BEL AIR—As the theatrical community of NY gathered on the Great White Way to celebrate their own for the 2010 TONY AWARDSÂ®, the Los Angeles thespian society congregated 3000 miles away to cheer their colleagues via a LIVE feed, courtesy of Direct TV, as The Actors Fund and host Tommy Tune honored TONY Award-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell at their 14th Annual Tony AwardsÂ® Party with the Julie Harris Award. Former High School chum and dance partner Annette Bening presented the award in recognition of not only Stokes theatrical accomplishments, but also his leadership as Chairman of the Board of The Actors Fund. The gala, which included a memorable performance of “You Made Me Love You” by Lorna Luft dedicated to the evening’s honoree, was produced and written by Marc Cherry and David Rambo.
A sold out audience of over 500 joined the festivities at the Skirball Center to enjoy the antics between this years TONY host Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth, the performances from the nominated hit shows and laugh along with presenters like Nathan Lane, who referred to the TONYS as being known as Passover in his home – the same famous Bob Hope line used when welcoming viewers to the 1968 Academy Awards telecast. Among those in attendance were Anne Archer, Adam Arkin, Rene Auberjonois, Jeff Austin, Scott Bakula, Orson Bean, Theodore Bikel, Tyne Daly, Gordon Davidson, Suzanne DeLaurentiis, Mireille Enos, Larry David Eudene, Cassidy Freeman, Betty Garrett, Dick Gautier, Ilene Graff, Martha Hackett, Bridget Hanley, Richard Herd, Ken Howard, Anne Jeffreys, James Karen, Kat Kramer, Sharon Lawrence, Michael Learned, Michelle Lee, Maggie Lord, Lorna Luft, Leonard Maltin, Lee Meriwether, Patricia Morison, Lawrence Pressman, Charlotte Rae, Cathy Rigby, Pamela Reed, Doris Roberts, Howard Storm, Holland Taylor and Rip Taylor.
This the 14th consecutive year that theatre patrons of Los Angeles have come together to watch the TONY AWARDSÂ® ceremony live via satellite for the annual benefit presented by The Actors Fund and bestowing of the Julie Harris Award. Previous recipients have included Gwen Verdon, Charles Durning, Rita Moreno, James Earl Jones, Tyne Daly, Lauren Bacall, Stockard Channing, Carol Channing, Liza Minnelli, Jerry Herman, Tommy Tune, Chita Rivera and, of course, its namesake – Julie Harris. The Celebrity Host Committee for this year’s tribute included Carol Channing, Laurence Fishburne, Carl Reiner, Chita Rivera, Lily Tomlin, Dick Van Dyke and Gordon Davidson, who presented a loving homage to the memory of Actors Fund patron, Lynn Redgrave. The 2010 TONYÂ® party was sponsored by Continental Airlines, DIRECTV, The Screen Actors Guild (SAG), Sextant Wines & 10knots Wines, Sunset Marquis Hotel Restaurant Spa and Staging Techniques.
Brian Stokes Mitchell has enjoyed a rich and varied career on Broadway, television, film, voice-overs and recording, along with appearances in the great American concert halls. His Broadway career includes performances in “Man of La Mancha,” “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Ragtime,” “King Hedley II” and “Mail,” which earned him a Theatre World award for Outstanding Broadway Debut. His long television career began with a seven-year stint on “Trapper John, MD.” Numerous film and TV appearances include “Ugly Betty,” “One Last Thing,” recurring roles on “Crossing Jordan” and “Frasier,” PBS’ “Great Performances,” DreamWorks’ “The Prince of Egypt,” “South Pacific” at Carnegie Hall, and his Presidential Debut in “The Singer and the Song from the White House.” Stokes, as Ms. Bening called him, fondly recalled how Annette also presented his category for his first TONY nomination for the role of Coalhouse Walker, Jr. in the 1998 production of “Ragtime.” “It seemed so perfect to have my High School friend presenting ”¦ such a good omen. I remember as the camera with the little red light moved in on me sitting there as she began to announce – And the TONY goes to ”¦ someone else.” Of course, he didn’t have long to wait before he too received his own TONY for his performance as Petruchio in the 1999 production of “Kiss Me Kate.”
THE ACTORS FUND is a nationwide human services organization that helps all professionals in performing arts and entertainment. The Fund is a safety net, providing programs and services for those who are in need, crisis or transition. Learn more about The Actors Fund at www.actorsfund.org.
Photographs Courtesy: Bill Dow