Catching Up With the 2017 Drama Desk Award Nominees

Awards   Catching Up With the 2017 Drama Desk Award Nominees From Laurie Metcalf and Jayne Houdyshell to Laura Osnes and Andy Blankenbuehler, find out what this year's nominees had to say about their work!
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“You know, fun is never the word,” Jane Greenwood replied after carefully turning the word over in her mind, subliminally suggesting in that polite British way of hers that the reporter find some other word for what she has been doing successfully on Broadway for 54 years—costume designing. Currently, she’s in awards contention for the Dixie duds and frocks (circa 1900) she did for the revival of The Little Foxes.

Not only is she up for a Tony—“it’s either my 20th or 21st nomination”—she’s also nominated for her first Drama Desk Award! Indeed, she was the best-seasoned “virgin sacrifice” to be found among the theatrical types who filed into the Marriott Marquis’ Manhattan Ballroom May 10 to collect their nomination certificates.

In this new Broadway resurrection of Lillian Hellman’s sturdy warhorse of a melodrama, much has been made of Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon leapfrogging back and forth from Birdie to Regina, while Greenwood quietly executes her own double-duty, designing specifically for each actor two sets of ravishing costumes.

She has never won a competitive Tony, but she did receive an honorary one for Lifetime Achievement four years ago. It has been a nomination magnet for her: “Ever since I got the Lifetime Achievement, I have had four nominations in a row.”

And she continues to achieve after her Tony. These days she’s working for director Mark Lamos on Westport Country Playhouse’s season opener, Peter Schaffer’s Lettice and Lovage (May 30–June 17). “It stars Patricia Conolly and Mia Dillon,” she says, adding with some enthusiasm, “and Paxton Whitehead is playing the role he played with Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1990. Isn’t that wonderful?”

To purchase The Little Foxes tickets, click here. For discount tickets on select performances, click here!

Director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler was the first of the Drama Desk nominees to arrive to pick up his certificate for choreographing the high-energy, jitterbug-jumping Bandstand. Should he win, he’ll have that big-band-blast of a TV commercial to thank (which is to say he has himself to thank since he hyphenated that project as well). “I made it with AKA, our advertising agency,” he said proudly.

Choreographing for the camera is a brand-new special skill set for Blankenbuehler—“just here and there, some commercials” and the TV-movie remake of Dirty Dancing, which airs May 24. He makes his film debut putting Colt Prattes and Little Miss Sunshine herself, Abigail Breslin, through the paces that Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey brain-burned us with 30 years ago.

Laura Osnes, Bandstand’s girl singer/war widow and Drama Desk nominee, said that the whole cast had a ball doing the commercial shoot. “We were at a little venue in Brooklyn, a real jazz club. It felt like we were actually in a post-World War II dance hall. We were there from probably 7 a.m. to 11p.m., and it was a thrill. We did it right before we started rehearsals so it really started us off on the right foot.”

That TV spot has a great button, too: Osnes steps up to mic on the brink of a song. Blakenbuehler’s direction for that shot, she said, “was that “I’m about to share a really important story and don’t quite know how to. I’m feeling vulnerable but also that there’s a mission. He had me do it 14 different ways, and they just picked one.”

To purchase Bandstand tickets, click here. For discount tickets on select performances, click here!

Ed Dixon, who had the doubly difficult job of writing and then performing Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose, was rewarded at season’s end with Outstanding Solo Performance nominations from the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle.

The piece recounts his long friendship with the British character comedian and how it came to a painfully ugly and ultimately tragic end. It finished a successful 12-week run Off-Broadway at the Davenport Theatre and is angling for gigs outside Gotham.

“I’m about to go to Barrington Stage for Georgie’s first post-New York production at the end of August,” Dixon relayed, “and this morning there’ve been some serious emails going on between three producers in London and my producers here.”

He anticipates that there would be a different (more intimate) reaction to the show over there. “George, first of all, was from Biscester, and the play’s full of references to other English actors. Also, a lot of the topics in the play are more known to them.”

That little theatrical time-bomb that producer Scott Rudin tucked under the tree to be opened on the last day of Tony eligibility—Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2—exploded into critical cheers that promised an unexpected fun time.

Flip through the gallery of the reception below:

Who knew Henrik Ibsen had set up a comedy? If you know “Part 1,” you may start laughing before one line is spoken—from a series of three knocks that gradually get more insistent—all at the door Nora had so famously and ferociously slammed shut.

“I’ll tell you a secret,” Laurie Metcalf whispered. “It’s not me knocking. It’s Tommy the prop guy. He’s knocking for me because it actually hurts. It’s a good solid knock.”

Metcalf, who has been Tony-nominated for four of her six Broadway performances and is the current front-runner, hasn’t become so emotionally unraveled on stage since William Goldman’s 2015 Misery and, before that, Sharr White’s 2013 The Other Place. The latter, she thinks, is like her current play. “Both are 90 minutes, with no intermission, and have four characters—and I stay on stage the whole time.

“There’s much to mine in this new play,” she admitted. “On first reading it, I loved the humor I already saw on the page, and it intrigued me to see if I could find some more. I love that Lucas specified that it be in period costume with contemporary dialogue. I think that makes a nice mixed-message for the audience, juggling ‘What year are we in? Are we in 1879, or are we contemporary?’ And I loved that he titled it A Doll’s House, Part 2. I thought that was such a funny, gutsy move on his part.”

To purchase A Doll's House, Part 2 tickets, click here. For discount tickets on select performances, click here!

Jayne Houdyshell—who, like Metcalf, is up for honors from all three critical groups (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle)—is relieved by the audience reaction.

“We’re all thrilled because we knew, working on it in rehearsal, that it was a very special play—very unique, unlike anything that anybody’s ever seen, really—so we weren’t sure what the response would be,” she readily admitted. “We thought it might be kinda mixed—some people would love it, some people maybe not—but the feedback that we have gotten night after night after night, from the first preview on, has always been the same: People are kinda crazy about it.”

She should have recognized the vibe. The last time she was uneasy about how a play would go down, she walked off with a Tony—for Stephen Karam’s The Humans.

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