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Tony Awards: Behind the Scenes Backstage Notes

After having spent two consecutive years at the Upper West Side Beacon Theater, The Tony Awards returned to Radio City Music Hall for their 67th show.

SEE MORE: Tonys Crown 2013 Winners

“I’m ecstatic that the show is back at Radio City,” “Motown The Musical’s” Charl Brown said. “An evening that is this big deserves a really big stage and an even bigger audience.”

Moving the kudofest back to its 6,000-seat midtown home was comforting to “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’s” Tracy Letts.

“Five years ago I was here with ‘August: Osage County,’ so as far as I’m concerned it’s always been at Radio City,” the actor-playwright said.

Letts (pictured above) became the first Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright to also win a Tony for acting. But the Chicago native refused to make any predictions before his name was actually called.

“The business of trying to figure out who is going to win doesn’t pay,” Letts said. “I’m just proud to be a part of this group.”

After his win, Letts had a few words for those who predicted Tom Hanks would prevail in the category for “Lucky Guy.”

“Is Patrick Healy here?” Letts asked journos when he came backstage. “If you see him tell him I’m looking for him.”

Healy, a reporter at the New York Times, predicted that Tom Hanks would nab the category kudo for “Lucky Guy.”

Letts was asked about the difference between winning as a playwright, as he did for “August: Osage County,” and as a thesp this time around.

“Both writing and acting are very hard but in different way,” Letts explained. “When I’m acting in a play I think, ‘Oh my god! This is so hard. If only I could be home in the air conditioning typing and then when I’m writing I think how nice it would be to be on stage acting.”

As for the revival closing in March, Letts’ explanation was simple.

“My understanding is that Bette (Midler) wanted the Booth, so we got kicked out.”

SEE MORE: PHOTOS: Tony Awards Red Carpet

“The Other Place’s” Laurie Metcalf on the other hand had no problem accurately predicting the winner of the lead actress category.

“It’s Cicely Tyson’s night!” Metcalf laughed.

While she did not prepare an acceptance speech, thesp was still nervous.

“It’s fun, but it’s also really stressful to be here,” Metcalf said. “There is no role to hide behind on this carpet!”

SEE MORE: PHOTOS: Tony Awards Show

“I have so many amazing (Cyndi Lauper) stories that are not for this room,” said Stephen Oremus after his win for orchestration for “Kinky Boots.”

“(What I can tell you) is that Cyndi is all about the feel and rhythm of the music and how it hits you. She was always talking about how the rhythm needs to propel the song and the story.”

As for rumors that the working relationship between Lauper and “Kinky Boots” book writer Harvey Fierstein was extremely stressful, Oremus laughed.
“When is making a musical not a stressful time?”

Up next for Oremus: “I’m working with Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez on Disney’s “Frozen.” The animated feature is to be released in November.

SEE MORE: Tony Works Outs Some Pre-Telecast Kinks

“Lucky Guy’s” Courtney B. Vance’s Tony for featured actor in a play is his first. Vance was nominated twice before in 1987 for “Fences” and 1991 for “Six Degrees of Separation.”

Thesp said it was a mix of Nora Ephron, George C. Wolfe and Tom Hanks’ talents for getting him back to the stage.
“(Years ago) I was doing plays back to back,” Vance said. “I got burnt out.”

Portraying a real man, Hap Hairston in “Lucky Guy,” was complicated according to Vance.

“I couldn’t find any information on him,” thesp admitted. “So I worked with George and backed into the emotion as information about Hap trickled in. We then added that into my (character’s) journey.

Before exiting the backstage area, Vance made sure to thank his wife, Angela Bassett area.

“My wife she is the queen. There are very few actresses like her. She let me go get this (part). She said, ‘Go ahead Courtney. Do you. You got to do it.’”

* * *

“Matilda The Musical’s” Gabriel Ebert was very surprised to take the podium. He called his Tony win for actor in a featured role in a musical “shocking.”

Wearing a bandage on his right hand, Ebert admitted that he “sprained and partially tore a ligament in his thumb” by accident backstage last Tuesday night. “ I didn’t feel like wearing my cast tonight.”

His advice for kids trying to break into the musical theater acting business: “Do several performances in a play or musical before you give up.”

* * *

The Tony Judith Light picked up Sunday night — for actress in a featured role in a play for her perf in “The Assembled Party” — was her second. She won the kudo in the same category last year for her role in “Other Desert Cities.”

Despite the back-to-back wins, Light said the wins were “incredibly distinctive.”

Thesp paid tribute to Daryl Roth for convincing her to come back to the stage.

“I’ve been away from this community for a very long time,” Light said. “I left 22 years ago for Hollywood, so I was really afraid to come back. Daryl brought me back. I wanted to prove to her and this community that I want to be back here.”

* * *

After her Tony win for directing “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” Pam MacKinnon told journos that female theater directors are “out there and coming up.”

“We are hitting our stride,” the helmer added.

As for determining who to cast in the revival, MacKinnon explained that “Amy Morton immediately came to mind. Then if it’s Amy (as Martha) it has to be Tracy Letts (as George). After Carrie Coon auditioned for Honey it was a no brainer. She just was Honey and Madison Dirks had immediate chemistry Tracy.”

“(The set) in the States is much bigger than the one in London,” said winning musical set designer Rob Howell of designing “Matilda the Musical,” the Olivier Award winning musical adaption of Roald Dahl’s children’s story.

“Your stages are much bigger than (London stages),” Howell said. “We had to pull the space in to make it narrow.”

* * *

Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, the Tony winning lighting design duo behind “Lucky Guy,” have been working together for 28 years.

“I started out as Jules’ assistant when I was seven,” Eisenhauer joked.

When it came time to collaborate with “Lucky Guy” director George C. Wolfe, Fisher and Eisenhauer had nothing but praise.

“George’s brilliant creative mind pulls the designs out of you,” Fisher said. “He told it to (light it like) a film noir.”

“High contrast seemed to be what he was looking for,” Eisenhauer added.

* * *

“Didn’t Cicely Tyson get more than 75 seconds,” Andrea Martin cracked after receiving a Tony for actress in a featured role for “Pippin.”

Kudofest’s acceptance speech time constraints became a topic of conversation for Martin backstage when asked about “Pippin” composer Stephen Schwartz.
“I wanted to thank him but I ran out of time,” Martin explained.

Thesp also revealed that the she originally didn’t want the role of Berthe because the 66-year-old character was portrayed as too elderly.
“Sixty-six looks different now,” thesp said. “(So I asked) why can’t a grandmother look like me?”

The rest, Martin said, is history.

* * *

The difference between “Pippin” then and “Pippin” now? The original 1972 Broadway version received 11 nods and garnered five. Diane Paulus’ “Pippin” received 10 nods and took home four Tony’s including one for direction of a musical for Paulus.

“This is a surreal dream come true,” Paulus said. “(This came about because) so many people gave me a shot when I was young.”

Helmer is hoping that her win as well as Pam MacKinnon’s win for ”Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” will “give courage to young aspiring women directors all over the world to charge on.” She added that she also hoped the wins “encourage producers to trust women (directors).”

As for her direction of “Pippin,” Paulus explained that “it came from a place of love.”

“It’s been 40 years since the show was on Broadway, so I was always thinking about that audience who saw it way back then.”

* * *

“I’m so great,” Patina Miller told journos backstage after receiving her Tony for actress in a feature role for “Pippin.”

Having such an active role to play night after night doesn’t bother the thesp.

“It’s not really that hard to keep up my energy on stage. We are having so much fun.”

* * *

“Things come to me,” explained Cicely Tyson, Tony winner for actress in a leading role in a play. “That’s exactly want happened with this role in ‘Trip to Bountiful.’ It just came to me.”

As for being one of nine African Americans nominated for a Tony tonight, Tyson had just a few words.

“It means there is hope for us still.”

* * *

“Don’t worry they are going to turn the heat up!” joked Cyndi Lauper upon her arrival backstage at the Tony Awards.

Winner of original score for “Kinky Boots”, Lauper explained ths she looked at the project as “a story that was bigger than me.”

Lauper grew sentimental when she reflected on her career and her most recent success.

“You go around the world looking for acceptance, but all you have to do is look in your own back yard.”

* * *

What’s Billy Porter going to do tonight?

“Go to bed!” said the Tony award winner for his role of Lola in “Pippin.”

Thesp took a 13 year break from the theater before returning as the diva drag queen. “I went to graduate school at UCLA and wrote a few scripts for the stage and television. I’d like to make some of those projects happen. Maybe (this award) will help me to get people to pay attention to me again.”

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