Backstage at the Tony Awards

Winners talk about being the toast of Broadway

“I did tell Jack O’Brien that if he wanted to a do a musical of this, I think ‘Serfs Up’ would be a good title,” Tom Stoppard cracked after his win for “The Coast of Utopia,” his saga about Russian intellectuals in the 19th century.

The play, produced in Gotham by Lincoln Center Theater, is gearing up for a Russian production, and there’s interest in a French incarnation as well, Stoppard said.

“Coast” was more of a sweeping success Stateside than it was in its U.K. preem at the National. “Well, I had four years to think about it,” Stoppard explained. “I made the thing clearer, and I made the narrative swifter.”

Stoppard’s next Rialto project is a transfer of his play “Rock ‘n’ Roll.” His next writing project? “I don’t write at all until I get bitten by something, and then I only write,” he said. “I was hoping to write something this summer, but I haven’t got any ideas. Do you have any?”

* * *

“I heard that ‘juh’ sound, and I went, ‘Nuh-uh!’ ” said Julie White about her win for lead actress in a play over greats such as Angela Lansbury and Vanessa Redgrave. “I didn’t go to acting school, you know?”

She’s at work now on “Cavemen,” the ABC sitcom based on the Geico Neanderthals.

* * *

“Spring Awakening” has officially conquered the Tonys; now comes the world.

According to producer Ira Pittelman, a national tour is in the works, along with potential productions in England, Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Japan, South Korea and Australia, among other countries.

The producers are finding that the show’s racy subject matter isn’t as much of a turnoff to presenters as they thought it would be.

“People want to see this show,” Pittelman said, explaining that among the auds in Gotham are mothers who have brought their daughters and fathers who have brought their sons. “In our own crazy way, we’re becoming a family show.”

* * *

Twenty-two-year-old John Gallagher Jr. was a little overwhelmed by his first Tony win. “Feeling doesn’t really enter into it yet, because I can’t feel anything right now. Including my arms,” he said.

Gallagher said he’s contracted with “Spring Awakening” through November but may well stay longer. He added that he learned, from a longtime friend of “Spring Awakening” book writer Steven Sater, that Gallagher is actually playing Sater as a teenager.

“We feel like the two Moritzes,” Gallagher said.

* * *

Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater — winners of the score trophy, not to mention Sater’s win for lyrics — talked a bit about why they think people respond so strongly to their tuner “Spring Awakening.”

“We began work on this show after the Columbine shootings,” Sater said. “We had a strong determination to reach youth everywhere,” he added.

“People were ready for something with teeth,” Sheik said.

The rock composer, however, was a little distressed over another matter. “My mom came tonight, and I didn’t thank her,” he lamented. “It’s a disaster!”

* * *

In the press room, the lead actor in a tuner award actually caused a rare stir — because David Hyde Pierce‘s win for his role in “Curtains” was one of the few real surprises of the night. Everyone believed Hyde Pierce was a worthy candidate, but most legiters expected the nod to go to Raul Esparza for “Company.”

“I expected to be more together than I was,” said Hyde Pierce, a veteran awards winner for his work on national television. “This meant more to me than I realize.”

Then he teared up and apologized for it. “Somebody ask a funny question,” he pleaded.

* * *

Christine Ebersole, wearing a gown designed by her Tony-winning “Grey Gardens” costume designer William Ivey Long, said plans to do “Gardens” in London are afoot, but there’s no definite timetable yet.

Ebersole had been pretty much a shoo-in for her lead actress in a musical Tony since producers of the Off Broadway production of “Grey Gardens” announced plans to transfer it to Broadway last fall. But recently, the hullabaloo was diffused a bit, she said, by four kittens that were born under her porch last month.

“It was a nice reality check,” she said. “We named one of them Jackie Kittedy,” she added, in reference to Jackie Kennedy, who was a relative of the two Edith Beales she plays in “Gardens.”

When asked how long she could go on playing the Edies, she responded, “It’s a very difficult role to do eight times a week. It really takes its toll, particularly on my voice. We’ll see.”

* * *

Fantasia Barrino, fresh off a perf on the Tonycast that had “Spring” producer Tom Hulce raving, came to the press room and talked about what it’s like to get great reviews for her turn in “The Color Purple.”

“It’s a blessing,” she said.

Also a blessing was the guy who trailed behind her, carrying the train of her dress.

“It’s heavy!” she laughed.

* * *

“The Coast of Utopia” helmer Jack O’Brien recalled the months spent rehearsing and rolling out the three plays one by one over the course of six months. “We were never out of rehearsal,” he said. “I said to the actors, ‘You’re gonna be so sick of the sound of my voice.'”

Added the three-time Tony winner, “No one’s ever going to do anything like this again. The awards are just frosting on the cake. But I have to tell you, the cake was pretty delicious.”

In the press room, he was followed immediately by a “Coast” compatriot, featured actor in a play winner Billy Crudup. Crudup, like fellow nominee Ethan Hawke, gave up many months of film opportunities to appear in the multiplay epic.

“I don’t have such a high cost of living that I can’t be paid an actor’s wage for working on a stage,” he said. “I just have the one apartment.”

* * *

Mary Louise Wilson, who took featured actress in a musical for “Grey Gardens,” was relieved to win her first Tony. “I didn’t want to lose!” she said.

Asked if she’d appear in a potential London production of “Grey Gardens,” she answered, “That’s a rumor I’ve heard. But I don’t have any firm information about that.”

* * *

Michael Mayer, who won helmer of a tuner for “Spring Awakening,” dropped a couple of tidbits about upcoming projects. He’s attached to “The Flamingo Kid” with creatives Henry Krieger and Susan Birkenhead, among others, and he’s also talking to rock band the Decemberists about a possible musical project.

Mayer explained the term “not heinous,” which he used in his acceptance speech.

“Anyone who’s ever worked with me knows things are either OK or they’re heinous,” he said. “I’m very black-and-white like that. I thought it would be nice for them to hear the other side of that for a change.”

Meanwhile, ventriloquist Jay Johnson, winner of the special event laurels for “Jay Johnson: The Two and Only,” made his Tony speak. The medallion spun around excitedly and said, “Woo hoo!”

* * *

Jennifer Ehle, who won her second Tony when she nabbed featured actress in a play for “The Coast of Utopia,” won the honors for a variety of characters she played over the course of Tom Stoppard’s three-play epic.

“I didn’t have a favorite; I loved all three,” she said of the roles.

Does she miss performing the show, which ended its long but limited run May 13? Not so much. But she keeps up to date on her castmates. “We email obsessively,” she said. “There’s never been a cast that’s stayed in touch so much.”

* * *

Downtown dance guru Bill T. Jones — who scored another of “Spring Awakening’s” Tonys, this one for choreography — spoke about the memorable moves he taught the cast of “Spring.”

“That’s the virus of the show,” he said of the choreography that kicks off the production and grows and changes through the show. “It starts with that young woman whose body is talking to her. I told them, ‘Feel just the tips of your body. Feel all those gentle, tender places you would like to be kissed.’ ”

Next up for Jones: a piece based on Jane Bowles’ 1940s puppet play “A Quarreling Pair.”

* * *

Box office underperformer “Journey’s End” won its revival Tony the day it closed, and producer Bill Haber wanted to get one thing straight about why “End” was shuttered June 10 rather than wait a couple of weeks to take advantage of the near-assured trophy win.

“The reason we chose to close this play today is Stark and Boyd have jobs that start tomorrow,” he said, referring to thesp nominees Boyd Gaines and Stark Sands. (Sands is going off to shoot “Generation Kill” for HBO, and Gaines goes on to a short run of “Gypsy” at City Center in July.)

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