Here's What Jason Robert Brown Was Going to Say Before the Broadcast Cut Him Off Onstage | Playbill

Tony Awards Here's What Jason Robert Brown Was Going to Say Before the Broadcast Cut Him Off Onstage

Plus, what is The Gospel According to J., how Topdog/Underdog pulled Suzan-Lori Parks out of despair, and other discoveries from the Tony Awards press room.

Suzan-Lori Parks, Jason Robert Brown, and J. Harrison Ghee

After the Tony winners give their acceptance speeches on stage at the awards ceremony, they are escorted into the wings and then whisked away from the theatre to another venue entirely to meet the press. This year’s media room was near the United Palace at the Radio Hotel, which held a place for additional photos, a media pool room for a large group interview, then a line of video cameras for some additional one-on-one interviews.

Some winners arrived still stunned, some joyous, others introspective. And the press, who often tend to be fans as much as we are workers in the industry, met each winner with applause and congratulations. Sometimes even twice, when their names were announced on the telecast (which we were all watching) and then again when they made it into the media room.

Join Playbill inside the media room to find out even more about what the 2023 Tony winners were thinking and feeling about their wins.

Brandon Uranowitz, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play, Leopoldstadt

You've talked a bit before about how this play has influenced a reconnection with your heritage. How are you feeling now in this moment?
"It's true. This play has reconnected me with a part of my identity that I feel like I put on the backburner for a really long time. In some ways, I feel like there was a part of me that, in subtle ways, I resented. The fact that I was only allowed to play Jewish characters, and only allowed to play sort of these Jewish sidekicks—there was a part of my identity that I felt a little resentment towards. And [Leopoldstadt] has flipped that and I feel like confronting it and embracing it. I think that's the biggest reason why I'm actually here holding this...because I feel a deep sense of pride now."

Brigitte Reiffenstuel, Best Costume Design of a Play, Leopoldstadt

Where there any details in your design that maybe the audience wouldn't notice but are important to the story?
I love the children. I always tried to make them more and more prominent. I tried to give them little capes and little hats. They're so grateful. They're so fun. They haven't done Broadway, they haven't done the West End, so you want to make it the most amazing experience for them. So, maybe I was a little indulgent with the children."

J. Harrison Ghee, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical, Some Like It Hot

Referring back to your acceptance speech, can you give us a little more from the Gospel According to J.?
"The gospel comes from spontaneity. People always want it and I can't force it. I do things like that on my own terms, when it comes to me in the inspiration of the moment. And that's something I hope to inspire in people. That thing of playing more. Again, in how I dress, I go to my closet every day, and I say, 'What's the vibe? How do I feel?' And then I let myself just play. And there are times where I'm not going anywhere and I just go to my closet to play. And I hope to inspire and encourage that in people. Yeah, you may think you can't wear this thing, but you're giving yourself the space to do that. You're afraid of what? Of whose opinion? If it brings you joy, do it. And that's the Gospel According to J.!"

Casey Nicholaw, Best Choreography, Some Like It Hot

Can you talk a little about that final big chase scene/dance sequence?
"I thought it was a little risky, to tell you the truth, to try to wrap up all the story points in dance. But I tried, and thank God, I did! But it was really put together and took me years to figure out all the pieces. I'm really proud of it. And the cast was instrumental.

"The style thrills me because it's what I grew up with, and it's totally in my wheelhouse and what I love. Hopefully it feels like it's not stale—that it doesn't feel like you're doing a revival. It feels like it's fresh. Even though it's got elements of retro, it still feels contemporary and fully-dimensional."

Charlie Rosen and Bryan Carter, Best Orchestrations, Some Like It Hot

What was the most challenging aspect of writing orchestrations for an 18-part orchestra?
"I hold Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman in such high regard—they're such legends. I really thought twice, three times, four times, about every single note that I wrote on that page, because I really wanted to do their score justice, because they're so incredible and so prolific in this industry. So, that was the challenge for me."

Carter: "Having an 18-piece orchestra is a luxury for new shows in 2023. We're hoping that the show inspires more companies to add large orchestras, because orchestras really are the the heartbeat of the musical. I never thought that Broadway had the space for someone like me. I never thought that there was room for me. I'm just eternally grateful that I had this experience."

Michael Arden, Best Direction of a Musical, Parade

Parade feels so relevant today. What inspired your take on the production?
"We're seeing crime and people being hurt because of the recent hate and white supremacy, anti-semitism, transphobia, homophobia. These things are happening all around us and I knew this was an important story to tell so that we might look to our past for how we forge our way to our future. I wanted the audience to be reminded at all times these people lived. This happened not too long ago. And that even the brightest and most forward thinkers can be swept up by the mentality of a mob. And unless we start to grapple with how we heal our past trauma, that's going to happen more and more. So I knew that I wanted this production to let the audience be the jury, to remind them that these were real people who lived and breathed and died in horrifically. But also, that there were some incredible people, incredible Americans, who really tried to help and showed love in really tough times."

Bonnie Milligan, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical, Kimberly Akimbo

Your character was so influential in Kimberly's life. Who was that person for you in your family?
"My whole family was very supportive of me. But I would say my grandmother, who's not with us anymore. She paid for me to go to musical theatre camp. And I would write those skits for my friends and I to do and I would use her camcorder—sometimes with my grandpa filming and she would act in them. I wrote commercials for her to do, like, 'Milk, it does a body good,' and my grandma did that. So I think that she just really always encouraged every bit of that imagination for as long as I can remember."

Suzan-Lori Parks, Best Revival of a Play, Topdog/Underdog

Why is this an important story to tell and when you wrote it did you have any conception then of where it would take you?
"I had hopes that it would take me out of the very sad place where I was before I wrote it. I was feeling a lot of despair. I wasn't seeing a place that resonated with, not just my experiences as a Black person in the world, but my experience as a human being. I wasn't seeing enough plays that made me go, 'Yeah, I'm alive. I'm alive. We're alive.' That kind of thing. So, I was feeling very sad about that. And when I wrote this play, like, 'OK, this is an opportunity to remind people that we're alive, that we're here, that we mean something to each other.'

"It's an important story to tell because very specifically, it's a story about two Black men who are brothers living in one room, people who don't have a lot of opportunities. But what happens when you tell a story with that amount of specificity, and you have it acted so brilliantly and directed so brilliantly, is that it resonates far and wide. And suddenly, you have people who don't look like those two men on stage, feeling their own vitality, feeling the possibilities of their own life. I tell people that the greatest act of love that I can muster is putting characters in a play. And I love Lincoln and Booth so very much. And I think audiences are feeling that love and power and possibility and life."

Bonnie Milligan and Miriam Silverman Heather Gershonowitz

Miriam Silverman, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window

In her short time, Lorraine Hansberry created indelible work. Is there a lesson on how we use the time we have to create art?
"Everything she packed into her 34 years of life, the three plays she wrote that are so vastly different and varied in style and form and messaging—that's a good lesson for all of us, as artists ,as people. We don't have to be confined to a lane or a box. We should, with whatever time we have because we never know, be pushing boundaries and striving to do different things in every direction."

Patrick Marber, Best Direction of a Play, Leopoldstadt

What has it been like working with the great Tom Stoppard?
"I started working with Tom in 2016. I directed a production of Travesties that came to Broadway in 2018. So, I've really spent the last seven years of my life working with Tom. And it's been one of the great honors and privileges of my life. I first encountered his work when I was 14. Travesties was done by older boys at my school. The word legend is used too much these days, but he is a legend. He is one of the great playwrights of the 20th century and now 21st century. [Leopoldstadt] is a really important play—not just its subject matter, but it was important for Tom because its proceeding play, The Hard Problem, hadn't been a big hit. And he didn't want to go out like that. Throughout the time we were working on Travesties, he was desperate to write a new play. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, he produced Leopoldstadt, which is a huge play. He was 80-81 when he wrote it. I didn't expect such an enormous work from Tom. And I was so moved when I read it. And I was so determined not to screw it up and to give him a hit at age 84."

Victoria Clark, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, Kimberly Akimbo

What part of Kimberly will you take with you after this production?
I'm kind of like inspired to do more, now. I want to start thinking about what I can do for other people besides my art. I don't know what that means yet exactly. But I'm aspiring to especially work with young people. I think it's a tough time to grow up right now. It's a tough world to grow up in. And I want to help out as much as I can, with education and with helping folks who are struggling. So that's where I am these days."

Beowulf Boritt, Best Scenic Design of a Musical, New York, New York

What was your biggest challenge recreating New York on stage?
"It's the biggest show I've ever done. David Thompson and Sharon Washington wrote a show with 73 locations. The challenge was figuring out how to create all that in a way that was poetic, but also true to New York. The show is about New York City as this engine of creativity—that people come from every place to this city and meet each other and create things. The set tries to show what's difficult about the city—when we're in the Times Square scene running into the subway, there was literally bird shit detail on the subway, to the point that the crew tried to clean it off when it came in the door. They thought it was an accident. So, we're trying to get the grit in New York. The fire escapes are rusty and dirty. Then counterpoint to that, the beauty of the city. We've all had the experience: You walk down the street, and suddenly you turn a corner and there's the Chrysler Building glittering in the distance. Or the Empire State Building. You walk into Grand Central and see that gorgeous ceiling. Or you step out to the East River and see the Brooklyn Bridge. Those gorgeous New York City moments counterpointed with the difficulty. That's what the set is trying to communicate. And doing all of that while the show whips along from location to location.

"And lastly, crucially, because the show is a kind of Golden Age Broadway musical, for all those locations, I insisted that we do old-fashioned painted backdrops. The drops in the show are not LED. The backgrounds are all hand-painted. There's 12 of them, more than I've ever done in the show before. Eight of them are painted by a single person: Ukrainian artist, Irina Portnyagina, who I've worked with for many years, who had retired after the pandemic and went back to Europe. I coaxed her out of retirement to come back for six months and paint this show for me, because she has a singular hand and can take my designs and make them even better. That was incredibly important to me—that we create the set in a very classic, Broadway musical way."

LaChanze (Producer), Best Musical, Kimberly Akimbo, and Best Revival of a Play, Topdog/Underdog

What makes these two Tony Awards special?
"When we talk about EDIB, and inclusion and having a seat at the table for everyone, I believe that the most important letter in that whole acronym is 'B,' which stands for belonging. What's exciting to me about being a producer, and winning Tonys as a producer, is that it lets so many other young women and women of color know that they belong in the space. I'm hoping to be an example to so many who wonder if they can do this."

Jodie Comer Heather Gershonowitz

Jodie Comer, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, Prima Facie

Judges in Northern Ireland want to introduce laws based on Tessa. Can you talk about the tangible effects this play is causing?
"It's remarkable. What I can speak to a lot more is the letters that we get on a weekly basis from hundreds of women, stating very clearly what this play has done for them. There was one particular woman who had seen the play in London and she came to see it on Broadway and she told us how her life evolved in that year. She was able to speak to her family, she went to a sexual assault survivors group, and she felt she got rid of her shame and guilt. And we receive, I'm not joking, hundreds of letters like that. And we've seen the effect this play is having in Northern Ireland. Not every job is like this. So you have to just savor every second and make the most of them. I feel incredibly privileged to be a part of this team."

Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry, Best Revival of a Musical, Parade

Jason, your acceptance speech was cut off. What were you saying about Mary Phagan?
Brown: What I was going to say before I was so rudely interrupted by my own music, was the challenge with tonight is to balance the joy I feel about this piece of work with the reality of what this work is about. So what I said on stage was Mary Phagan was murdered when she was 13 years old. Leo Frank was murdered when he was 31 years old. It is the privilege of mine and Alfred's entire career that our words and our music have inspired so many incredible theatre artists, like the one who worked on this production, to bring their story back to life.

The first production didn't get the due it deserved, but now it is. How did you all know that this was the time to bring it back?
Well, as writers, we didn't do a damn thing. We just got lucky. Or you can call it not lucky because, unfortunately, the time has caught up with the material and all of a sudden it became vibrant.

Tom Stoppard, Best Play, Leopoldstadt

Why this play and why now?
There's no wrong time to do a play about prejudice, dealing with prejudice and the occasionally tragic and terrible consequences.There's no bad time to do such work. 

Meet the 2023 Tony Winners

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