“WHAT COMES NEXT”
Ladies and gents,
The theater world is one of the last great American institutions that manages to maintain both a true appreciation of its own history and a tremendous optimism about its future (the houses of congress, for example, fail on both counts). And so, it felt appropriate that the week heading into Tony Sunday was dominated by events that focused squarely on the new and the old: The Theatre World Awards, which recognizes performers making their New York stage debuts and the luncheon celebrating the new oral history of the American Theatre Wing’s first hundred years.
Now, I know we’ve all heard the familiar grumbles about Brits taking roles that could have gone to American actors, but I’m a firm believer in theatrical globalism. (Think of the money I saved on airfare and lodging because the National Theatre’s production of Angels in America came over intact!) So I was tickled that this year’s Theatre World Awards was as full-on British Invasion, with awards going to Angels cast-mates James McArdle and Denise Gough, Hello, Dolly’s Charlie Stemp, Harry Potter castmates Noma Dumezweni and Anthony Boyle, Hangmen’s Jonny Flynn, and Harry Hadden-Paton from My Fair Lady. Even the reigning queen of British theater Glenda Jackson was on hand to dole out the Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theater to Ben Edelman. America was, of course, also represented, most glitteringly by Victor Garber, who took home the John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. Theatrical statesman and noted silver fox Peter Filichia presided over the ceremony, as is tradition.
Later in the week, American Theatre Wing President Heather Hitchens hosted a luncheon for the community to applaud the release of the substantial new tome, American Theatre Wing, An Oral History: 100 Years, 100 Voices, 100 Million Miracles. This isn’t merely the history of one of the great arts non-profits, it’s also something of an American history, dating back to the Wing’s establishment doing the first World War by a group of suffragists, and going right up to 2017, its centennial year. My old frenemy Cindy Adams already scooped me on the book details, which features a who’s who of contributors from Angela Lansbury to Audra McDonald and was compiled and edited by Patrick Pacheco. It’s an essential read for anyone with interest in the performing arts.
The luncheon was held at Barbetta on an ideal spring day. Upon complimenting Renee Fleming on her outfit, she told me she spent all morning at the sewing machine, changing the original neckline of the dress. Upon complimented the aforementioned Ms. Adams on her hair, she told me, “This hair piece cost nine bucks, but the lady charged me $200 to come over and put it in!” Later I saw Patti LuPone and Ms. Fleming getting on like old school chums, while the Wing’s current and former chairmen, David Henry Hwang and William Ivey Long, embraced and giggled. Wing Trustee and book contributor Dale Cendali made some welcome remarks, revealing that she wrote her thesis paper on the Wing. Later, dulcet-toned SiriusXM host Julie James led a conversation with Hitchens and Pacheco. So moving was the chat that I noticed Tony nominated director Michael Arden wipe a tear or two.
In just a couple days, Broadway will have a new crop of immortals after the Tonys are handed out. Think of the history! Think of the future!
Tidbits from around town…
- Saw NBC star Mandy Moore buying a coffee and a bear claw from a food cart on 6th Avenue.
- Overheard Tig Notaro recounting the thrill of meeting Bill Clinton backstage at “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” in spite of his recent controversy.
- Spotted Ali Wentworth at Mary’s Marvelous in East Hampton.
- As always, a toast of something sparkling to you and yours!