To Helen Mirren’s many roles, add Broadway fairy godmother, as Cherry Jones discovered when she was starring in in The Heiress, back in 1995.
“I was in the shower at the Court Theater, for The Heiress. And I heard this gorgeous English voice come into my dressing room and talk to my dresser,” the Broadway actress told Vulture at the Roundabout Theatre’s gala on Monday. “And when I got out of the shower, I said, ‘Who was that?’ And she said it was Helen Mirren,” Jones said, laughing. “I said, ‘What?!’ And on a spiral-notebook page was this piece of paper from Helen saying that she was initiating ‘Broadway dish night,’ at Un Deux Trois, after the show on Thursday nights. And that first night there were 12 of us, and I can tell you who was there, including Eileen Atkins and Matthew Broderick and Robbie Baitz and Joe Mantello, and this whole interesting mix.”
The actors continued to meet for the next six Thursday nights up until the Tony Awards. “By the last Thursday, it went from 12 to about 250 people,” Jones recalled. “I remember that last Thursday, Tom Stoppard was there. And it was just ‘cause Helen, you know, said, ‘Let’s all get together.’’’
That year was also Mirren’s Broadway debut, but she immediately became the queen of the stage community. “The first night I rode up on my bicycle, in front of Un Deux Trois, and I looked in, and I saw Helen Mirren and Eileen Atkins sitting there,” Jones said. “I was too shy to come in; you know, it was my first big job on Broadway. And Helen somehow saw me on the street and waved me in.”
To Mirren, the Roundabout’s honoree on Monday, her little weekly salon wasn’t so momentous. “It was just a gathering of people who were on Broadway, who maybe wanted to hang out together, because, you know, so many of us are friends, and we’re all in different theaters, so I thought it would be really nice if we could all get together,” Mirren told Vulture. “It started up with just, like, eight of us or something, and then different people from different shows would come, and it ended up [being] this huge thing on Thursday nights,” she said. “It’s funny.”