By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
When the Tony nominees were announced last week, gays could suddenly be seen running through Times Square shrieking things like, "I thought for sure NIALL BUGGY was the biggest lock since IAN MCDIARMID" and "In what universe is JENNIFER EHLE considered featured?"
At the meet-the-nominees reception at the Marriott Marquis, the Broadway types who were chosen gave gratitude-laden sound bites, resulting in the following minxy mix of idle chatter and predictions.
And so: Best Play will go to The Coast of Utopia, mainly because it was longer than the three other nominees combined. But a feel-good nominee is DOUGLAS CARTER BEANE's The Little Dog Laughed, which edged out the Handel-studded Coram Boy for a nod, prompting Beane to tell me at the reception, "Our campaign will be 'Suck it, Coram Boy! Where's your Messiah now?'"
Best Musical is a race between Grey Gardens (old scandal tale made fresh by seasoned gays) and Spring Awakening (old scandal tale made fresh by seasoned gays and DUNCAN SHEIK), but the latter will win because springtime sexual dysfunctions for teens always trump winter weirdness for the mustily disheveled.
MICHAEL MAYER, who directed Awakening's kinky Wedekinder, feels the scene that gets the biggest reaction isn't the circle jerk, the incest, or the suicide. Those are practically out of Mary Poppins. "It's the one where the character Wendla asks Melchior to beat her," Mayer told me. "There's something really weird and chilling about it. When he says, 'I'll teach you to say, "Please." ' I've heard teenage boys' chortle of approval. But I think, 'At least they're there!' " And I'll gladly teach them to say, "Give me my balls back, sir."
Best play revival will go to Journey's End, which you'd need a flashlight to leave in the middle of. (That motherfucker is dark.) "If you drop something on the stage," BOYD GAINESwho's superbtold me, "you can't find it unless it's a white piece of paper. I dropped my wedding ring once. Someone mimed getting it and handing it back to me." He added, "But the great thing is we don't see the audience." Alas, most of the audience don't see them either. (And don't say, "What audience?" The crowd has been small but fervent.)
The same revival's featured nominee STARK SANDSwhom I vividly remember for having CHARLES BUSCH as a mother in Die, Mommie, Die!told me his character is all bright and dewy-eyed but loses his innocence due to "the propaganda of the war machine." Doesn't Sands himself project a sort of earnest, sweet quality? "Yes," he said, drolly, "and I've been using it to my advantage as much as possible."
For musical revival, I'm hoping JOHN DOYLE's brilliantly reconceived Company edges out the slavish A Chorus Line, though the latter is pretty thrilling until the two intended star turns end up bringing it below the (dance) barre.
The scarily talented RAUL ESPARZA will grab the gold for Company because he survived Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, he plays a wicked piano, and he's no stranger to the homosex.
And while Grey Gardens' CHRISTINE EBERSOLE has had best musical actress in the bag for so long that the bag's almost broken, I'm betting she's still got it since I believe in the propaganda of the war machine. As for one of her rivals, LoveMusik's DONNA MURPHY, the same show's nominated DAVID PITTU told me, "I'm so sick of reading about her record of missing performances. Donna's one of the most hardworking, dedicated actors there is. People should ask her how she got into the character, not about her throat." (For me, it's usually one and the same thing.)
Ebersole's stage mom, MARY LOUISE WILSON, will nab the featured actress awardnot only for showing up, but for being patient in Act One and eating corn in Act Two. Her competitor, Legally Blonde's ORFEH, happens to eat other things when happy. I asked the big-lunged icon how she celebrated her nomination, seeing as the show was dark that night. "I had pizza," she gushed. "Only when I have a nomination can I have carbs, cheese, and grease."
And only in New York could I dive on KIKI & HERB (i.e. JUSTIN BOND and KENNY MELLMAN) in the same room where they're serving VANESSA REDGRAVE and ANGELA LANSBURY. The tenacious twosome put on the sickest, freshest show of the yeara zany yet soulful mix of rock, psychobabble, and boozingand the matinee ladies are still triple-locked in their suburban closets over it. Bond insisted to me that this Special Theatrical Event nomination was in their game plan "from the day I was born." But how will they manage to beat the puppet guy in the same category? "Maybe if we learn to throw our voices when they announce the winner," said Bond. Did an audience ever just sit there like puppets, as stunned as if they were viewing Springtime for Hitler? "Of course," said Mellman. "But that's true everywhere we've ever played. At the Helen Hayes, there were people overheard in the bathroom saying, 'I think it's a man.' " And they probably meant Herb!
As for next season's first show, I think it's a musical. In fact, it's an intentionally funny version of the 1980 Olivia Neutron-bomb Xanadu, with a book by the aforementioned busy Beane. "Your head will explode," Beane assured me, having come from a rehearsal. "We just had the 62 mirror balls descend for the finale. And it's very precise. 'I want them to come down on the du, not the Xa or the na'."
The perception of the trashy source material, alas, has some people assuming the result will be doggy du. "You're in rehearsal," admitted Beane, "and you're in heaven. Then you're on the street and it's like you have cancer! People with dour faces say, 'How's Xanadu going?' " And why do they do that? "They're condescending divas," he explained. "An actress I ran into coldly said to me, 'Hmm, sounds like fun'then she went to a Little Mermaid rehearsal!" Suck it, Mermaid girl!
I didn't happen to win a Tony last week, but I did get a Tommy, and I want to thank God, my lighting designer, and CAA, but not in that order. See, a tall, handsome man approached me at Thursday night's Kino 41 dance party, smilingly suggesting I be nicer to him on TV. It turned out to be exCNN anchor THOMAS ROBERTS, who just happens to be the ideal man of everyone I've ever met. I guess he wasn't thrilled that I had smirkily called a certain swishy exchange on American Idol "the gayest TV since ANDERSON COOPER interviewed Thomas Roberts." Robertswho publicly came out in '06feels that his Cooper interview about his own experience having been molested as a youth was intentionally not about being gay. I didn't tell him I'd written a column at the time saying that for various reasons the gay issue should have been raised anyway and the distinction made. I simply chortled self-deprecatingly and assured Roberts that whatever I had said, I'm sure it was just silly shtick! And Roberts was so charming about it that I even laughed uncontrollably when he cracked that he would run up a bunch of drinks on my tab.
Even gayer than Idol is the fact that JOHN TRAVOLTA and QUEEN LATIFAH have been popping up on queer magazine covers about Hairspray! But some people are turning against Turnblad, as it were. FRANCES MILSTEADthe mother of Divine (a/k/a Glenn Milstead), who played Edna in the original movietold me last week that she saw the new clips on Oprah and wanted to stop the beat. "Glenn was ugly," she said, "but John is uglier! He looks terrible as a woman!" Any pluses? "He can dance," she said, laughing. I guess she means he's light in the loafers.