Raining praise on an impressive B’way year

Backstage notes

This article was updated at 9:09 p.m.

“This was the first play my father took me to 20 years ago,” Liev Schreiber said of “Glengarry Glen Ross.” “I saw Joe Mantegna. I’m not afraid to say that I was ripping Joe off”

Schreiber, who was one of three actors from the David Mamet play in the category, said, “I took that as a great compliment and honor that there were so many of us in that category. I thought (“The Pillowman’s”) Michael Stuhlbarg was going to win.

“I have been so impressed with this season. In my life I don’t know when I’ve seen so many plays on Broadway.”

* * *

“I am just an Oscar and an Emmy away from being Rita Moreno, which I forgot to say onstage,” Billy Crystal said backstage.

Of his winning solo show “700 Sundays,” he said, “It is a very personal evening. The hardest thing I’ve ever done was getting the show to Broadway. The hardest thing is leaving.

“We’re talking about London,” he added. “We’re stopping June 12 (but) it is not ending. I am fascinated with taking it to the West End, and touring.”

However, he won’t be taking it to TV any time soon. “The show is still too new to me. Two hundred performances is a drop in the bucket. It is the purest form of theater and I don’t want to give it away to television.”

* * *

“Doubt” director Doug Hughes said backstage, “I know precisely what the priest did and did not do. (John Patrick) Shanley, (Brian F.) O’Byrne and I worked that out early on, and we’ve never told Cherry Jones and will never tell the women in the production. That is one of the gizmos of the production.”

Of the show, a transfer from Off Broadway and only his second show on Broadway, Hughes admitted, “It is highly unlikely that ‘Doubt’ would have opened cold on Broadway, unless it had several movie stars populating it.

“I often wondered how would Hitchcock have directed this play. It is a great suspense story. It is activated by a phenomenal story and sustaining suspense with double messages and quirks of behavior and a lingering glance.”

When Norbert Leo Butz sang the song “Great Big Stuff,” the word “ass” was missing. “It kept on going back and forth all day,” he said about the censors. “The producers of the Tonys and David Yazbek were wrangling up until the last hour, and I kept getting changes: ‘You can have an ass if we take away a hummer. You can take a shit if we take away a whatever.’ It was a little frustrating. It was my first experience with television censorship. I had so many different versions of the song in my head. I think I got through it without any swear words. I sort of mouthed the word ‘ass’. ”

* * *

Until Sunday night, it seemed “The Light in the Piazza” composer Adam Guettel was best known for being Richard Rodgers’ grandson. “I try not to worry about it too much,” Guettel said of that legacy. “I once had a dream. I asked him, ‘Am I any good?’ And he said, ‘You have your own voice.’ That’s the only conversation I’ve had with him about it.

“I’d love to be able to show it to him,” Guettel said of his Tony for original score (he shared the orchestration Tony with Ted Sperling and Bruce Coughlin).

Guettel (“It rhymes with metal and shtetl”) is the son of “Once Upon a Mattress” composer Mary Rodgers, said, “My mother was a very stern taskmaster — she taught me a lot about harmony. ‘You call that melody,’ she used to say. It was my mother who suggested I look at the ‘Light in the Piazza’ novella.”

Of his next project, he would say only, “It is a fairytale adventure and it has a lot of sword-fighting.” And he hopes it doesn’t take five years to write, as “Piazza” did.

* * *

Adriane Lenox won her Tony for one of the shorter appearances on Broadway. “My stage time is maybe 10, 12 minutes” in “Doubt,” she said.

A veteran of several musicals, she said, “It is the same process. But you don’t have the extra angst of singing on pitch. It is an easy gig relating to the amount of time I’m onstage. I come in an hour and 10 minutes into the show. It is like being shot out of a cannon.”

Producer Marty Richards said of his musical revival winner “La Cage aux Folles”: “It is more pertinent today than it was in 1983, and if anyone cares what they’re supposedly fighting for in Washington, D.C., (they should) realize that to support this show is more important than anything on Broadway. I don’t think Robert Goulet would have kissed a guy in 1983.”

* * *

“No one ever discouraged me,” Dan Fogler said of being an actor. “I’ve had a lot of support along the way.”

However, the featured actor in a musical winner did have a problem getting a tux for the kudocast. “Designers said we couldn’t fit your rotund tushie in that amount of time. The message is, if you have been nominated for a Tony and are of average height and weight, (great), but if you’re slightly chubby. … I want to start the Slightly Chubby Nominee Fund.”

* * *

Of press predictions that “Twelve Angry Men” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” would win the play revival Tony, Jeffrey Richards, producer of winning revival “Glengarry Glen Ross,” said: “It was a very tortured Friday. I am grateful we injected some suspense into the proceedings.”

* * *

Cherry Jones, who immediately mentioned Kathleen Turner in her onstage acceptance speech, expanded on her backstage: “She’s giving a magnificent performance. I got to see her opening night and she blew me away. I read the play once and thought about doing it, and I did it at Northwestern University at a summer program for high school students. I was 16.”

Asked why she never plays a romantic part, she said, “I did a play at New York Theater Workshop where I actually got to kiss a man, which was exciting and refreshing. Maybe in my 60s or 70s I’ll be able to do something really passionate.”

* * *

Since “The Light in the Piazza” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” won most of the awards early on, Mike Nichols admitted to being worried. “I sat there thinking, ‘We are in the toilet. This is backlash, big time.’ My friends and wife, we all agreed it was over. We were lucky. We should count our blessings. We were sold out for a year.”

* * *

Sara Ramirez‘s skin-tight Roberto Cavalli dress drew numerous comments, both onstage and off. She admitted, “I should have thought about tight it was before I sat in it for three hours.”

She also said she wasn’t a big Python fan before the show: “I had to go out and rent everything I could get my hands on before the audition. All I knew was that Mike Nichols was directing.

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