Winners look to next project, performance

Backstage at the 60th annual Tony Awards

Cynthia Nixon, the “Sex and the city” thesp who won the Tony for actress in a play, has another play on her plate: an Off Broadway production of “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” with the helmer who directed her in “The Women,” Scott Elliott. What about a tuner? “I’m a big musical fan, and I’m taking singing lessons,” Nixon allowed. “Maybe FAR in the future.” First, though, she’s looking forward to the evening’s celebratory bash. “I intend to be the last person at the party!”

* * *

Michael David and his producing company, the Dodgers, have had their ups and downs. Downs include “Good Vibrations,” the flop Beach Boys musical. Ups include Sunday’s Tony for tuner “Jersey Boys.” “You take ’em one at a time,” he said. “But I state the obvious to say it’s more fun to be around a hit than not.” Next up for the Dodgers, a “wacko” — David’s word — version of “The Wiz” to be directed by “Jersey” helmer McAnuff.

* * *

Nicholas Hytner, who won as director of a play for “The History Boys,” thinks New York needs a national, state-funded theater — just like London’s National Theater, of which Hytner is artistic director. “Our government gives £400 million ($736 million) a year to the performing arts, and every bit of it is well spent!” he declared backstage — and then apologized for his outburst. “I’m sorry, that was a bit of a rant.”

Hytner said he thinks New York theater triumphs are equally exciting when they travel to London, but said British celebration of American transplants is never as loud as Stateside plaudits for Blighty shows. “We’re much more tight-assed than you are,” he remarked dryly.

Meanwhile, featured actress winner Frances de la Tour, the only woman in “History Boys'” cast, revealed the secret nickname the boys have given her. “I’ve become ‘J. Lo,'” she said. “I can’t imagine why.”

* * *

Ah, underfunded theater. A lack of cash — according to John Doyle, the Tony-winning helmer of “Sweeney Todd” — can lead to invention and innovation. For instance: Having your actors double as orchestra, an approach that has become Doyle’s signature (and will be seen on Broadway again when his staging of “Company” arrives this fall). “It’s a theatrical style that’s grown out of no cash,” he said. And believe it or not, it’s no problem finding thesps to play all that music. “People come in with shopping trolleys full of instruments. And can play them!”

Still: “I’m not recommending not having any money,” he quipped.

* * *

Alan Bennett is beginning to worry it’s not quite equitable that “History Boys,” for which he won the play trophy, took home so many awards. “It almost seems unfair to be given prizes for something we’ve had such a good time doing,” he said.

Still, doing the play for two years — as the cast has, including a London run and a U.K. tour, plus the filming of a movie version before the Broadway incarnation — does take its toll on the boys. “It’s taken two years out of their lives. They’ve begun to think they’re middle-aged.”

Is he writing another play? “I wish I was,” he said. Instead, he’s spending a lot of time responding personally to letters sent to him about his recent memoir.

* * *

A lot of people thought “Sweeney Todd” was going to score the tuner revival kudos. They thought wrong. “I’m a half-empty kinda guy,” said Todd Haimes, a.d. of the Roundabout, which produced the actual winner, “The Pajama Game.” “Everybody seemed so infatuated by ‘Sweeney Todd.’ I didn’t think we would get it. But we deserve it.”

And what about plans to bring “Pajama Game” back in the fall for a commercial run? Surely a Tony must help those prospects, right? Commercial producer Jeffrey Richards was cagier than one might expect. “We’re in the process of exploring Broadway and a national tour at this point,” was all he said.

* * *

When the four Canadian natives who make up the creative team of “The Drowsy Chaperone” — Don McKellar and Bob Martin (book) and Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison (music and lyrics) — arrived backstage after receiving their Tonys, there was a whole lot of Canadian pride going around: flag-waving, pronouncing about “aboot,” etc. But where would the Man in Chair, the lonely New York theater queen Martin plays in “Drowsy,” put a Tony if he received one? “He would probably strap it to his head,” Martin said.

* * *

“Jersey Boys'” Christian Hoff gets the award for most humbled, most inspiring, most earnest winner of the evening. (Oh, he also picked up a trophy for supporting actor in a tuner — one of the evening’s few surprise wins.) Backstage, Hoff thanked his second wife, who came into his life and the life of his two children just when she was desperately needed, he said. He also thanked his father, who always told him to do everything whole-heartedly. “Actually, his comments were, don’t do anything half-assed,” Hoff admitted.

The win came as a surprise to Hoff, too. “I didn’t prepare a speech,” he said. “My celebration is the role that I get to play. I’m looking forward to Tuesday night, when I can get back on that stage again.”

* * *

John Lloyd Young, holding his actor in a tuner Tony for his portrayal of Frankie Valli in musical winner “Jersey Boys,” trumpeted the bonding between him and the other three Seasons. “Brotherhood is really a theme backstage, and it has to be, in a show like this. And (helmer) Des McAnuff specializes in staging male bonding. He’s like a quarterback.”

What’s next for Young? “I’d love to originate my next role,” he said. (Young took over from another actor when “Jersey” moved from the La Jolla Playhouse to the Rialto.) “But right now, there’s an audience that is chomping at the bit for this show.”

Among those chomping is Laura Bush — the four Jersey Boys were skedded to get on a plane at 1:30 a.m. today to go to Washington, D.C., to perform for Bush and a slew of senators’ wives at the first lady’s annual luncheon.

* * *

When Alan Cumming sang the word “fuck” during the excerpt from nominated revival “The Threepenny Opera,” a great big gasp was let out by the live aud in Radio City Music Hall. Is there a call from the FCC coming? Nope. TV viewers didn’t hear it — those quick-fingered CBS censors pushed the mute button just in time.

* * *

Thesp Beth Leavel, the featured actress in a tuner winner, plays a dragon-lady diva in “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Is there any similarity between her and her character? “No,” she replied instantly. And then relented: “I’m sure there is, which is scary. I so easily access her, I’m beginning to wonder.”

* * *

The redemption of Brian Friel’s “Faith Healer,” which flopped on Broadway in its 1979 preem (it closed after 20 perfs), continued with a featured actor in a play trophy for Ian McDiarmid. He stars alongside (sort of) Ralph Fiennes and Cherry Jones in the hit revival of the series of monologues. “When we got to our 21st performance, I suggested we put up a sign that said, ‘Broadway Record Smashed!’ ” McDiarmid said.

* * *

“Jersey Boys” helmer Des McAnuff said he aims to spend his Tony night focusing on the big wins for that musical, but soon he’ll turn his attention to one of his upcoming projects, “The Wiz,” which starts performances at the La Jolla Playhouse in September. “We’re really setting it in 2006,” he said. “You just add a house beat to the soundtrack, and you have contemporary R+B. We’re doing naughty things to the theater.”

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