Sara Bareilles, Julian Fellowes, & Steve Martin on Being First-Time Nominees

Sara Bareilles, Julian Fellowes, & Steve Martin on Being First-Time Nominees

A tiny fraction of new musicals ever make it to Broadway, and of those, the Tony Awards single out just four shows as nominees in the categories of Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical. This year, three accomplished musicians and one celebrated writer join the list of first-time Tony nominees. Broadway Direct asked Sara Bareilles, Julian Fellowes, and Steve Martin (nominated in collaboration with Edie Brickell) to reflect on this coveted honor and what they love about working on the Great White Way.

Sara Bareilles
2016 Tony Award Nominee for Best Original Score (Music and Lyrics), Waitress
Career Highlights: Five-time Grammy Award nominee Sara Bareilles shot to pop music fame with her 2007 platinum single “Love Song” and has released four acclaimed albums, including What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress. Impressed by Bareilles’ storytelling in hits such as “Gravity” and “Brave,” producer Barry Weissler and director Diane Paulus tapped the lifelong theater fan to craft the score for a musical adaptation of Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film about a pregnant waitress trapped in a difficult marriage. Bareilles’ memoir, Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song, was released last fall.

Before you began writing for the stage, what was your most memorable experience as a theatregoer, and why did it affect you so strongly?

The first time I saw a national tour production of The Secret Garden in San Francisco, I was blown away. I was maybe 13 years old, dressed to the nines, and went with my aunt and uncle on an adventure to the theatre. I remember falling in love with the story of Mary Lennox and, more than that, losing myself in the grand storytelling of that night. I was absolutely mesmerized and wanted to imagine myself up there on that stage someday.

What was the highlight of the opening night of Waitress on Broadway?

My mom’s smiling face. She smiled literally the entire night. It made me so happy. I felt incredibly blessed to get to celebrate the work of the wonderful cast and crew and creative team with our opening night audience, but especially with my family members who have been so supportive for my entire life. And then there was a blueberry pancake–wrapped sausage link at the afterparty. Both those things were pretty epic.

When did you become aware of the Tony Awards? What’s your favorite memory of watching the Tonys?

The Tonys are one of those things I don’t remember learning about — they were just always there. Always incredible performances, and a lot of humor and heart. My favorite memory of watching the Tonys was actually more recent, my first year living in New York. It felt ceremonial in a way. I went to a Tony party at a bar in Midtown with two of my best friends, and there were voting ballots and the telecast was projected on a wall. It was delightful and silly and made me feel the presence of the theater community in a way I hadn’t before.

What has been the biggest or most pleasant surprise about working on a Broadway musical?

This show has changed my life. I was reminded how much you can love something you work on. It reminded me of the way I felt when I was writing songs back in college. There was a purity and an innocence in my own approach to this process, and I am forever grateful. Also, I was surprised by the fact that this is an insane amount of work!

What excites you most about being a 2016 Tony nominee?

The incredible company I find myself in, as well as being a part of something that celebrates theater in general. What a gift to be welcomed into such a soulful community. I’m so lucky.

Julian Fellowes
2016 Tony Award Nominee for Best Book of a Musical, School of Rock

Career Highlights: An actor turned Oscar-winning screenwriter for Gosford Park, Julian Fellowes created, wrote, and executive-produced the international TV sensation Downton Abbey. His four-part adaptation of Trollope’s Doctor Thorne is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The author of two novels and a children’s book, Fellowes recently launched Belgravia, a publishing project that delivers installments of his new novel, plus bonus content, to electronic devices via an app. Prior to collaborating with composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Glenn Slater on School of Rock, Fellowes made his theatrical debut as book writer of the hit stage adaptation of Mary Poppins.

Before you began writing for the stage, what was your most memorable experience as a theatregoer, and why did it affect you so strongly?

When I was about 10, I was taken by my parents to see My Fair Lady, the new musical that had just arrived in London from Broadway. I can still remember the curtain going up on the ballroom scene. The whole of the Drury Lane stage was packed with couples waltzing, the women in beautiful frocks and the men in tails. Then Julie Andrews came on as the mysterious princess figure. I just couldn’t get over it.

What was the highlight of the opening night of School of Rock on Broadway?

I don’t think I’ve ever been part of an audience that was so involved with the players. As the show gets going, they are rocking with the kids, shouting and whistling, and it’s extraordinary to think you’re one of the team that made it happen. And then going up on stage [during the curtain call], the only time anyone wants to see a writer, with the kids and [Tony-nominated star] Alex Brightman and Andrew and Glenn and [director] Laurence [Conner]. It was a very warm, nice team to work with — and there we were, in this roaring auditorium! If you don’t get excited by that, something’s wrong.

When did you become aware of the Tony Awards? What’s your favorite memory of watching the Tonys?

I don’t know if I watched them, but I became aware of the Tonys just after I had gone to the [London] first night of A Chorus Line, again at the Drury Lane. I was an actor then, so I had a tremendous connection with the material, and it was like seeing a whole theatrical form reinvented. When I learned that the show pretty much made a clean sweep of the Tonys, I remember feeling the justice of that. I just thought, Yes.

What has been the biggest or most pleasant surprise about working on a Broadway musical?

I love musicals and was very keen to learn how to restructure material for a musical show. The creative collaboration with the composer and lyricist is sort of like a Chinese puzzle, going this way and that until you gradually get the rhythm between the information coming through the dialogue and the songs. The book is slightly the poor relation of the musical team, but so it is with film — I think the audience likes to feel that the actors are making it up as they go along. And in a way, that’s what you want them to feel!

What excites you most about being a 2016 Tony nominee?

When you’re young, you stand in the shower accepting an Oscar using the shampoo bottle. When you really are nominated for an Oscar, an Emmy, or a Golden Globe, it feels like entering a world you fantasized about. I trained at a drama school that was very much about theater and spent the first chunk of my life on stage, so a Tony nomination is a sign that I’ve been allowed in — a recognition of acceptability. Americans are always so generous about nominating people from all over the world, and I feel very flattered and very grateful.

Steve Martin
2016 Tony Award Nominee for Best Original Score (Music by Martin and Edie Brickell, Lyrics by Brickell) and Best Book of a Musical, Bright Star

Career Highlights: Steve Martin comes to the Tonys after winning an honorary Oscar, five Grammys, an Emmy, a Kennedy Center Honor, and the Mark Twain Prize during a career spanning more than 40 years. After finding fame as a stand-up comedian, he became a movie star, screenwriter, novelist, essayist, and playwright (Picasso at the Lapin Agile and The Underpants). As a banjoist and composer, Martin has released two albums with Edie Brickell, including the Grammy-winning Love Has Come for You, which inspired their original musical, Bright Star, a story of love and redemption set in the South in the 1920s and 1940s. Martin has made several guest appearances at the Cort Theatre performing his own music with the Bright Star band.

Before you began writing for the stage, what was your most memorable experience as a theatregoer, and why did it affect you so strongly?

When I saw Wally Boag at the Golden Horseshoe Review at Disneyland when I was 12. He was the first comedian I ever saw live.

What was the highlight of the opening night of Bright Star on Broadway?

Watching the cast rise to the occasion and deliver one of its best performances.

When did you become aware of the Tony Awards? What’s your favorite memory of watching the Tonys?

A sad memory: watching one year in the early 1980s when the nominees were exuberantly happy, then the next year when people were mourning the loss of their friends and companions.

What has been the biggest or most pleasant surprise about working on a Broadway musical?

The absolute joy of collaboration.

What excites you most about being a 2016 Tony nominee?

A dream come true.