Jessica Chastain wore a nude, sequined Marios Schwab dress on the red carpet at the Tony Awards that said, “Don’t confuse me with the plain, lonely character I will play in ‘The Heiress’ this fall on Broadway.”
The Tony Awards are the Oscars of the Great White Way, and the hottest stars on Broadway made their red carpet entrance Sunday at the Beacon Theater. Along with the nominees, there were some surprises, including appearances by Sheryl Crow and Josh Groban.
Early in the evening Judy Kaye from “Nice Work if You Can Get it” showed off the glittery diamonds on her earls and wrist. “I’m all dolled up. I’ve got the borrowed gemstones. This could buy a car,” she told us showing us the earrings. As for the chunky diamond bracelet, “This could buy a house,” she said.
Laura Bell Bundy, a sexy blonde in a low-cut cobalt gown, played Elle Woods in the Broadway version of “Legally Blonde” but now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she now pursues a country music career. “I’m here tonight mostly in support of ‘Peter and the Starcatcher,’” she said, and “I’m excited for ‘Once.’” Tony nominee David Alan Grier walked behind Ms. Bundy and took a long look at Ms. Bundy and silently mouthed, “Wow!”
“Newsies” composer Allan Menken had a moment with his lyricist Jack Feldman. They were about to get photographed, and Mr. Menken’s face was shiny, so Mr. Menken took a brush with powder and applied it to Mr. Feldman’s face.
Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks wore a close-fitting Gaultier gown. “I like dressing up,” she said, “and I already owned it, so it didn’t cost anything and it still fit. This is girl stuff,” she laughed. “It fit. It’s cute. It shows a lot of skin.”
The playwright was nominated for her reworking of “The Gershwin’s’ Porgy and Bess.” Referring to purists who complained about the changes to the musical, Ms. Parks said, “We always knew that we were doing the right thing because we had the mandate from the Gershwin estate every step of the way, and here we are on the red carpet.” As for what she’s doing next, “I can turn back to my own work, so there’s a new play. There’s a novel. Songs I’m writing,” she said, “and I have an eight month-old son and today he did not spit up on my Gaultier dress.”
“Clybourne Park” director Pam MacKinnon said she was “grateful that the humidity just broke,” and “I get to pass Sheryl Crow, that’s exciting. My Mom is my date, so that’s really great.” She comes back to Broadway in the fall with another play with people behaving badly, a revival of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” which will open, she told us, on the 50th anniversary of the original Broadway opening.”
Then we got our Jesuses mixed up on the red carpet. The actor in front of us told us he recently stepped into the part of Jesus on Broadway. But the Jesus we’ve seen on the television ads for “Jesus Christ Superstar” is blond and bland. Mr. Corbin is a handsome, light- skinned African-American actor. Turns out he’s the other Jesus, the one in the revival of “Godspell” at Circle in the Square. “It’s such a fun show,” he told us. “How many times will I get a chance in my life to say I’m Jesus?” Not that many we guessed.
David Alan Grier, along with Norm Lewis, Audra McDonald and Phillip Boykin were all nominated for Tony Awards for “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.” On the red carpet Mr. Grier said it was a relief to work in a play where so many cast members were Tony nominees. “The last time I was nominated was for ‘Race.’ I was the only nomination in the entire cast. Trust me, I had to tiptoe around the theater,” he said. “I hid in my dressing room.”
Spencer Kayden plays a wily French chef with a pinched, nasal accent, who gets progressively looped on liquor, in “Don’t Dress for Dinner.” She relates to some aspects of her role. “I think in a strange way it captures a lot of different sides of me, cause I can be very deadpan and very dry and also completely silly and ridiculous.” She’s been away from Broadway for a decade and she’s soon returning to L.A. What’s next? “I will go to Target and Trader Joe’s like I do all the time and enjoy my washing machine,” Ms. Kayden said. In other words, she has a Tony nomination but no next job.
“Journalists want to be there, where the action is,” said John Lithgow, who was nominated for best actor for “The Columnist,” playing the title character. “Look at you standing right here on the red carpet. Journalists want to be where the drama is and in a certain sense the drama is only important if they’re there reporting it.”
Mandy Pantinkin walked by that moment and we’re such big fans of “Homeland” we tried to get him to leak some plot twists, but to no avail. “I can’t tell you. If I tell you that they’ll hurt me,” he said, although we’re not she was talking about Showtime or “Homeland Security.”
We stared at the slight, curly haired man for the longest time before we realized it was Josh Groban. He told us he was going to introduce “Once.” What musical would he like to do on Broadway? “Probably ‘Sunday in the Park With George’ one day. It would be my dream,” he said. Possibly even Stephen Sondheim might be okay with that.
Cristin Milioti, leading actress in “Once,” looked spectacular in an emerald green gown, completely different from the ragmuffin she plays in the show. What was the trick to finding her character? “A forwardness,” she said. “She’s very forward, and I’m not very forward. I’m not like her at all. I don’t always jump at things.” The hardest part though was that she had to learn how to play the piano. “I didn’t really play before this. That was a tough journey.”
Mr. Corden – who went on to win the best actor prize for “One Man, Two Guvnors” - told a journalist, “I’m not going to win.” Win or lose, how will he celebrate the journalist persisted? “Lose? Celebrate? Are you mad? Who celebrates when they lose?”
At this point Ms. Chastain was on the red carpet in her amazing glittery dress, possibly practicing for next year when she’ll probably be nominated for “The Heiress.” “I’m really nervous,” she told us of her Broadway debut. “Big shoes to fill with that part. It’s a great role. Brilliant actresses have tread the boards with Catherine Sloper,” she said. “I hope I live up to what they created.”
We were surprised to see Candy Spelling, widow of Aaron and a real-life heiress, next on the red carpet. Ms. Spelling is having a great time as a producer of “Nice Work If You Can Get It” she told us. “I’ve gotten bitten by the bug.” Ms. Spelling was wearing sapphires on her ear the size of quail eggs, surrounded by hundreds of large diamonds. “My husband bought them for me,” she said. How many carats we asked? “I don’t really know. You know it’s not nice to ask how big, or whatever, a gift is. But here, I have a matching ring,” she said, showing us the ostrich-size sapphire surrounded by diamonds on her finger.
Tony nominee Stockard Channing, who is so terrific in “Other Desert Cities,” looked great but when we asked if she enjoyed these award ceremonies, she said, “Not really. You know, it’s fine. Once you’re here, you’re here.” The hardest part? “Getting ready. It’s like the dress and the this and the that. Meanwhile you’re doing eight shows a week.”
Ms. Channing’s co-star, Judith Light, looked sensational in an ivory, silken gown. Since the play closes soon we asked what she’ll be doing next? There were several possible projects in film, television and television, she said, but she can’t talk about it yet. “But I am starting a new line of jewelry on HSN,” and she showed me her ring. “It’s all taken from nature.” As for returning to Broadway? “Please! I better come back to Broadway. And maybe a musical.” Which musical? “I have no idea. My God! Let me just get through tonight!”
And then it was nearly 8 p.m., and a publicist rushed Nina Arianda, the toast of Broadway in “Venus in Fur,” past us to get her into the Beacon Theater for the start of the Tony Awards. Ms. Arianda turned around briefly and said, “I’m sorry” when we tried to ask her a question. By the end of the evening the actress won the Tony Award for best new actress, taking her place as the newest, young star on Broadway.