The Observer has been suffering from a little Plaza overdrive lately thanks to a relentless stream of winter benefits held in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom. Does nobody think outside the gilded box anymore? But an evening of grandiose glamour did somewhat suit Sunday night’s New York Stage and Film Gala in which the non-profit developmental arts company celebrated some of Broadway’s seasoned stars. Triple Tony award winning producer Roger Horchow and actor Tony Shalhoub, who is currently starring in the acclaimed revival of Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy, were the evening’s honorees, with the likes of David Hyde Pierce, Jennifer Westfeldt and diminutive debutante Lilla Crawford taking the stage to speak—and sing—to the award recipients.
Everyone was in high spirits as the event got underway, with the jovial honorees’ speeches making a welcome change from the usual modest-yet-mundane offerings award ceremony podiums seem to incite. Mr. Horchow, whose past credits include Kiss Me Kate, Gypsy and Crazy For You, titillated the crowd with anecdotes about family friends George Gershwin and Cole Porter, and his dramatic career move from businessman to Broadway baby. Making the switch just two decades ago—a somewhat recent venture for the octogenarian—was clearly a wise move for Mr. Horchow, whose way with words made his success as an author entirely believable.
Little Miss Crawford, Broadway’s newest orphan Annie, had the audience eating out of her tiny palm after a rendition of the iconic musical’s “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.” But not everyone was quite taken by the 11-year-old’s performance, with honoree Mr. Shalhoub branding the pre-teen a “precocious little monster troll” in the midst of his acceptance speech. The jokes continued to come thick and fast as the Monk actor mused upon his career highlights, and a star studded video made in his honor by Polly Draper was equally lighthearted. “They are unforgettable performances,” a projection of Alfred Molina said of his friend’s work. “I just can’t remember any of them.” Well we didn’t say it was cutting edge hilarity, but we tittered nonetheless.
Emmy and Golden Globe winning Mr. Shalhoub was far less rambunctious during the cocktail reception, reeling The Observer in with tales of his heady student days at Yale and some rather immaculately crafted facial hair. Revealing his close links to the company, he told us, “New York Stage and Film was started by old friends of mine, and we all started at Yale Drama School together a million years ago. I love the whole organization, and that they thought of me for this award is a terrific honor.”
Two time Tony Award winning director Alex Timbers was equally impressed by the company, branding them “completely developmental.” Telling The Observer of his recent European stage exploits in Germany, he mused, “The director has a larger role over there, and you have three casts at once instead of the same group of actors every night. That means you have to say goodbye to perfection a little bit, and just go with the larger vision, which is really fun.”
The creative chatter didn’t stop flowing there, as we nibbled our roasted beets alongside composers and filmmakers at the dinner table. The artistic young bloods were mercifully—for the charity’s sake—counter balanced by the blue bloods in attendance, who helped to bolster the donation fund. Raising thousands of dollars to cover the costs of play readings, workshops and stagings, it was a comfort to find contributors willing to bankroll the dwindling finances set aside for the arts. Sure, we care about polar bears too, but their song and dance numbers are inevitably less impressive, and The Observer does so love to be entertained.
And perhaps the most entertainment friendly face in the crowd—albeit one slightly masked by a burgeoning thicket of facial fuzz—was David Hyde Pierce. Currently starring alongside Sigourney Weaver in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, the four time Emmy Award winning actor told us: “I love New York —I was born upstate and lived here after college and before I did television.” Mr. Hyde Pierce was well acquainted with both of the night’s honorees, having worked with Mr. Horchow on Curtains, a musical from which he performed a tributary number to his pal, and with Mr. Shalhoub on The Heidi Chronicles. After 11 years as neurotic Dr. Niles Crane on Frasier, Mr. Hyde Pierce seems to have all but dispensed with the small screen, choosing instead to grace the stages of London’s West End and Broadway. “I prefer the stage to television,” he revealed. “It’s very easy to choose.” Don’t tell Kelsey Grammer!
The stage was evidently close to the hearts of all the evening’s guests, as was a good night’s sleep, with the proceedings wrapping up at an hour so respectable The Observer barely recognized it. While the diamond drenched grand dames of Manhattan gladly filed into their cabs, we scurried off into the downpour in search of the next party.