The 2012 Tony Award Nominations were announced on Tuesday, May 1. On Wednesday, May 2nd the nominees met with the press to discuss their reactions to being nominated.
Da’Vine Joy Randolph, who was nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her work in Ghost, said she was “stunned” to be nominated.
“It’s electric,” she said of performing onstage every night. “I feel like I should be giving [the audience] their money back. “I have so much fun. The cast is phenomenal…everyone has such an integral part in the show. I have such amazing costars. It’s really an all-star situation to be my first musical. I’m like, ‘You’re paying me for this?’ It doesn’t make sense.”
Randolph said she has learned a great deal from playing Oda Mae. “Being comfortable in your body, proud of who you are, not apologizing, to hone in on who you are…that’s always for every woman – skinny, fat, tall, whatever. She has no apologies for who she is; she is proud of who she is. She is living out loud to the fullest and has no apologies. That’s always a great lesson to yourself to own who you are.”
The 2011-2012 Broadway season has been eventful for Jeremy Jordan, who was nominated for Best Actor in a Musical for playing Jack Kelly in Newsies. He also played Clyde in Frank Wildhorn’s Bonnie and Clyde in the winter, which was nominated for several awards, including Best Actress in a Musical for Jordan’s co-star Laura Osnes.
“I’m so grateful that both shows I got to star in were recognized,” Jordan said. “It’s not often that an actor gets to do two shows in one season. They have really been two incredibly special projects for me, and I’m so grateful and happy that they’re both getting recognition.”
Josh Young, who plays Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, was nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. He said he was pleased to defy expectations with his Broadway debut.
“I kind of love that this is my debut in that people who know my work wouldn’t think of me in a rock musical, but here I am, and I was nominated for a Tony Award for it,” Young said. “I’ve always sung rock, but I’ve gotten more attention for more classical pieces.”
Young, who performed Jesus Christ Superstar in repertory at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, was also playing Connie in the Grapes of Wrath at the same time. He said of the type of work he hopes to do in the future, “As long as it’s good, I have no preference.” He did, however, mention that Billy Bigelow in Carousel was a role he would like to play.
Norm Lewis, who was nominated for his role as Porgy in The Gerswhin’s Porgy and Bess, said playing the disabled Porgy was very challenging physically as well as mentally.
“I stretch more now than I ever did in my life!” he said. “I get chiropractic care and physical therapy once a week. I stretch before the theater, at the theater, and when you see me hobble off the stage, I’m stretching.”
The director of The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Diane Paulus, re-imaged the show for Broadway, which involved adjusting the character of Porgy. In the opera, Porgy rides in a cart pulled by a goat, but Lewis’ Porgy is on crutches.
“Diane wanted to bring Porgy up, bring more physical mobility than on the cart,” Lewis said. “We hired a physical therapist who works with people who are physically challenged…we call came up with what it is now.”
The re-imaging of the show inspired much discussion in the theatrical community, particularly a letter written by Stephen Sondheim to The New York Times. Lewis addressed that, saying, “We tried to look at it as a new piece. Any show that’s starting from the beginning, you try to put your own stamp on it…The true story – the tragic love story – was the most important part of it.”
Lewis also expressed high praise for his co-star, Audra McDonald, saying, “I’m so blessed and honored to be working opposite her.”
Another actor who expressed gratitude for his leading lady was Michael Cumpsty, nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Play for End of the Rainbow. Playing the long-time accompanist and friend of Judy Garland who tries to save her close to the end of her life, Cumpsty said, “I think of the people I most admire and are most devoted to and would most like to survive. I feel that way about Tracy. She gives so much of her energy and commitment…they are so intense. You fear she’s going to exhaust herself.”
Michael Cerveris, who was nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his role as Juan Peron in Evita, did a great deal of research for his role. Along with reading biographies and watching documentaries, Cerveris traveled to Argentina with his co-stars for a photo shoot that was featured in Vanity Fair that took place in the Casa Rosada.
“I know what the air feels like there,” Cerveris said. “I know what the beef and wine taste like. I spent five hours at the Peron institute, talking to a gentleman who gave me the history of Argentina, the political system, and the relationship between he and Eva.”
Cerveris said learning about the Peronist party was extremely valuable to the development of Juan as a character.
“Their perspective and belief and core understanding made it possible for me to argue for the complexity and the point of view of my character. Then it’s up to the production to make judgments or call into question the actions of the character. I can sort of focus on making him as fully human and flawed and full of strengths as well.”
The fact that Evita is revived on Broadway in an election year is interesting to Cerveris, who said, “It makes me convinced that it’s a relevant show. It’s not just a museum piece we’re trotting out because don’t we all love that song. It has a lot to say and ask us about our current political situation even though it was written by two British writers in Thatcher’s England. We’ve tried to go back and make it as historically accurate and authentic as possible but also giving it a relevance by nature of the themes and the story itself in America now.”
Cerveris compared the political atmosphere of Argentina to the United States, saying, “It’s very common for us to be cynical about politicians and celebrities, but this was a time when people were not so cynical, when you could actually believe in change for the people that was going to result in something. As much as we want to dismiss it as dictatorial rhetoric or whatever, they did a lot of real good. Politicians seem to talk a lot about winning and doing things for their party and getting into office. They don’t talk as much about really helping the people. You can certainly argue with the methods, but these two people actually did do things for the people. At least in this election time, it’s interesting to look at these questions.”