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Backstage Pass

This year’s Tony Awards, honoring the best of Broadway, were held for the second time at New York’s Beacon Theatre. Outside, a full traffic lane was cordoned off and the street was upholstered with red carpet for the stars entering the Art Deco the...

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This year’s Tony Awards, honoring the best of Broadway, were held for the second time at New York’s Beacon Theatre. Outside, a full traffic lane was cordoned off and the street was upholstered with red carpet for the stars entering the Art Deco theater. The Inquisitive Guest was there—on the red carpet, in the greenroom lounge, and in the pressroom during the show. And since we’ve always been fascinated by the secret worlds backstage, we asked stars to tell us about their most memorable theater dressing rooms and film-set trailers.


“My dressing room is stunning,” said Nina Arianda, who was awarded Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in the play Venus in Fur. “I have white walls, black trim, and one wall that is red. They put in a gold mirror and a purple velvet divan. They made me a beautiful dressing room, and I’m so glad, because Meryl Streep came to visit.”


Hugh Jackman, who will star as Jean Valjean in a new film version of Les Misérables, was given a special award for his contributions to Broadway and for his charity work. His most special dressing room? “I did a show in Vegas for the opening of the Wynn casino,” he told AD. “I could have lived in that dressing room: big, lush, ridiculous. I couldn’t find my dresser. And I always bring pictures of the kids.”


Laura Bell Bundy was wearing a dress that she said came with “a deliciously good-looking gay man” to mind the train. “Pepto-Bismol pink,” is how she described her dressing room for the musical Legally Blonde. “They painted it for me. I inundated myself with pink. Everything in my dressing room was very Elle Woods. So when I walked into the theater, I was transported.” She added that she always has “photos of family or people who come to see the show—Bette Midler came on my birthday and she gave me notes on my performance.”

Stockard Channing, now starring in the play Other Desert Cities, wore Cavalli to the awards. “My dressing room at the Booth is one of the smallest rooms you’ve ever seen,” she said. “My dresser likes to make Christmas trees hanging with stuff. But I’m not into that. For me, it’s just about the acting and the makeup.”


An energetic Josh Young, who plays Judas in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, described his dressing room as, “Bad. Wonderful. Fine. I have a nice lounge chair, and that’s about it.”

“I had the greatest dressing room at the Helen Hayes Theatre, when I did Dirty Blonde on Broadway,” said Kathy Najimy. “I was playing Mae West, so it was very opulent and pink and fluffy. I decorated it myself. I put in candles and pink and white marabou feathers—a lot of silk and satin. And great people came to visit: Isabella Rossellini, Lily Tomlin, Gloria Steinem. I have a teacup from Fishs Eddy that I use for my special tea, which I must have an hour before every show.”


“My films start small,” claimed Jessica Chastain, wearing a sparkling sheer gown by Mario Schwab of London. “So I don’t really have great dressing rooms. But for Tree of Life, we took over the neighborhood and everyone had a house. And I just did Mama in Toronto. I play a punk bass player, and I filled the whole trailer with posters—including ones of Lou Reed. It was really cool.”


“Every dressing room I have is cool,” answered Broadway legend Ben Vereen, who will bring his one-man show Steppin’ Out Live with Ben Vereen to New York in July. “I make them a shrine—incense, figures of deities, the whole nine yards. Because to me, the theater is a sacred space.”

John Lithgow, another theater legend, described his dressing room for the play The Columnist. “I didn’t do much to it, because we’re a limited run. So I haven’t put anything on the walls.” But he did inherit well. “There is a beautiful sofa there that folds out, so I can take a nap between shows,” he said. “It was a gift to the Manhattan Theatre Club from Frances McDormand, who preceded me.”


Sheryl Crow, who presented the Tony for Best Musical Score, told AD that she is “very partial” to the dressing rooms at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, in Morrison, Colorado, because the entire venue, as well as the backstage area, is built into a mountain. “The walls are exposed rock,” she said. “It’s a very trippy place. It’s got a crazy energy. I know that makes me sound like I’m completely woo-woo, but it does.”

Judy Kaye, who plays Estonia Dulworth, the Duchess of Woodford, in Nice Work If You Can Get It, said that her dressing room is just seven by seven feet. “It’s decorated in maroons and golds. I brought in some lovely sheers for the window. And I have an array of pictures of the Flatiron Building.” She explained that her grandparents were illustrators, and their first studio was on top of the Flatiron. “That was in the teens and ’20s. The images take me to that period.”


Cristin Milioti, nominated for her performance in the musical Once, wore an emerald gown by designer Jason Wu. “My dressing room is very tiny,” she said. “I have an armchair and a tiny dark-blue couch from IKEA with an Indian-style batik over it and Pier One pillows. I tried to class it up with drawings and pictures of my friends.”

Jessie Mueller starred opposite Harry Connick Jr. in the musical On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, which closed in January. “My dressing room was amazing,” she said. “I had a small room in the back and then a larger room with a couch that I painted a light lavender. It was a fantastic little escape. And I got to meet Sandra Bullock and Ralph Lauren. They would go up to Harry’s dressing room, and I would just come and say hi. It was a posh man cave up there—very polished dark gray with cool leather chairs.”


“I have some Star Wars posters on the wall,” said Christian Borle, who won for Best Featured Actor for his role in Peter and the Starcatcher, a spin on the classic Peter Pan. “I got a colorful rug on the Internet. I light a few candles and stretch out on the floor. And I have a full bar, because I’m an adult…. Did I mention the candles?”

Borle’s costar Celia Keenan-Bolger attended the awards with her brother Andrew, who plays a newsboy in the musical Newsies. “Off Broadway, I shared a dressing room with 12 guys,” said Celia. “I could have gone into the bathroom to change, but the dressing room was where we really got to know each other.” Since the show transferred to Broadway, she has had her own dressing room—”the nicest I’ve ever had,” she said. “I’ve got a throw rug and a couch where I can take a nap.”


“It’s a mess,” Audra McDonald admitted to AD backstage after taking the Best Actress award for her role in Porgy and Bess. “I’m kind of a slob. I have a lot of elephant figures in the room, because it’s my favorite animal. I feel they are really deep, emotional creatures. And I need silence. I love to chat after the show, but I like it completely quiet before I go down the rabbit hole and step on that stage.”

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