Pfft, March Madness — We Have BROADWAY DIVA Madness!

College basketball enthusiasts are in a lather because it is that time of year – MARCH MADNESS.

Many of your friends – or maybe even YOU – will be on pins and needles to see if this Gonzaga’s year or how far Duke’s Coach K will get in the tournament before he dribbles into retirement.

Here at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, many don’t know Gonzaga from Godzilla, but we do have experience with the madness of BROADWAY DIVAs … that you know can be mistaken as Godzillas … such as when their dressing room thermostat is set at the wrong temp or when the Egyptian cotton towels are the wrong color (both real). So Caught in the Act decided to have some deliciously devilish fun with our own version of March Madness. 

We devised a 32-diva bracket, that we divided into four divisions: SONGBIRDS, DANCERS, BELTERS AND WILDCARDS.  You can see here how we divided them into those divisions. The first three categories are self-explanatory, wildcards is filled with superstars that didn’t quite fulfill a category. And we threw in some men who have displayed diva tendencies.

And just like the NCAA, we seeded our divas in their respective division. Sure, you may not like our picks or seeds, but let us tell you there was a lot of handwringing in those decisions, obviously because Broadway performers are such well-rounded entertainers.

We distributed the brackets to The Straz staff (for the record, no money was exchanged) and, amusingly, many staffers were clueless on how to even fill out a bracket. Apparently, it was a foreign to them as NCAA basketball.

In case folk needed more clarity on “diva” we included a dictionary definition – a self-important person who is temperamental and difficult to please. Ultimately, we’re not sure the winner completely fits that definition but there is no right answer. Though, Caught in the Act went for the Broadway diva with the big voice – Ethel Merman. Alas, the youthful Straz staffers had other folk in mind.

After the picks were tabulated, the Diva Final Four were:

  • Songbirds – Audra McDonald
  • Wildcards – Liza Minnelli
  • Dancers – Chita Rivera
  • Belters – Idina Menzel

Some interesting facts about our Final Four:

  • The Juilliard-trained McDonald, who has won six Tony Awards®, more than any other stage actor, told students at Utah Valley University in 2019 that as aspiring performers, they should be kind to professionals because “how you are to work with gets around … being a diva gets you nowhere.”
  • According to the New York Post’s Page Six, one of Minnelli’s riders included mandates for two cartons of cigarettes, a humidifier “because she can’t breathe,” six cases of Bai antioxidant drink, a food scale and the insistence of “no Styrofoam plates.” FYI, she also is the performer who wanted the black Egyptian cotton towels.
  • No diva behavior here! Two-time Tony winner Rivera has been called the “Dancing Diva of Broadway” where her big break came in West Side Story in 1957. True story: Rivera was originally rejected for the role of Aurora in Kiss of the Spider Woman as the show was looking for someone “younger, fresher, surprising.” She was ultimately cast two years later, winning a Tony. “Whenever you try to replace Chita, you always make a compromise,” says Spider Woman composer John Kander.
  • In 1996, Menzel announced her presence on Broadway in RENT with a big voice singing “Take me or Leave Me.” In 2003, she premiered in Wicked as Elphaba alongside fellow diva bracket nominee Kristin Chenoweth, winning the Tony. In 2015, Menzel was named Broadway Diva of the Year by industry website BroadwayWorld.

Menzel, too, was the last diva standing in the Straz Diva Bracket, besting McDonald by 33 points in the round-by-round tally. But according to the website XTRA* she insists she’s no diva. “Not in the negative context they use it these days. I hope I’m not. I’m grappling with asking for what I need [to do my job] as a powerful woman in this world, because women get a bad rap when they stand up and speak for themselves. But I’m pretty low maintenance, I would say. It’s a balance. It all ties into Frozen and Elsa and not being afraid to embrace power and harness it, and know you can change the world.”

SAD NEWS: In the DANCERS category, A Chorus Line’s original Cassie, the Tony-winning Donna McKechnie was the only one of the divas on our bracket who didn’t receive a single vote. Goose Egg.

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