‘Stereophonic’ Team Celebrates Record Tony Noms, Best Play Win

‘Stereophonic’ Team Celebrates Record Tony Noms, Best Play Win


The Tony Awards are about to broadcast the last award of the night (Best Musical, given to The Outsiders), but champagne is already flowing at the P.J. Clarke’s across from the Lincoln Center, where the ceremony is being held. The restaurant is hosting a party for Stereophonic, this season’s buzzy new play that follows a Seventies band (that is definitely not Fleetwood Mac) as they work on a new album while on the cusp of great fame as break-ups, hard partying, and power struggles threaten to end it all. The show racked up 13 nominations this year, breaking Slave Play’s record for most-nominated play in Tony Awards history. But unlike Slave Play, which didn’t win a single statue, they ended up taking home five trophies, including one for Best Play.

Will Butler, the former member of Arcade Fire who wrote the original songs for the play, is already settled in at Clarke’s, raising a martini glass as the cast and team behind The Outsiders takes the stage to accept their award. Butler lost in his categories (Best Score and Best Orchestrations with music director Justin Craig, respectively) but is riding the high of the show’s last few, whirlwind months.

“It felt great, then I was tired, then it felt weird, then it felt great,” he says later in the night. “Then I ate a little, and now I feel really good.”

The show is a culmination of 11 years’ worth of work by him, director Daniel Aukin (who won for Best Director), and playwright David Adjmi (the recipient of the Best Play trophy). “It was very familiar,” Butler says of the type of “alchemy” that drew him to the team. “Arcade Fire was a very collaborative band. My current band is very collaborative. This is deeply collaborative. Everyone working on it is a writer and editor in a beautiful way.”

Will Butler

Valerie Terranova*

While Butler sits down to talk about his night, his father comes up to congratulate him again before preparing to leave. The entire cast and crew are surrounded by ecstatic friends and family who are buzzing even more than the shell-shocked winners and nominees.

During his acceptance speech for Best Play, a very nervous and excited Adjmi joked about how the beta blocker his agent gave him before the show wasn’t working. When he arrives at the party, I asked him if it had kicked in yet, to which he emphatically replies “No!”

“I thought I was going to have to be hospitalized on that stage,” he continues. “When I was walking up the stairs, I said to my director ‘I can’t do this. I want to go back to my seat.’ It was terrifying!”

David Adjmi

Valerie Terranova*

Since Stereophonic opened in April, it’s been one shock after another — a slew of rave reviews and sold-out houses have allowed the show to extend its run to January (for now). Even the soundtrack has taken off: it currently has more monthly listeners on Spotify than Best Revival of a Musical winner Merrily We Roll Along

“As soon as I get used to some new thing happening, everything gets broken open again,” Adjmi reflects. “I’m like ‘Wait a minute, what’s my reality now?’ It’s both the show growing into itself but also the public and the critics responding to it in a way that, for me, is really over the top. People are coming back 10 times. There’s this mesmeric effect it has on people.”

Adjmi attributes this to the type of word-of-mouth buzz the show started to get while off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizon, where hardcore theater fans and local New Yorkers filled the much smaller theater each night. But even then, it wasn’t yet clear such a new and risky concept of a show that has its audience watch the drama unfold from behind the soundboard of a recording studio.

“For the first preview, I sat in a critic’s seat. We got 20 minutes into it, and I just started crying a little bit because the audience was laughing,” recalls Ryan Rumery, who won tonight for Best Sound Design of a Play for Stereophonic. He was thrilled that the audience immediately understood what they were attempting to do with this show. “And I was like, ‘Okay, this set design’s gonna work.’ Then the music starts to kick in, and I was like, ‘We can do this.’”

Will Brill, who won Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play over Jim Parsons, Corey Stoll, and two of his Stereophonic castmates, is floating around the downstairs dining room at P.J. Clarke’s. With his trophy in hand and wearing a long, sleeveless tunic over his pants, Brill’s elbows are being grabbed by everyone who passes by. For him, Stereophonic is a testament to patience.

“This show is a real lesson in how you can’t plan because David Adjmi and I met in a cafe 10 years ago, and he had written seven pages of this play and was like, ‘I think you’re gonna be in this play someday,’’ he recalls. “And then I ran into him three years later in a coffee shop in L.A. and he was so manic and was writing his memoirs, and I was like, ‘Oh, we’re never gonna do this play.’ And now I’m winning a Tony for it.”

Will Brill

Valerie Terranova*

Brill plays Reg, a founding member of the unnamed band at the center of the plot. He’s the troubled, drug- and alcohol-addled bassist whose wife and bandmate Holly (Juliana Canfield) is ready to leave him for good. By the end of the show, and the making of the album, Reg sobers up, finds serenity, and falls in love with someone else. The arc is massive — but Brill plays it with humor, grace and empathy.

“I feel very lucky to play him. He’s such a sweet entity,” Brill says. “Shows like this make me wonder if I have the physical, mental, emotional capacity for this life. So much has been asked of us by David, and we all love it and wouldn’t think twice about doing it.”

Now that the nerve-wracking nature of Tony season is past them, the cast and team have other things to focus on — like a summer tour from Butler’s band Will Butler + Sister Squares, where they plan to play a few songs from the show. He and Adjmi are also planning to write a rock opera together in the near future. Adjmi, however, admits that he hasn’t been able to think about his other writing in three months. Lately, he’s been fielding calls from executives about adapting Stereophonic into a movie or TV series.

“I’m entertaining them,” he says, making it clear that nothing has been signed or confirmed just yet. There’s nothing to reveal at the moment but their growing audience’s hunger to be more immersed in the world of Stereophonic will eventually be satiated. “I think it could definitely work. I know I would have to put it in a new petri dish and let it grow because it’s designed to be a very theatrical experience. I’m excited by that challenge. It could be thrilling in another medium.” Beyond the nascent plans for writing a rock opera with Butler, Adjmi has a two-part play to finish developing for the Public Theater.

Director Daniel Aukin

Valerie Terranova*

P.J. Clarke’s is only the first stop of the night for the team. They’ll make an appearance at the Carlyle, where a party hosted by the director of their publicity firm O&M hosts the must-attend party every year. It’s a deliciously star-studded event riding the high of the evening over endless French fries and bottles of Moët. 

Near the entrance on Madison, Appropriate nominee Sarah Paulson gossips with Billy Porter. By the Bemelman’s bar, Eddie Redmayne nabs a slider off a tray as the lounge singers perform his opening number from Cabaret. The crowd packs into a ballroom before the second floor opens with an omelet station and a DJ playing remixes of Lauryn Hill and Janet Jackson.


Butler is one of the first members of the team to make their way over to the crowded scene. When the show’s two, Tony-nominated female stars, Sarah Pidgeon and Juliana Canfield, arrive around 2 a.m., they’re immediately yanked into photo ops with other nominees, like Hell’s Kitchen’s Shoshana Bean. It doesn’t take long for Brill to be holding court for small crowds in whichever room he enters, soaking in the congratulations. Eli Gelb, who plays the band’s harried engineer, shows up close to 3 a.m., causing a minor photo commotion of his ownnear the entrance into Bemelman’s.

On stage, Adjmi made it a point to note the importance of casting people who weren’t already Broadway celebrities for this type of role. But by the looks of it, the cast and team behind Stereophonic have already become the biggest stars in the room.

Read original source here.

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