By Steven Suskin
23 May 2014
A roomful of more than 700 supporters — including many of this year's Tony Award nominees — convened for a two-hour salute to the organization and the honoree.
Since 1992, five-time Tony-winner Stroman has directed and/or choreographed 14 Broadway musicals, including Crazy For You, Show Boat, Steel Pier, Contact, The Producers, The Scottsboro Boys and this season's Big Fish and Bullets Over Broadway. Seated next to Stroman on the dais was friend and frequent collaborator John Weidman (of Contact).
Entertaining the crowd were cast members from five Stroman musicals, accompanied by a three-piece combo under the direction of Andy Einhorn. Karen Ziemba, who has appeared in five Stroman musicals, offered "I Got Rhythm" from Crazy For You. (The singer altered the final lyric to "I got Stroman, who could ask for anything more.")
Then came Marin Mazzie, performing "I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle" from Bullets Over Broadway. (The ballroom was filled with cast members from this show.) Next up was "Commencing in Chattanooga" performed by nine actors from various companies of The Scottsboro Boys, led by original cast members Brandon Victor Dixon and John Cullum. Mention was made of the triumphant London production of this Kander/Ebb masterwork, which is transferring to the West End in October. This was followed by a dazzling film sequence consisting of dance clips from Stroman's various musicals.
After a lunch break came Taylor Mac, a New Dramatists playwright and coauthor/costar of Stroman's upcoming The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville. (The other of the two is Mandy Patinkin, who was unable to attend. Mac joked that if Mandy was there to perform, the already-long gala "would be a four-hour show.") He sang one of his songs from the show, The Pogue's "Fairytale of New York" ("Christmas Eve in the Drunk Tank)." The entertainment section ended with New York City Ballet dancer Tiler Peck and Jason Danieley performing a number from the upcoming Stroman-Flaherty-Ahrens musical, Little Dancer. This Degas-based piece will premiere in the fall at The Kennedy Center.
Jim Dale was given the thankless task of introducing more than 100 notable attendees, each of whom was called upon to stand up in a roaming spotlight. Dale — currently appearing in his one-man show Just Jim Dale, at the Laura Pels — pulled this 30-minute chore off with aplomb, editorializing only when he introduced Danny Burstein. ("He is nominated for his fifth Tony, and please let him win it this year.")
Speakers included New Dramatists executive director Joel K. Ruark, Chairman Seth Gelblum, outgoing artistic director Todd London (who noted that Stroman "marries the labor of joy with the joy of labor") and incoming artistic director Emily Morse. President and longtime member Isobel Robins Konecky, surveying the ballroom packed with friends and supporters, remembered that "when we first started, we all sat at one table."
The afternoon ended with Weidman presenting the 2014 Career Achievement Award to Stroman, who graciously accepted and left us with a quote from her father, a charismatic, story-telling traveling salesman: "All you really need in life is a thesaurus and a bottle of Listerine."