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The Biggest Lucille Lortel Awards Wrap-Up Post You’ve Probably Ever Seen

Sunday night Jeremy Shamos danced across the Kimmel Center stage before taking off into a sudden run and leaping  into Steven Pasquale’s strong arms (where, truth be told, he was caught and held quite tenderly). And Steven Boyer sang the back half of his acceptance speech to the tune provided by his play-off music instead of leaving. And Megan Mullally, struggling with an unruly teleprompter, said “Mary Testa” so many times she couldn’t keep a straight face any longer.

And this, by the way, was before the party even started. This was just the ceremony. Because, sure, there’s a party after the Lucille Lortel Awards, but in a way, the awards themselves are a bit of a party, too. Or at least, a real celebration of the people winning them.

There’s not a lot of pomp and circumstance. There’s an opener, and video presentations from nominated musicals. There’s usually at least one more musical act. And there are tons of star-studded presenters, to be sure. But everyone goes about their business pretty swiftly, no big introduction speeches, no ages and ages of uncomfortable banter. People get up, state the category, read the names, call out the winner.

Because it’s not about these people, not at the Lortels – there’s no race for ratings here. It’s just about off-Broadway, and the people who made it shine in the last year. They are the lifeblood of the community, and they are the ones who get to bask in the spotlight.

Seriously. If you get a chance, you should go some year. Afterward there’s a lovely cocktail party at the top of the Kimmel Center looking out over Washington Square Park. There’s wine, and if you’re very lucky, you might run into Nick Cordero – WHO IS SO TALL AND HANDSOME YOU GUYS – in line for pasta.

This year, though, we were there in your stead. And we asked the off-Broadway stars some questions. Like great off-Broadway experiences. And their favorite books, or pop songs from the 90s. Check out their answers, below:


Brian J Smith, Tony Nominee, The Glass Menagerie

M: What’s your favorite off-Broadway show you’ve ever seen?

B: I would say Circle Mirror Transformation, that was really amazing.

M: Favorite mid-to-late 90s pop song?

B: Heart is like, early 90s, right?

A: You can go with the early 90s, we’ll allow it.

M: I’d say “Alone”, by Heart. I mean, I listen to that on the subway all the time.

Vincent Piazza, Jersey Boys movie, Boardwalk Empire

M: Do you have a favorite off-Broadway experience?

V: There isn’t one that’s coming to mind right now. I can tell you that the intimacy of a smaller house sometimes gives the most profound experiences. Working off-Broadway, or off-off-Broadway, there is that relationship that you have with the audience, that you may not get in a larger house that’s so special.

M: Do you have a favorite mid-to-late-90s pop song?

V: The end of the 90s is a blur!

M: I always go with Mmmbop, that’s my favorite.

V: Mmmbop, that comes into my head every once in a while. But, let me see, you’ve really stumped me… there was that Free Willy song that was like, a big thing for a while and then of course, there was Celine Dion, “My Heart Will Go On.”

Shuler Hensley, Encores! Most Happy Fella, The Whale

M: Do you have a favorite off-Broadway experience, whether it was a show you were in, or something you got to see?

S: For me, definitely The Whale last year was one of those experiences. You’re in a very small house, it’s an immaculate piece of material, and it was embraced by everybody and it was an amazing experience.

M: Do you have a favorite book?

S:I would say To Kill a Mockingbird is tied with All the King’s Men. But my son’s middle name is Atticus, so, it’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Laura Osnes, Threepenny Opera, Cinderella

M: Do you have a favorite off-Broadway show you’ve ever seen?

L: I saw Tribes a few years ago. It was a-may-zing. My friend Mare Winningham was in it and I saw it twice, actually, and I cried both times, it was so powerful and so amazing. I love that work like that is being done and it’s not about having to be a commercial hit. Like, that show wouldn’t work in a gigantic space. It’s made for off-Broadway for that reason, and you get to be kind of up close and personal with the actors telling this beautiful story. I would say that was my most amazing off-Broadway experience.

M: If you could dreamcast Sandy in Grease for this live TV show version on Fox, who would it be?

L: Oh gosh, I don’t know. It depends! I don’t know if they have plans to go the movie star route, or the Broadway route. If they’re going the Broadway route, I don’t know if I’m too old but it might be fun if they would have me. [laughs] My agent is probably like “Stay away from Grease!” But it would be fun! Okay, but, people ask me this and I thought of Chloe Grace Moretz. She would be cute.

M: What advice do you have for someone playing the role?

L: I feel like when I did the reality show my goal was just to be myself with a Sandy touch. You can’t try to be anyone you’re not, so it’s like… you have to have a sweet side, but you have to be able to turn on the sexy. I feel like every woman, no matter who they are, has both sides in them. So just have fun, it’s a fun show!

Molly Ranson, Bad Jews, Carrie

M: What’s your favorite off-Broadway show that you got to see?

MR: I really loved Hand to God. That was pretty intense and funny and crazy. Loved that show.

M:  Do you have a favorite memory of working off-Broadway?

MR: I guess one that was pretty incredible was when we [the cast of Bad Jews] made the move from the black box to the Laura Pels. That was pretty exciting because we were the first show in the history of that theater to make that move.

M: Do you have a favorite book?

MR: I’m reading  The Goldfinch right now and really liking it. I would recommend it.

Mortiz von Stuelpnagel, Director, Hand to God

M: Do you have a favorite pop song from the 90s?

MvS: I mean, where do you start? Okay, well, let’s start with Milli Vanilli, just incredible… But also, anything They Might Be Giants, anything Pearl Jam, anything Nirvana, late Pixies. There’s a lot of really amazing things to choose from in there.

M: Okay, so what if I held a gun to your head and made you choose a favorite.

MvS: If you held a gun to my head, then perhaps we’d have to go with “November Rain” by Guns and Roses. It’s epic, okay.

Tracee Chimo, Bad Jews

M: Do you have a favorite off-Broadway show you’ve ever gotten to see?

T: I’m blanking because I just saw Cabaret and I was so blown away from that – my mind is melted – but that’s on Broadway. Well… when I first moved to New York they did The Last Sunday in June and that was off-Broadway at the old Signature Theater and that was awesome. That blew my mind, and I remember that.

M: Do you have a favorite pop song from the 90s?

T: Good one! “Pump up the Jam”? Does that count? I love that song, that’s on my gym mix!

Steven Boyer, Winner, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play for Hand to God

M: Do you have a favorite off-Broadway show that you’ve ever seen?

S: EVER? Oh, man. There are so many. I’m really, oh my god, this is like… I’m drawing a huge blank right now because I feel like I’ve seen so many amazing things.

M: Anything really recent that you liked a lot?

S: Yeah, I saw Good Person of Szechwan this season and I loved it. I thought it was amazing, thought Taylor Mac was incredible and the entire cast was like… Usually in a show there’s like, one or two people you can’t stop watching? Every single person in that show, I couldn’t stop watching them. I couldn’t take my eyes off each person because they were so unique and so different and so vibrant.

M: Do you have a favorite off-Broadway experience of yours?

S: You know what, I really, really enjoyed doing Modern Terrorism last year at Second Stage. I think Jon Kern is hilarious and a really amazing writer and I thought that play really divided the audience and I really loved that about it. Some people just were not having it, they thought that the subject matter was too touchy. And the people that loved it absolutely loved it. I think it’s really cool that off-Broadway you can do plays that divide people in that way and ake people feel passionately about the work that they’re seeing.

M: Okay, what’s your favorite 90s pop song?

S: I mean, I’m not sure if it counts as pop… It doesn’t count as pop, but I like “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Lynn Cohen, Sex and the City, Hunger Games, EVERYTHING EVER SHE IS THE BEST

M: What was it like working on The Sonnet Project with the New York Shakespeare Exchange?

L: I loved it. It was shot by somebody wonderful, my husband was in the one that I filmed – and he did his own, too! – but it was really wonderful. It was very, very special. And I could pick the one I wanted, so of course it was all about my husband.

M: Do you have a favorite book?

L: Oh, sure I do. There’s War and Peace, by Tolstoy, and The Great Gatsby, and then Camus’ first Notebooks, they’re in my dressing room – it’s everything about what an artist is, and the courage you have to have.

Jeremy Shamos, Winner, Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play for Dinner with Friends

M: Famous Shamos! Can I ask you a few questions?

J: Please, I would be honored, and I would be insulted if you didn’t.

M:Yay! Do you have a favorite off-Broadway sho—

J: No!

M: Wow!

J: Actually, someone asked me that earlier and I was really lame…  I really haven’t had a good schedule to see things this year, so what’d I see… I saw Appropriate. I saw that and it was very enjoyable.

M: Okay, well, what’s a great book that you’ve read recently?

J: I started reading The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe to my kids. I know I remember reading it, but I’m still surprised by little plot twists I don’t remember that well. And my kids at first were like ‘this is boring…’ and then they just got quieter and quieter and they just got really into it, so, it’s great. So now I guess I’m committing to The Chronicles of Narnia. And we’re going to start doing Harry Potter soon.

Barrett Weed, Heathers

M: When you first saw the Heathers script, what did you think when you read it?

B: That… I don’t know what I have to do to get this part, but I have to get it. I have to get it. I’m convinced  it’s the greatest part that’s been written for a woman in contemporary musical theater in the past like, 10 years.

M: Do you have a favorite off-Broadway show that you’ve seen recently?

B: Oh my gosh, well, it’s not running right now, but I saw Bad Jews and I lost my shit over it. I thought it was amazing.

M: One more question. Do you have a favorite pop song from the 90s?

B: I mean, probably “Wannabe”. Does that count? That’s the first thing that came to mind. I was obsessed with the Spice Girls when I was a kid.

Kyle Riabko, What’s it All About

M: Favorite off-Broadway show that you’ve seen like, ever?

K: You know what? This was the year! I mean, I loved Natasha [Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812] I loved Here Lies Love. It’s really hard to pick. And this is my first experience off-Broadway, really. I come from music, not theater, so it’s all a little new to me. But it seems like this year was a good year.

M: I know you’ve been on Broadway, so what did you like about working off-Broadway?

K:  You can push the edges of the form out a little bit further, or at least try and experiment, and you have people looking back at you who are accepting of that experimentation. It’s nice.

M: Okay, two music questions. Number one: favorite Bacharach song.

K: That’s a tricky one, but, “This Guy’s in Love With You” has always been close to my heart.

M: Number two, favorite pop song from the 90s.

K: I was just jamming with my friend on Oasis the other day. We were doing “Wonderwall” and I hadn’t thought of that song in a while. I love “Wonderwall.”

Lucas Steele, Winner, Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical for Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

M: Do you have a favorite off-Broadway show that you’ve gotten to see recently?

L: I appreciate a ton of work they do down at The Public, but you caught me with my pants down on this question…

M: Well, then, do you have a favorite experience working on Natasha, Pierre…?

L: My favorite experience working on Comet was the night before we closed. We had an incredible audience in the house, it was pretty much all peers, and people whose work that you’ve known for years. Everybody always builds up closing as being a momentous event, but I feel like somehow because people know that it’s closing, it becomes something… It’s not the best representation of the show. The night before we closed was an experience I’ll never forget. Just the reaction at the end. And feeling like, all the people that have been working and hitting the streets for years are here, appreciating this.

M: Favorite pop song from the 90s?

L: Ugh. “I Want it That Way!”

Of note: Lucas came and found me at the after-party to let me know he’d felt terribly that he didn’t have a better answer for my question about favorite off-Broadway shows, so he’d thought about it all night. His answer? Love and Information, by Caryl Churchill at New York Theater Workshop. YOU GUYS IT WAS SO SWEET AND THOUGHTFUL AND HE’S SO HANDSOME I ALMOST FELL OVER AND DIED.

Alexandra Socha, Fun Home

M: Do you have a favorite off-Broadway show that you’ve ever seen?

A: I don’t know! Does Sleep No More count as off-Broadway?

M: I’m counting it!

A: I went to Sleep No More for my birthday, which was not even a month ago, so I think that’s the last thing I went to.  And that was amazing.

M: Do you have a favorite pop song from the 90s?

A: That’s like asking someone to pick their favorite child! I guess anything by the Spice Girls. Just anything. Can I say the Soundtrack to Spice World? Can that be my answer?

David Byrne, Here Lies Love

M: I know this is the first off-Broadway show you’ve brought to the stage, but have you seen a lot of off-Broadway theater?

D: Oh, yeah!

M: Do you have a favorite?

D: Oh my gosh, there was a show that was part of Under the Radar last year. It was called Life and Times Part 1 & 2, and the entire thing was sung. I loved it.

M: Do you have a favorite pop song from the 90s?

D: Oh jeez, I probably do! I probably covered some of them. Is Whitney Houston 90s? I did a cover of “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”

Carson Elrod, The Heir Apparent, The Explorers Club

M: Favorite pop song from the 90s?

C: It’s like The Matrix in my head right now, there’s like a whole catalogue that’s coming down. I don’t know why “Steal My Sunshine” is coming into my head? That’s coming into my head. “Alive” by Pearl Jam is coming into my head. Oh, oh! “Praise You” by Fatboy Slim, that’s coming into my head. Man… “Steal My Sunshine” where did that even come from?

Uzo Aduba, Venice, Orange is the New Black

M: Do you have a favorite pop song from the 90s?

U: Oh, anything ‘N Sync. Like, anything. “No Strings Attached” goes right to my head, right away. Or “Pop”!

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