Vulture Goes Backstage at the Tony Awards

Photo: WireImage


At last night’s 62nd Annual Antoinette Perry "Tony" Awards, casts of the big winners — In the Heights, South Pacific, August: Osage County — were too busy collecting awards to make it backstage. But Vulture's Jada Yuan stole plenty of moments with bored and thirsty big-name presenters, many of whom wandered into the gift lounge in search of hooch, but wound up with carrots, spinach dip, and Nespresso instead. Below, a ticktock rundown of what you didn't see at home. Notice a pattern emerge.

6:48 p.m.: The red carpet is in full swing. Bobby Cannavale becomes the first of many harried actors to slip out of the barricades and into the street for a smoke break.

6:53 p.m.: Adam Duritz and Mary-Louise Parker arrive arm-in-arm. A murmur rushes through the press corps — the Broadway queens, not Us Weekly or People, who couldn’t care less. Are they an item?! Later observations of body language suggest no.

6:59 p.m.: We feel a wave of nostalgia sweeping over us as Daphne Rubin-Vega, Anthony Rapp, and Adam Pascal pass by. “It’s a Rent reunion!” Pascal tells us, then punctures the image of the cast still hanging out after all these years by telling us they’re came to perform a tribute for the show, which is about to close.

7 p.m.: Laurence Fishburne rushes inside with his absurdly beautiful wife, Gina Torres. “I came from a show, so I had no preparation,” he says. “Just 30 minutes.”

7:01 p.m.: A smiling Lin-Manuel Miranda approaches, swigging what looks like a glass of red wine. “It’s Diet Coke!” he says. “It was the closest thing to water we could find.” He says so far he’s not nervous. “Short a corsage, this is the best prom ever! All my friends are here. My girlfriend looks great. And at my actual prom, we didn’t have an after-party. We just ended up in the middle of nowhere in Long Island.” He also predicts that if he wins he’ll have to “pull out some rappity-raps. Not to show off. It’s just easier for me to rap than to talk. It comes out faster.”

7:04 p.m.: Martha Plimpton, nominated for Top Girls, sweeps by with her dad Keith Carradine. Plimpton had earlier kvetched about having issues finding a dress, but Carolina Herrera came to the rescue.

7:05 p.m.: Variety wants to know if Glenn Close will be coming to Broadway soon. “Gosh! I hope so! But not anytime soon. Because of Damages, I’ll be in TV for a while.”

7:06 p.m.: Robin De Jesús, Sonny from In the Heights, escorts his sister and mother, who flew from Puerto Rico to be there.

7:10 p.m.: De’Adre Aziza from Passing Strange, with her son Chi, laments having to perform a Sunday matinee that day. “I was like, ‘It’s my first red carpet and you’re giving me an hour to get ready? I’m a girl!’” she said. “I’m so nervous I’m sweating like R. Kelly on trial. I know he got acquitted, but I’m sure he was sweating real bad.” And though her cast has a reputation for being the party animals of Broadway, she said she’d be asleep by 1 a.m. “I don’t want to party until I drop because I’ve got eight shows next week. But Stew will party until someone’s like, ‘Yo, Stew, it’s Wednesday.’”

7:12 p.m.: Laura Bell Bundy says she’s presenting and then going straight to the beach. “If I don’t take a break, I can’t do my shows.”

7:20 p.m.: A cool and refreshed Kelli O’Hara tells us that South Pacific is so long she only had fifteen minutes after the matinee. What’s up with these evil producers making nominees perform on Tonys night? “Well, I have a feeling it’s probably about the dollar sign,” she says. “But it’s good for us because it brings us together as a company and then we head over here to celebrate that show, so it’s fresh in our minds.” Plus, she had just enough time to guzzle a glass of Champagne in her dressing room.

7:22 p.m.: O’Hara answers our burning question of the night: What’s the best shampoo to wash a man right out of your hair? “Kiehl's has a great avocado shampoo.” How many rinse and repeats does it take? “I’m not a good person to ask. I’ve never been able to get my husband out of my hair. As many times as I wash, he’s still there. At this point I’m gonna leave him in. It’s not worth it.”

7:35 p.m.: A blur of stars sweeps by: Bradley Whitford, Laura Linney, Alec Baldwin, and John Waters.

7:47 p.m.: Lions and tigers and giraffes from The Lion King stretch and pirouette, prepping for the opening number.

7:49 p.m.: Close grazes on carrots backstage, then leaves rather sullenly. A helpful staffer asks, “Did you get your alcohol?” “No,” Close laments. “It’s dry!”

7:52 p.m. Security clears the gift lounge so an enormous ramp can descend from the ceiling (it will lead The Lion King cast back to the street).

7:57 p.m.: Julie White attempts to get to the lounge but is thwarted by the ramp. “I was going to the green room to have a cocktail,” she says. “I figured I’d just watch the first number on TV.” The helpful staffer informs her that even if she could get to the green room, no cocktail would await. “What!? No cocktail!? I’m going back to my seat. I’ve had enough of my limited time as a Rockette.”

8:09 p.m.: The ramp lifts and the green room opens up again just as Rondi Reed from August: Osage County is accepting an award. Fishburne, hot off the stage from presenting an award, settles in with a plate full of chicken and shrimp skewers. “I’m not getting onstage again unless they call my name,” he says.

8:23 p.m.: John Lithgow wanders frantically through the green room, his hand over one ear, in search of a TV with decent sound.

8:28 p.m.: As Passing Strange does a medley onstage, Bundy settles in at a table and pulls a full arsenal of makeup out of her purse — compacts, lipstick, mascara — and applies it liberally. The whole procedure takes at least ten minutes.

8:32 p.m.: During a commercial break, “I Had the Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing blares on the loudspeakers.

8:36 p.m.: Another blur of famous people: Julie Chen, Harry Connick Jr., and Duncan Sheik. A staffer tells Sheik he looks relaxed. “Ah, fooled them again!” he snaps back.

8:41 p.m.: Lily Tomlin surfs the food tables and talks to anyone and everyone as a medley from Grease plays onscreen. “Why don’t they just make new [musicals] instead of recycling the old ones?” she says. “Although I say that as someone who thought South Pacific was terrific, especially for us young ones who weren’t around to see it in 1947.”

8:44 p.m.: Tomlin does an unconscious dance while watching Patti LuPone singing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

8:48 p.m.: The backstage fills with sailors getting ready for the South Pacific number.

8:52 p.m.: Kristen Chenoweth, en route to the stage, admits to nerves about the TelePrompTer. “I don’t like it! I’d much rather be playing a role. So I just pretend I’m playing the character of myself.” As for after-party plans, she says she’s going to the gala and calling it a night. “ I have to get on a plane at seven in the morning,” she says. “I feel like I never get to have any fun.”

8:58 p.m.: Backstage goes crazy when Miranda starts rapping his acceptance speech. Especially the part where he thanks his girlfriend for “loving me when I was broke and making breakfast.”

9 p.m.: Mary-Louise Parker faces the terrifying decision of whether to enter the gift lounge via the ramp or via the stairs while tottering on mile-high heels. She chooses the stairs.

9:08 p.m.: Brooke Shields stands in the makeup area, frantically reading names to herself off a crumpled piece of paper. “It’s written out all weirdly phonetic!” She is visibly panicked. “And I messed up earlier today pronouncing the names!” A makeup artists slaps foundation on her arms. Shields guzzles an entire bottle of Fiji water without ever touching the bottle to her lips. Then she jumps up and down and does breathing exercises.

9:11 p.m.: Everyone laughs as Laura Benanti calls her mother the anti–Mama Rose.

9:14 p.m.: Marisa Tomei comes backstage to sign fifteen commemorative posters to auction off for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS.

9:17 p.m.: Parker reveals why she’s been walking so funny all night. “They’re pretty horrendous shoes, but I also have a broken toe. I was doing a love scene and I cracked it on the bed,” she says. “I was walking backwards and my toe went in between the mattress and the bed frame. On the first take. There was some walking and falling and flailing — a lot going on. But I guess if you’re gonna break your toe, you might as well be having fun.”

9:18 p.m.: Tomei is in a panic. She’s going onstage in minutes, and her escort has gone missing. “Where’s my person?” she asks, frantically. Then the helpful staffer who comes to her rescue trips over her dress.

9:23 p.m.: Gabriel Byrne is accosted by a staffer who is also a fan while he feasts on carrots. “There’s not a woman in L.A. who isn’t mad for you!” the staffer says, fawning. Then she notices his food choice. “Oh, I can do better than carrots. Live dangerously! Try a tomato!” Byrne acquiesces.

9:24 p.m.: Byrne shakes off the staffer and grabs a Nespresso. He, too, seems to have lost his escort. “I have no idea when I’m supposed to go on,” he says. “I guess I could just keep poking my head out after every award. Everyone will say, ‘Who’s that idiot who keeps popping his head out?’ But of course I know a lot of people out there, so then they’ll say, ‘Why does that idiot keep popping his head out?”

9:50 p.m.: Alec Baldwin sits by a fan in the makeup chair, sweat dripping down the back of his neck. A makeup artist asks him if he wants some powder. “No,” he sighs. “Nothing can help me now.”

9:53 p.m.: Baldwin runs into Daniel Radcliffe. Baldwin: “Good luck on your show.” Radcliffe: “Well, hopefully it won’t be crap!”

9:54 p.m.: Radcliffe then goes rapturous about “the fellow who won for In the Heights. That speech was brilliant. But I think the rapping indicates he thought he might win. There’s no way he didn’t write that down beforehand.”’

10:01 p.m.: Close comes backstage again, this time to get ready to present. “Last time I was in search of booze,” she says. “I should have known they wouldn’t give us any. Actors are too dangerous when we drink.”

10:09 p.m.: Panicked staffers clear the room. Liza Minnelli is coming through.

10:12 p.m.: Whoopi Goldberg, in a silver ruffled shirt, rushes backstage and straight for a man with a plate of chips who has clearly been summoned to meet her. “It’s all about the chips,” she says. “These are the best things in the world.” Will the chip man follow her throughout the show? “He will now!” she says. “It’s the end of the show. I’m not just gonna have the chips onstage. I’m gonna eat them while I talk. It’s been two months since I took this job. Look, I stayed skinny as long as I could.”

10:18 p.m.: The entire backstage fills with August: Osage County people, hugging furiously.

10:22 p.m.: Producer Harvey Weinstein is beaming. “This is the best part, winning this award,” he says. “I promised it to my daughter. The Oscars went to the oldest, the British Film Academy awards went to the middle one, and the Tonys go to the youngest.”

10:29 p.m.: David Hyde-Pierce comes backstage to get his face powdered. Claims Lin-Manuel Miranda copped his style: “Actually, I’ve been rapping my speeches for years.” Up next? Naps, he says. “Curtains closes in two weeks. My plan is to lie down. Give my feet some rest. I went straight from Spamalot to Curtains. They don’t know what it’s like to stop dancing.”

10:35 p.m.: Overheard: Staffers bitching about Marisa Tomei bitching about her uncomfortable footwear. “Suck it up! Mary-Louise Parker broke her toe and her heels are a mile high. And Brooke Shields had both her feet wrapped in bandages. She told me she just had bunions and a hammer toe done.”

10:40 p.m.: Richard Griffiths scours the backstage area in search of someone who knows where the Shubert party is. “I’m not going to the Tony Ball, that’s for sure,” he says. “I went last year and it was dreadful. They told me I only had to stay an hour and that’s how long it took to get in. And then I had to stand around and get my picture taken with all manner of people I wouldn’t even talk on a normal day.” He looks ready to keel over. “This is a desperate night for me,” he says. “I made it to the can just in time. I flew across the Atlantic for this? I can’t smoke. I’m married, so it’s not like I’m having all sorts of sex. And I haven’t had a drink in two years. Okay, since yesterday.”

10:48 p.m.: Photographers make bets on the big categories. $5 for Tom Wopat in A Catered Affair to win Best Actor in a Musical. $10 on Patti Lupone. “Though Kelli O’Hara might get it. She was on Taxi TV.”

11:02 p.m.: Lin-Manuel Miranda enters the elevator, Tony in hand. Hallway bursts into applause.

11:04 p.m.: The theater empties out. Crowd heads across the street to the Tony Gala on the skating rink of Rockefeller Center.

11:30 p.m.: Laura Benanti fields congratulations left and right. “I’ve been trying to find my family, but their phones are off and I was calling them, but no one was responding,” she says. “I’m clutching my Tony, like, ‘No one can take it from me!’ But they will take it from me to engrave my name in it. I’m like, ‘I’ll just scratch it in myself. Don’t touch it!’ I haven’t let go all night. I’ve been playing with it. I’ve been weighing it. Trying to figure out if I can make it into a necklace or a very cool hat. I was joking with Boyd. He has four Tony awards. He can make a coffee table.”

11:35 p.m.: After a prolonged struggle at the bar, Benanti gets a glass of champagne. “One of these and I’ll be blitzed,” she says. “Patti, Boyd, and I joke that we’re the old people on broadway. We’ve never gotten crazy together. This is the night! Honestly, we could share a glass of champagne and we’d all be done.”

11:45 p.m.: Lily Tomlin skips to the front of the buffet line, while Robin de Jesús waits patiently in line. “Oh man,” says Jesus. “It was like a little gay boy’s dream. I’m going to give Lin-Manuel a noogie and a big hug. A masculine hug. Nothing too homoerotic.”

12:30 p.m.: S. Epatha Merkerson and Mary McCormack chow down, barefooted. “My feet are killing me,” says Merkerson.

1:00 a.m.: The cast of Rent files out. Are they going to a Rent afterparty? “I don’t know what we’re doing,” Taye Diggs tells us. Then turns to someone who isn’t a reporter: “We’re going to the In the Heights afterparty.”

1:05 a.m.: Oskar Eustis arrives at the ball. “I was at the Passing Strange party already. Been there, done that.”

1:07 a.m.: Martha Plimpton’s car speeds off to the Red Eye Grill, where August: Osage County is having their afterparty. A theater reporter earlier told us that it was the party to be at. “Those Steppenwolf people are animals!”

1:30 a.m.: Despite Eustis’s promises or a rocking good time, the Passing Strange party at Touch is on its last legs. De’Adre Aziza’s son Chi is asleep on her lap, and Stew is nowhere to be seen.

2:00 a.m.: The In the Heights afterparty at Hudson Terrace proves exceedingly difficult to get into. We are apparently the seven-thousandth crasher to flash our credentials trying to get in. “Nice try,” security tells us when we flash our card.

2:30 a.m.: The night ends at Florent, where we savor the last bit of normalcy left in the Meat Packing district. If all good things must come to an end, at least we know the Broadway musical is alive and well.


Related: Party Lines: 62nd Annual Tony Awards [NYM]