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'Rotten' luck, but the party goes on

June 06, 2005|Patrick Pacheco | Special to The Times

NEW YORK — Those "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" could have used some of the sleight of hand they apply eight times a week at the Imperial Theatre to steal more than the one award that kept them from a complete shutout at the Tonys on Sunday night.

Still, when Norbert Leo Butz triumphed as lead actor in a musical, beating costar John Lithgow and scoring the single victory out of the show's 11 nominations, the crowd at the official "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" party here finally had something to celebrate.

"You're always nervous," said Joyce Post, a first-time theatrical investor, breathing a sigh of relief that the show that had gone 0 for 10 was now a Tony winner. "Norbert is so deserving, and he brought such energy to the show."

Post, who refused to divulge how much money she had put into the show, added that she hadn't invested to win Tonys but because she was emotionally drawn to the musical.

"There's just a lot of competition this year," she said, "and there's all that hype for 'Spamalot.' "

Indeed, the show's near-total loss didn't dampen spirits too much among the nearly 300 celebrants gathered at the Bryant Park Grill for one of a handful of parties thrown by the major productions across Manhattan on a hot, humid night.

The affair was an official Tony viewing party for all who worked on "Scoundrels," and it was a relatively expensive one. But it appeared not to be overshadowed by the prospect of a closing notice if the show wound up empty-handed.

"Believe me, I've been in shows where not winning the Tony meant we would not have a job the next day," said Sara Gettelfinger, a featured performer in "Scoundrels" who has also appeared in "Nine" and "Seussical the Musical."

"We'll have a healthy run no matter what because the show has been so embraced. I'm disappointed for David [Yazbek, the author of the music and lyrics], but even David said that he'd be happy for Adam if he won." She was referring to Adam Guettel, who collected the award for composing "The Light in the Piazza."

Like many other guests, Richard and Gloria Kingsberry of Charlotte, N.C., had flown in for the party. They were there to support their 24-year-old son, Grasan, a member of the ensemble who had spent the first part of the evening at Radio City Music Hall performing in a number from the show on the awards telecast.

"We just saw it for the second time today. We saw it in San Diego," Richard Kingsberry said. "We hope the show will have a long run -- and keep him employed."

Whenever the telecast turned to the dramatic categories, the prevailing mood at the Bryant Park Grill seemed to relax, as the guests responded with non-invested enthusiasm. A huge cheer, the second-largest of the evening, went up when Bill Irwin took the prize for leading actor in a play, an award that had been widely expected to go to Brian O'Byrne of "Doubt." Ovations also went to Billy Crystal, and to Cherry Jones, who won for "Doubt."

But those were pale compared with the huge roar that greeted Butz's appearance -- finally -- in the winner's circle. There were audible "Awwws" when he mentioned his children and laughter when he thanked his father, Norbert, making a joke about being saddled with the same name.

But most of the evening was a seesaw: huge cheers whenever a "Scoundrels" nominee was announced -- for example, Sherie Rene Scott -- followed by silence when the competition prevailed -- in her case, Victoria Clark of "Piazza."

When "Monty Python's Spamalot" was announced as the top prizewinner, there was disappointment but little surprise in the room.

Everybody then headed for the bars and buffets, chatting happily and looking to be settling in for a long night of celebrating one win.

Meanwhile, the marketers for "Scoundrels" were planning this week's ads with the same irreverent, tongue-in-cheek spirit that had earlier characterized the campaign.

Look for an ad that shows the three leads -- Lithgow, Butz and Scott -- throwing money in the air with exuberance, with the line "Winner Best Musical 2005 Tony Award" in large print and underneath, in small letters, "(almost)."

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