Special Reports

7 Unfiltered Moments From the Tony Awards Press Room

Pasek and Paul do a Tony-Oscar comparison, ”Hamilton” vets make a return, and Bette Midler keeps talking.

Every year, America gets to see the national broadcast of the Tony Awards live on television. However, the real stories of the evening's winners are told in the Tony press room. On the heels of delivering an emotional and life-altering speech, the victors march a few blocks from Radio City to take a smaller stage and field questions from the Broadway press corps. It's where they get the chance to reflect on recent events in a state of slightly less shock, and be as effusive as they want, free of the scrutiny of a judging camera lens. With that in mind, we bring you our seven favorite moments that the camera didn't catch.

1. Michael Aronov reveals the coordinates of the Oslo Tony party.

Tony winner Michael Aronov.
Michael Aronov earned a Featured Actor Tony Award for his performance in Oslo.
(© David Gordon)

J.T. Rogers' Tony-winning play Oslo boasts a colossal cast of nearly 20 people. Not all of them could come to the awards ceremony, so what spot do you think they picked to cheer on their nominated collaborators? You might assume it would be a place of Tony Awards and/or Lincoln Center prestige, but the play's Tony-winning featured actor Michael Aronov told us the truth: "My cast is at PJ Clarke's across from Lincoln Center." So if you're looking to bump into some Oslo folks for a casual conversation on Palestinian-Israeli affairs, you know where to find them.

2. Hamilton vets make return trips to the winners circle.

Andy Blankenbuehler shows off his Tony Award.
Andy Blankenbuehler wins his second consecutive Tony Award for his choreography for the new musical Bandstand.
(© David Gordon)

As winners take the stage in the press room, the live broadcast from Radio City Music Hall continues to silently roll in the background, dividing everyone's attention — particularly the winner's when his or her pals are on-screen. Luckily Dear Evan Hansen orchestrator Alex Lacamoire had just finished speaking to the room when his former (and fellow 2016 Tony-winning) Hamilton collaborator Andy Blankenbuehler won the Tony for his Bandstand choreography. Lacamoire was on his way out the door but lingered just long enough to shout out "Andy!!!" before heading back to Radio City. When Blankenbuehler arrived at the press room later in the evening, he offered this fun fact: "I got married in this room." Go figure.

3. Oscar v. Tony: Battle Royale.

Dear Evan Hansen Tony winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are the Tony-winning composers of Dear Evan Hansen.
(© David Gordon)

The 2017 Tony Awards handed Benj Pasek and Justin Paul their first Tony Award for their score of Dear Evan Hansen — just four months after they won their first Oscar for penning the lyrics to the song "City of Stars" from La La Land. It's been quite a year for the pair of songwriters, but the one question on the minds of Broadway press and fans alike is: Which award tastes sweeter? They may have been blowing smoke, but the newly minted Tony winners and University of Michigan Musical Theater alums gave the right answer: "This is sacred ground to us. Nothing compares to it."

4. Tony winners take on social media.

Gavin Creel and his Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
Gavin Creel and his Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance in Hello, Dolly!
(© David Gordon)

As the Broadway press corps was typing, tweeting, and 'gramming away, several of the evening's winners offered their own opinions on the art of internet commentary. Steven Levenson, who wrote about the insidious nature of social media in his Tony-winning book for Dear Evan Hansen, commented, "The screens in my life make me feel isolated and alone often." In a similar vein, Hello, Dolly!'s Gavin Creel advised, "If you want to be in musical theater, get off social media. Get out of your phones and get onstage." But when asked how he'd react to a tweet from Justin Trudeau, Come From Away director Christopher Ashley replied, "If I got one, it would blow my mind." So I guess even a pancake has two sides.

5. You haven’t seen the last of Jitney .

The talented team of Jitney shows off their Tony for Best Play Revival.
The producing team of August Wilson's Jitney wins the 2017 Tony for Best Play Revival.
(© David Gordon)

August Wilson's Jitney earned the Tony for Best Revival of a Play, following its Broadway debut with Manhattan Theatre Club. Producers Lynne Meadow and Barry Grove spoke on behalf of the production, where they hinted at a possible future life for the landmark drama. "For now it's over, but stay tuned," said Grove, who also suggested the play would have moved to another Broadway theater, had one been available. "I don't think you've seen the last of Jitney," added Meadow.

6. Tony-winning director Rebecca Taichman was Indecent 's first playwright.

Indecent's Rebecca Taichman holds up her Tony for Best Director of a Play.
Indecent's Rebecca Taichman holds up her Tony for Best Director of a Play.
(© David Gordon)

As we know by now, Paula Vogel's Indecent is based on the real-life events surrounding the charges for indecency made against the 1922 Broadway cast of Sholem Asch's The God of Vengeance. What many of us may not know, however, is that Indecent began its slow journey to Broadway nearly 20 years ago. Freshly minted Tony-winning director Rebecca Taichman recounted to the press room that while getting her M.F.A. at Yale, she crafted a piece called The People vs. The God of Vengeance, which interwove Ash's play with the text from the obscenity trial. A decade later, she asked Vogel to take the reins.

7. Bette Midler finishes her acceptance speech.

Hello, Dolly!'s Bette Midler wins the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.
Hello, Dolly!'s Bette Midler wins the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.
(© David Gordon)

Bette Midler stole the show — as Bette Midler usually does — by breaking the record for longest acceptance speech in Tony history (or so it seemed). And yet, she still had more thank-yous to dole out once she got to the press room. Here are the highlights from what we like to call "Bette's Acceptance Speech, Part 2" (note that she spoke for an additional 10 minutes):

"Unfortunately I got so rattled during my speech that I forgot to thank the great Bill Prudich, the great Toni Basil, the great [inaudible names]…I also forgot to thank my yentas who obliged me to do this job. David Steinberg, Peter Levine, and Allen Grubman, all who told me not only that I could do it, that I was capable of doing it, but that I had to do it or else they would never speak to me again…I also forgot to thank 'the kids,' who are the ladies and gentlemen of the ensemble. What a brilliant ensemble, some of the best singers and dancers on Broadway today — each and every one of them a complete and utter character. There isn't one normal person in that show. So fabulous to see all these eccentrics onstage. All I can say is that I'm having the time of my life, just the time of my life."