You saw live excitement of the Hugh Jackman-hosted 2014 Tony Awards, but some of the best moments of the night happen just across the street from Radio City at the Tonys press room. Following their tearful onstage moments, winners (often hunger- and elation-addled) stop by to chat with the press. Check out some of TheaterMania's favorite scenes from behind the scenes.
1) Billy Porter Promotes Projecting and Safe Sex
In the press room, the party started around 7:30, with a live feed from Radio City of the presentation of special awards as well as several design awards. Following that excitement, pre-show show hosts Billy Porter (along with his cohost, Karen Ziemba) got up on that gigantic stage to give their colleagues a talking-to re: live television etiquette. "Don't stand or gather in front of the teleprompter," Porter admonished the 6,015-seat room at large. "Not everyone here is off book."
His most important bit of advice, though, was about speaking up: "Use those diaphragms. Don't save them for the after-party."
2) Theater Is Rosie O'Donnell's Antidepressant
One of the awards presented before the live broadcast began was Rosie O'Donnell's Isabelle Stevenson Award for her work with Rosie's Theater Kids. O'Donnell was immediately in her element. "This part will never be on TV," she deadpanned. "The best thing that ever happened to me was growing up in Long Island…New York was just a train-ride away...Hollywood was vague and an illusion, but Broadway was tangible...Sitting in my seat and hearing the orchestra tune up is better than Prozac for me."
After she handed the mic back to Porter, an overcome Porter exclaimed, "That lady gave me a car," a comment that received mostly confused titters. "No, she really really really really did," he insisted.
3) Bryan Cranston Is a Wicked Fangirl
Bryan Cranston's minutes with the press showed him to be possibly the biggest theater fangirl in the room when he bounded on the press-room stage, took a glance at the silenced live feed of the Wicked performance currently occurring on the Radio City stage, and exclaimed, "Look what you're missing! I want to see that! This is just like doing a play on Broadway. I want to see all the other shows." The Emmy (and now Tony) winner went on to wax eloquent about the theater.
"Working on a stage...is usually where an actor starts, and it either catches you or it doesn't. And to me it's the purest form," said the Breaking Bad star. "When you can feel an audience...it's like a drug...it's as strong as blue crystal meth, I would say."
4) Journalists Are Not Amused
Some of the most delightful moments in the press room were watching the reactions (or lack thereof) of the stoic professionals seated at the room's long white-clothed tables. Telecast moments including host Hugh Jackman's opening quip, "Whether you like men who dress as women or cross-dressers, there's something for everyone," and the mid-performance Music Man rap (featuring LL Cool J and T.I.) were greeted by the unamused press with stony silence.
It could be, however, that the ladies and gentlemen of the press were slow to react because they were hard at work. During a brief lull in the action, one mustachioed, hatted, and accented reporter came by my table to inquire whether Mark Rylance (Best Featured Actor in a Play winner) was now the Tony-winningest British actor in history. "I want to make that my headline," he explained, "I just can't seem to confirm it. I tried Wikipedia."
5) Theater Camaraderie at Its Finest
Having just walked across 51st Street from the Radio City stage, it's understandable that many of the newly minted winners seem to enter the press room in a fog of adrenaline and euphoria. One sure way to pull a fresh Tony winner out of his own head, however, seems to be giving his colleague a Tony. As Best Director of a Play winner Kenny Leon took to the press room stage, A Raisin in the Sun's Sophie Okonedo was announced as the winner of the Best Featured Actress in a Play award. "Yes!" Leon shouted as he leaped across the stage, "Yes, yes, yes, yes. Sophie, I love you, oh man." At that, the powers that be in the press room turned up the volume on Okonedo's speech and Leon stood stock-still on the stage to watch, rapt, mouth open, Tony at his side.
Likewise, Lena Hall's first words upon entering the room and seeing costar Neil Patrick Harris on the telecast were, "I want to hear his speech!" The actress then hugged her Tony to her chest and watched teary-eyed as Neil talked about the production before letting out a delighted squeal when he mentioned her name.
6) Genie Is Heading to McDonald's
It would be reasonable to assume that Tony nominees have big plans for after the ceremony. After all, some of the theater community's biggest parties happen following the show. But it turns out that's not always the case. "My wife and I will go to McDonald's," said Featured Actor in a Musical winner James Monroe Iglehart. "It keeps us humble. We take our Tony, we take our tux, we take our dress...we get in our car, we get a Big Mac and some fries, and we kick it with the cats."
Best Actress in a Musical winner Jessie Mueller was less certain about her plans. "Hopefully someone will tell me where to go and when to be there, and hopefully even put me in a car and get me there."
7) John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask Share a Granola Bar
Hedwig and the Angry Inch producers/creators found out that it can be difficult to remember to eat when you're waiting to find out if you've won a Tony. As they took the stage in the press room along with producer David Binder, the trio was primarily consumed by what they could consume. "Does anyone have a power bar?" Mitchell inquired. "It's like the trail of tears." Then, after catching a snack bar thrown from the crowd, Trask and Mitchell answered questions about Hedwig's first production and their upcoming projects as Mitchell chomped on half the bar and then passed the other to Trask to finish it off.
8) Neil Patrick Harris on Sexually Harassing Samuel L. Jackson
As serious journalists, many of the guests in the press room had questions for Best Actor in a Musical winner Neil Patrick Harris about his in-your-face Tony performance of Hedwig's "Sugar Daddy" (during the number, NPH "car-washed" Orlando Bloom, licked Samuel L. Jackson's glasses, and gave Sting a lap dance).
According to Harris, the trick was getting exclusive information. "One of the benefits of having hosted this show previously is I can sneak around and get intel about who was sitting where," the four-time host revealed. "They weren't alerted to the fact that things were going to be happening to them — naughty, dirty things."
- Neil Patrick Harris
- Billy Porter
- Hugh Jackman
- Rosie O'Donnell
- Jessie Mueller
- Karen Ziemba
- Bryan Cranston
- John Cameron Mitchell
- Stephen Trask
- Kenny Leon
- James Monroe Iglehart
- Lena Hall
- Sophie Okonedo
- Samuel L. Jackson