How would you celebrate a Tony nomination? Whoopi Goldberg, who’s up for Best Musical as part of the team behind Sister Act, told EW she “worked like a dog and then did Jimmy Kimmel and The Joy Behar Show.” First-time Best Featured Actor in a Musical nominee Rory O’Malley of The Book of Mormon partied in the stairwell with costars and fellow nominees Andrew Rannells (pictured) and Josh Gad, while The Motherf—er with the Hat playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis ate pork and met Darryl Strawberry.
There were lots of stories like these being bandied around on Wednesday at the Tony Awards: Meet the Nominees press reception — along with hugs and congrats and the kind of overall good vibe you might only get from folks who aren’t usually recognized on the street. The mood turned somber whenever anyone mentioned Daniel Radcliffe (who was unexpectedly left out of the Best Actor in a Musical category for his turn in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying). But his nominated colleagues tell fans not to despair: Last night, Daniel was more concerned about how they were feeling and didn’t want any guilt around the theater. “He’s very special,” says producer Neil Meron. “He sets the tone,” adds Best Featured Actress in a Musical contender Tammy Blanchard. “It’s bittersweet.”
Other talk revolved around future projects. Besides promoting his upcoming Winnie the Pooh revamp for Disney, Book of Mormon co-writer (and nominee for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score) Robert Lopez is heading west to help co-nominees Trey Parker and Matt Stone with a South Park episode and fielding offers to turn several films into plays (none of which he’s interested in). What films would he adapt? Goonies (“If we could recreate the cave”), Joe Versus the Volcano, or Defending Your Life (“but Albert Brooks won’t give me the rights”). Past winner and current nominee Laura Benanti (Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) is waiting to see if her NBC pilot, Playboy, gets picked up (she finds out next week) and preparing for two hush-hush stage projects (that one is a play and one is a musical is all she can confirm).
The happiest chat of all though concerned The Scottsboro Boys, the stunning musical that closed way too prematurely in December yet still managed to snag 12 nominations (second in number only to Book of Mormon’s 14). The producers, cast, and crew (and many fellow nominees) talked of the coup as a validation — and a vindication — of the musical, which just announced it will premiere on the West Coast next year. Says Best Featured Actor in a Musical hopeful Colman Domingo, “I wish Oprah would host the show. She could give all the Tony nominees a car. ‘You get a car! You get a car! Your show reopens! Your show reopens!’”
Yet, overall, the nominees on hand were eager to talk about how they found out they were in the running for Broadway’s highest award or what they did afterwards (or both). Read it in their own words below.
Casey Nicholaw, Nominated for Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography for The Book of Mormon: I went to the theater [that night]. Our theater — I wasn’t like “Oh, we’ve been nominated I think I’m going to sit the dark and see something else.” And everyone was there early, which cracked me up. They were just so excited to see each other and acknowledge what we’ve gone through and all of that. And then we had a party afterwards and everyone drank and ate pizza.
Rory O’Malley, Nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for The Book of Mormon: I was watching it live because wanted to see my friends get nominated. When Andrew [Rannells, pictured] and Josh [Gad]’s names were announced, that’s when I really lost it. We celebrated in the stairwells before the show that night. When I got the first phone call to do the reading three years ago, I literally brought my copy of Team America the first day. I was like, “If nothing else, I will get this signed.” So it’s win-win — a Tony nomination and a DVD signed.
Tammy Blanchard, Nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: I was in bed with my little girl. She threw her arm around me and woke me up at 8:30 a.m. And I was like, “Oh, no, I wanted to sleep this morning away,” because I was sure the competition was stiff and it wouldn’t happen. So I started praying for strength for the day and gratitude for the job. Then my cell phone started ringing and I was like, “Oh, that’s my manager saying, ‘You’ll get ‘em next time, kiddo.’” But then my house phone started ringing, and nobody’s house phone rings anymore. So, I was like “Oh my God!” I started crying and my little girl was looking at me like I was insane. And I said, “Mommy just got nominated for a Tony, honey.” She was like, “What does that mean?” And I said, “Well, it may be easier to get work and we’ll be going to Toys ‘R’ Us.”
Lily Rabe, Nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play for The Merchant of Venice: I’d slept in. My mother’s [Oscar nominee Jill Clayburgh, who died last November] memorial was on Monday, so it was a very profound 48 hours for me. I thought it would be best to just turn my phone off and get some rest. When I turned it on, my voice mail was full and I had a lot of emails and texts coming in so my phone was making a lot of noises at me.
Mackenzie Crook, Nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for Jerusalem: I was waking up in my apartment with wife and my kids. I hadn’t checked the time and I wasn’t waiting online. Everyone was over the moon, of course, but it feels a bit strange that two of the actors out of a cast of 15 have been pulled out. It’s such a big ensemble cast. Obviously, Mark [Rylance, who is also nominated] leads the whole thing and we are supporting him, so for me to be plucked out of that ensemble feels a little odd. So there wasn’t a leaping about screaming and shouting. It was very low key. We got a cake that said “Huge F—ing Congratulations” on it.
Neil Meron, Nominated for Best Revival of a Musical for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: We went to the theater last night and we popped champagne and we had treats. I saw our play and I sat there cheered with everyone else. The original How to Succeed was the first Broadway play I ever saw, so I have a deep emotional attachment to it. Not that it’s going to change anything, but I think that the outrage [over Daniel Radcliffe’s lack of a nomination] signifies how much love there is for him and support there is for his performance. So it’s not actually a nomination, but it is a gigantic acknowledgement of his achievement.
Robert Lopez, Nominated for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score Written for the Theatre for The Book of Mormon: I was having a tea party with my daughters. We had some chocolate milk in plastic teacups and some M&Ms. It was different from the first time I was nominated [in 2004 for Avenue Q], when I had to drag myself out of bed to take a shower and I just kept thinking about how ungodly an hour it was. Now with kids I wake up at six everyday.
Arian Moayed, Nominated for Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo: I was at home watching it online like a dork. I wasn’t expecting it, to be honest. I was thinking about other things and then it happened. My mother’s Iranian, so the whole thing is new to her. I called her and I was like “I got nominated for a Tony.” And then she’s like “blahhhh.” Then later she’s goes “I think you’re gonna win,” and I’m like “Can we just talk about the nomination right now?” Then I spoke to her again later in the day and she’s like “You should do a movie after this,” and I’m like “Can we just be happy right now?”
Adam Godley, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for Anything Goes: It feels awful. It’s terrible. It’s boring. It’s dull. Whatever. No, it’s kind of fabulous. It’s such a celebration here. It’s different in the UK. It’s wonderful here: We all slave away in rehearsals, have sleepless nights of self doubt, and then do the show. Then the show gets recognized and people start nominating you for awards — it’s icing on the cake.
Andrew Rannells, Nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for The Book of Mormon: I watched the nominations live. I wish I had a better, cooler answer, but I did watch it. You’d think [producer] Scott Rudin with all his success would be more jaded, but no, he came backstage and was so excited. He stayed with us for a half hour. There was all this hugging and crying and chatting and laughing. He was as excited as we were. You would have thought it was his first time. I think that’s why this show has so much heart — because it starts from the top as they say.
Hannah Yelland, Nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play for Brief Encounter: I was in D.C. and had to get everything together to come up today, so I haven’t been able to celebrate, but I certainly will do. It’s just been so fast this whole thing. It’s been so quick. It would be a shock for anyone. But I have a one in five chance, hey?
Forrest McClendon, Nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for The Scottsboro Boys: I was totally surprised. You think to yourself that it’s a great play and what you’re doing is very important and you’re feeling like you’re having a love fest and then your show closes and you wonder if it’s just you. Then you get 12 nominations and you’re like, “It’s not just us.” I was driving to a rehearsal in New Jersey and my phone started buzzing. I didn’t pick up any of the calls and then I look down and I saw a call from Colman and he doesn’t usually call me first thing in the morning and I’m like, “Something’s going on.” So I picked up and he said, “Pull over.”
Colman Domingo, Nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for The Scottsboro Boys: I was in a hotel room in Los Angeles and I watched the live feed on my computer. I called Forest right away. I was like “Pull over. PULL OVER. Tony nominee Forest McClendon, you need to pull over! Nearest exit, get off now.” Do we feel validated a little bit? Just a little.
Nikki M. James, Nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for The Book of Mormon: I was in bed pretending to sleep. I was too nervous to get up and get out of bed. So I was not sleeping, laying in the dark, and the phone rang and my good friend, who’s a fellow cast member told me. We’d also made our Broadway debut together in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which only lasted 21 shows, so it was fitting. Then I jumped up and down and called my mother and freaked out and went on the Internet.
Laura Benanti, Nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: I didn’t watch it. I was on the couch eating cereal when my mom called me. It never gets old to be nominated. In this company of actors? If that got old, I’m kind of a jerk. This nomination feels exceptionally exciting because our show did end early and was criticized. It absolved some of the hurt that was involved in opening a show that I feel was harshly judged.
Stephen Adly Guirgis, Nominated for Best Play for The Motherf—er with the Hat: I was watching on TV with my dog. When I heard the play was nominated, I didn’t have any reaction. Then I heard that my friends Bobby Cannavale, Yul Vazquez, and especially Elizabeth Rodriguez were nominated, and I had a nice cry. That opened the door for me to feel good about the whole thing. I went to the theater and it was Bobby’s birthday. It was a boy’s only thing. We went over to this restaurant and Darryl Strawberry was there, who was like a childhood idol of mine. That was wild. And Chris [Rock] came along too. And Louis CK and guys that I’ve known forever. We ate ribs and stank up the place like stinky men then went home.