Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Richmond High School Theatre Lover Takes Her First Trip to the Tonys

Posted by Lizzie Holland
As most of you know, the 62nd Annual Antoinette Perry Awards were held on June 15th at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. This year I was fortunate enough to attend the awards with my family, and it was so much fun! I am one of Barksdale’s high school theatre enthusiasts (that's me in the picture to the right), and Bruce asked me to write about the experience. So here goes.

(Note: Bruce nabbed all the photos from my Facebook and wrote all the bizarre captions himself, since I left for camp yesterday. All of the photos were taken at stage doors after I went to see the shows. None were taken at the actual Tony Awards. They don't allow you to bring a camera into the awards ceremony. Go figure.)

My dad and I have always joked about going to the Tonys and this year he was actually serious enough to buy tickets the day the nominations came out. (That's not my dad in the photo to the left. That's Mark Rylance, winner of the 2008 Best Actor Tony for Boeing-Boeing.)

I was so excited, but I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve been watching the Tony Awards on TV ever since I can remember, now I was going to be a part of the whole experience. Here’s what it’s like to attend the Tonys as a non-famous person.

First we bought our tickets, which go on sale each year the day the nominations come out, which this year was May 13th. We got our seats online, but you also can get your seats by calling the Radio City box office. It was easy. We wound up in the front row on the top balcony, which was still close enough to get a good look at all the nominees (including Martha Plimpton, pictured to the right, Best Featured Actress nominee for Top Girls.)

I got more and more excited as we waited for the day when it was finally time to fly up to New York. We arrived at Radio City Music Hall at 6:30 pm. If you are a ticket holder, you must be in your seat by 7:00. The down side to having a ticket is that you have to enter the theatre on the opposite side of the building from the red carpet, so you can’t see any of the celebrities before the show. (After the show, however, you might be lucky enough to spend some time with Raul Esparza, Best Featured Actor nominee for The Homecoming.)

The whole theatre is two-thirds full by 7:30, when the pre-show starts. The pre-show is when the “not glitzy enough for prime time” awards are given out, such as Best Book, Best Lighting, Best Sound, and Best Costumes. True theatre fans know that these awards are just as important as Best Actor or Actress, but they explain that there’s no possible way to fit all of the awards and performances into the three-hour TV time slot. (That's Laurie Metcalf in the picture above and to the right, Best Featured Actress nominee for November.)

Personally, I thought the pre-show was the best part. Michael Cerveris and Julie White hosted the pre-show and they were hysterical. (That's Daniel Evans in the photo to the left, nominated for Best Actor in a Musical for Sunday in the Park with George.)

At 8:00 pm, the doors closed and the televised Tony Awards began. This year, the prime time show kicked off with the opening number from The Lion King. It was fantastic (and that means a lot coming from a girl who doesn’t prefer Disney musicals). Then Whoopi Goldberg took the stage and began hosting the awards!

If you have the right Broadway connections (like Brian d'Arcy James, pictured to the right, 2002 Best Featured Actor nominee for Sweet Smell of Success), I'm told, you don’t need to buy tickets to be inside Radio City on the big night. You can sign up to be a “seat filler,” which is free! The producers never want the TV audience to see an empty seat in the theatre, and Radio City is HUGE. Every time someone gets up to accept an award or go to the bathroom, a “seat filler” rushes in and temporarily fills the vacated seat. This is an awesome opportunity because you may get to sit next to some hotshot actor, director, etc., or perhaps their significant other.

However, from the top balcony, the job of "seat filler" looked very tiring. You get tired just watching the next-in-line “seat filler” jog down the aisle the second someone who was seated gets up (someone like Eve Best, Best Featured Actress nominee for The Homecoming, pictured to the left), and then have to leave the seat minutes later when the seat holder returns and taps them on the shoulder. At that point, the “seat filler” runs back up the aisle and gets in line all over again.

Ironically, once the TV cameras turn on, everything starts happening so fast … the cameras roving and the “seat fillers” running and the scenery shifting … the awards themselves became a blur. After it was all over, I couldn’t even remember who won what. On TV, it’s definitely about the awards and speeches. But in person, it’s all about watching the crew run around at the last second to make the magic happen. (Speaking of "magic," that's Jonathan Groff above and to the right, Best Actor nominee last year for Spring Awakening.)

Something that a lot of people keep asking me is, “What happened during commercials?” The answer is clips--lots and lots of clips! We saw many old Broadway commercials for past mega-hits, featuring the original casts of Rent, Gypsy, and Equus. My favorite clip was one about the “Broadway League.” This is a baseball league for the members of Broadway shows. The clip was a little dated because it had interviews with Mathew Broderick when he was still in The Producers.

When there were no clips being shown, everyone seemed to realize it was an impromptu “stretch break.” Lots of people, including stars (like Norbert Leo Butz, pictured above and to the left, 2005 Tony-winner as Best Actor in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), rose from their seats and greeted their colleagues while also stretching their legs. We in the galleries gazed down upon them.

It was very cool being able to see everything that went on off camera. Since there were three connected stages, something was always happening on one or both of the side stages while the crew was taping a performance on the main stage. (That's Mary McCormack, above and to the right, Best Featured Actress nominee for Boeing-Boeing, and star of the new hit TV series In Plain Sight -- is she having a good year or what?!)

All in all, the Tony Awards were great fun—a once in a lifetime experience. (And who better to experience it with than Christine Baranski, pictured to the left, two-time Tony winner for Best Featured Actress in The Real Thing - 1984, and Rumors - 1989, and currently hysterical in Boeing-Boeing.)

It was terrific being able to see everything that went on that was not televised. But beyond all the hubbub with cameras etc, there was not that much extra to see. I do recommend going though, especially if you can get cheap(er) tickets and don’t mind sitting in the nosebleed section. Next time I go, I plan, of course, on being nominated!

Now will someone please cue Kelli O’Hara singing Cock Eyed Optimist.

--Lizzie Holland

1 comment:

Thespis' Little Helper said...

What a great story! And what an incredibly perfect closing sentence! Never lose the fire!