There are a few glaring omissions from the Tony nominees—where are Edie Falco, Kerry Butler, Jonathan Cake, Anne Pitoniak, Julie Halston, and Mary Beth Peil?—and some glaring inclusions, too. (Amour is bizarrely up for stuff like best book, though I don’t remember it having a book.) But it’s mostly a worthy bunch of stage wizards, and they’ll be compellingly dramatic as they go head-to-head for the glory with grasping hands and quivering lips.
I met some of the chosen at the New Dramatists’ lunch honoring August Wilson, where a couple of Take Me Out‘s nominees proved they’ve truly earned their balls. Star Daniel Sunjata told me he’s not upset about being put in the featured category—”I’m happy to be in any category.” Conversely, playwright Richard Greenberg said of the nominations, “You always want more, don’t you? I wanted 15!” But he’s thrilled and didn’t even mind the cuts he had to make en route to Broadway, saying, “I’d love to be surly, but everything the producers wanted ended up for the good of show.” Don’t you hate when that happens?
At the lunch, a young playwright who was given a prize (no, not a Tony) said she’s touring the country to research young people’s vernacular, “and anyone who has a Humbert Humbert or some anti-KKK spray for me to take, let me know.” (Alas, all I had was some Binaca and a used Q-tip.) At that point, the prized Leslie Uggams performed a weird tribute to Wilson by gushing, “A’s are important in my life—August Wilson, Adolph Green.” She launched into a song by Adolph Green. I was glad she hadn’t said Adolf Hitler or ABBA.
Anyway—hey, that’s an A word—the next day’s Tony nominees’ brunch at the Marriott Marquis put me in theater-queen heaven, my favorite stars breaking the fourth wall to grab food and photo ops. But amazingly I only found one plaque-holder honest enough to admit he’d gotten up to watch the announcement of the nominees on TV, though even he added, “I only watched to see if my fellow collaborators were nominated.” Please—have another Tony for that performance.
The collaborators of Hairspray (a/k/a Anti-KKK Spray) were all there, so I descended on them with bravos, a comb, and some questions. How does Corey Reynolds feel about the show’s up-with-chocolate shtick? “I have to remind myself we’re doing John Waters,” he said. “He’s got a slanted view.” Would Dick Latessa really marry Harvey Fierstein? “Not really,” said Latessa. “I’ve been working long enough to know his flaws. Not in the show—as a person. I wouldn’t marry anyone at this point.” But the veteran actor would like a date with Tony and blurted, “I really want to win!” (Yay—someone honest.)
Already married, the show’s composer, Scott Wittman, was holding a clipping and telling me, “This says me and Marc [Shaiman] are the first out fag couple to get nominated. I thought Betty Comden and Adolph Green were.” (You’ll remember him from that “A” section.)
And there were non-Hairspray-ettes too, like Joe Egg‘s Victoria Hamilton, who swore that the pint-size pixie in the title role is OK with being snubbed—”She’s only 10, and I don’t think she cares.” (I bet she does. My first spoken words were “was I nominated?”) Another revived warhorse, Man of La Mancha, has been around the block so many times that what was once about “reaching for the unreachable star” now seems like the most familiar piece of easy-to-serve corn pone imaginable. (But I love it.) Talented co-star Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio disagreed, saying, “It’s about courage and integrity. That’s pertinent every day.” It’s especially pertinent to the actors who have to scale the set’s terrifyingly narrow, exposed stairways. “I’ve been on the receiving end of accidents,” Mastrantonio admitted. “Someone fell on my head once. You just go on.” And beat the unbeatable foe.
Moving on to the buzz-defying Gypsy, is the spunky Tammy Blanchard channeling Natalie Wood? “I think she gets in my way,” Tammy told me true. “It’s easy to rely on her because she was so good. But I won’t do that.” It’s called integrity, folks. “I look so ugly!” Tammy suddenly interjected. “I saw a clip on TV. Don’t I look horrid in those cow pants and the short hair?” (I refused to answer; I’ll gladly congratulate Broadway stars, but I will not coddle them, even the ones with integrity.)
Still, those guys from The Play What I Wrote (or maybe The Special Theatrical Event What I Wrote) do look fierce in all sorts of outfits. Did they make The Special Guest Star What They Had, Roger Moore, collapse? “No, it was overheating and a large dress,” one of the blokes said. “But it got laughs, so we can forgive him.” Nearby, that one-man event Bill Maher got laughs telling me, “I’m happy to be up against Def Poetry Jam, except they’ll probably win. It’s a cool, edgy show. I’d rather lose to them than Jackie Mason.” I’d even rather lose to Hitler or ABBA.
And finally, Brian Dennehy said about his truly def Long Day’s Journey Into Night co-star, Vanessa Redgrave: “We’re having a love fest. We don’t talk about politics. Who the hell wants to talk about politics? Our politics is art. There were a lot of problems in rehearsal, but she is a genius. She grabs the audience and lifts it up. She does the part her way. The train comes in and you go where she goes. She’s a force of nature!” He likes her—almost as much as Melanie Griffith likes hubby Antonio Banderas, whom she smilingly watched do his interviews all morning.
By the way, hunky Hugh Jackman will host the Tonys, and I hear presenters will include Nathan Lane (Best Musical) and Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker (Best Original Score). And audience members will definitely include me, overheated in a large dress.
Off-Broadway? Well, Woody Allen‘s double-decker Writer’s Block has a writer who’s cheating on wifey, a writer who cheated on wifey with her mother, and a guy who cheats on wifey with her sister! Whether this all constitutes an apologia or a mea culpa for Woody’s real-life behavior, it’s mostly strained and unenlightening. No awards necessary. Ditto Mondo Drama, which starts and ends well, but is very shaky in the middle, though I liked the line “I felt cheap—and not in a good way.”
The mondo drama in publishing has everyone wondering who’ll take over as editor of the esteemed Star magazine. Rumor has it that they’ve thought about or approached the likes of Michael Lewittes, Steve Garbarino, Maer Roshan, Joe Dolce, A.J. Benza, and scads of others. Was I nominated? Nooooo!
But I did get to pick the king and queen of the prom at the LGBT Community Center—the most technically challenging experience since watching Man of La Mancha. The contestants all piled onto the stage at once, obscured by the dim lights and each other’s headdresses. Emcee Lady Bunny‘s mic kept going off, so we judges couldn’t always hear which contestant was which, plus we could barely see the numbers stickered on them. But we had to choose someone, so we listened to judge Demi-Tasse, who swore No. 3 was by far the best bet for prom king. Bunny brought the guy back onstage. He was gloriously crowned. And Tasse muttered, “Oh my God, he’s not the one I meant.” Oy. I swear I’ll do better as a Tony voter.