40 Tony Nominees of 2012, Including Steve Kazee, Audra McDonald, Kelli O'Hara, Linda Lavin, React to Nomination News

By Andrew Gans
and Kenneth Jones, Michael Gioia
01 May 2012

Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis
Photo by Michael J. Lutch

Audra McDonald, Best Leading Actress in a Musical (playing "Bess"), Porgy and Bess: I don't want to say I was still asleep because I have to get up at 6:15 every morning to get my daughter ready for school and get her off to school, so I had gotten her off to school and gotten home about 8 — just gotten back and walked the dogs and gotten back into bed — and woke up to the sound of my phone buzzing and saw a text! This show means so much to me — and just the journey that we've all taken. I'm honored and thrilled and humbled that I was nominated, but I'm so proud of the show and that the nominating committee decided to recognize so many facets of this show. I'm just so proud of that. It's a very cohesive, very close family, and the fact that so many of them were recognized today just filled my heart with pride and joy and gratitude. I'm so happy for them. I'm so happy for Phillip [Boykin] and David [Alan Grier] and Norm [Lewis], especially. I'm just thrilled for everybody! And, all the categories for God sake! [My castmate from 110 in the Shade] Steve Kazee, I'm so, so happy for him. I'm beside myself for Steve!

Tracie Bennett, Best Leading Actress in a Play (playing "Judy Garland"), End Of The Rainbow: (Via statement) To be honest, I'm a bit emotional today. It's taken me 50 years to get to New York, and I feel like I'm living the dream. To me, just getting to play this role is a giant gift, so it's quite unbelievable that they give you honors on top of that. The nomination also belongs to the incredible company of actors I am so privileged to work with, because I simply couldn't perform this role without them. Every night I try to convince myself that I'm doing the show in a little pub somewhere, because the idea of stepping onto a Broadway stage is totally overwhelming. But I know shows in pubs don't get Tony nominations, so it's getting harder and harder to pretend.

Jayne Houdyshell, Best Featured Actress in a Musical (playing "Hattie Walker"), Follies: I'm in L.A. right now, so it's a lot earlier here. About 7:30 this morning I got up and made my coffee and, as usual, opened my computer to check for emails, and there were a lot more emails on my computer than are usually there, so that's how I found out. It was all my East Coast friends already knowing and having been up for a while. It was a wonderful, wonderful surprise. I'm still a little bit in shock, really. It hasn't quite sunken in, but it's fantastic, and I'm so happy for everyone in our company and the show itself. From the moment that I was cast in this show and started rehearsals, it was an utter thrill to be part of the company — every step of the way through our New York run and now remounting it here in L.A. It has been nothing but pure joy to do.

Michael Cumpsty, Best Featured Actor in a Play (playing "Anthony"), End of the Rainbow: (Via statement) I was still fast asleep when the announcement was made. My partner snuck in and gave me a nudge and when I opened my eyes he was grinning from ear to ear and he had my agent on the speakerphone. It was ideal, I didn't have any time to be anxious. I woke up and went straight to happy! It's really a fantastic experience. I've been hearing from friends all over the world. My email and texts and Facebook page have all exploded. I've been chatting and texting with other friends who are also nominated, and of course with my favorite Diva of them all, Tracie Bennett. I feel like we're all getting ready for a big fun party, and from this distance, the actual award ceremony is the least of it. It's a big community celebration, and I just wish even more people could experience it.

Norm Lewis, Best Leading Actor in a Musical (playing "Porgy") in Porgy and Bess: You know what, I was going to play that role of being very nonchalant and say, "Someone woke me up and blah, blah, blah," but I was too excited. I couldn't sleep, so I got up and watched [the nominations on TV]. I couldn't believe it. My name was mentioned, and I was like, "I have to rewind," so I rewound it. [Laughs.] I had to hear it again, I was like, "Oh my God!" It's very exciting. It's very surreal. I had little fantasies about being a nominee, but never knew that it could actually happen. This is awesome.

Frank Langella, Best Leading Actor in a Play (playing "Gregor Antonescu"), Man and Boy: (Via statement) I was surprised and grateful.

Kelli O'Hara, Best Leading Actress in a Musical (playing "Billie Bendix"), Nice Work If You Can Get It: My husband came in and told me. I tried not to put too much pressure on it and watch or anything. I was trying to catch some extra winks. Very exciting. It's always very exciting. …That's like icing on what's a really tasty cake already. It's obviously bittersweet for me because my teammate, Matthew [Broderick], didn't get [nominated]. I really feel like the show works only because all the parts of the whole are working together, but I'm really proud of the show, and I'm really proud of being a part of something that's actually just so light and seems to make people really happy.

Cristin Milioti

Cristin Milioti, Best Leading Actress in a Musical (playing "Girl"), Once: I was fast asleep in bed. My boyfriend and I don't own a TV. We have, like, internet TV on a projector screen. Anyway, my phone rang, and it was my manager cheering on the other end, and that's how I found out. [My reaction] was delayed. I was so sleepy. I kind of just woke up and was like, "Oh my God… that's awesome." I got off the phone with them. My boyfriend refers to the Tonys as the "Tony Danzas," and he turned to me and he said, "You got nominated for a Tony Danza!" And, we just started laughing, and then it just sort of all hit me in very slow rolls throughout the morning. It's incredible. It's incredible. It's beyond words. For me to be nominated alongside the women I'm nominated with is surreal. They're women I've looked up to for years. I did one of my first plays with Jan [Maxwell] — we did Coram Boy together. Grateful is a word that is not even covering the amount of emotions and thankfulness that I feel, but it's very overwhelming. I still actually don't think it's hit me. …The tears haven't come yet, and I'll bet they'll come when I'm like in the shower or on the subway or like if I'm ordering coffee or something. [Laughs.] They'll come at a really inopportune moment, and they'll hit me really hard. [Laughs.]

Jon Robin Baitz, Playwright, Best Play, Other Desert Cities: There was a text from a friend of mine saying, "Congratulations." Then I somehow figured I should look the things up. [Laughs.] I was reading cookbooks. It's gratifying to be recognized by the theatre community in this way. It being my first play on Broadway after a couple of decades doing this — it's wonderful. It's been a wonderful experience in every respect. The only slightly embarrassing thing is it's hard for me when not everyone gets nominated for a prize. [Laughs.] It somewhat tempers my sense of jubilation, but I am very grateful and, you know, there's a kind of overweening joy at the vindication of being back in theatre. To me, it's, you know, an honor just to be in the American theatre. It's a privilege and an honor. This is hugely meaningful to me.

Spencer Kayden, Best Featured Actress in a Play (playing hired cook "Suzette"), Don't Dress For Dinner: A friend emailed me. Who wouldn't want to be nominated for a Tony? Only some crazy person. It's incredible, really — having not been in New York for so long. Urinetown opened over ten years ago, and to be able to come back and be welcomed like this is just really, really moving and satisfying and makes me so happy.