A Producer's Pre-Tonys Diary, Week 1: Photo Ops, Baseball and Bitmojis

Courtesy of Caitlin Clements
Composers Benj Pasek (right, in jacket) and Justin Paul (second from left) give a shout-out to lead producer Stacey Mindich (middle).

Tuesday, May 2nd

“Tony Tuesday” is upon us! Right before the broadcast, my parents in Oklahoma send an S.O.S. that their live-stream isn’t working and they can't tune in. FaceTime to the rescue, and they watch live with me on NY1 as the nominations are announced. Each time I hear “Evan,” I don’t quite trust my own mental tally -- but the email from our press team at O&M Co. confirms: 9 nominations for Dear Evan Hansen! Truly thrilling, after what’s been, for many of us on the team, an 8-year journey.

A flurry of excited congratulatory texts/emails/bitmojis/cupcakes ping-pong between the members of our Dear Evan Hansen family all day, but at night before the show we have a chance to gather onstage and soak in the moment together. It’s the first time so many of us have been in the same place since opening night in December, and it’s a joyous reunion. Lead producer Stacey Mindich offers some emotional remarks honoring the amount of time, creativity, and passion it took to bring this original musical to the stage, and the fact that this Best Musical nomination is “truly one for everyone, from the box office to the band, the crew to the cast.”

Stacey is followed by a word from composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, expressing gratitude for her unwavering support of the production over all these years. Then the group disperses so that the cast and crew can get their game faces on for the performance.

Forty-five minutes later it’s showtime, and it turns out everyone has actually reconvened in the back of the house. Once a show has officially opened, members of the producing and creative team aren’t typically present for performances on a nightly basis -- but tonight is different, and nearly everyone is here. Leading man (and newly-minted Tony nominee) Ben Platt is greeted with thunderous applause, as are fellow nominees Rachel Bay Jones and Mike Faist. It's electric. Later, when I mention the moment to Mike, he can only shake his head in disbelief and utter a single word: “Surreal.”  

Wednesday, May 3rd

Our nominees rose early this morning for the traditional press event at which they receive the iconic nominee pin and their survival guide for the weeks ahead. It’s all hugs, selfies and smiles as the contenders mix and mingle for the first time as the “nominated class of 2017.” Nominees from the cast and creative team of each production attend alongside the lead producer for this event – and the rest of us eagerly await updates and photos via text/email/Twitter. Office consensus is that the Ben Platt/Josh Groban photo op is basically the cutest thing ever. 

Later in the day, a video shoot with members of the cast and creative team takes place at our office. Scenic designer David Korins is early for his call time, and he decides to help cover the office phones. What can I say: he’s a Renaissance man!

After work, I’m whisked away by two dear friends who are already on a quest to help me find the perfect Tony dress (a.k.a. alter my habit of perpetually buying variations of the exact same thing in a slightly different color). We strike out at Lord & Taylor. To be continued…

Thursday, May 4th

It’s opening day for the Broadway Show League: the annual summertime tradition where teams repping various Broadway shows gather in Central Park to face off in intense games of softball -- and the most ardent of theater fans come out to cheer them on. (It’s also a chance to get out of the office for a couple hours to soak up a little sunshine).

Back when I was in high school, my family would patiently sit with me in Central Park for hours as I’d linger in the stands and root for my favorite shows. Years later, it really hit me that I’d found my own little corner of this close-knit community when I was working as an assistant company manager for the 2012 Annie revival, and I received my first Broadway Show League jersey, a proud team member of the “Hard Knock Lifers.”

Stars who were all glammed up yesterday at the nominees event hit the field in grass-stained jerseys and well-worn gloves — a glorious sight to behold — and members of our producing and management team dole out game snacks to all the teams. For a few hours each week, on what would otherwise be a coveted afternoon “off," our stagehands, ushers, musicians, and cast members (our own Michael Park and Laura Dreyfuss are proudly sporting blue on the field) will all don the same jersey and take to the field with the same goal in mind: to take down the Mormons.  Er, I mean, represent their show with pride. (Side note: The Book of Mormon did end up defeating Team Evan Hansen this week, 13-10.  But seems hardly a fair fight going up against “God’s Favorite Team” - their words, not mine.)

Sometimes teams are even joined by League veterans who aren’t currently in a show. I present to you the following exchange:

Me: “Hey, who’s that playing catcher for our team?”

DEH Teammate: “Oh, you know. She was in the original Broadway cast of A Chorus Line. Been playing for over 30 years. Never misses a season. This year, she’s with us.” 

Say whaaat? Note to self: investigate that later.

Even in a week so extraordinary for everyone in the Dear Evan Hansen family, tomorrow will inevitably be back to a dose of the ordinary. There are regular weekly meetings to attend, and end-of-week office tasks to complete (like the Dear Evan Hansen study guide that’s been awaiting a final edit). There’s a song in the show titled “So Big / So Small” – and that’s actually an apt description of my goal for how to embrace the busy weeks ahead. From the events that are undeniably “big” and momentous, to the tasks that are seemingly “small” and mundane, I intend to try and savor them all -- and look forward to sharing many of those experiences here along the way.

Tony Awards 2017