Tony Nominees Offer Their Reactions to Being Honored

Special Features   Tony Nominees Offer Their Reactions to Being Honored
The Tony Award nominations for the 2008-09 Broadway season were announced in the early hours of May 5. talked to some of the honored to get their reactions.
Billy Elliot nominees Kiril Kulish, David Alvarez and Trent Kowalik
Billy Elliot nominees Kiril Kulish, David Alvarez and Trent Kowalik Photo by Peter Lueders/ Paul Kolnik Studios

David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril KulishBilly Elliot, The Musical: Kiril: "We were on TV, at CBS, on the set where we were dancing. The CBS Early Show. I'm in shock." Trent: "This is a bit of a shock to me. It's a bit overwhelming, a little bit." David: "This is my Broadway debut, so I've never been nominated for anything." Kiril: "This is my first Broadway show, so it's my first." Trent: "For me, it's the same, also." David: "All my friends from Billy Elliott have been texting me."

Phyllida Lloyd, Mary Stuart: "My assistant sent me a text. I was completely stunned and thrilled that all our entire production team have been nominated. To get your design team nominated for a play when we thought we were rather minimalist in our presentation is rather nice. To just be nominated for a Tony is a huge thing in the theatre. I think you actually have to win an Olivier Award to really [be able to] boast about it."

Tom Kitt, Next to Normal: "I actually was watching it live on NY1 with my wife Rita and my mother Judy. My mom doesn't have NY 1. She lives in Westchester, so I invited her to watch it if she wanted to. I'm beyond thrilled for everybody and for the show. I'm hoping to get some friends who were nominated for other shows to get together tonight for a celebratory beverage of some sort."

Gregory Jbara
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot: "I was in the Coffee Shop in Union Square, the place where I actually watched Obama get sworn in. I don't have NY1 on my cable in my apartment. My cousin was in town. I met her and her friend, and we went down there and started breakfast at 8 AM. And, we basically took over the place, turned the TVs all up and had the whole place cheering. It was fantastic. It was very spontaneous." Harriet Walter, Mary Stuart: "My agent from London woke me up this morning. I was cursing as I went to the phone. That was lovely. I feel just terribly pleased to be included in this enormously talented group. Because I've seen all the other shows; I saw Jane Fonda in 33 Variations and I saw God of Carnage. And I watch Janet [McTeer] every night. If I'm in that category, who cares who wins. I feel good. It's a rainy day, but this has made it a rather happy one. I'm going to have a slap-up lunch at Balthazar." Jessica Hynes, The Norman Conquests: "I was walking around the kitchen, and I had a number on my phone that I didn't recognize. It was the number of the offices at the theatre. I called and said, 'This is Jessica Hynes.' He said, 'Oh, congratulations!' and I said, 'What for?' He hang on, 'I'll put you through.' He put me on to [press agent] Jim Byk. I was just padding around the kitchen recovering. We had a cast get-together last night. I made food, and we all had beers. I was recovering from that, with my children running around. I kind of had a vague idea the nominations were today, but not really. And then we got seven! They should change the name to The Nominations Conquests."

J. Robert Spencer
photo by Aubrey Reuben

J. Robert Spencer, Next to Normal: "We knew it was going on. I got up. Our two kids were still asleep. My wife and I were just chomping at the bit. It was like, 'Oh my God. Tick-tock, tick-tock.' We were pretty anxious and pretty excited, and just praying and hoping that it would work. How could it not, the show being as tremendous as it is, and such an impact that the show has, and all the reviews we got? How could it not be a beautiful morning? And it turned out to be a phenomenal morning! It has a completely different feeling from Jersey Boys. Jersey Boys will always be a huge phenomenon. But I feel with this show it makes such a stronger impact on the emotional soul. And to be able to convey that eight times a week and not be the 'Ringo' is incredibly exhilarating and fulfilling. The thing about playing Nick Massi [in Jersey Boys] was great, because even though I didn't say much there was still a lot going on internally. But it's always nice to show audiences what you've been wanting to show them for years. I can't tell you how many people have seen me in Jersey Boys who have seen me in Next to Normal and said, 'Oh my God, I had no idea you could sing, that you could act.' That's so rewarding for me." Roger Robinson, Joe Turner's Come and Gone: "I was in bed. My agents called me and he said congratulations, and I said, 'About what?' Well, I was asleep. You know how you come out of a sleep and the phone rings. My phone announces who's calling. It's always a surprise. You never know until it happens. You know, we didn't get nominated for any Drama Desk Awards and we got limited Outer Critics Circle nominations. So you never know how these organizations are going to nominate. The Tonys always seem to be about craft, theatre craft. I respect them."

Will Swenson
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Will Swenson, Hair: "I was taking my five-year-old to pre-school, and we were just walking out the door with her scooter, and my sister called. I found out that way. It feels unbelievable. I don't think it's really hit me yet. I'm sure it will later, and I will freak out and spend the afternoon in the bathroom." Stockard Channing, Pal Joey: "I'm on a train going to Paris, where I will be in about ten minutes. So I may get cut off, because we're going into a tunnel. I'm literally in the suburbs of Paris. I've been on vacation. I'm going to Paris for a few days, then I go back to London then back to the States. Someone called me on the train, and then my British cell phone promptly died on me."

Zach Grenier, 33 Variations: "I woke up to a distant cell phone ringing in my study downstairs. I was still half asleep and thinking it must be a reminder to pay my car insurance. I walked down to turn on the coffee and picked up the message from my wonderful, hard-working agent, congratulating me. I was very surprised. We got the notice that we're going to be closing and that's what I went to bed with, and in the morning I woke up and it was this. Then I looked at the category and I'm with this extraordinary group of nominees. I guess it's not a mistake, right?"

Amanda Root, The Norman Conquests: "I just got up and looked at my e-mail. There was a long e-mail from the publicity guy. I'm quite shocked, to be honest. I think it's absolutely fabulous news for the whole company. I never expected to be nominated personally. That came as a big shock, and a huge honor."

Diane Paulus, Hair: "I have two little daughters, so I was up at 7 AM with them, and we put on NY1, and they had this special treat of eating their oatmeal in front of the television this morning, which never happens. Once the proceedings started, they were hooting and hollering every time Hair was mentioned. It was fun to have a little cheerleading team with me. I was born and raised in Manhattan, and I grew up seeing shows on Broadway as a kid. It was always a dream back then, 'Maybe one day I can be part of this.' I have to say, to be making my Broadway debut with Hair and to be getting this kind of acknowledgement is really a kind of a dream come true for me. The texting has begun. You get those instant messages with 'Yeah' and a million exclamation points after them."

Hallie Foote
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Hallie Foote, Dividing the Estate: "I'm staying at a friend's house and I had on NY1. I was watching with my friend Michael Wilson, and we're getting ready to do another play of my dad's [Horton Foote]. He's going to direct it. He said, 'Let's watch.' We were hoping this play would get a nomination, and I was really, really happy about that. And I'm a little shocked that I got one, but I'm very gratified as well. It's a little bittersweet. I wish my dad was here to enjoy all this. He's there somewhere, I'm sure, happy about this." Michael Greif, Next to Normal: "I am in Minneapolis. I'm working on Tony Kushner's new play here. I was on-line, looking at the New York Times arts blog, and while I was doing that, people were calling me, so they sort of beat me to it… The recognition always feels great, especially with a musical like this, this kind of praise. I think it's really going to help people make the decision to see the show in the next couple of weeks. That's the first, big exciting benefit of the awards."

Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King: "I was lying in my bed, because I'm trying to lead the life of a Broadway baby. I eat after the show, I go to bed late, and I get up late. I set my alarm. An important part of this whole experience, bring a show from Australia from the world of nonprofit theatre into the crazy commercial world, is to witness this day and see how our various neighbors were doing. You run into people all the time. My driver happens to drive Jeff Daniels, so I'm always keeping up with the God of Carnage news. It works out well, because Jeff's play is quite short and the drive can take him home and get back and pick me up."

Jeff Daniels
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Jeff Daniels, God of Carnage: "I was watching the television. Then Marcia [Gay Harden] and Jim [Gandolfini] called, and I called Hope [Davis]. I'm going to tell Louis, the two-time, Tony-nominated driver. [Geoffrey Rush and Jeff Daniels share a driver.] It feels great. It's so out of your control, that you don't know how to think about it going in. So much depends on the show you're in and the role you have and this and that. But there's been such a tsunami of praise for God of Carnage from the critics to the reactions of people who come backstage. People you respect are saying some rather incredible things. You go into the Tonys, and you think maybe there's a chance. There are so many performances out there, none of which you have seen, because you're doing eight times a week… All four of us [his co-stars] have been around a long time, so we've been up and we've been down. We know to enjoy things where they're good. When it's good, enjoy the celebration, enjoy the party, all the things that go with it, because it isn't always like this. I'm just celebrating the fact that all four of us are in the Best Actor and Best Actress category in one play. That must be unusual." Stephen Mangan, The Norman Conquests: "I found out from a text message a friend sent me saying, 'You've missed out on Leading Actress in a Musical.' I was asleep. I was woke up in a blur, didn't know where I was. There were dozens of messages on my machine. This is slightly unreal. I'm just excited for the whole company. Seven nominations. I think the person I'm most pleased for is Alan Ayckbourn, because you can't get that many nominations without the raw material being something special."

Brian d'Arcy James, Shrek: "I was sitting on my couch eating my oatmeal. I wanted to make that answer as exciting as possible. I'd just seen my daughter and wife off, so I had a moment to watch. I'm very excited. It's my second time being nominated. It does feel different. I have much more of a sense of appreciation, because I know how the stars have to align to make something like this happen, so I'm savoring it in a different way."

Janet McTeer
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Janet McTeer, Mary Stuart: "It's really great. Maria Tucci has this fabulous house in the country, and there are a bunch of us here. We were all out skinny-dipping in the pool." Marc Kudisch, 9 to 5: "Of course I'm excited, but I'm an old horse, man! I've been through it, which is not to say every time isn't a good time. But, you know: I know how this works. It's all good. I was on the couch with my girlfriend. She was like, 'Really? You really want to watch?' And I was like, 'I will or I will not be nominated. There's no middle ground in this. I want to know. I just would like to know.' You just want to know what the lay of the land is. I watched and she followed suit… The fact that we get to do what we do; the fact that I've been fortunate for how many years now, that I've been in God-knows-how-many show—because this is great right now. But this will be done soon, and the show goes on. The eight shows of the week go on."

Christopher Sieber, Shrek The Musical (from his car): "I'm on my way to the city. I was in my car when my agent called me at 8:40 AM. It's raining, it's a miserable-looking day, but it's turning out good for me. I had to pull over, because I was shaking a bit, and the visibility is not great. I had to pull over and take a breath, and then I thought, 'Okay, this is good. This is good. This is a great thing.' So, it's a beautiful morning, even though it's raining and it's overcast and the traffic's terrible. It's a beautiful day."

Gavin Creel
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Gavin Creel, Hair: "I was in bed. I didn't have a very good night sleep. I tried having my dog sleep outside last night for the first night, and he decided to wake me up at 6 AM, and 6:30 and 7. So, I finally gave him a bone and told him to shut up… It didn't feel different until you just asked if it felt different the second time around. 'Oh, it's happened twice!' The cool thing is, I was fortunate enough to get a job in London for two years at Mary Poppins. You know, out of sight, out of mind—you kind of leave the city and people forget about you. It's just nice to be embraced, to be welcomed into a show, and have that show be a hit, and then to get this is just icing on the cake." John Glover, Waiting for Godot: "I woke up because I knew the nominations were going to be announced this morning, and I didn't know when and I couldn't sleep anymore. I didn't know where it was on the TV. The phone rang a little after 8:30 and it was Todd [Haimes] from the Roundabout saying congratulations. I got nominated and received a Tony for Love! Valour! Compassion!, also with Nathan Lane. It feels good. I remember it felt good before. I guess I'm older and wise now, so I'm more mature about my excitement." (Laughs)

Hunter Bell
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Hunter Bell, [title of show]: (talking from California) "We just wanted to fly out here for the announcement, just to seem glamorous and bi-coastal. I'm in a Prius, in a pool. We got up. I'm out here with Jeff [Bowen], working on a project. We totally woke up. Hell, yeah, we woke up. I am proud to represent [tos]. It's mixed emotions. I love my collaborators, and am super excited for my nod of recognition. I would love to have seen Jeff's score recognized. But we're small and scrappy and a dream come true. There is that feeling of, 'I'll represent the team. Absolutely.'" Paul Ritter, The Norman Conquests: "I was stomping around in my dressing gown. I was awake. I'm a relatively early riser, especially if we haven't got a show the previous evening. I was up and about. I wasn't watching it on the television. I was on the net having a look at the Apple store. I'm going home on Sunday, and I have a boy at home and he wants an iPod. I was looking up iPods. If you're in New York, they want quality New York presents when you go home. Then Aaron at the press office gave me a call. To get seven nominations is the stuff of dreams. We're all delighted. Amanda Root, my stage wife and fellow nominee, lives just upstairs from me. About three quarters of an hour later, she banged excitedly on her floor."

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