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The Best of Times (and Talent!) On & Off the Great White Way

May 15, 2012 - by Griffin Miller, Theatre Editor
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In the event you’re in the process of coordinating your calendar for the next few weeks, be sure to include the 66th Annual Tony Awards broadcast set to air Sunday night, June 10 (8-11pm) on CBS. Unlike last year, when The Book of Mormon barely had time to leave tread marks as it rolled over the competition for Best New Musical, this season’s roster of contenders is about as diverse as it gets.  

Shows rating five or more nods were: Once (11); The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (10); Nice Work If You Can Get It (10); Peter and the Starcatcher (9); Follies (8); Newsies (8); Death of a Salesman (7); One Man, Two Guvnors (7); and Other Desert Cities (5).

A few categories are almost impossible to predict: Best Play is a puzzler because each of the first-rate nominees -- Clybourne Park, Other Desert Cities, Peter and the Starcatcher, and Venus in Fur -- are so unique in what they have to offer. The race for Best Actress in a Play is another tough call with up-and-comer Nina Arianda (Venus in Fur) facing stiff competition from Tracie Bennett (End of the Rainbow), Linda Lavin (The Lyons), Stockard Channing (Other Desert Cities), and Cynthia Nixon (Wit).

Additional selling points for this year’s Tony broadcast: Neil Patrick Harris hosts (always a good call) and Hugh Jackman and Bernadette Peters are set to receive special awards. (For a list of all the nominations, visit

When Studio 54, the vanguard 1970s playground for the crème de la pop culture (Cher, Calvin, Liz, Elton, Truman, Mick, Liza, Mikhail, Halston, Warhol, etc.), closed its disco doors in 1980 (nearly two decades before The Roundabout Theatre Company transformed the space into a successful Broadway house) it seemed unlikely that it would ever reclaim anything close to its iconic nightspot status. But a dozen years into the new millennium, location and timing have aligned to give Tony-winning producers Tom Viertel, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, and Steve Baruch the opening they sought to make 54 Below -- an intimate 144-seat nightclub “home away from home” for professional performers and the public -- an elegant reality.

With a dining room created by premier set designer John Lee Beatty (five Tony Awards to date) and a gourmet menu, 54 Below is bursting onto the scene with more than “the right stuff,” illustrated by the dynamite entertainers who will be taking the stage over the next several months -- a list led by the peerless Patti LuPone, who inaugurates the club with a two-week run (June 5-16). Other Broadway and recording stars who have confirmed upcoming engagements include Jackie Hoffman, Mx Justin Vivian Bond, Christine Ebersol, Darlene Love, Marin Mazzie, Ann Hampton Callaway, Ben Vereen, Brian d’Arcy James, Linda Lavin, Andrea Martin, Sherie Rene Scott, Laura Benanti, Leslie Uggams, Victor Garber, Liz Callaway, and Smash star Megan Hilty.

The revolving stage door of the Ambassador Theatre -- which has spun dozens of Roxie Harts, Velma Kellys, Mama Mortons, and Billy Flynns in and out and in again during its 15-going-on-sweet-16 years -- recently welcomed back two of the musical’s most popular veterans: Terra C. MacLeod as Velma and Roz Ryan as Matron “Mama” Morton. MacLeod, who has played Roxie Hart’s jailhouse rival across the globe, and Ryan, whose periodic appearances with the Broadway cast are pure gold, should inspire everyone to see (or re-see) this ageless Fosse revival.

And while we’re on the subject of Ryan, here’s a scoop about a project she’s involved in that may have a not-too-distant New York future: the musical All That Glitters, an unauthorized biography of Liberace that had an impressive two-day “pre-Broadway” workshop in early May. Directed and choreographed by Alexander DeJong, with costumes by the iconic Bob Mackie, the workshop featured Ryan as two different characters: Miss Bea Haven and Liberace’s secretary/nurse Lil’ Lil.

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