It's a balmy spring in New York, and as the flowers pop up along Fifth Avenue, celebrities are turing out for Broadway shows in the run-up to the Tony Awards on June 13. I'm in Manhattan seeing shows, doing interviews -- and, like every other Broadway-crazy tourist, doing some star-gazing.
The hot Broadway revival of August Wilson's Fences (with Denzel Washington giving a powerful, charismatic performance as a flawed husband and father), has been open since April 26. But Washington's star power and the show's limited run are drawing star-filled sellout crowds to the Cort Theatre. At Wednesday night's performance, everyone got a crazy mini-opening night experience. Jorge Garcia of Lost and Matthew Morrison of Glee occupied aisle seats, as did rocker-actor Lenny Kravitz and daughter Zoe. Just before showtime, the crowd started screaming, turning into cell phone paparazzi. First, music legend Aretha Franklin arrived. Then things got even crazier as Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett-Smith(accompanied by XXXL-sized bodyguards) showed up. That the Tony-nominated Washington, costar Viola Davisand the rest of a superb cast could still deliver an electric performance of Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play -- and to a largely silent, rapt crowd -- was a miracle. I've been to several celeb-packed Broadway opening nights, but I've never experienced anything like Wednesday night at Fences.
Thursday was a little less celebrity-intensive, but not by much. I had lunch with Raul Esparza and Lucie Arnaz, to chat about Babalu, the show celebrating the music of Lucie's dad, TV legend Desi Arnaz. It comes to Miami's Arsht Center in July. Later, I interviewed Miamians (and best pals) Katie Finneran (Tony-nominated for Promises, Promises) and Andrea Burns (still in the Tony-winning Broadway smash In the Heights).
Walking to the John Golden Theater to see John Logan's Tony-nominated play Red (with Alfred Molina giving an intense, dazzling performance as artist Mark Rothko), I passed Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon and her education-activist partner, Christine Marinoni. At Red, Jason Sudeikis of Saturday Night Live slid into the row in front of me. Then I went over to a party celebrating the Tony-nominated show Fela! (which I'm seeing tonight), and after a bit, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jay-Z and Beyonce showed up. Dance legend Bill T. Jones, Tony-nominated as best director and choreographer for Fela!, was there too. But the out-of-town Tony voters who were guests at the party mostly stood around gawking as the super celebs (again protected by XXXL bodyguards) chatted with each other.
Now I'm headed out to the annual Drama League luncheon, to which Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig, Nathan Lane, Christopher Walken -- and, well, a few dozen other bold-faced names are invited. If they all show up, I may go into a celebrity coma.