I know you're tired of reading about him and his little done-on-a-dime musical, but last night at the Tonys, which I watched with an exuberant War Horse cast at P.J. Clarke's restaurant across the street from Lincoln Center, Bono said something during his fleeting appearance onscreen that floated around the fete with grace and meaning. He said that a good show results from "a procession of miracles."
In the case of War Horse, which won 100 percent (I repeat: 100 percent!) of the five Tony categories for which it was nominated (it also received a sixth, special award), the miracles began in 2005 when Nicholas Hytner, artistic head of London's National Theatre, gave the green light to an adaptation of a Michael Morpurgo young-adult novel. I will not rehearse the entire list of subsequent miracles that occurred between then and last night, when the cast and their associates reaped their rewards whoopingly over a buffet dinner and (for some folks) shots of Scotch each time a new victory bell was tolled via Blackberry message or flat-screen envelope-opening.
I will, however, try to convey the rarest of these marvels: the affection that the cast and their associates have for one another. It is not that fake kind of emotion that artificially charming performers display when the cameras are rolling. It is a kind of genuine good feeling that is absolutely the rock upon which three dozen performers who go to war eight times a week require to get through both the good days when everyone's feeling fine and the more challenging evenings, when someone is exhausted or recovering from a bruised ankle or hand or back.
The case of Brian Lee Huynh, who plays Captain Charles Stewart in War Horse, is instructive in this regard. Huynh, whose left-arm sling was among the more striking fashion statements at a Tony party brimming with style (other shout-outs: to Madeleine Rose Yen's petite cocked black hat and Prentice Onayemi's slyly understated sneakers), told me that he's been overwhelmed with support from fellow cast members since he suffered a bicycle accident recently on Columbus Avenue that left him with a broken collar-bone and an unexpected hiatus from active duty. (Expected further recovery time: 4 to 6 weeks.)
"Sometimes, fellow cast members will come visit me before or between shows," Huynh said. "I think they must know how anxious to get back onstage I am." He added: "Every matinee day around 2:05, and every night, around 8:05, I imagine myself with them. That's part of my healing process. Meanwhile, I'm catching up on reading and on watching TV."
If Huynh had stayed home last night cocooned in front of the tube, he would have seen one of War Horse's Joey teams bear Tony host Neil Patrick Harris onto the Tony stage resplendently. And he would have heard the War Horseacceptance speeches from Hytner and LCT artistic director Andre Bishop and executive producer Bernard Gersten for Best Play; Rae Smith for Best Scenic Design; Paule Constable for Best Lighting Design; Christopher Shutt for Best Sound Design; plus that special Tony to Handspring Puppet Company, whose leading lights, Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones, also graced the victory party.
A stay-at-home would have also missed the appearance onscreen of Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris for Best Direction: among the rare disappointments among the cast at the party was that the newly married Morris, among the boatload of revelers who washed up at P. J. Clarke's after the broadcast ended, eschewed his usual, highly individual sartorial palette - mustard yellows, Devon greens: rummage-sale chic - for standard black-and-white evening wear.
But if Huynh had sat alone in his room he would have also missed the roar that went up at P.J. Clarke's when Samuel L. Jackson on TV announced thatWar Horse had received the Tony for Best Play. I tried to describe the moment to the latecomers who had missed it. Imagine the announcement of Armistice, 1918, or V-J Day, 1945, in Times Square. Better yet: imagine that you are a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan and that you watch at Wrigley Field as your team finally wins it all in the seventh game of the World Series. Imagine all that, and you will only BEGIN to have a sense of the hats-and-horns delirium that erupted among the cast and their friends when Jackson intoned those two little words. And did I mention all the high-fives and all the adrenaline-filled, manly embraces? The day after, I'm sure I'm not the only partygoer who is both hung-over and hugged-over.
But I'm not complaining.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.