LONDON — While one production after another was calling it quits in London — “Fuddy Meers” and “The Shape of Things” will be gone by the time you read this and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” follows not far behind — some in the English theater had escaped to a more festive Broadway: Festive, that is, for “one night only,” to coopt the title of the 2004 Tony Awards ceremony’s opening song.
Indeed, you can always spot the Britons, come Tony night: They’re the ones who can’t quite believe that the Broadway razzmatazz — scoff though one might (and many do) — can be quite so seductive.
That was one theme being sounded June 6 at the awards after-party, which found Strands displaced to New York to seek the British point of view. Designer Mark Thompson, for instance, has had six Olivier noms (with four wins) and two Tony nods, including this year for his “Bombay Dreams” costumes.
“When I won my Oliviers, that was back in the good old days when there was a proper function,” Thompson said. “Now, you’re lucky if you get some warm white wine and a bit of a cold sandwich chucked at you. London has much to learn from how they do things here,” he said, surveying the Rockefeller Center gala. “It is fabulously expensive and fabulously glamorous.”
“Taboo’s” 26-year-old star, Euan Morton, said the Radio City extravaganza marked his ninth Tony-related shindig, and the Scottish performer didn’t seem entirely sure whether to be exultant or appalled: “It’s ‘the Tony this’ and ‘the Tony that,’ and you get free gifts: There’s so much more money here than there is in the theater in Britain.”
He went on: “I don’t believe any actor needs $3,000 a week; that’s disgusting money.” (Try telling that to your average agent.) “No show should cost $12 million,” he continued.
On the other hand, Morton pointed out, in New York, “The community takes its theater much more seriously: The Oliviers are bastardized on TV and ignored by the community of actors in Britain; they’re really not that special back home.” Unless you win one, of course.
Morton agreed that his category — actor in a musical — this year was not too competitive, with Hugh Jackman‘s turn as Peter Allen pretty much the evening’s only dead cert. “I’ve seen Hugh do his job three times, and he was the best of the five of us. And that’s just the honest truth,” Morton said.
Sounding a similar refrain about the Great White Way’s grim costs was the winning featured actor in a play, Brian F. O’Byrne (of “Frozen”). “It’s about money, money, money, money and more money,” the Irish thesp said. “This industry is not about being nice. This is currency; this is serious business.”
Playwright Bryony Lavery, a first-time Tony nominee for her drama “Frozen,” noted: “(The Tony show) was terribly bizarre, because I was surrounded by Americans, and American stars, and suddenly I was sitting in the middle of something I’ve seen from about 5,000 miles away.
“It was completely wonderful, in a kind of ‘Wizard of Oz’ way,” she added, though presumably that doesn’t mean she favored “Wicked.” “I felt on an entirely different entertainment planet.”
Speaking of entertainment planets, several observers were heard to wonder whether Jefferson Mays is English, given the measured cadences and refined vowels with which he speaks. (Not to mention the oh-so-English act of transvestitism that more or less defines “I Am My Own Wife.”)
The answer: Mays, 38, in fact hails from a small Connecticut town called Clinton, in between New London and New Haven. And what next for him, once his stint as Charlotte von Mahlsdorf has run its course? “I don’t know,” mused Mays, speaking at “Own Wife’s” separate after-party. And then he laughed: “Something in trousers?”