Broadway Stars Love ‘In the Heights’ for the Tonys

The Spring Awakening girls last night. From left, Lilli Cooper, Jenna Ushkowitz, Remy Zaken, Lauren Pritchard, Phoebe Strole, Eryn MurmanPhoto: FilmMagic

Rent vet Anthony Rapp and Xanadu roller-stud Cheyenne Jackson gazing deeply into each other's eyes as they sing "Suddenly Seymour" from Little Shop of Horrors? That and more was standard fare last night at the American Airlines Theater during Broadway Backwards, the annual benefit for the Gay Community Center where theater A-listers mix up the gender roles on beloved show tunes. At the after-party, we asked a bunch of the performers for their Tony picks, even though the awards aren't till June and many likely nominees (A Catered Affair, Cry-Baby) haven't even opened yet.

Jackson pointed to the "twice snubbed, third time's the charm" rule to predict that his Xanadu co-star Kerry Butler will finally nab a nom this year (she was overlooked in past years for Hairspray and Little Shop of Horrors.) He thought A Catered Affair, opening here in mid-April with Faith Prince and Harvey Fierstein after its San Diego run, would score a bid — "it's a small, critics' darling-type show," he said — and added that he was personally rooting for In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop- and salsa-inflected tale of life up by the George Washington Bridge, opening March 9.

And guess who agreed with him? Most of the girls of Spring Awakening. "We're glad that we didn't open the same year on Broadway," Lilli Cooper said of In the Heights, which at this time last year was running Off Broadway. "Yeah, when we went to the Lucille Lortel Awards last year, they got a lot of awards," added Remy Zaken.

She wasn't alone. "I'm putting my money on In the Heights," said The Ritz funnyman Seth Rudetsky, the benefit's manic host. "My mother hates rap, but she loved the show, so you have to market it right and don't highlight the hip-hop in the commercial," he said. "It's going to be up for Best Choreography, Lin-Manuel for Best Actor, Best Writer — it's gonna sweep!" —Tim Murphy