Nikki M. James appears backstage at the 65th annual Tony Awards in New York. (Charles Sykes / Associated…)
Reporting from New York —
A red carpet on the Upper West Side for the Tony Awards doesn't look, sound or smell much like the one outside the Kodak Theatre for the Oscars.
This one ran along Amsterdam Avenue between 73rd and 74th streets. The people with the best views as the stars entered the back of the Beacon Theatre, where the Tonys were held, were the occupants of a senior citizens home. Offering only their first names, the elderly residents assessed and debated who looked the best and who was the nicest.
"Vanessa Redgrave was so glamorous to us," Bobby said.
Typically for a spring Sunday, traffic was tied up because of a street fair just north of the Beacon. So even before the stars of the night appeared, you could smell the chorizo frying and see vendors hauling huge vats of $1 pairs of white sweat socks up Broadway. Plus, crossing town was impossible because of Manhattan's annual chaos caused by the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
But Hollywood still made its presence felt on the red carpet, where several actors were asked about the conventional wisdom that the roster of nominees was intentionally missing some Hollywood heavies, such as "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe.
Neil Meron, a producer of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," said Radcliffe was gracious when the play's nine nominations were announced and he wasn't included. He expressed more concern for the cast and producers who might be let down that he was excluded. "I was moved more than surprised by his generosity," Meron said.
For everyone involved with "The Book of Mormon" it was a giddy night from beginning to end. Nikki M. James, who gave an exuberant speech after she won the Tony for best featured actress in a musical, was no less emotional and forthcoming backstage. She told reporters she was impressed to be in a show that broke all kinds of barriers. "I'm grateful they wrote a brown girl, a Disney princess, who is a brown girl in the show."
That said, she is among relatively few women in the show. "It's a boys' club," she said, especially backstage, where her dressing room is on the men's side. In keeping with a musical from the creators of "South Park," the atmosphere is loose. "I hear a lot of belching, people who go to the bathroom with the door open," she said. "I was really honored to be the only chick. It's sort of fun.... They're like my brothers."
And speaking of brothers, Kathleen Marshall, who won for choreography of the revival of "Anything Goes," walked the red carpet in front of her brother Rob, who directed the Oscar-winning film musical "Chicago" and the newest installment of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. She said that while growing up in Pittsburgh, their parents took them to every kind of performance — ballet, Shakespeare, sports — but their greatest love was musical theater.
"We're just so proud of each other," said Kathleen, who also directed "Anything Goes," which won the Tony for musical revival. As for brother Rob, it was all in the family. "This is my sister's night," he told reporters.
Daryl Roth, producer of "The Normal Heart," which won the Tony for play revival, said backstage that director George Wolfe and the cast had just two weeks of rehearsal to get ready because the producers were "anxious to get in under the Tony deadline."
One day there was "a load out (from the John Golden Theatre) of 'Driving Miss Daisy' and the next day a load in of 'The Normal Heart.'"
With "Normal Heart" winning three Tonys, Roth was asked if she thought that the play about the start of the AIDS epidemic would be made into a film. "I believe it will," she said. "It has been held up for many, many years.... It will be made, it should be made, it should be recorded."
Perhaps the most poignant moment backstage came from Mark Rylance, after winning the Tony for his lead role in "Jerusalem." He told reporters he always gets profoundly sad when he wins awards.
"I don't know why," he confessed. "I just do."