By: Patrick Christiano
May 2, 2018: The 2018 Tony Award nominees were announced in 26 competitive categories on Tuesday May 1, and the following morning they attended a press junket at the InterContinental Hotel New York in Times Square on 44th Street. National and local members of the press attended the informal “meet and greet,” where they could photograph the ecstatic nominees. The event, a fun filled morning, is also a chance for press to chat with the season’s celebrated stars and producers, and for the nominees to catch up with one another. Many performed the previous night and had matinee and/or evening performances later that same day, however, that did not dull their spirits. Everyone was thrilled to be honored with a coveted Tony Award Nomination.
Here is what some of the nominees had to say about the honor, what inspires them, and where they were when they learned the news:
Michael Arden, nominated for Best Director of a Musical for the revival of Once On This Island said, “I was attracted to the story because it inspires faith. I wanted the production to be as authentic as possible, so I went to Hitti. I didn’t want to dust off the original. I wanted to re-invent the story by doing some things that would push the boundaries and maybe make some people uncomfortable. And I fought to get this show made. This is a labor of love for me, and I wanted to celebrate humanity and challenge our ideas – to do the right thing even if you don’t see the benefit.” Mission accomplished, Once On This Island scored 8 Tony nominations.
The production team wanted the experience to be a bit immersive, and Dane Laffrey, the scenic designer also nominated, said, “I designed the staging for “in the round,” before I knew what theater we were going to be in. Doing the show at Circle in the Square is destiny and challenging. You had to be careful the audience is not seeing anything you are not supposed to see.
Hailey Kilgore, nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for her work in Once On This Island, shared that LaChanze was her idol. She said, “To be reprising a role that LaChanze created and to be nominated with her in the same Category was unbelievable. My parents taught me that hard work and determination pay off. I had no idea how hard that would be, but that is only the foundation. You must add love, creativity, and free flowing imagination.”
LaChanze, a previous Tony winner for originating Celie in The Color Purple, was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for her role as Donna Summer in The Donna Summer Musical. She said, I’m thrilled and honored.” On when she knew she wanted to perform, she said “I knew at an early age, when I was six years old, that I wanted to be on stage. I was shy, and my mother enrolled me in a cultural center, where I discovered on stage, I could be me. I want to thank Donna Summer for being true to herself. She was just an ordinary girl. I want to thank her for balancing work with motherhood. She was a good role model.” On where she keeps her Tony, “In the den right next to my daughter’s fencing award.”
Jessie Mueller, another previous Tony winner, was also nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for portrayal of Julie in the revival of Rogers & Hammerstein’s Carousel said, “I found out about the nomination when my publicist called early yesterday morning. I am proud to be a part of this show that I always loved. I’m thrilled for the show, and I’m surrounded by the most talented people and artists. The musical is a conduit for love and strength.”
Lauren Ambrose, nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for her portrayal of Eliza in My Fair Lady, which recently opened at the Vivian Beaumont in Lincoln Center, said “I was walking my daughter to kindergarten and my phone was blowing up! I’m just so happy! Happy for the whole show. It’s a result of so many people’s hard work. I just feel honored to be a part of an amazing show. We have an early show tonight, so I’ll probably celebrate by taking a nap! And maybe I’ll even vacuum!
Harry Hadden-Paton, who is Lauren’s Mr. Higgins in the revival of the classic musical, was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for his star turn opposite her in My Fair Lady. In a Henry Higgins persona he said, “I was in my underwear, just having had a shower.” And on his interpretation, he commented, “You can’t mess with the source material. He’s someone that’s not good with emotions or talking about emotions.”
Norbert Leo Butz, also from My Fair Lady, was nominated for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical as Eliza’s father in the revival, said, “I’m thrilled and honored! This project has been a dream, every aspect.” On when he heard, “I was dead asleep! My seven-year old was up all night with a fever and a sore throat.” On his dancing, “I’m a dancer, but I have no training!”
Ariana DeBose, nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical, for playing Donna Summer in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” said, “I’m thrilled to be a included in this incredible line up of powerhouse women. This is a proud moment for me. I cried when I saw myself on the live stream this morning.” On her role in the musical, “What I love about Donna, she played to her strengths, and I honor her by playing to mine. I bring her essence to life by emulating her sound.”
Jamie Parker, nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in Leading Role in a Play for his role in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, said “This is like some day dream…, I’m the only person here I’ve never heard of.” I would like to thank the Tony nominators for acknowledging the whole production. They whole team is world class. This is mostly about collaboration and learning to work with people.”
Ari’el Stachel, nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Actor in a Musical for his role in The Band’s Visit, said “This is very exciting! We were on the Today Show this morning. We performed to at the same time of the announcement and had to leave our phones downstairs, and it was torture. When we finished, one of the producers came up to me and said congratulations. I started crying. This is personal to me, a celebration of my mid-eastern background. I use the full range of me, which happens to be Egyptian. David Kromer would tell me ‘To stop acting and deal with the obstacles.’”
Anthony Boyle, nominated for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, on the moment he heard said, “I was so nervous. I was laying in bed and got a myriad of texts. I started screaming and dancing around the apartment. I’m blown away and truly honored to be in such amazing company. And on the difference of doing the play here in New York he commented, “Here in New York there is more press. You feel like a star, in London you feel like an actor. And the audience is more vocal in New York.
Lauren Ridloff, nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a play, on when she heard the news said, “I was at home getting my first ever at home massage, and I forgot all about it and then my husband says ‘Congratulations, babe!’ And I realize I’m nominated for a Tony Award for my role in Children of a Lesser God.” Asked if she was frightened to take on the role Lauren said, “No I wasn’t scared. I had no idea what I was taking on. Ignorance is bliss.” Her comment about the play was a universal message for the world, “There are so many take a-ways, start listening and stop judging.”
Photo Credits: Getty Images/Jenny Anderson/Jemal Countess/ Michael Loccisano/Ilya Savenok, and Patrick Christiano