Courtney P. Vance couldn't get over it. He was presenting a Theatre World Award to Tom Hanks, not only a two-time Oscar winner and beloved star of many movies, making an award-worthy debut on Broadway in Lucky Guy. Every night, he said, West 44 Street looks like Mardi Gras; people from other shows wanting to catch a glimpse of this star. The annual award, now in its 69th year, is meant for first timers on Broadway, or a very special standout performance, and Hanks graciously accepted, emphasizing that he is a "lucky guy," speaking the late Nora Ephron's words 8 times a week. She came to New York knowing she wanted to write for newspapers, but what she really wanted was to write for theater. This award is second best to her being here, he said, his voice cracking.
This impassioned speech was one of many in Monday night's ceremony at The Music Box Theater, the current home of Pippin. As an opener, Ben Vereen reprised his song, "There is magic to do, just for you," bringing down the house, which appeared to Nathan Lane, presenting a Dorothy Loudin Award to his The Nance co-star Jonny Orsini, like Madonna's bedroom. In addition to Hanks, a dozen performances were honored: Bertie Carvel for Mathilda, Rob McClure for Chaplin, Ruthie Ann Miles and Conrad Ricamora for Here Lies Love, Yvonne Strahovski for Golden Boy, Valisia Lekae for Motown: The Musical. Crystal A. Dickinson, who won last year presented to her husband Brandon J. Dirden for The Piano Lesson, who accepted saying the World Theatre Awards were going for marital harmony. Jackie Hoffman presented to Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike's Shalita Grant, asking, who looks good with stripes across her ass, and then grabbing it.
Alan Alda, accepting for the inaugural John Willis Lifetime Achievement Award--after this event's founder--joked, "Next year, this award will go to Tom Hanks." Tom Sturridge, the furniture-climbing brother in Orphans, manifested similar ticks accepting his award, happy to be "encouraged." After a convoluted intro, explaining her long journey to Broadway, Keala Settle of the short lived Hands on a Hard Body, says she is now ready to accept her ample talents. At the Bowlmor after party, Settle said, she's here to stay, cast in Sting's developing musical, The Last Ship, based on his childhood in Newcastle, U.K. with book by John Logan, lyrics by Brian Yorkey, and directed by Joe Mantello. That's what this award is all about.
Carrie Coons delivered a hilarious acceptance speech for her turn as the drunken Honey in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Musing on the importance of awards, she quipped, Who knows what's going to happen to Tom Hanks after this? What did Albee think of her performance? He doesn't give praise, asserting, "'It's a very good play.' But I think he liked it." And what of her co-star and fiancé Tracy Letts? He's in Charlotte filming "Homeland." The film of his play, August: Osage County, is in the can. She hasn't seen it yet, but he has and says he thinks it will be okay. It's a very good play.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.