Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Tony Nominees Meet Each Other and Some Meet the Press At The Annual Post-Nomination Get Together

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“Mazel tov.” You could hear Ben Platt in the Sofitel Hotel corridor congratulate Jessica Hecht, both nominated for Tony Awards. She was leaving the press room at the annual “Meet the Nominees” event, and he was entering. Starring in one of the two most Jewish plays on Broadway—Platt plays Leo Frank in the stunning revival of “Parade”—he spoke about how important this musical was to him, having grown up actively Jewish, and especially now as antisemitism in America is not simply a thing of 1913.

The other most Jewish play is “Leopoldstadt,”, a brilliant work by Tom Stoppard, examining an unexplored piece of the playwright’s history in Nazi-occupied Europe. Both plays received multiple much-deserved nominations. No one from “Leopoldstadt” stopped to say hello, but that’s the way with the “Meet the Nominees” day, you never know who will come by. Best to take frequent bathroom breaks. The corridor may be where you will see Sean Hayes as he’s led off to be photographed. Or glimpse Jessica Chastain.

Or you may be lucky to get J. Harrison Ghee in blouse and midi skirt, with rhinestone-trimmed velvet slippers, looking divine as you would expect from the actor playing Daphne in “Some Like It Hot.” Dressed for the occasion, Ghee spoke of the joy of having the mother of a trans kid thank him for the representation. Or Beowulf Boritt, nominated for Best Scenic Design of a Musical, go into detail about how they spared no expense in the look of New York, New York: using the techniques of old school Broadway, they got a Ukrainian painter who had relocated to Amsterdam to hand paint 12 backdrops. Video would have been so much cheaper but the actors would not have looked as good. In my favorite scene, construction workers tap dance on a steel beam high above the street; the beam, he said, actually had a steel surface, so heavy it was a nightmare to get it on and off stage.

Of the African-American cast “Death of a Salesman,” Wendell Pierce gamely spoke about how Sharon D. Clarke’s Linda Loman could not be seen as a doormat or how, because of our ignorance about who can play this family, Ossie Davis or James Earl Jones or Harry Belafonte never got to play Willy Loman. Blacks see the micro and macro aggressions in this American dream cum nightmare with a twist, without changing a single word of Arthur Miller’s text, cringing, for example, when Willy has to pick up a paper off the floor in his much younger white boss’ office. “’Nooooo,’ screamed a woman in the balcony at one performance,” he recounted.

Clarke should have been nominated. Danielle Brooks should have been nominated for her role in “The Piano Lesson.” And Laura Linney should have been nominated alongside Jessica Hecht, who said that compared to Linney’s refined approach to acting in their two-hander, “Summer, 1976,” she felt like a caveman. But no one asked about the injustice of the awards. Instead, when asked, where was she when she heard about her Tony nomination, she replied, trying to meditate, she was under an LED light. The phone ringing off the hook was “ruining my anti-aging headspace.”

The Tony Awards air June 11 on CBS and Pluto TVm hosted– maybe — by Ariana DeBose.

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