With Just a Nod, They’re Singled Out of the Crowd
Whether your shelves are already groaning with prizes or you’re up for your first big honor, it feels good to be nominated for a Tony Award. Here are edited excerpts from conversations with nominees on Tuesday.Posted — Updated
Whether your shelves are already groaning with prizes or you’re up for your first big honor, it feels good to be nominated for a Tony Award. Here are edited excerpts from conversations with nominees on Tuesday.
Tina Fey and Jeff Richmond
The husband-and-wife duo are longtime collaborators (Tina Fey writes, Jeff Richmond composes music) and had previously worked together on projects with musical components. But “Mean Girls” represents their first attempt at a full-length musical — and Fey’s Broadway debut. It was nominated for 12 awards, including for Fey’s book and for the score, by Richmond and his collaborator Nell Benjamin. — REGGIE UGWU
I think the main thing we learned was that we weren’t feeling for our heroine as much. Even though she’s singing from front to back, we needed to adjust some scene work and lyrics and some songs to really get into her heart more.
When the diva Renée Fleming traded opera for Broadway to appear as Cousin Nettie in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel,” she confessed to some insecurities. In opera, her powerful voice is expected to fill cavernous theaters without amplification, but the runs are short and there are usually days off between performances. On Broadway, she gets to use a microphone — but must sing in eight shows a week, and talk. She needn’t have worried: She was nominated for a Tony for best featured actress in a musical, part of the juggernaut of “Carousel” nominations. — MICHAEL COOPER
Thank you! Gosh, I’m really grateful, and surprised, to be honest — very surprised.
Well, I was worried about the eight shows a week — because our training is so completely different, we’re so much about power and projecting. But I’ve managed to adjust, I think, pretty well. It helps that I’m surrounded by such extraordinary musical values. It’s made it really fun. And frankly, being home for the first time in my life is pretty special.
No, not even close!
Yes! I don’t know if it would be appropriate within the Tonys, per se, but the Classical Brits [a British awards show for classical music that has been on hiatus] is coming back this year, for instance. And I know Lang Lang is very keen that classical music should have an award ceremony as well — so that we could drum up excitement in young people for the art form itself. That’s the beauty of our show, “Carousel” — to have the classical arts so highly represented between Justin Peck [the choreographer] and ballet and me. It’s very exciting to have it noticed in that way.
The texts are flying.
Ari’el Stachel received his first Tony nomination for his performance in the heavily nominated musical “The Band’s Visit.” Stachel, a Yemeni Israeli who grew up in the Bay Area, plays an Egyptian trumpeter with a libidinous swagger stranded with his bandmates in a sleepy Israeli town. — REGGIE UGWU
Oh my goodness. A mixture of exhaustion, elation, happiness. I’m most excited that it’s in a role that celebrates a heritage that I’ve really sort of been ashamed of for many years. The fact that our show is being recognized really shines a positive spotlight on Middle Eastern people, so it’s sort of like a twofold win for me.
You know, even three years ago, I wasn’t comfortable telling people that I was Middle Eastern. I was scared it would limit my career prospects. In college, I was told not to prepare monologues of my own race. So it’s a seismic shift for me. It’s really gratifying from an internal place, from a soulful place, in addition to the career part of it, which is extremely exciting.
I saw the casting call and knew that I needed to be a part of the show. It felt like my option, my shot. It was a character that happened to be Middle Eastern but had an entire arc that had nothing to do with his culture, which is sort of the meat and potatoes. That was exciting. To get your shot in this business, particularly your first one, it feels almost impossible. I felt so much pressure before each audition that I almost had panic attacks each time. By the seventh one, I actually said to everyone in the room, “We’re family now, right?” That sort of took the pressure off.
A hundred million percent no. This is truly beyond my wildest dreams.
What I really hope is that kids are going to say, “Oh, this might be a career path that I can pursue that otherwise might not have seemed like a possibility.” I think it’s really important to see yourself in mainstream media, whether that be theater or TV or movies. So to be recognized in a role that celebrates this heritage, hopefully that allows kids, maybe living in the Bronx or Queens or wherever they are, to say: “Oh, this is a viable path. I can do this.”
When Noma Dumezweni was cast as Hermione Granger in the West End production of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” it was another success that she did not see for herself after a childhood spent on the run from South African apartheid.
But she also had to deal with critics from the deepest corner of Potter fandom, much to the frustration of the author J.K. Rowling: How could a person of color be cast as Hermione? Ms. Dumezweni, a veteran actress, commandingly drowned those voices out, proving to be a standout performer on both continents, culminating with a Tony nomination. — SOPAN DEB
I was on the toilet. I woke up late in the morning, and I just headed up to the bathroom and picked up the phone. “Oh, it’s Tamara calling!” [the actress Tamara Tunie]
“Girl, you’ve just been nominated!” “What?” “For the Tonys!” I was like: “Oh my god! Yes! OK.” It was lovely.
No. Why I say that is because I never gave that too much power, if that makes sense. My big thing is that I get to work with amazing people. Me as an actor, I do what I do, and I am a black woman and this is just a thing and I get to play Hermione, which is wonderful. But it’s always about the work. But then what I’m more vindicated by is for the creators.
Being in the room, watching people at the top of their game: Gareth Fry, Christine Jones [set design], Steven Hoggett [choreographer], John Tiffany [director], Jamie Harrison on magic, Carole Hancock [hair, wigs and makeup], just an amazing group of people to be working with. As actors, we get the shiny stuff. The vindication is that it still works, and it’s still growing, and it still makes sense. Yes, it still may be the world of Harry Potter, but theatrically, it’s one of the most amazing things I’ve been involved with.
My big saying is a word called “Ubuntu,” a South African word that means “I am because they are,” and that’s what, for me, is the most thrilling thing. It’s all joyous.
I am seeing new heights for myself in terms of possibilities. Because that’s what it is. We have these limitations. Every individual has them in certain parts of our lives. Now the dreams are clearer, if that makes sense because the possibilities are there.
I’m not taking anything for granted. Let’s just be a day at a time, a moment at a time. This is all lovely, shiny stuff. I’m going to enjoy the next few weeks leading up to the awards ceremony.
Oh gosh. I’ve haven’t actually been asked that question on a personal level. I hope compassion, wishing the best out of everybody when we’re collaborating with people. I hope I have that part of her in me.
Andrew Garfield first discovered “Angels in America” when he watched the 2003 HBO miniseries. In a phone interview, Garfield said he was intimidated when he first dove into the grueling role of Prior Walter, for which he was Tony nominated on Tuesday: “I think I’d be a lunatic and arrogant if I wasn’t healthily reverent to the play itself and the history of productions and people playing the character.” — SOPAN DEB
Probably like most people I was in bed. It’s our day off from the show so I was trying and failing to sleep inasmuch as possible. But I was, of course, excited just knowing that the nominations were coming out today. I’m usually very good at turning my phone off and getting myself enough sleep. I was just too excited.
It’s about five hours longer. That’s the simplest thing.
Oh wow, sorry, I’m driving past a sculpture that looks like it's directly inspired by “Angels in America.” How bizarre. And I know what the sculpture is. Is it always here? It’s by 30 Rock, I think. It’s winged and a book in the middle of it, with a serpent crawling up a plate. Do you know the sculpture?
I actually don’t think it is at all. But it’s just so weird. It’s exactly certain imagery from the play. How bizarre. How wonderful. So what was the question?
“Salesman” is one of the great American plays since the founding of America. I think the difference is obviously the length. Even though the themes that both plays are dealing with are as deep as it gets in terms of the human experience, and as painful as it gets, I would say that doing “Angels” is somehow harder, somehow more costly and even more rewarding in a way. It’s hard to compare. I would rather not compare because Arthur Miller and his plays are so important to me, as are Tony’s.
That’s the question always. How do you sustain telling the story on a nightly basis? How do you do that without it killing you? Without it burning you out? I’m asking that question of myself every day. I think it has a lot to do with trusting, actually. Letting go, getting of the way, trusting Tony’s work, trusting Tony’s writing, and trusting the brilliance of the other actors on stage and the work that you’ve done in rehearsals and allowing it to be different every night. Allowing it to be alive every night and dangerous every night and not managing or controlling it too much.
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