Bill Nolte, Jennifer Smith, and Jessica Stone name their favorite Tony-nominated performances.
It isn't just Springtime for Hitler, it's springtime in New York City. That can only mean one thing: Awards season! The city is all abuzz over who will take the big prizes at this year's Tony Awards on June 3. I spoke with three constantly working actors about their all-time favorite Tony-nominated performances.
(upcoming: Lyrics & Lyricists--The Music of Harold Arlen at the 92nd Street Y, and Fanfare at the New York City Ballet)
"One performance is etched in my mind so strongly. Marin Mazzie was unbelievably brilliant in Ragtime. I would have loved to see her win the Tony. The dignity and the wide range of emotion that she brought to that role was so amazing to me, not to mention her full-throttle, from-the-heart singing. The song 'Back to Before' absolutely soared. Of course, Audra and Stokes gave brilliant performances, but Marin was Ragtime to me! She has a quality that is pure Musical Theater. I adore everything she does."
(Lick-Me Bite-Me in The Producers)
"My favorite performance was given by a gentleman who was nominated for a Tony but didn't win. John McMartin was so brilliant in High Society as Uncle Willy. I was in the show, so I was lucky enough to watch him every night. He would have me laughing and crying at the same time. I was part of the ensemble and we would all play gin rummy in the basement when we weren't on stage. Every night, though, we would leave our game and run up to the wings to watch him. The scene we loved was a quiet conversation he had with Daniel McDonald before the song 'Say It With Gin.' John was such a lesson in acting. It was a reinforcement of things I guess I already knew, but I really saw how important simplicity can be in a performance. Also, I learned how tears and laughter are just a half-comma apart. He was so specific and honest in his performance--all the things we know but sometimes forget. John is so modest; he just goes about his work diligently and beautifully. I was so hoping that he'd win the Tony that year! I told everyone that, if he won, I would run across the stage naked. That's how badly I wanted him to win. Alas, he did not, so there was no nudity on my part."
(recently: Helen in Design For Living; upcoming: assistant director to Joe Mantello at Williamstown Theater Festival)
"I still vividly remember Len Cariou in Sweeney Todd. First of all, I was only about nine years old and he scared the bejesus out of me. He was so menacing! Even at nine, I could discern the difference between menacing and hammy, and that performance was anything but hammy. He fully inhabited that creepy role. He didn't spend time acting creepy on stage, though; I felt like he concentrated on how wronged the character was. You know how you feel when you're wronged--how pissed you get? That's where I feel his character's anger came from. Isn't it weird that a nine year old would be so affected by a show like Sweeney Todd? I had expressed an interest in the theater and someone told my dad to take me to see everything. When I was seven, in the same trip, I saw Annie and The Trojan Women at La MaMa! Of course, I appreciate it so much more now than I did then. At that point, I think I just really wanted to see Smokey and the Bandit."