Stars Speak Out at Tony Awards Luncheon

Tony Awards   Stars Speak Out at Tony Awards Luncheon
Nominees for the 1996 Tony Awards gathered at Sardi's restaurant in the New York theatre district May 15. Playbill On-Line's Andrew McGibbon was there. Here's what they said.
Some of the Nominees...
Some of the Nominees... Photo by photos by Starla Smith

Nominees for the 1996 Tony Awards gathered at Sardi's restaurant in the New York theatre district May 15. Playbill On-Line's Andrew McGibbon was there. Here's what they said.

* Nathan Lane (Nominee for Best Actor in a Musical for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Host of the Tony Awards show):

Another reporter: What do you think about all the hoopla surrounding these awards this year?

Lane: Hoopla? Has there been hoopla and no one told me? [He sings] "How do you solve a problem like the Tonys?" I sympathize with her [Julie Andrews] and why she did why she did, but, I think it was something she really thought about a lot but you know, it's just an award. Have you met any of the Tony nominating committee? I don't want to say that they're old, but, most of them used to babysit Bob Dole! You can't take it all that seriously.

Another reporter: Would you have done the same thing? Lane: Would I have done the same thing? If the rest of the cast wasn't nominated? No! I'm a pig! I don't care! It's show business. It's every man for himself.

Reporter: Do you think that the nominating committee should be questioned?

Lane: Well, they do this every year. We go through this every year that something like this happens and they say "this is an outrage and it's terrible" and then they get 12 or 14 new people and the same thing happens. There's always going to be some injustices, but you know, it's still an honor, it's still like a childhood dream to win one.

Reporter: What affect do you think that this will have on the Tony Awards show?

Lane: I hope it means more people will watch it so CBS won't drop it. I think that might happen. Who knows. This is maybe a big controversy for the tri-state area but I think the rest of the world might be worried about Bosnia perhaps. But this sure is giving me a lot of material. God bless Julie Andrews. Wait! There she is! She's got a gun!!!!

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: How scripted will this show be?

Lane: Bruce Phalange [SP?] will be doing some writing and I'm doing some writing. But you never know what happens.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: You've been known to shoot from the hip before.

Lane: They'll probably be some shooting from the hip.

Another reporter: I don't want to put pressure on you, but I'm rooting for you to go on and host the Oscars at some time. Would you like that?

Lane: No, I'd like to go and lie down. I don't want to become the Georgie Jessel of the '90s. I'm happy to do it for the Tony Awards because of my history with the theatre.

* Donna Murphy (Nominee as Best Actress in a Musical, The King and I):

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: How do you feel about being in this catagory with all of this brouhaha?

Murphy: I'm trying to keep myself removed from the brouhaha. I really believe that Julie was acting from her heart and that's not always easy to do and I respect that. At the same time, I'm honored to be acknowledged and I don't really want to stir up anything more negative than may already be out there. It's best to deal with this time as a celebration of theatre.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: If you were in a similar situation as Ms. Andrews, do you think that you would choose to do the same thing?

Murphy: I don't know, I think probably when all of this is passed I probably will give some thought to all of this and investigate within myself what I might do in a similar situation. Right now it is too subjective and loaded by other things to think clearly about it.

* Daphne Rubin-Vega (Nominee as Best Actress in a Musical for Rent):

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: This must be very exciting for you, coming up from a 170-seat off-Broadway house to a Broadway house and then a nomination in a very controversial catagory. What are you thinking about that?

Rubin-Vega: Which one, the fact that we go from a 170-seat house or...

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Each one individually.

Rubin-Vega: The move is incredible. I'm so happy to report that the show has not lost any of its integrity or any of this stuff that I personally doubted that we could make that move from downtown to uptown without losing some sort of gist of what we're really about as "Rent." I'm really happy that its just bigger and more people and more people mean more response.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: How do you feel about being nominated in such a controversial catagory and all of a sudden finding yourself in a catagory with likes of Julie Andrews.

Rubin-Vega: I am absolutely floored by being nominated in league with the actresses that I've been nominated with. I'm honored, I'm thrilled and I look forward to rising to the occasion and continuing to keep my performance real. I think that it's a lot of hype and a lot of wonderful stuff but I need to keep it real.

Another reporter: How do you keep a perspective with all of the fame and acclaim?

Rubin-Vega: I try to not really read that much. I know by the way that people respond to me and say Daphne I saw you in this and Daphne I saw you in that. I just keep my work, I'm busy enough to just keep it on my work but sometimes I get tired.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Were you a friend of Jonathan Larson's?

Rubin-Vega: Yes, yes I was.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: How much has the show changed since his death or has it pretty much stayed the same as Jonathan envisioned it?

Rubin-Vega: I believe that it's pretty much the way Jonathan envisioned it. There was a rehearsal process in that there was editing and re-working of a very rough piece of clay, as it were. None of the integrity of the show was lost. There was a lot of respect and conscientiousness in regard to that.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Do you think that any of the commercialization of "Rent" wether it be the arrangement with Bloomingdales or any of the commercialization that has happened to it goes against the grain of "Rent", the non-conformist attitude or feelings?

Rubin-Vega: I don't know yet. That remains to be seen. I think it's a little bit early. I think the way I keep it in perspective is to think how would Jonathan [handle it]? I try to channel Jonathan and as a friend of mine I think he would be thoroughly amused by all of this. To what extent I don't know. I just know that for 2 hours and 35 minutes a night we keep it real.

* Jeffrey Seller (Co-producer of Rent):

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: This has got to be incredibly exciting for you.

Seller : It's beyond my wildest dreams. It's everything I ever wanted.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Did you ever imagine that it would happen this quickly, this soon, to someone so young?

Seller: No, six months ago I had given up the idea that I would ever produce a Broadway musical.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: What are you planning on next?

Seller: Toronto, London, US tour.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: You are doing that with Mirvish in Toronto?

Seller: Yes. We're in Toronto in November.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: What about the tour?

Seller: Some time in the summer of '97. The spring of '97 we'll do London.
People are calling from Iceland to do this play. That's were the calls are coming from, all over the world.

* Andy Goldstein, Richard Seader, Paul B. Berkowsky (Co-producers, Swinging on a Star):

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Did this come as a shock to you when you got this nomination?

Seader (Co-producer, Swinging on a Star: It was always widely accepted critically and audience wise every place it went. We either came close or broke house records in all three productions before we came to NY.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: How do you feel about a show being nominated even though it's closed.

Goldstein: It's not about shows that are running or not running it is about excellence in the theatre during a season.

Seader: If that was the case then no show would want to dare open before March for fear that they might not be able to run through the winter. You'll have only shows opening 2 or 3 weeks before Tony just so that they're open. That's not what it's about. The season really begins June 1. As evidenced by Chronicle which opened in June and close in June. The Tonys shouldn't be based on the legendary record of a producer, the size of a budget, the mega-strength of a star just because they are a star or whether a shows running or not. Those aren't the criteria. The criteria is excellence in theatre.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: This nomination in and of itself has got to be helping you with the life of the show overall.

Seader: This [the original-cast CD] isn't even on the stands yet, it's coming out next week. Already we're going into a second pressing because the response to the nomination was so great that the record shops, the orders have exceeded what the pressing was.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: How many productions are currently planned for Swinging on a Star?

Seader: Four that we know of already. It's available through stock and amateur.

Berkowsky: In the foreign market we know that there is going to be a production in Johannesburg, we have a major agency in Germany who has already talked to us about handling the show for a number of productions in Germany. We are also talking to some people in England at the moment about the London production.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: As producers of the original show are you looking at mounting the show in London yourself or even a tour.

Seader: That's a possibility. Touring is in our plans, probably in 1997.

* Mary Burke (widow of Swinging on a Star lyricist, Johnny Burke, and a co-producer of the show):

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Were you surprised that they decided to nominate the show given the fact that it was closed?

Burke : No, not because the show was closed. The only surprise that came into it, being a novice, I didn't realize that, if you want to call it, this little show in comparison to these big, big, mega shows would pull it off. Where they were going to be recognized for the quality of the show. That we didn't have to be a show where it called on $8-10 million. That it really came down to what the ingredients were. That we were actually considered and actually nominated because of that. That's was surprised me. You always think that the money, the dollar denotes things. So often in life the dollar is the end result. We were a company that had no know performers to speak of, our creative team were all up and coming, the people on-stage. We had unknowns, we didn't rely on a star to put on a good production, an entertaining production. We had people leaving the theatre humming the songs. God bless Johnny Burke.

Goldstein: Now they are trying to screw us. It looks like the Tony show is only going to allow us a minute and the other shows are going to get their full 4 minutes. In order to let some of the other non-nominated shows to get on the air we're going to get the shaft. Not right! Not right! We have our performers and everything to go live. Everything is in place.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: And they're only giving you one minute?

Goldstein: That's the latest. And yet they're giving Rent and Noise/Funk the full 3-4 minutes, whatever the normal....

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: What was the explanation to you?

Goldstein: They needed to have extra time to get shows like Big and non-nominated shows on the air to appease CBS, which wants to have what they perceive to be the entertainment value of these big megabuck shows.

* Crista Moore (Nominee as Best Actress in a Musical for Big):

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Congratulations on your nomination. What do you think about all this fracas with [co-nominee] Julie Andrews?

Moore: All I can say is when the nominations came out I felt very comfortable because I knew that Julie Andrews would win so I thought I had this glorious wonderful happy time to be honored and nominated and shop for a dress and Wednesday between shows everything changed. Now I don't think anyone knows what to think really.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: You were nominated for Gypsy. Does it lose any of the impact, just hearing your name announced as a nominee?

Moore: For me it hasn't.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: You are in a somewhat similar position to Julie Andrews, being in a show that did not get a LOT of nominations how do you feel about that? Could you have done what Julie Andrews did, giving up that nomination?

Moore: NO!! Are you kidding? It's different because Julie Andrews is an international star. She is a very established performer, has been for many years. We're not the same at all. Our show did get nominations whereas she was the only one. I can't really judge what she should or should not have done. I'm really thrilled. You can't have it back!! If they ask for it back they can't have it back!!

* Carol Burnett (Nominee Best Actress in a Play for Moon Over Buffalo):

Other reporter: Your reaction to Julie Andrews?

Burnett: I've been quoted and I totally support her. She deals from the heart not from temper tantrums or anything like that. This woman is a kind, loving, thoughtful, terrific lady and I know she agonized over this for a couple of days and I think she did the right thing.

* George C. Wolfe (Producer, co-Librettist of Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk):

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Do you think that this could be the Public's next Chorus Line?

Wolfe : I don't know. I don't think you should compare works. ACL was a wonderful extraordinary show and I think that Noise/Funk is an extraordinary show. What they have in common is that they were both developed at the Public and they both evolved in a very organic way. In many respects about dance and in many respects, unlike what has happened in recent years, which is not a criticism but just a fact, is that dance has been pushed a little bit off to the side of the musical, whereas dance as a means of telling stories, which I think ACL does and Noise/Funk does in the '90s.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Any comment on the musicals nominated or not nominated, and do you feel there is any need to modify the criteria for nominating a show.

Wolfe: Every year there is a brouhaha. This year there is a bigger brouhaha because the shows that got excluded have more money on the line. In past years other people have been excluded and there wasn't as much money on the line. It's an awards show, it's not the beginning or end of the universe. If a show wins or it doesn't, that has nothing to do with merit; all it means is box office really. The main thing about the Tony Awards is that it is a wonderful commercial just for theatre in America in general. That's the point. We're living in a climate which is incredibly hostile to culture. That's the bigger idea. Whether or not a person gets singled out, that's very subjective and personal. It's the larger idea that theatre in particular is being celebrated and being received in all these homes across America.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Do you feel slighted at all that Tempest wasn't nominated?

Wolfe: yeah, but it was a moment. It was still a wonderful show. The fact that it did or did not receive nominations has nothing to do with the journey that it went on. I'm over it. It's not deep.

* Adam Pascal and Wilson Jermaine Heredia (Rent actors):

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: You're coming from a 170-seat off-Broadway theatre to Broadway, Tony noms, cameras, interviews, photo spreads, what are you thinking at this point?

Adam Pascal (nominee as Best Actor in a Musical, Rent): It's overwhelming, it's unbelievable, I mean, we knew we had an amazing show when we were downtown but it was impossible to foresee this type of acceptance from the general public.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: How has this affected you both (Pascal and Heredia) in the way of other offers and more career stuff and how long are you locked into "Rent" contractually?

Pascal: Our contracts are up in six months. Offers have been pouring in.

Heredia (nominee as Best Featured Actor in a Musical, Rent): Actually, we can get into more auditions, that's all.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: How much did Rent change after the loss of Jonathan Larson? Was it kept pretty much intact?

Pascal: The show was, for the most part, was finished by the time he passed away, there were minor changes that were done. All the changes that were done were made through notes of Jonathan's and stage directions of Jonathan. So everything was taken with the greatest care and the greatest sense of respect for Jonathan.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: (To Heredia) How is it for you being straight playing a gay character. Do you find any difficulty in that?

Heredia: No, it's a role. You're playing a role. It's not about playing a gay character it's about playing a character that loves people and wants to help people. Basically living life for the moment an not thinking about his shortcomings. It's just a role. It's not just a role either, it's more about... You have to become in tune with it. It's not difficult at all.

Other Reporter: Julie Andrews decided to opt out of her nomination. Would you be able to do the same thing if it came to that, if you felt upset that other members of your cast were snubbed, or you felt it was a good product that wasn't nominated.

Heredia: When you are an actor and a performer, you don't perform for the sole purpose of getting an award and for your show getting an award. I tend not to get involved and comment on the politics of it because I really don't know what's involved. I think there is something else involved, there has to be something else aside from just the fact that everyone else was ignored and she was the only one that got nominated. You don't do this to get nominated, you do this because you love to do it. That's it!

* Keith Sherman (Spokesman for the Tony Awards):

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Do you foresee in the future, given this year's fracas, that there is any need for changes in the way shows are nominated?

Sherman: The nominating process always changes. This is an awards program and by virtue of that there are going to be some who win and some who don't. Every year there is some new form of insanity that presents itself. This year it is similar but different.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Do you not feel to a certain degree that the Tony awards are here to promote the industry and what's currently on the boards.

Sherman: That's a residual effect of the Tony telecast. It's exposed to millions of people but the award itself is given for excellence in the theatre.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: How scripted will the Tony Awards be. As you know, Nathan has a tendency to shoot from the hip.

Sherman: The award show is scripted, but Nathan is a fantastic and talented performer and he'll be Nathan.

* Daryl Waters and Zane Mark (Composers Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk, nominated for Best Original score):

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Many of our readers have said that they don't understand why Savion got a nomination for leading actor in a musical when he doesn't sing in the show.

Mark: Well, he is an actor.

Waters: And this is a musical.

Mark: There's a cultural interpretation in everything that he does. The one thing that's really great about George's shows is that he does not let you just do a step, it's got to have a meaning behind it. That's what's coming across in what Savions doing. So, he's very much an actor.

Waters: By that logic, if you're not speaking, you're not acting? Come on now. Do you have to be speaking to act?

* Lou Diamond Phillips (Nominee Best Actor in a Musical, The King and I):

Another reporter: Has this performance changed at all?

Phillips: A little bit. The beauty of doing live theatre is that it's new every single night. Those little idiosyncrasies that happen every night that change the performance. I certainly think that Donna and I have certainly found little beats, little moments that have grown from the very first preview.

Another reporter: Where is the ghost of Yul Brenner in all of this?

Phillips: He's probably in my dressing room every night telling me "go out there kid, do it for me" that kind of thing. I certainly have a picture of him right there on my dressing table along with a picture of Elvis.

Another reporter: How do you feel about this nomination?

Phillips: I'm overwhelmed. This is a dream come true. To make my debut on Broadway and to be received as well as we have both critically and by the audiences and now to receive the Tony nomination, it's crazy.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: When our readers first heard that you were going to be doing King and I they were surprised that you could sing. What do you say to those people.

Phillips: I'm not surprised at all that you were surprised that I can sing. He didn't sing in La Bamba dammit. I've been out on the road a lot with my band, The Pipefitters. We end up online an awful lot as sort of a footnote that Lou actually does sing but its usually in smoky bars and that sort of thing after a six pack of beer and a lot more liquid courage. But the fact that I'm singing in a Broadway production is sort of overwhelming to me. It's a big surprise. I never thought that I would come to New York in this fashion, in a musical and in a musical this big and splashy as King and I.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Can we expect to see you in more stage work?

Phillips: Oh God yes! Now that Broadway has not only welcomed me with welcome arms, they have actually given me a big old fat bearhug, I'm sure that I will be looking for more opportunities to come back to NY in the future.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: You certainly came in a tumultuous season with lots of controversy. Do you have any thought on that?

Phillips: Julie come back! Julie come back!

* Savion Glover (Nominee as Best Actor in a Musical, Best Choreography for Noise/Funk):

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: How does it feel to be so young and greeted with so much fame and welcomed with such open arms?

Glover: Well, hopefully more young people will get involved, not only just coming out but performing in the theatre.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: You are leading the way and blazing a path for new musicals. This is a new direction for the musical theatre. In the history books you will be looked at as someone who was blazing paths.

Glover: Dig it! They can put down that Savion Glover was responsiblie for bringing the funk to Broadway. Dig it!

* Isabelle Stevenson (President of the Antoinette Perry Awards):

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: In light of the controversy about the nominated musicals, do forsee any change in the way that shows are nominated, or any discussion of change in the way that shows are nominated.

Stevenson: No, I think there will be a discussion but I don't think basically to change the bottom line of it, a musical is a musical, a straight play is a straight play and the nominations are based on the fact that they have in the eyes of the nominating committee have achieved excellence in the theatre, not that they had the biggest box office, or it's the greatest show, or the most reviews or the worst reviews. We've chosen the nominating committee and we've felt that they were wise, that they were responsible and that they were knowledgable and that the decision remain.

* Tony Randall (Nominee as producer of Best Revival of a Play, Inherit the Wind):

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: This has got to be a big event for you. This is a milestone for your company at this point.

Randall: We've received Tony nominations before, but what's remarkable is that we've had a hit in this play and it's closed.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Had you at any point thought about replacing Mr. Scott.

Randall: Who could replace him? Especially when he is nominated for Best Actor. He'll be back. We'll reopen with George in the fall.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Have you go a theatre yet?

Randall: Same theatre. The set's there.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: So the set will remain in the theatre for the summer and you will be opening again in the fall. Mr. Durning will be available as well?

Randall: Yes, yes.

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Any idea exactly when?

Randall: When George's doctors say he can.

-- By Andrew McGibbon

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