Water For Elephants Tony Nominee Rick Elice On Why He Didn't Watch the Nominations Livestream | Playbill

Tony Awards Water For Elephants Tony Nominee Rick Elice On Why He Didn't Watch the Nominations Livestream

Elice is currently recognized for Best Book of a Musical, marking his fourth Tony nomination.

Rick Elice Vi Dang

On April 30, the morning when he found out whether or not he got a Tony nomination, Water For Elephants book writer Rick Elice decided to head to Central Park instead of watching the announcement.

The writer—previously Tony-nominated for Best Book of a Musical for the Tony-winning Jersey Boys and both Best Play and Best Original Score Written for the Theatre for Peter and the Starcatcher—told Playbill later that same morning, "I am sitting in Shakespeare's Garden in Central Park, where I ran off at about 8:15 AM to escape the suspense, which was killing me. I'm sitting here taking, you know, photos of peonies and tulips, and the birds are chirping, and there's some people walking around. I thought, 'OK, this is a good place to sit. I'll think about Shakespeare. You know, he's a good writer. I'll see what happens. If the phone rings, I'll know what happened. If the phone doesn't ring, I'll also know what happened.'"

And, thankfully, the phone started ringing. Not only did Elice pick up his fourth Tony nomination, but Water for Elephants, the new musical at the Imperial Theatre based on the Sara Gruen novel, was nominated for a total of seven nominations, including one for Best New Musical. The production, directed by current Tony nominee Jessica Stone, also features music and lyrics by PigPen Theatre Co.

Elice says he has experienced Tony nominations day from both sides—getting nominated and not receiving the acknowledgment. "This way is better," he laughs. "It's nice to be part of a group. And it's nice to tell you about it." The soft-spoken writer, it should be noted, has been nominated for the Tony four times now—including Best Play for Peter and the Starcatcher.

The Manhattan native said it was actually his nephew's wife who first informed him of this year's good fortune. "[She's] in the PR business, not having anything to do with the theatre," Elice shared. "She made it her business to be watching or reading—I'm not quite sure what she saw. She called me, and she said, 'Oh, the show got nominated for Best Musical!'"

Elice says he actually thinks of his nephew's wife as his good luck charm. "I met [her] for the first time at the opening night of Jersey Boys, which was 18 years ago...The opening nights that she's been able to come to have been good opening nights. So I was very excited when she was at the opening night of Water for Elephants!"

When asked what it means to be nominated in a season chock-full of so many new musicals, Elice answered, "I hadn't really thought about it, so that's actually a really good question. We're never really about one thing that we do, and we keep on trying to do other work. It's a great privilege to be able to work in the theatre, especially if you're me, because I haven't been doing this for a very long time. I'm an old guy, but as a writer, you know, I'm just about 20 years old. It's very exciting to me because the theatre is the great, grand passion of my life, certainly of my professional life. The award stuff is very, very nice. It's very jolly to be part of a group. It's nice to be able to go now and congratulate everybody. There's so many people that I admire, and then there's so many friends that I have, that I get to now congratulate. It's very, very nice to be in that group."

The group also nominated for Best Book of Musical includes Kristoffer Diaz for Hell's KitchenBekah Brunstetter for The NotebookAdam Rapp and Justin Levine for The Outsiders, and Shaina Taub for Suffs.

Elice is also thankful for Water for Elephants' nomination in the Best Musical category, explaining, "[It] means that we get a chance now to try to attract a wider audience and you know, maybe be around for a while. We've been working on the show for eight years, and we'd love for people to come and see it." 

For now, the four-time nominee is not worried about winning. Instead, he concludes: "It's a relief. Relief is sort of a form of happiness, don't you think? I'm feeling relief, but I'm going to call it happiness!"

Photos: The 2024 Tony Nominees Meet the Press

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