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Tony Awards (#110 of 21)

2018 Tony Nominations: Mean Girls and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical Lead, Followed by Angels in America

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2018 Tony Nominations: Mean Girls and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical Lead, Followed by Angels in America

Helen Maybanks

2018 Tony Nominations: Mean Girls and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical Lead, Followed by Angels in America

Nominations for the 72nd Tony Awards were announced this morning by Katharine McPhee and Leslie Odom Jr. Leading the pack with 12 nominations each is Mean Girls and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical, followed by The Band's Visit, Angels in America, and Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel, all three with 11. And with 10 nominations is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two and the revival of My Fair Lady. The awards will be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 10 on CBS.

When We Were Young and Unafraid Interview with Cherry Jones

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When We Were Young and Unafraid Interview with Cherry Jones
When We Were Young and Unafraid Interview with Cherry Jones

Cherry Jones loves company, so it’s fitting that she plays the proprietor of a bed and breakfast in When We Were Young and Unafraid. You won’t find the actress demanding her own dressing room, starring in a one-woman show, or refusing to talk to someone who recognizes her. She’s motivated most by a desire for connection, deep and true, with her role, the other actors, and the audience. Jones balances this yearning for communion with a sense of loneliness—yet none of it seems neurotic. She’s from Tennessee, with an old-fashioned forthrightness that distinguishes her work and conversation. After all, when she won the Tony Award for The Heiress, she became the first Best Actress to out herself by thanking her then-partner, Mary O’Connor. Jones did so simply, treating it not as a landmark, but the easiest, most natural thing to do. In similar no-nonsense fashion, she exposes her characters’ desires and shortcomings with neither elaborate techniques to distance herself from them nor self-congratulation.

The open-faced actor currently has her work cut out for her playing the emotionally shut-off Agnes. Playwright Sarah Treem, a writer and co-executive producer on House of Cards, endows Jones’s character, who’s forced to deal with other people every waking moment, with limited social skills. As a result, the actress not only has to master a steady stream of rituals as if they’re second nature; she has to alter her own essential transparency. This frisson adds a layer of tension to an already fraught work, which ambitiously maps out the personal and political crosscurrents navigated by American women in 1972. Agnes’s B&B serves as a clandestine shelter for abused women, and while trying to protect her young ward, Penny (Homeland’s Morgan Saylor), from the everyday predations of high school boys, she takes in a savagely beaten young wife, Mary Anne, (Zoe Kazan). Soon Agnes attracts the attention of Hannah an African-American lesbian separatist, made charismatically believable by Cherise Boothe.

Agnes is in her 50s. The three other women in When We Were Young are in their teens, 20s, and 30s. Before a performance of the play, I spoke with Jones about going through each of those stages in her own life and work.

Summer of ‘88: Vibes

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Summer of ‘88: <em>Vibes</em>
Summer of ‘88: <em>Vibes</em>

This past June, 59-year-old Cyndi Lauper—an enduring and consistently surprising presence on the American pop-music scene—won a Tony award for her score to the Broadway musical Kinky Boots. The accolade was a remarkable achievement for the Queens, N.Y. native, particularly given that it was for her debut in the medium. But let us flash back 26 years to 1987 when Lauper, then known primarily as a peppy, kooky pop singer with a string of hits behind her, was gearing up for a debut of a different sort. She’d been cast in her first acting role, in Vibes, a high-concept comedy about a pair of hapless psychics who travel to Ecuador in order to help a shady figure obtain a mystical golden relic. Unfortunately, unlike Kinky Boots, the outcome wasn’t particularly rewarding.

The portents were ominous from the beginning. Dan Aykroyd was cast as the male lead, but bailed because he felt uneasy about Lauper’s intuitive acting style. As Lauper recalls in her 2012 memoir: “We did a reading together…I was totally green, and nobody told me how to do it. And when Dan saw what I did, I guess he felt my approach was just wrong and he kept saying, ’How are you going to talk to your spirit guide?’” Aykroyd was replaced by Jeff Goldblum, but another setback followed when original director Ron Howard, who’d recently hit big with Splash and Cocoon, suddenly dropped out, leaving relative rookie Ken Kwapis (Follow That Bird) to take over.