There's a number from Rodgers and Hammerstein's State Fair called "A Grand Night for Singing." Last night, at the Tony Awards, it was "A Grand Night for Singing Lincoln Center Theater." First, Bernard Gersten received the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, an honor he shared with Jujamcyn Theaters exec Paul Libin and scenic designer Ming Cho Lee. Wonderful!
Then it was The Nance's turn. It won three awards: for Scenic Design (John Lee Beatty), Sound Design (Leon Rothenberg), and Costume Design (Ann Roth). In his acceptance speech, Beatty said that when Andre Bishop, artistic director of LCT, first called him about The Nance, Bishop said "he has wonderful Jack O'Brien directing a play by wonderful Douglas Carter Beane starring the very wonderful Nathan Lane. We've got strippers, we've got a burlesque theater spinning around, we've got a gay Automat. How could I screw this up?" The answer: He didn't - and he won a Tony in the bargain.
Rothenberg started his acceptance speech with a hearty "Whoo!" He went on to thank the "community of sound designers who work on Broadway and off-Broadway and around the country. It's an honor to be part of the group of you." And it's been a joy, Leon, for audiences to hear your wonderful sound-design work every night as those burlesque performers strut their wares across the Irving Place Theater in "The Nance" at the Lyceum.
As for Ann Roth, she kept it short: "I don't know if a man can be a Muse. But Nathan Lane is my main guy." On Broadway, Roth has costumed Lane in not only The Nance but in Butley and The Odd Couple and onscreen in The Birdcage. Roth had five previous Tony nominations, but this is her first win. Congrats!
Although this is technically a blog about The Nance, I cannot resist a shout-out to Christopher Durang, who last night won a Tony award for Best Play, forVanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. This comedy was seen last fall at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton before moving to LCT's Mitzi E. Newhouse and then on to its current hit run on Broadway. That seems like quite a long trajectory, what with a cast having to adjust so regularly to new dressing rooms. But the true long trajectory is Durang's, a journey that he acknowledged in his Tony acceptance speech.
"I wrote my first play in the second grade, in 1958," he said. "It is now 2013 - it's been a long road." But sometimes, for a moment, there's Oz at the end.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com