Backstage with the Tony Award winners -- It's a good ''Hair'' day as Broadway's stars turn out to honor the year's best performances and productions

By Melissa Rose Bernardo
Updated June 09, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Brian Dennehy, Harvey Fierstein, ...
Credit: Tony's Winners: Dimitrios Kambouris/

What do you get when you put six gay Jewish men in a room and lock the door? A musical.

That was Harvey Fierstein riffing in New York’s Rainbow Room after the 2003 Tony Awards, moments after his ”Hairspray” was named Best Musical. He was sharing the ”stage” with his Tony-winning costar, Broadway sweetheart Marissa Jaret Winokur. In total, ”Hairspray” danced off with eight awards; ”Take Me Out” — playwright Richard Greenberg’s love letter to baseball — took three, as did the star-studded revival of ”Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Tony spread her wealth, and was backstage for all the drama.

June 8, 2003 — a night that will live as the gayest Tony Awards ever. The evening’s Best Play? ”Take Me Out,” the tale of a gay baseball player. That cast’s featured-actor winner, Denis O’Hare, gave a big shout-out to his boyfriend. Fierstein was traipsing around in a dress during ”Hairspray”’s production number. We’re not even counting all of host Hugh Jackman’s ”Gypsy” jokes. But the pièce de résistance? Composer Marc Shaiman declaring his undying love for writing (and real-life) partner Scott Wittman, followed by a big ecstatic on-the-mouth kiss. Wonder what CBS honcho Les Moonves made of that display.

Some other Tony highlights:

Wife and kids: Fierstein proclaimed his love for the entire theater community during an effusive acceptance speech. ”I adore each one of you and I want to have your children and I promise to raise them well.”

Best Academy Award in-joke: Wittman was clearly in a kissing mood, especially after receiving his award from a certain sexy New Yorker. ”I got to kiss Sarah Jessica Parker! I wanted to do the full Adrien Brody to her.”

Just call him Shecky Reeve: Presenter Christopher Reeve took the stage following ”Hairspray”’s insanely peppy gender-bending interracial dancefest and couldn’t resist a crack of his own. ”I definitely need to regroup after that.”

Billy get your gun: Still reeling from the one-two punch of winning a Tony for orchestrations and putting viewers in a ”New York State of Mind” with an open-air Times Square appearance, ”Movin’ Out” composer Billy Joel serenaded a roomful of journalists with a few bars of ”There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Apparently Bernadette Peters isn’t the only one who can fill Ethel Merman’s shoes.

Forgive and forget: ”Long Day’s Journey Into Night” winner Brian Dennehy begged the forgiveness of his fellow cast members Vanessa Redgrave, Robert Sean Leonard, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. ”I am such a schmuck!” he lamented. ”Here I am not thanking Vanessa Redgrave, who gives the performance of a goddamn decade…. Would you please tell Vanessa that I apologize? I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.”

New Jersey in the house: Wittman, featured actress winner Jane Krakowski (”Nine”), ”Gypsy” nominee Tammy Blanchard, and Reeve were among the many Garden State representatives.

Gone Hollywood: Shaiman and Wittman just finished a few musical numbers for Mike Myers’ ”Cat in the Hat” film. They also recently met with Steven Spielberg to discuss their next project — a musical version of ”Catch Me if You Can.” Leo, are you ready for the Great White Way?