By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
On Broadway, it was the season of deaf musicals, self-destructive gay singers, bisexual cunnilingus, guns pointed at the audience, and (completely separate from that) SEAN COMBS's debut, and critics still said it was a bland year! Puffy's performance (in A Raisin in the Sun) remains the defining stunt because it showed that wanting to be a theater actor is not the same thing as actually being one, though you could admire the effort, and not just out of abject fear. Alas, it was a wildly uneven performance made up of moments, seemingly directed individually, much like that model who reportedly once recorded a disco album one note at a time!
But I loved this seasoneven when The Boy From Oz's budget required HUGH JACKMAN to high-kick it with one Rockette, and conversely, when Bombay Dreams turned out to be a glitzy, empty bowl of mulliga-tawdry soup about how glitzy and empty showbiz is. (By the way, that musical's big song, "Shakalaka Baby," has virtually the same melody as "If I Were a Rich Man." I've been going to too many shows.)
The culmination of all the happy hoopla was last week's Tony nominees' brunch at the Millennium, where so many formidable thesps were being paraded around that if a bomb had dropped, Prymate would win by a landslide. (That play opened with a dreadful disadvantagethe curtain was up.) To counter all the bravos, I trotted out my most annoying theater-queen queries, delivered with Playbill in hand and food in mouth. Does Jumpers' SIMON RUSSELL BEALE understand every word of that densely witty play? Sure, the sardonic Brit said, "but maybe not the part about Bertrand Russell's theory of descriptions." Oh, please, everybody knows that! "The play is a delight," chimed in sireny co-star ESSIE DAVIS. "It's never boring! It's so roller-coasterly written." And Tilt-a-Whirly acted.
What carnival ride is Anna in the Tropics author NILO CRUZ up to next? "Beauty of the Father," he said, about "a gay father and his daughter, both in love with the same man." That sounds vaguely Minnelli-ish. Nearby, Anna's saucy DAPHNE RUBIN-VEGA had her own scandal story. "Remember when I was wearing a sort of holographic bra," she chirped to me, "and you said, 'Flash me'? I did and the next day there was the fucked-up-est picture of me in the paper!" And the article was roller-coasterly written.
Does Fiddler on the Roof's ALFRED MOLINA think the brouhaha over his production not being Jewish enough was the fucked-up-est ever? Yep, he agreed, "It would have been outrageous if I'd suggested LIEV SCHREIBER shouldn't play Henry V because he's not European or Christian!" (Point takenbut let's please not pave the way for Diddy in the shtetl.)
Was Peter Allen the gayest man in history? No, said Oz lovebug BETH FOWLER. "Paul Lynde wasbut nobody talked about it back then!" (especially CHARLES NELSON REILLY). Did Little Shop of Horrors' HUNTER FOSTER suffer survivor's guilt when he was the only one not axed en route to Broadway? "Yes, for a long time," he admitted, "and now that I'm nominated, it's made me feel even more guilty. That's the business. It's up and down." In other words, roller-coasterly.
Speaking of down, is SANAA LATHAM's Raisin character named Beneatha because she's striving against oppression? "You're so smart!" she shrieked. "I never even thought of that!" (Honey, I even know about Bertrand Russell's theory of whatever.) More importantly, what does she call her co-star? "He's Sean Combs these days," she said. "He's coming into his thespian thang." Just don't call him not nominated.
Coming into his lesbian thang, Taboo nominee EUAN MORTON loves ROSIE O'DONNELL because she's paying for his and BOY GEORGE's Gotham apartments for a year. But Tony-wise, the haunting Morton feels he doesn't have a primate's chance because "Hugh Jackman will win, so I can just enjoy!" But wait, who's gayerGeorge or Peter Allen? "George has had a longer life to fill out with more gayness," said Morton, giggling. "He's the gay BARBRA STREISAND. No wait, Barbra's the gay Barbra Streisand."
Meanwhile, the straight KAREN ZIEMBA stole Never Gonna Dance from the leading lady, who was never gonna hit those notes. At the brunch, Ziemba told me she'll next play Adelaide in Paper Mill Playhouse's Guys and Dolls, "and BOB DORIAN from AMC has a part. He sings!"
In another corner, Wonderful Town's DONNA MURPHYshe dances!told me, "There are nights I've headed into the conga thinking, 'I'm so tired. How am I gonna get through this?' but the energy of the song raises me." Pleaseshe's spookily spectacular (though the poor thing was valiantly battling mucus when I spoke to her and didn't make it through a performance later that day).
TRANNIE DOODLE DANDY
Does that one-man conga line JEFFERSON MAYS (I Am My Own Wife) find it weird playing solo every night? "It is bizarre," he confessed. "Last year, if I'd have said, 'I'll be on Broadway utterly alone, wearing a dress,' you would have had me committed." And now it's too late.
Did Wife's author, DOUG WRIGHT, know he was so definitely nomination-bound? "No, because I'm a fatalist by nature," said Wright, "so I'm convinced any positive sign must be followed by a condemnation from God." Well, before I left to be with normal people again, there was a positive sign from TONY KUSHNER, who said that, unlike his producer, he wasn't at all mad about the Times' bad placement of its Caroline, or Change review. "I thought it was a favor," he said. After all, it was a mixed review!