The Untold Stories Behind the Most Famous Photos in Broadway History | Playbill

Special Features The Untold Stories Behind the Most Famous Photos in Broadway History
Steve and Anita Shevett, the house photographers for the Tony Awards since 1980, reveal the stories behind the iconic shots that captured unforgettable Broadway moments.
Anita and Steve Shevett
Anita and Steve Shevett Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Although Anita Shevett had dreams of performing, it was photography that proved to be her calling. “I started at the High School of Performing Arts, where they told me I had a natural eye for photography,” says Anita, who went on to study at the University of California, Berkeley, and took pictures for their drama department.

She kept photographing and was introduced to her now-husband Steve Shevett and his father, who worked at a camera store and lent Anita photo equipment. When Steve accompanied Anita on a photoshoot as her assistant, the two hit it off, and the rest is history. They’ve been working together ever since and started photographing for the Tony Awards in 1980.

The two share photo credit. “See, when it comes to who took the shot,” Steve says, “the answer is ‘Anita and Steve.’ There’s no separation. No one takes credit for anything separately. Sometimes, one of us will be taking the shot in black and white, and one of us will be taking the shot in color at the same time. You never know whose is whose because there are certain shots that we blew out each other’s exposures because we both took the same shot at exactly the same time!”

And now they share exclusive shots from their longtime career with Playbill. The two, who’ve launched (in which theatre fans can purchase the iconic shots for themselves) with the help of their son Jeremy, take us behind the scenes of each picture.

Otto Preminger
Otto Preminger Steve and Anita Shevett

The shot that started it all: “Otto was sitting there, staring at me and staring at me and staring, and I finally go, ‘Oh, come on, Otto. Give a girl from the Bronx a break for her first photo of a famous person. Let me see the real Otto.’ And he puts his hand on his chin, and he goes, ‘There you go.’ I snapped the photo, and after that, I showed it to him, and his wife said, ‘Oh my god. That’s my Otto.’ Otto looks at it, and getting a compliment from him was like getting your foot back from an alligator… He says, ‘Well, I guess it would do if I had to be on the cover of TIME.’ And then he says, ‘Just remember, don’t let anybody scare you. Make everybody in front of your lens a famous person like you did to me,’ and I live by those words. I never got scared with stars again. … He was the greatest director, you know?” – Anita Shevett

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John Houseman and Robin WIlliams – 1982 Steve and Anita Shevett

“[This picture is] from an Acting Company event, I would say early 1980s, around 1982. We’re actually still doing the Annual Acting Company Gala in New York City. [John] Houseman…would say to Anita, ‘You have 12 shots. Use them wisely,’ but he would stick to his 12 shots. He would count, and when you hit 12, you were done unless there was something specifically he wanted, but he was just like that. It was 12 shots—you’re done.” – Steve Shevett

“This was when he was giving his host speech, and I think John was saying how he told Robin Williams to find a career because Robin was asked to leave Juilliard, and then they became very good friends, and I think he was having a moment with him right there, John and Robin.” – Anita Shevett

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Bernadette Peters, Nathan Lane and Liza Minnelli – 1996 Steve and Anita Shevett

“Ah, Peters, Lane, Minnelli. That’s from a Tony Awards… I think that was possibly in the opening number.” – Steve Shevett

Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Assassins
Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Assassins Joan Marcus

“We didn’t shoot [the Broadway production of] Assassins, so if there’s a shot from Assassins, it’s probably from the Tonys. So that would be from their production number from the Tonys that year. For Roundabout, we shoot all their opening night parties—galas, patron dinners and things like that.” – Steve Shevett

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Paul Simon – 1984 Steve and Anita Shevett

“Paul Simon from the opening of the Royal Shakespeare Company. I believe we were at Lincoln Center, way back when, 1984, and I think some of those were taken during intermission.” – Steve Shevett

Audra McDonald Tonys 2015 HR.jpg
Audra McDonald – Tonys 2015 Steve and Anita Shevett

“This is Tony history. I told my assistant, ‘You’ve got to go get me those six Tonys there. We going to make a queen’s throne, and we’re going to surround Audra with all the Tonys.’ We put her in, and she’s crying, and then everybody, of course—because they need to get her to the pressroom, right?—[is saying], ‘Hurry up! Hurry up! Hurry up!’ And Audra finally goes, ‘Excuse me. Nobody gets to hurry up Anita,’ and they all shut up and then we started talking, and I said, ‘Oh my god. My queen!’ because I was there when she got her first Tony. To see some of these actors that you know from the very beginning [go on to having] six Tonys, it’s like I kvell because they’re my children, so if it took an extra three minutes to set up that photograph, it lasts forever, and it’s history. It’s history.” – Anita Shevett

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Scarlet Pimpernel – 1998 Steve and Anita Shevett

“[It’s a production shot from the Tonys.] It’s a lot of work and a lot of hours and a very long day. We start at the Tonys usually around 8:30 in the morning on Sunday, and then there’s the full rehearsal, then a little bit of downtime to get things changed out and batteries recharged, and then you’re back there the whole night—nowadays until about 3 o’clock in the morning. Back in the beginning, it was come home, process film, hang it up to dry and go to sleep for three hours, get up, process more film, hang it up to dry, and go to sleep for three hours, get up, cut it all down, make contact sheets, get them all to the clients…luckily things went digital as we got older, otherwise, the job would have become absolutely impossible to do!” – Steve Shevett

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Christopher Reeve – 1985 Steve and Anita Shevett

“That’s back from a Circle Rep benefit in 1985.” – Steve Shevett

Robin Williams and the <i>Dreamgirls</i>  – 1982
Robin Williams and the Dreamgirls – 1982 Steve and Anita Shevett

“That was from one of The Acting Company galas. If you see a crowd of people talking to each other, you know there’s a shot in front of you. They don’t see it, but you see it, so you make it happen.” – Steve Shevett

“I just told all the Dreamgirls, I said, ‘Oh, just rally around Robin,’ and Gregory [Hines] was there, and I said to Robin, ‘Keep dreaming on, Robin,’ and he smiles, and [we] captured the shot. [He was an] absolute sweetheart, and for The Acting Company, he would do anything. He loved The Acting Company. He adored John Houseman, and Chris Reeve was his best friend, so it was a really wonderful experience.” – Anita Shevett

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Steven Bauer and John Malkovich – 1984 Steve and Anita Shevett

“That was Balm in Gilead opening. At that point and time, who knew who John Malkovich was? At the same party, you had Sean Penn, Timothy Hutton, Giancarlo Esposito with this gigantic fro—was unbelievable—Steven Bauer, [who] I think was dating Melanie Griffith at the time…it’s like who knew who all these people where back then? … Another great thing about the life we’ve led is that we’ve seen all of these shows and people when they weren’t famous yet. There’s a bunch of fun pictures with Alec Baldwin, and who ever gets fun pictures with Alec Baldwin? Most of the time, he’s chasing photographers away, but we don’t have that issue with him. I think the first time we met him was probably [when] he did Loot…and he was a young unknown.” – Steve Shevett

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Terrence Mann – 1987 Steve and Anita Shevett

“That was backstage at the Tonys.” – Steve Shevett

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James Broderick – 1980 Steve and Anita Shevett

“It was James that really made me decide to be a photographer. I was at HB Studio taking classes with Herbert Berghof, and he was directing shows … And Dina Merrill was also in [Smile of the Cardboard Man with] James. … I went to his house when Matthew [Broderick] was maybe eight, and he said, ‘This is what you were supposed to do with your life.’ He said, ‘The way you work with actors,’ and I said, ‘Thank you,’ so I became a photographer.” – Anita Shevett

Alan Cumming in <i>Cabaret</i> – Tonys 1999
Alan Cumming in Cabaret – Tonys 1999 Steve and Anita Shevett

“It’s really interesting that we did the first opening of Cabaret, and then we did the next opening of Cabaret, and I said [to] Alan, ‘Isn’t it kind of close [to be] reviving this?’ He said, ‘It’s been 16 years.’ I said, ‘Has it been 16 years!?’ Unreal.” – Steve Shevett

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Gregory Hines and Laurence Fishburne – 1995 Steve and Anita Shevett

“That was a Tonys shot from ’95. You know, things like that happened backstage every once in a while.” – Steve Shevett

Yul Brynner and Alan Jay Lerner – 1985
Yul Brynner and Alan Jay Lerner – 1985 Steve and Anita Shevett

“That’s from Alan Jay Lerner’s birthday party in ’85. I think he might have been like 70 or something, and he had a birthday party at the Limelight, which was a notorious disco. That was from his birthday party.” – Steve Shevett

“And those are the kind of candids that are wonderful; you capture some of those moments that just happen. Really wonderful candids are not so easy to come by.” – Anita Shevett

“Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time and be lucky.” – Steve Shevett

“That’s Steve’s job. He’s always roaming and ends up at the right place at the right time, capturing those kinds of candids, where I do more of those kinds of setups.” – Anita Shevett

Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur – 1987
Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur – 1987 Steve and Anita Shevett

“Oh, the Angela and Bea Arthur [shot]? Yeah, that was from the Tonys, 1987.” – Steve Shevett

“I do remember that shot. I was trying to get the two of them to look at me, and Steve, as I said, was taking candids. … Steve grabbed the candid as Angela was being grabbed. It was very funny. Bea Arthur was really funny. Her and Elaine Stritch were two of my favorite people, and Angela Lansbury is the love of my life. Once I got a photo of Angela Lansbury, Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews, and it was another one of the millions. I said, ‘You know what guys? I can die happy now after taking these incredible three divas of the stage and the screen,’ and Angela says, ‘Oh, you say that to everybody.’ I said, ‘That’s true, but I actually mean it this time!’” – Anita Shevett

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Alec Baldwin and Glenn Close – 1992 Steve and Anita Shevett

“That was from the Tony nominees’ luncheon in that particular year, in ’92. Everybody’s trying to get something different.” – Steve Shevett

“I tried to get something different. I said, ‘Alec, do something different.’ So he said, ‘All right, Glenn, one, two, three, up!’ And he picked her up. When you have that rapport you can do that, because you walk a real fine line between being totally obnoxious and obnoxious!” – Anita Shevett

Alec Baldwin and Peter Allen – 1984
Alec Baldwin and Peter Allen – 1984 Steve and Anita Shevett

“With Peter Allen… I’m just trying to think of exactly what that was from. I know it’s ’84. It’s definitely not a Tonys… That might be from the Loot opening. That was one of the first times we ever met Alec.” – Steve Shevett


The Untold Stories Behind the Most Famous Photos in Broadway History

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