000 each to L.A.'s Black AIDS Institute and Mama's Kitchen in San Diego.

-- Mike Boehm


Theater review: 'A Steady Rain' on Broadway

Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman in 'A Steady Rain': What did the critics think?

Photos: Top, Daniel Craig, left, and Hugh Jackman celebrate their AIDS fundraising triumph in Broadway's annual "Gypsy of the Year" contest; bottom, Jackman, left, and Craig in "A Steady Rain." Credits: Peter James Zielinski; Joan Marcus/Associated Press