No one slept through the 55th annual Drama Desk Awards last night thanks to Illy coffee, energy enhanced drinks and mini-cupcakes at the pre-show reception. “Ragtime” producer Brad Reynolds searched for a no-caf drink without luck. Unique in one way–this is the only award show where Broadway, Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway shows compete against one another in the same categories. Broadway superstar Patti LuPone hosted the extravaganza at the LaGuardia Concert Hall at Lincoln Center.
Playwright Edward Albee, a presenter, used the ladies room before going on stage after discovering there wasn’t a mirror in the men’s room. Then Albee — currently working on two new shows – fondly dubbed my toy poodle, Campari, a “doggette.” He talked about his beloved Irish Wolf hounds – he also talks about his bond with them in Darryl Roth’s new documentary, “My Dog, An Unconditional Love Story.” It’s about notable New Yorkers and their pets – including Lynn Redgrave, Richard Gere, Judy Collins and Glenn Close.
“OMG, I forgot to answer that email,” exclaimed a surprised David Bryant when his first award for “Memphis” was announced. “I’m in the cheap seats. I just got here.” The keyboardist and founding member of Bon Jovi, who described himself as “just a white Jewish kid from New Jersey,” explained afterwards, “This piece of work celebrates not our differences but what brings us together. The arts bring the freedom to the world.” Social change is not new to that “kid” with his long blond curls. He’s also a classically trained pianist. “It’s all about how it makes you feel,” he added when asked about the story of “Memphis,” which celebrates rock and roll. “It shows the passion that brings us together. It’s what we have inside us. We’ve come a long way and have a long way to go. We have an African American president.” “The arts force social change.”
Bryant did the orchestration with Daryl Waters, Eartha Kitt’s longtime musical director. First Lady Michelle Obama saw “Memphis recently.” “As a performer you feel something extra when someone special is in the audience,” Bryant said. It was a security nightmare but she left a big note to the cast signed by Mrs. Obama, her mother and the girls.
Kate Finnerman, who was named best featured actress in a musical (“Promises Promises”) over Angela Lansbury, said Lansbury taught her “grace and calm.” She added, “Angela’s regal stature in the theater is something to emulate. She never lets anyone down.”
Catherine Zeta Jones could only second that. “It’s a dream to work with Angela,” said Zeta Jones, who co-stars with Lansbury in “A Little Night Music.” And on hubby, Michael Douglas, “I get to sleep with a movie star every night.” Zeta Jones’ skin tight black sequined mini dress and spike heels didn’t hide her shaky legs after she accepted the award. “I was terrific tonight.”
Actor Jim Brochu, who won best solo performance for his portrayal of Mostel in “Zero Hour,” said, “I can be crazy like Zero, but I don’t butter my arms.” He and Mostel had some things in common off stage. “We’re both painters and have a positive attitude to get us through tough times.”