Backstage at the Tonys

“Art” co-producer Sean Connery says that he has given thought to moving an American cast to London. Connery confirmed that he’d considered “three Americans” from the cast of TV’s “Frasier”: Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce and John Mahoney. His reason? “Because they’d taken it upon themselves to read it by themselves,” said Connery.

* * *

Marie Mullen, who won best actress in a play for “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” said she’ll stay with the drama at least until October. As for new projects, the Irish actress says, “I’m just trying to take all this in.”

* * *

Alan Cumming, who took home a Tony for best actor in a musical for “Cabaret,” says he will stay with the show “until the end of the year, or the beginning of next.” As for his future plans, “I’m going to Cafe Un Deux Trois to get roaring drunk.”

* * *

Julie Taymor finally appeared to say, “I was shocked. I see little girls now who see me and say, ‘I want to be a director.’ And I think that’s marvelous. Asked which of her two awards was more satisfying, Taymor didn’t miss a beat: “One of my friends said, ‘If you just win puppets, that’d be really bad. But if you don’t win puppets, I don’t know what could be worse.’ ” Asked by one reporter about the validation of a big company like Disney winning acceptance from the theatrical community, a beaming Disney Theatricals prexy Peter Schneider said, “I think of Disney not as a large corporation, but as a mom and pop shop.”

* * *

Anthony LaPaglia, named best actor in a play, said of his victory, “You think they made a mistake, and then it kind of sinks in.” LaPaglia’s tuxedo may have been from Tommy Hilfiger, but his nasal accoutrement was courtesy of Band-Aid. LaPaglia received eight stitches on the nose, courtesy of fellow nominee Allison Janney during a fight sequence last Sunday. “That gal’s got big teeth,” LaPaglia said.

* * *

It’s Shakespeare and more Shakespeare for presenter Helen Hunt, who would only say of her upcoming effort, “Twelfth Night” at Lincoln Center, that helmer Nick Hytner “is brilliant.” Hunt added that the short list of dream roles she’d like to play is also Shakespearean: “I’d like to play Kate in the ‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ Roslyn in ‘As You like It’ and Isabelle in ‘Measure for Measure.’ That should keep me busy for a while,” Hunt said.

* * *

Terrence McNally, who recently suffered death threats because of his work in progress, “Corpus Christi” — a legiter about a gay Christ figure — was peppered with questions, but not about winning a Tony for the “Ragtime” book. Said McNally: “A new play is the most fragile form of life. I just look forward to working with directors.” McNally said that he was taking Sunday’s Tony award “for freedom.” Asked what that meant, he said, “For freedom of expression. That we have the right to stay home and not see something, but not the right to stop something (from being produced).”

* * *

“Cabaret’s” Ron Rifkin, who won as best featured actor for his portrayal of a Jewish shopkeeper, could only manage, “I’m shocked.” He added later: “I’m a middle-aged man. I’m past the point of … what? I don’t know if I can articulate my feelings. I’m too old to be different because of this.”. Rifkin will star opposite Kevin Spacey in WB’s “The Negotiators” next month.

* * *

Audra MacDonald, who grabbed her (third) best featured actress Tony, this time for “Ragtime,” said the first thing that went through her head was “Holy Shit! I was prepared not to win. I saw Tsidi Le Loka’s performance in “Lion King” and thought she was going to win.”

* * *

After winning for the “Ragtime” score along with lyricist Lynn Aherns, an ebullient Stephen Flaherty said, “The biggest challenge was that there’s such a wonderful wealth of material in 2 and a half hours. We could have done a two-evening piece out of it.”

* * *

Tommy Tune, fresh from rehearsal for “Easter Parade,” noted that Broadway had changed a lot in the years since he started. “There didn’t used to be megahits. A hit was one that played for one, two or three seasons. Now these things run forever.”

* * *

Asked about future projects, Garth Fagan, who won for choreographing “The Lion King,” hedged. “I love Broadway, and there are some (ideas) that we’re discussing, but I can’t speak about them yet.” He confirmed a Variety story that “Lion King” is heading to London next summer and to Japan in December. As to what was the hardest thing about choreographing “Lion King,” Fagan said the puppets. “They weigh (a lot), and change a dancer’s center, and (also) the brevity of the scenes.” Fagan may even have soured on puppets. Asked if he’ll work with them again, he answered, “Maybe … not.”

* * *

Donald Holder, lighting maestro of “The Lion King,” echoed Fagan in a mild anti-puppet frustration. Holder said that “the biggest issue was storage for all those puppets. Backstage space was at a premium after a while.”

* * *

A quick query with Sandy Duncan produced some insight into the new “Easter Parade” currently in rehearsal at the Westbeth, in which she stars. Duncan said her “Easter Parade” with Tommy Tune “won’t follow the movie very closely at all.” Duncan then added, “Rent the movie; you’ll see. It’s the music that’s beloved in it. When I first saw it, I was thinking ‘What’s all this about?’ ”

* * *

Asked what winning a Tony means for his theater in particular and regional theater in general, Donovan Marley, artistic director for the Denver Center Theater, which picked up the regional Tony award, replied happily: “It means everybody returns your phone calls.”

* * *

A svelte “Dreamgirl” Jennifer Holliday praised program host Rosie O’Donnell for bringing her to the kudocast. But Holliday lamented that Broadway today needs a greater willingness to take risks on edgier material that would allow more African Americans to realize Broadway roles.

* * *

“A View From the Bridge” producer Roger Berlind was mum on who will replace Anthony LaPaglia, now that the legiter claimed best revival of a play. Berlind, who is also rumored to be producing Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 classic “Follies,” denied the show is Broadway-bound. At least not yet. “The first-class rights haven’t happened yet. And I don’t dance that well.”

* * *

Gregory Hines, who presented the featured actress in a musical award, returned to Holliday’s theme of racial inequity. “There aren’t enough opportunities in theater, film and TV. A lot of times the only opportunity for African- Americans is in all-black plays, and those are often only once every couple of years.”

* * *

The normally loquacious Tom Murphy, after winning best featured actor in “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” could only gush and stammer, “I had a superb out-of-body experience.”

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