Monday morning, May 5, as they were nervously tossing and turning, anxious over the days work of recording the cast album for The Life, the composer, producers, creative team, and cast got the news of their 12 Tony nominations, including Best Musical, Book, and Original Score.
This is only the fourth time in Tony history that a show has emerged with 12 nominations. The others were: The Sound of Music (1960), A Chorus Line (1976), and Les Miserables (1987). In 1971, Company received 14 nominations but that was the year that book, music, and lyrics were split from the Best Musical category into ones of their own.
Thanks to a leak from the Tony nominating committee, which met and voted throughout Sunday, "gentleman producer" Martin Richards got advance word on what was to be announced Monday morning at Sardi's.
"It was Sunday night at the end of Daisy Prince's (as in Hal's daughter) wedding at the Pierre Hotel," said Richards. "Someone yelled to me how well we'd scored -- without giving me actual numbers. I yelled the news to Alfred Uhry (author of The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Tony nominated for Best Play, Featured Actress Dana Ivey and Celia Weston, and Featured Actor Terry Beaver) and told him 'You did well, too!' So it really was an exciting night, even before the exciting day!"
Pamela Isaacs, nominated as Leading Actress for her golden-voiced portrayal of Queen, reported, "I was at home trying to avoid watching TV but, as soon as the nominations were announced at Sardi's, the phone started ringing off the hook." Lillias White, nominated as Featured Actress for her brassy Sonja, had a restless night. "I was tired but couldn't sleep and hungry but couldn't eat. Honey, I felt like I was in love! Then came 8:55 and the news and the phone and the neighbors (in her Harlem apartment building). And I was trying to get the kids (11 and 17) off to school!"
She arrived jubilant but somewhat on edge. Isaacs asked, "Honey, are you nervous?" White replied, "I don't know what I am!" During the afternoon break, before she and Isaacs recorded "A Lovely Day To Be Out Of Jail," as she listened to each one of the 33 messages on her answering machine, she was definitely hungry. She had a craving for fried chicken, which came courtesy of Chinese take-out.
Sam Harris, nominated in the Featured Actor category for his slippery Jojo, said he was still in bed watching TV. His excitement was double, since co-star Chuck Cooper, who plays no-nonsense pimp Memphis, was also nominated as Featured Actor.
Cy Coleman, who composed the music, and Ira Gasman, who supplied the lyrics, were already at work prepping for the cast album session at Clinton Studios [Tenth Avenue and West 46th Street] when they heard the news of their nominations.
The recording session, at Clinton Studios, went from 9 A.M. to past midnight, with numerous breaks where the company members "chilled out" in the Green Room.
Richards, known in the theatrical community for his largesse, wanted to something big "for my family, this incredible cast of incredible people." He had already ordered a huge arrangement of colorful flowers and 150 red balloons with streamers to be delivered to the studios.
"Monday morning I was up at seven and working and watching TV in bed," Richards said. "As soon as I got official word on our 12 nominations, I called the florist and instructed that a card saying 'We're #1' be attached to each balloon. I wanted to send a case of champagne and a cake in the from a red platform shoe, but Cy went ballistic on me. He said, 'Don't you dare send all that Champagne! We'll never get finished.'
"He also nixed the cake because all that sweetness wouldn't be good for the voices. So I sent a magnum of Champagne to be opened at the end of the sessions."
Richards, along with his other lead producers Roger Berlind, Sam Crothers, and Coleman, also sent "something for the cast to nosh on," platters of sandwiches and cookies, and a variety of soda and juice. It was a happy group, with White and fellow cast members Cooper, Harris, and Kevin Ramsey extolling the virtues of their producers.
"Nothing is too good for this group," said Richards. "Roger, as everyone knows, is always a gentleman. And since I was a performer, I live vicariously through them. We're all extremely close. Lillias, Chuck, and Pam have been with this project for six years. They're as thrilled as me to see it finally come to fruition. Our cast is incredible, and certainly a mix of every ethnic group and religion. We're Broadway's United Nations. If everyone got along as well as they do, we wouldn't need the U.N.!"
Richards was so excited that when he arrived at Clinton Studios at 10 A.M., he didn't think and just barged right in to the studio as Isaacs and Cooper were dueting on "My Way Or the Highway" and yelled "Congratulations!" Normally cool conductor Gordon Harrell blared, "Who the hell's that? Oh, hi, Marty!"
The energy level of the cast on the day of the Tony nominations was amazing, according to Laura Williams, an associate of publicist Judy Jacksina. "In fact, it was surreal. Everyone was kissing each other and on Cloud Nine, but some just seemed to be floating. Chuck finished his parts, packed, and left. Then he came back on the excuse of fetching another bag. But he just wanted to be with everyone. Sam was signed out by Cy and session producer Mike Berniker [winner of seven Grammy Awards], but he couldn't resist returning. And it was good he came back. Everyone forgot he was in another number."
Jacksina was all revved up, nothing unusual for those who've know the veteran press agent, but this was more than her norm. "I have a good excuse," she laughed. "I haven't slept in four days!"
There is one little wrinkle, however: the mother of Lynn Sterling, who plays Carmen. Her Playbill bio reads: "After standing- by for four years at Cats, (Lynn) is thrilled to play a Whore."
"Mom's very upset," said Sterling, "and wants me to change the bio. She said 'I'm proud you're in this show, but I can't show this program to anyone!' What I meant in the bio is that after four years of being a stand-by, I'm happy to be playing anything regularly."
Sony Classical will have the original cast album in stores June 3.