By: Patrick Christiano
New York May 1, 2013: "Kinky Boots, a musical with a score by Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein was the big winner with 13 nominations, the most for any show followed by ‘Matilda" with 12, when the 2013 Tony Award nominations were announced on April 30. The very next morning the nominees met the press for photos and interviews at the annual "Meet the Nominees Press Reception" held at the Millennium Broadway Hotel.
The turnout was astounding with all the leading Broadway stars of the season in attendance – Tom Hanks, Nathan Lane, Cicely Tyson, David Hyde Pierce, Tracy Letts, Billy Porter, Patina Miller, Richard Kind, Judith Ivey, Judith Light, Keith Carradine and on and on. Everywhere I looked there was someone else I wanted to speak with and then there were the playwrights, the directors, the choreographers, and the designers.
I had a chance to catch up with a thrilled Cyndi Lauper for a few minutes. She told me the Tony nominations for ‘Kinky Boots" was especially meaningful to her. She explained by saying "I traveled the world looking for acceptance and all I had to do was travel a mile in my own back yard."
I was also lucky enough to chat with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote the music and lyrics for "A Christmas Story, The Musical." The two self described "music nerds" knew of the 1983 film the musical is based on and embraced the chance to write for Broadway seizing the opportunity when their agent suggested them. They told me "they were jumping around like kangaroos" when they heard about their nominations. The first song they wrote for the show was "It All Comes Down to Christmas," which captured what they were looking for "a morality tale with heart," however, probably their favorite song from the musical is "Ralphie to the Rescue," which is one I have been humming ever since seeing the show.
The morning was going great with the composers because low and behold sitting down to chat with me next was the Australian Tim Minchin, who wrote both music and lyrics for the British import "Matilda" the musical about a little girl, who triumphs over the evil adults controlling her world. Tim was delightfully amusing as he charted the journey of the musical from Strafford on Avon across the Atlantic to Broadway where he admittedly was ecstatic about how well the production transferred picking up 12 Tony Award nominations.
One of these three will definitely take the Tony for Best Original Score. I predict Cyndi will edge out Minchin on the strength of her popularity. A tie would be great, but don’t be surprised if these two run neck and neck leaving room for Ben and Justin to sneak in a win.
Next up was the lovely Lauren Ward nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for her heartfelt performance as Miss Honey in "Matilda The Musical," and her co-star Gabriel Ebert nominated for Actor in a Featured role in a Musical for his physically aggressive Green Man. The two were positively effervescent discussing their work in the musical. Lauren was especially forthcoming describing how being a mother helped her create Miss Honey, who Lauren described as "a quiet character screaming on the inside." They are both contenders in their respective categories for their memorable performances.
Although Keala Settle, who sat down for a poignant few minutes, is a standout for her honest portrayal of one of the contestants in "Hands On a Hardbody". She told us she met the woman she played in the musical based on a true story, and she wanted to share the pure love she saw in her.
The gorgeous Shalita Grant, who is so winning in "Vanya and Sonia and
Masha and Spike, stopped by for a minute and then there was director George C. Wolfe nominated for Best Direction of a Play for Nora Ephron’s "Lucky Guy" starring Tom Hanks. Ephron had been working on the story for over a decade, however, Wolfe came aboard when the story was an HBO project about 9 months before Ephron’s death. He said she had a romance with journalism. The play about tabloid columnist Mike McAlary is both a love letter to the city and print. Wolfe , who helmed the production with 6 Tony nominations including Best actor Tom Hanks and Best Play, said "The play came to mean what it is to live and die." While I was chatting with George I saw Daryl Roth (producer Kinky Boots) go by in the background and Patina Miller (Pippin) and Nathan Lane (The Nance).
Before the afternoon was over I ran into Tom Hanks with one of his producers, Roy Furman, for a brief moment and then Billy Porter made a grand entrance as only he could. Porter of course is the popular front runner for Best Actor in a Musical playing the drag queen Lola in "Kinky Boots." I asked him if his life has been any different since the nomination. He said no, but the success has made sense of the past 25 years. I asked what he would do if he won and he said "Go to work," a practical down to earth kind of guy dancing in high heeled "Kinky Boots."
The Tony Awards will be voted in 26 competitive categories and broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall on CBS June 9 from 8:00 -.11pm marking 67 years of excellence on Broadway.
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