Got a call just now from newly minted Tony-winner Jeff Croiter, the Eastchester native who won for his lighting design of the play “Peter and the Starcatcher” last night.
His whirlwind night started early, at 5:40 p.m., Sunday, and didn’t end till 4:30 this morning.
Why so early?
The press people behind the Tonys asked those in the tech categories to arrive early, lest they be ignored in a rising tide of Jackmans and Audras and LuPones.
Croiter says he was lucky, in that he had been to the Beacon earlier in the week, for rehearsals for “Newsies” and “Starcatcher.”
“Thank God I didn’t walk into the room cold,” he said. “I knew where I was seated, and it wasn’t foreign to me. I wasn’t nervous about that.”
He was nervous, but not about that.
“It was incredibly exciting to be there. We did the whole red-carpet thing. I think we (he and his wife, actress Kate Wetherhead) were the first ones through the line. She didn’t want to go through. She felt like it was my thing and she shouldn’t come with me, but I dragged her down the red carpet with me.”
His first Tony kept the 40-year-old waiting.
The show’s producers spaced out the technical awards, presenting them at each commercial break.
(Nice to think that while we in the TV audience were watching a Clairol ad, someone’s life was changing.)
“The first design award is early in the broadcast and the last one is late. I knew ahead of time that the lighting-design awards were the last set of awards to go. But then, everyone else from ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ started winning. At a certain point, I started to think ‘I’m either going to win, which means I have to go up onstage, which means I’ll be really nervous, or I’m going to lose and I’ll be that one ******* who didn’t win.”
If that didn’t make him nervous enough, they then switched the order of the awards.
“For every other design category, they did play first, then musical. Except for lighting, where it was musical, then play.”
That meant waiting through two more performances to find out if he’d won. His was the last design Tony handed out.
A bonus for Croiter, who is one of several producers on Wetherhead’s genius webseries, “Submissions Only,” was that he was handed his Tony by Tony-winner Beth Leavel (“The Drowsy Chaperone”), who plays Wetherhead’s mother in the series.
“Beth and Norbert Leo Butz alternated giving out the design awards at every commercial break. I loved that when I jumped up on the stage, there was Beth with a big smile on her face. It relaxed me. It was nice that it was a friendly face.”
Still, friendly face or not, it was an out-of-body experience for the Purchase grad.
“People don’t invite me to speak in front to 2,000 other people — like ever. It’s not something I get to do.”
He carried his Tony Award the rest of the night (“They don’t give you a bag or anything to hold it in”), from the “Newsies” party at the Hard Rock to the Tonys Gala at the Plaza to the O&M (press rep) party at the Carlyle.
“They had the whole thing upstairs in the ballroom at the Plaza,” he says. “But downstairs, they closed the whole food court and all of the food for the gala was the Plaza fancy food court food. You could just walk around and get whatever you wanted from any counter. It was kind of one of the best parties I’ve been to.”
He’s not resting too long on his laurels.
Tomorrow, he and the other “Submissions Only” producers will sit down to chart the next step for the series. The show’s second season was snapped up by broadwayworld.com, but its future is uncertain, unless financing materializes. (If you haven’t seen the first two seasons, check them out at www.submissionsonly.com.)
Croiter will then head to New York Stage and Film to light a new play, “Abigail.”
“It’s The Crucible, 10 years later,” he says. “It’s very good.”
Then, there’s the national tour of “Jekyll & Hyde.”
Photo by Jason Kempin/WireImage: Jeff Croiter backstage at the Beacon Theater, after winning the Tony Award for his lighting design for “Peter and the Starcatcher.”