In 1996, Julie Andrews refused her Tony nomination for Victor/Victoria because she was teed off that no one else involved in the show (like her hubby, Blake Edwards) got a nod. But the producers of the new revival of Sunday in the Park With George–the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine exploration into the craft and legacy of French pointilist Georges Seurat—are pulling out of their nominations even before they get them.
Earlier this month, they announced that they’d withdrawn the show from Tony consideration, saying the awards spotlight should instead be on non-limited productions that will run a long time. Do you buy it? Sure—though some anonymous chatters on the Broadway boards have speculated that maybe the producers would rather not have to spend money giving away coveted tickets to all those Tony voters. With over 840 voters (plus their guests), that’s probably more than a quarter of a million bucks saved.
Sunday’s publicist, Rick Miramontez, tells me, “That’s not the reason at all. They just don’t want to be in competition and don’t want the pressure.” In any case, maybe pulling out of the Tonys is a good thing for costar Jake Gyllenhaal, who’s had terrible luck with honors. In 2006, he got a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for Brokeback Mountain while his costar, Heath Ledger, was up for lead.
Even worse, in 2015, he garnered Oscar buzz for Nightcrawler, but ended up without a nomination (the film only got a Best Original Screenplay nod). And two years ago, he didn’t get a Tony nomination for Constellations, though the only other person onstage—Ruth Wilson—did get one. This year, he’d have to break up a showdown between Dear Evan Hansen’s Ben Platt and Groundhog Day’s Andy Karl, so maybe sitting it out and being fabulous is the less combative way to go.
At Thursday night's opening of the show—which got strong reviews, especially for Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford—guests promenaded into the 42nd Street branch of the New York Public Library, which was appropriately artsy looking with its marble columns, fake foliage, candles, and a string trio playing along to old Blondie tunes via the DJ. The food was just pass-alongs—were the producers being thrifty again, lol?—but the conversation was certainly filling. Journalist George Rush said, “Jake Gyllenhaal sings better than Ryan Gosling. He’s not as good a singer as Mandy Patinkin [the original George], but he probably has more range.”
Stephen Byrd—one of the producers of last year’s African-set drama Eclipsed—said, “I had no idea Jake had chops like that! And it’s one of the most diversified multi-cultural things I’ve seen.” In addition to two Asian-Americans in the cast, Phillip Boykin—a Tony nominee for Porgy and Bess—plays the wryly disparaging Boatman. At the party, Boykin told me, “Jake and I had a few comments about race and making the cast more like America. Jake said, ‘How crazy is it to start a show with the word “white”?’ He made sure he came to me and said, ‘Everything white isn’t as pure as the definition.’ Well, I ask if white is the blank page—and represents endless possibility—does that mean black is the opposite—no possibilities? No, because I’m in this show and I’m playing a white character!” he said, laughing.
Near the red-carpet room, I ran into Liz McCartney, who plays half of a hilariously gauche couple. (Tony nominee Brooks Ashmanskas plays her husband.) What was it like to work with Jake? “First of all, he has the most beautiful eyes ever,” McCartney said, mistily. “His entire soul is in this show.” Pause. “You don’t want to know what it’s like to work with Brooks Ashmanskas?” she laughed.
Good show, nice party. And Tony, shmony. They’ve got prestige—and are heading toward a lot of sold out performances.
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