Monday, December 21, 2009
Over the course of the last decade, I’ve been truly fortunate to enjoy a number of enlightening firsts in my personal theatergoing that have only served to increase my deep and abiding love for the art form known as live theatre. What follows is one of my ten favorite experiences of the last ten years.
If you’ve ever looked at that little photo of me on the right hand side of this page, you’ll know that my eyes are peeking out from above one of those lovely little awards that American Theatre Wing' and Broadway League jointly use to honor Broadway’s best each year.
It is an Antoinette Perry or Tony Award, and I first came face to face with one when my dear friend and exceptional photographer Stephen Mosher offered an impromptu photo shoot as part of a much larger series of images he created with Tony Awards in his custody. After the death of celebrated costume designer Florence Klotz, her Tonys -- including the one I’m holding -- were placed in his care. With Klotz’s Tony for her work on Pacific Overtures and a few clicks of Stephen’s camera, he helped me live up to the moniker Steve On Broadway.
Attending the Tonys was another story. I’ll never forget the thrill of attending the 2008 ceremony at Radio City Music Hall since it was the year Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County was the major contender among straight plays. Hosted by the wonderful and appropriately funny Whoopi Goldberg, the Tony experience gave me many insights that I would never have known from watching it at home.
I learned so much, not only about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into this production, but also just how much more fun actually being there can be. It's not just seeing the nominees and presenters in person, but the chance to see those amazing performances live on stage yet again, including Patti LuPone’s “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” It's also the nonstop buzz you feel from the moment you step onto the red carpet right up until you receive your Tony swag bag upon departure from the Gala.
Among all the new plays, August: Osage County was the big winner, not only as Best Play, but also for director Anna D. Shapiro, scenic designer Todd Rosenthal and actresses Deanna Dunagan and Rondi Reed. My Love Of My Life (LOML) and I were up on our feet for each of those wins, and curiously, upon a later viewing of a recording of the televised ceremony, we were pleasantly surprised to see us right over the top of Reed’s shoulder offering her our standing ovation just after she had been named Best Featured Actress in a Play.
Among the new musicals, we may have been cheering for Passing Strange, but our seats were immediately behind the contingent from In The Heights. So when their wins were announced from the stage, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the moment for them.
While I didn’t enjoy a repeat appearance at this year’s Tony Awards, my LOML and I were absolutely delighted to receive an invitation to attend the 75th Annual Drama League Awards, which honor the best on Broadway as well as off and off-off.
If the Tony Awards are Broadway's equivalent to the Academy Awards, then the Drama League Awards are, as Shrek The Musical star Christopher Sieber quipped to me, “like the Golden Globes for theatre!" Sieber, by the way, was one of the 71 nominees for distinguished performance from New York theatre. And so it was with nearly all of the nominees assembled for a wine-filled luncheon on a three-tiered dais that reminded one nominee of a large "Match Game" set (it looked more to me like a celebrity telethon minus the telephones).
The glory of the Drama League Awards is that while there are all those nominees ranging from the famous Oscar-winning stars to the actors who've just experienced their first major breaks Off-Off-Broadway, they all have an equal opportunity to say a few words. And many do it with such a welcome flourish.Despite the fact they were all vying for one award, the sense of community they shared as actors was palpable. It was truly incredible and one of the best celebrations of the theatrical art form I've ever enjoyed.
Just as my LOML and I mingled with the stars at the Tony Awards and the ensuing Tony Gala and August: Osage County party that followed, we found ourselves in the midst of a galaxy of stars at the Drama League reception immediately prior to the lunch. At one point, we found ourselves surrounded by Angela Lansbury, Cynthia Nixon, Jeremy Irons and the three Billys from Billy Elliot. With so many actors packed into one tight space, it was no wonder we were asked more than once if we were among the nominees.
Would I go back to the Tony and Drama League Awards? Are you kidding? Absolutely.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post. I paid my own way for both awards shows and my friend Stephen Mosher graciously took a photo for me out of the goodness of his own heart.