The 2009 Tony Awards: For Broadway Newcomers, First Time's The Charm Jeff Lunden talks to theatermakers who made their Broadway debuts this year. Their work, on shows as diverse as Hair and Reasons to be Pretty, has earned praise — and Tony nominations.
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For Broadway Newcomers, First Time's The Charm

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For Broadway Newcomers, First Time's The Charm

For Broadway Newcomers, First Time's The Charm

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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Here's Jeff Lunden with the story.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I FEEL PRETTY")

JOSEFINA SCAGLIONE: (as Maria) (Singing) (Spanish spoken)

JEFF LUNDEN: I'm sure you recognize the tune but this is not a foreign cast recording of "West Side Story." It's from this season's Tony-nominated revival of the classic musical, and this time many of the Puerto Rican Sharks speak and sing in Spanish. Argentinean actress Josefina Scaglione, at age 21, is making her Broadway debut as Maria. She's nominated for a Tony and thinks audiences have no problem understanding "I Feel Pretty" in Spanish.

SCAGLIONE: People ask me, what if they don't understand what you're saying? And I don't think it's necessary for them to understand each word I'm saying. Just to realize that she feels pretty, she's in love, you know?

LUNDEN: Si.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I FEEL PRETTY")

SCAGLIONE: (as Maria) (Singing) (Spanish spoken)

LUNDEN: One is set in the dining room, another in the living room and a third in the garden. While audiences can see each play individually, every Saturday all three are presented in a daylong marathon, which starts at 11:30 in the morning and ends at 10:30 at night. Jessica Hynes says those are her favorite performances.

JESSICA HYNES: You can kind of get lost in it, actually. There's something very overwhelming. You get completely submerged in the material, which is a lovely feeling. It's challenging, and just thrilling.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "THE NORMAN CONQUESTS")

HYNES: (as Annie) You know Norman?

AMANDA ROOT: (as Sarah) Yes, I know Norman very well.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HYNES: (as Annie) Well, you've (unintelligible) like Tom. Norman doesn't bother with secret signals at all.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HYNES: (as Annie) Wow. (unintelligible) and there we both were on the rug.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LUNDEN: Amanda Root says it's a thrill for audiences too.

ROOT: So, it's real event for everybody and you really feel that at the end of the trilogy. The audience, at the end, they feel they've gone through that marathon with you and they've lived every moment and they're there with you, you know what I mean? They know every character, back to front.

LUNDEN: Marin Ireland is playing Steph. She's been in lots of new plays off-Broadway and classic plays in regional theater. But she's noticed a difference this time on Broadway.

MARIN IRELAND: There were so many more people involved, invested - not only financially, but psychologically and emotionally. And so people kind of coming in and out of the room and you're like, oh wow, there's all these other people involved, right, right. And then moving here, the first day really felt like, oh my God. You kind of get those chills walking into the house, like right, this house has been here since 1903.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "REASONS TO BE PRETTY")

IRELAND: (as Steph) No, what? You are meeting someone then? Is that what you're saying?

STEVEN PASQUALE: (as Kent) No, maybe.

IRELAND: (as Steph) I see.

PASQUALE: (as Kent) Yes.

IRELAND: (as Steph) That new girl?

PASQUALE: (as Kent) No, I've never even met her before.

IRELAND: (as Steph) A date.

PASQUALE: (as Kent) No, it's a gathering really. Just some meeting. Some friends, like, introducing us.

IRELAND: (as Steph) Here?

PASQUALE: (as Kent) Not my idea.

IRELAND: (as Steph) That's terrific.

PASQUALE: (as Kent) It's whatever. At least I didn't get all dressed up for it.

IRELAND: (as Steph) Well, that just makes you a slob then, doesn't it?

PASQUALE: (as Kent) So, what does that make you?

LUNDEN: Director Diane Paulus is another person with multiple credits off- Broadway and in regional theaters. She's the artistic director of the highly respected American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Paulus is making her Broadway debut with the Tony-nominated revival of "Hair." And she approached this 1960s anti-war musical with the kind of scrupulous attention to detail she might apply to Shakespeare.

DIANE PAULUS: Unidentified Woman: (Singing) This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius, the age of Aquarius, Aquarius, Aquarius...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AGE OF AQUARIUS")

PAULUS: I've got to admit, I grew up in New York City, I went to Broadway as kid. It was always a dream, you know, could I be, one day, part of this community? So, to be on Broadway, with "Hair" of all pieces, is kind of a dream come true. And for the show to be acknowledged in this way, you know, with all the nominations we've gotten, is just an affirmation of life, I think, affirmation of, you know, the message of Hair. So, I couldn't be happier about that.

LUNDEN: Unidentified Man: (Singing) Let the sunshine...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AGE OF AQUARIUS")

HANSEN: And you can watch scenes from some of those nominated scenes and follow a live blog of tonight's Tony Awards ceremonies starting at 8 p.m. eastern time at NPR.org, where you'll also find Jeff Lunden's reflections on the season and his Tony Award picks.

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