Excitement was in the air on the red carpet of the 2102 Tony Awards, where the nominees were dressed to the nines and chatted with the media about their hopes for the night.
Judy Kaye, who was nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role in Nice Work If You Can Get It, shared one of her more embarrassing audition stories from early in her career, when Stephen Sondheim asked her to rap for a role in Into the Woods.
“I absolutely could not do it at all,” Kaye reminisced. “I said, ‘I can’t do this. I’m just not talented enough to rap.’ I went off in the wings and kind of cried for a while. I was humiliated…actors humiliate themselves on a regular basis.”
Kate, whose character swings from a chandelier while drunk on bootlegged liquor during Nice Work If You Can Get It, said she is happy to help expose a younger generation of fans to the Gershwin score. “I feel like we’re wonderful ambassadors for this great material to a whole new generation.”
The book of Nice Work If You Can Get It was written by Joe DiPietro, who was nominated for Best Book of a Musical. The book features two very strong female characters, played by Kaye and Kelli O’Hara, a feature DiPietro says was a specific goal of his.
“In the 1920s and 30s musicals, so many of the women were just ditzy…arm candy and just wanted to nab a man,” DiPietro said. “With this, I wanted to turn it on its ear…if you watch the Hollywood movies before 1934, when the production code came in, those women were really strong. That’s sort of what I modeled it on – the Barbara Stanwycks.”
Rob Ashford, nominated for Best Choreography for Evita, also wanted to take a new approach to an older style of a show. Evita was revived on Broadway for the first time this year, and Ashford said he sought to represent the people of Argentina through his work.
“I wanted to depict the passion of the people, the darkness of the people, the history…and somehow inject it into the show,” Ashford said. “We spent a lot of time talking about the history and what the people felt and what the country was going through at that time. We tried to get back to the source and bring a little bit of Argentina to New York.”
Ashford said he sought to depict the sexuality Argentina, saying, “I’m not kidding you. Those people have a sexuality. You take all of the great countries in Europe and kind of smash them together and those are the Argentine. It is a quite sexually charged place.”
Some of that sexuality onstage can be credited to Michael Cerveris, who plays Juan Peron and was nominated for Best featured Actor in a Musical. Cerveris, who described himself as “a little exhausted, but mostly elated” to be at the Tonys, said working on Evita was thrilling, crediting the authenticity of Argentinian actress Elena Roger playing Eva and the excitement of pop star Ricky Martin playing Che.
“It’s especially thrilling that we have such a large Spanish speaking audience here and being part of bringing a younger community to Broadway theater – it’s a real honor to be a part of that,” he said.
Mandy Patinkin, who played the Che in the original Broadway production of Evita, also was on the red carpet on Sunday night.
“I’m here to celebrate the theater and everyone who’s here,” he said. “It’s not about the winners; it’s about the audience who comes to the theater and it’s about everyone who participates in the theater, onstage and off. It’s a great night, not just for the theater in New York, not just for Broadway, but for everyone who loves the theater and wants a live experience as opposed to being a couch potato.”
Some couch potatoes would recognize John Lithgow, who starred on the sitcom Third Rock from the Sun for several years and was nominated for Best Actor for his role in The Columnist, a complex play about, as he described it, “about twenty different things” but focuses mainly on Joseph Aslop, an influential journalist.
“The brilliance of the play is it’s all told through the story of Joseph Alsop’s life -this complex, fascinating, important man who has been forgotten. I find that very moving – that someone that arrogant and influential lost his relevance.”