Three productions seen on stages in the Berkshires in the past few years were nominated for The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards this week.
The Broadway productions of The Elephant Man and The Visit, which began at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, are up for multiple Tony Awards along with On The Town from Barrington Stage Company. Nominated for five awards including Best Musical, The Visit stars Chita Rivera as the world’s richest woman, an embittered widow who returns to her hardship-stricken hometown.
“It is also a serious European love story,” Rivera said. “A lot of people like to think it’s a story about revenge, but it’s really, really not. It’s political. It’s witty.”
Rivera joined WAMC’s The Roundtable in 2014 to talk about the musical’s reemergence at Williamstown. Rivera, now 82, starred in the musical’s 2001 premiere in Chicago before a 2008 performance at Virginia’s Signature Theatre.
“To breathe the first breath of life into a character is a blessing,” said Rivera.
Rivera is nominated for Best Lead Actress in a Musical.
Barrington Stage Company’s On The Town earned four nominations, including Best Revival of a Musical. Featuring Leonard Bernstein’s music, the show debuted with the American Ballet Theatre in 1944. John Rando, who is nominated for Best Direction of a Musical, spoke with WAMC in 2013 about why the show resonates today.
“The story of three sailors on leave in New York City during World War II and with the task and chore of finding their one true love,” Rando explained. “Finding that person, falling in love with that person and then saying goodbye with the uncertainty that they may ever see that person again. The United States is always at war it seems and this story is being played over and over around our country.”
Rando says the show is one of the funniest written while the music helps captures more serious tones.
“In the music there is this heart, this pulse, this soul and at the same time there’s this joy, irreverence and happiness,” Rando said. “You have a sense that when they were creating this show they just had a tremendously good time. It feels that way when you play it.”
Tony Yazbek is nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical in On The Town. Barrington Stage artistic director Julianne Boyd says it’s rewarding to see a production come full circle and be recognized by peers.
“We had never done such a big dance show before,” Boyd said. “We weren’t even sure it would fit on our stage to tell you the truth.”
Williamstown Theatre Festival’s The Elephant Man starred Bradley Cooper as John Merrick, a 19th century British man known for his disfigurement who becomes a subject of interest among Victorian high society — primarily an actress played by Patricia Clarkson. The performance made its way to Broadway for a record breaking run and is up for four awards, including Best Revival of a Play. It opens in London May 19th.
The Tony Awards will be shown on CBS June 7th.