A Good Year for Westchester at the Tony Awards

It’s natural that Westchester—with its proximity to the Great White Way—would be well represented at the Tony Awards. Still, this year felt especially good for our area.

Once, based on the heart-meltingly charming 2006 film, was the big winner of the night, taking home awards by the fistful. (Want to know them all? Okay, deep breath: Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Performance By an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Orchestrations, Best Scenic Design of a Musical, Best Lighting Design of a Musical, and Best Sound Design of a Musical. Phew.) And, while our local connection to the musical didn’t get his own statute, if you caught the performance, you can see that the sweet magic of the show is really a group effort—the actors double as the pit musicians, and everyone contributes to Once‘s romantic vibe. That includes former Somers resident Lucas Papaelias, who plays guitar, mandolin, banjo, and drums in the show. Our editor-in-chief had the opportunity to speak with him—you can find out the lie he told to get the role here.

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Once made headlines this Tony season because it beat out the big, Disney-backed blockbuster, Newsies.  Newsies received eight nominations to Once‘s 11, and it only brought home two of them: Best Score, and Best Choreography. It’s no surprise to people who follow awards, though, that the Best Score Tony went to North Salem resident Alan Menken. (He also worked on Sister Act and Leap of Faith this year.) I swear he’s the most decorated man in Westchester. He has 11 Grammy Awards, eight Oscars, seven Golden Globes, and, now, a Tony Award. He’s an Emmy away from an EGOT—get to scoring some TV shows, Menken!

It’s also interesting that Newsies was positioned as the frontrunner to Once‘s underdog going into the awards. In truth, Newsies has a history of being the underdog. When the film came out in 1992, it flopped—hard. It cost more than $15 million to make, and only made less than $3 million of it back. But it gained a cult following on home video—unscientific research suggests this was driven entirely by girls my age—and Menken went back to rejigger the songs for a stage musical, and a success was born. 

While it might be a surprise that Once bested Newsies for the Best Musical Tony, no one was much surprised with who brought home the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Croton-on-Hudson’s Audra McDonald. Praise has been unending for her turn as Bess in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.  I got to interview her before the show came to New York—you can see her reaction to Stephen Sondheim’s criticism of the show here. The musical also brought home the award for Best Revival of a Musical—besting Sondheim’s Follies—and McDonald also beat out former Westchester resident Kelli O’Hara, who was nominated for Nice Work If You Can Get It.

Our final statue goes to Eastchester native and Purchase College alum Jeff Croiter, who won Best Lighting Design for Peter and the Starcatcher. Local competition in that category was apparently stiff. According to LoHud.com, not only was Croiter up against another Purchase alum, Brian MacDevitt (Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman), he was nominated alongside another Eastchester High School grad, Kenneth Posner (Other Desert Cities). Only one nominee in that category—Peter Kaczorowski (The Road to Mecca)—didn’t have a local connection.

Other than the awards, what did you think of the ceremonies? I found it odd at how many awards were given out during the commercials. Not just the techy awards, either—big ones like Best Book and Best Choreography. The actual on-air portion of the show seemed reserved for performances (which, fine, were a highlight) and acting awards—you know, the places where you are most likely to see movies stars instead of theater vets. To me, it was a weak move.

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Audra McDonald photo by Michael Wilson

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