By Sandi Durell
It’s a long morning for press and the Nominees who meet and greet them. This year’s press junket took place at Sofitel on West 45 Street on May 1. By 10 a.m. many of the nominees were being led into various rooms by their press reps to speak about their Tony nomination. It’s hard to get them all, obviously.
What some had to say (and more in the videos):
William Ivey Long is nominated for Best Costume Design for both Tootsie and Beetlejuice, two very different creative bents. Along with explaining why he’s the mentor to so many designers, he did talk about the wedding dress he made for Santino Fontana’s wife Jessica Hershberg and, guess what, they’re expecting!
Warren Carlyle, nominated for Best Choreography for Kiss Me, Kate was working on his latest production in London with Hugh Jackman when, during rehearsal, the phone rang and Hugh said you just won a Tony Nomination. After congratulating Warren, Hugh got him a taxi, bought him a round-trip airfare which is why he was standing in front of us in the press room, without sleep, but eager to talk about his creation.
Mom Stephanie J. Block (nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical) was busy with hubby Sebastian and their 4 year old daughter when she got the news in New Jersey. She has a lot to say about what she learned taking on the role of the iconic Cher in The Cher Show.
Laurie Metcalf (nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Play) was very forthcoming saying she only gets offered strong women roles or turns them into that! She loves getting a meaty piece of writing for both television and theater. It keeps her from burning out. Theater is her passion! And she can’t imagine being on a campaign trail. . .”it must be hell.”
Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award winner Joseph Blakely Forbes, Founder & President of Scenic Art Studios, Inc. enlightened press with information that beginning 26 years ago he was painting sets and backdrops watching his business grow. It’s now 250 Broadway shows later and he’s not painting anymore but has a big staff who performs all the work.
Nominees for Best Original Score Chad Beguelin and Matthew Sklar (The Prom), talked about how after eight years when the show first was in creation, they’re happy that it became relevant now with all the societal changes that have occurred. They’re especially gratified when audience members come to meet them after the show in small towns to share their experiences about their kids who are having the same issues in school. For instance, girls being banned from wearing tuxedos or bringing a same sex partner to a dance.
Brooks Ashmanskas, Nominee for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (The Prom) was with Bob Martin (writer) when he came in for interviews and, needless to say, between the two of them the laughs kept coming. Bob said his writing is really and extension of himself and praised Brooks because he has a gift that doesn’t require much prep.
Songwriter Eddie Perfect (Best Original Score for Beetlejuice) really wanted to create for the character of Lydia, liking the 90s grunt. He had the script before starting to write – a big plus. Not to forget, he’s also the songwriter for King Kong!
INK’s Bertie Carvel (Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play) says he doesn’t actually have great insight into Rupert Murdoch but noted the inclusion of the musical interludes signified fun for Murdoch in creating The Sun.
With the country so divided, Jeff Daniels (Best Performance by an Actor Leading Role in a Play) says that To Kill A Mockingbird is perfect timing. The trick for him is playing the great white hero and learned lots from his Dad who was very much like an Atticus.
Manhattan Theatre Club’s Lynne Meadow (Artistic Director) and Barry Grove (Executive Director) are thrilled to have two major plays this season – INK and Choir Boy with the inclusion of Jeremy Pope and Bertie Carvel as nominees. INK is now in its third extension
Camille A. Brown (Best Choreography – Choir Boy) got her inspiration listening to spirituals and thinking about the past and present; about South African men and incorporating a statement of empowerment that honors the past.
Joe Iconis (Best Original Score – Be More Chill) loves all the tourists in NYC . . . they couldn’t get a ticket to Hamilton so they see Be More Chill and they’re excited about it. “I love characters who don’t fit in and I relate; people aren’t easily categorizable and so I write for the people who fall in between the lines.”
King Lear’s Ruth Wilson (Best Performance Featured Role in a Play) does double duty as Cordelia and The Fool and when asked how it all began, she went back in time to being an 8 year old when she and friends would make up plays for their parents to watch, mostly at Christmas time. She says it’s fascinating to watch Glenda Jackson nightly as she’s like a chameleon – always changing.
Best Director of a Play – To Kill A Mockingbird’s, Bartlett Sher spoke about the great writing and relevancy of the play and somewhere down the line would love to direct a Sondheim musical.
Des McAnuff (Best Direction of a Musical) for Ain’t Too Proud:The Life and Times of The Temptations, spoke about writer Dominque Morriseau and lead character, saying he considers himself a novice when it comes to Jukebox Musicals – “I’ve had a very confused career!” He refers to this musical as a biography.
Brandon Uranowitz (Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play) for Burn This says this is his dream role, his “watershed moment.” Honoring Lanford Wilson makes his character Larry so very real for him. He says that Lanford wants his characters to live large, exploding lives and at any cost. Like an opera, all the characters have a BIG aria to sing!
Casey Nicholaw is also up for Best Direction of a Musical for The Prom. He loved the idea of underdogs and was surprised at the reaction to the show; how it affects kids, parents and the humanity of it.
Tootsie’s book writer Robert Horne was all smiles having much to say and talked about Lilli Cooper in the role of Julie as a character, having nothing to do with race.
Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award honoree, Michael McElroy, founder of Broadway Inspirational Voices grew up in a musical family where everyone sang and played piano. Singing for him is like breathing. The growth of this organization is remarkable. Now a 501 © 3, he has become a mentor to on-going generations performing in hospitals and more.
Jez Butterworth whose The Ferryman has several nominations, took Harold Pinter’s advice . . “don’t listen to what anybody says . . . if it gives them goosebumps, then it’s it!”
Director of multi-nominated Tootsie, Scott Ellis, loves Santino Fontana because he challenges and is a good collaborator. . . “I cast the best people in a show” because he thinks of people he wants to be in a room with.
Sergio Trujillo (Best Choreography – Ain’t Too Proud: The Life & Times of The Temptations) found it a great challenge for each one of the iconic songs. The performers (i.e. Sykes, Baskin, Pope, etc.) had a really grueling time, but they’re like athletes, like thoroughbreds and they’re incredibly disciplined and committed.
Photos/Video/Editing: Sandi Durell
The Tony Awards take place on June 9 at Radio City Music Hall and can be seen live on CBS 8-11 pm. www.TonyAwards.com