Danny DeVito, Josh Groban, Corey Hawkins, Andy Karl and Ben Platt sit down for a wide-ranging conversation about life on Broadway.
For the fourth year in a row, The Hollywood Reporter paid a visit to New York to chat with a group of Tony-nominated performers about their journeys to and experiences on Broadway. A year after "the Hamiltonys," the Great White Way is less in the forefront of the national conversation, but make no mistake about it: plenty of other great shows (plays and musicals, originals and revivals) have moved into the neighborhood, driven by their own top-tier talent (of all ages and levels of experience, more than a few direct from Hollywood).
On May 8, THR convened a gathering at Highline Stages in the Meatpacking District with the legendary screen star Danny DeVito, 72, who's playing Gregory Solomon, a chatty 90-year-old Yiddish antiques dealer who finds himself in the middle of a family squabble in 1968 New York, in the play The Price; multi-platinum recording artist Josh Groban, 36, who's playing Pierre, a stout Russian aristocrat experiencing an existential crisis in 1812 Moscow, in the musical Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812; fast-rising film and TV actor Corey Hawkins, 28, who's playing Paul, a con-man who convinces high society that he's Sidney Poitier's son in 1990 New York, in the play Six Degrees of Separation; theater favorite and Law & Order: SVU alum Andy Karl, 43, who's playing Phil Connors, a jaded weatherman who winds up living the same day over and over again, in the musical Groundhog Day; and Pitch Perfect supporting actor-turned-Broadway breakout Ben Platt, 23, who's playing Evan Hansen, an anxiety-riddled loner of a high school student who gets caught up in a web of lies, in the musical Dear Evan Hansen.
Groban, Karl and Platt are nominated for best actor in a musical, Hawkins is nominated for best actor in a play and DeVito is nominated for best featured actor in a play.
To begin with, I want to ask how each of you came to these particular roles. Danny, you've been an actor for 50 years, and yet The Price, a revival of a 1968 Arthur Miller play, marks the first time that you've been on Broadway.
DANNY DEVITO Yep, first time on Broadway, I mean, I've walked on Broadway. (Laughs.) But I'd never been on the stage.
What took you so long?
DEVITO While I was out in California doing all that other stuff, people said, "Why don't you go to Broadway? What's the big deal?" And I'd say, "The dressing rooms are too small!" Did you ever go visit people backstage on Broadway? People are walking in like, "I really loved the performance it was great — let's get out of here! Let's go eat!" You know what I mean? But I don't know. It's the play, really. You find something, or something comes along, like The Price, and you can't pass it up. It's just an amazing play. Arthur Miller? Please! Jessica Hecht, Mark Ruffalo and Tony Shalhoub are in the play. It's like a dream come true.
Ben, you've been on Broadway before, as a replacement, at the age of 19, in a little show called The Book of Mormon. But unlike that show and the part you played in it, you've been with Dear Evan Hansen and Evan Hansen from the very beginning. It actually was borne out of a few rejections, right?
BEN PLATT Yes. I first auditioned for [Benj] Pasek and [Justin] Paul, the composers of Dear Evan Hansen, for a show called Dogfight when I was about 17. I was a super-fan of theirs, as any theater kid was at the time — all of their videos were on YouTube from Edges and all the things they were doing in Michigan, so I was really happy to go in for them. I was deemed too young but they reached out to me afterwards on social media and said, "We loved your audition and we have this other project down the pike that we think you're going to be right for. We want to keep you in the loop." And I was like, "That's very kind — sure." Then I auditioned for Michael Greif for the tour of Next to Normal — I was too young for that, as well, but another great connection. And then fast-forward to the first-ever time that we were going to open up and read Dear Evan Hansen at the first table read. They did end up calling me in and saying, "We think this would be a great match for you," and so I came in and did a cold read. They wouldn't let me have any information beforehand about the piece or the character; they just wanted to see what happened in the moment, and it really clicked beautifully. So I was able to stay onboard for all three of the readings and all three of the workshops, the DC production, the off-Broadway production, and now this. It's been about four years.
Josh, you're making your Broadway debut in The Great Comet, which is derived from 70 pages of War and Peace, and the way it came about is pretty magical. Can you take us back to July 18, 2013?
JOSH GROBAN Yeah. There's a photo that was captured on Twitter of myself backstage with the off-Broadway cast — many of them have since migrated to Broadway — just basically saying, "This was one of my favorite theatrical experiences I've ever had. I love the show. Please go see it." I saw it in a tent in the Meatpacking District and was completely enchanted by it. I loved the complicated, beautiful score. I loved the immersiveness of it, just how exciting it all was. And it was something that I just put in the back of my memory bank as a great experience. Then I read on a blog somewhere — Playbill or something — that they were thinking about bringing it to a proscenium, about transforming a theater and perhaps bringing it to Broadway. I was actually right at the beginning of making a musical theater album for the first time, which was a really fun experience, and I just threw my hat in the ring. I said, "I never want to wedge myself and do a project that isn't right, but this has been a dream for a while and I'd love to meet the composer [Dave Malloy]. At the very least, we'll get drunk and have a good time." And a few drinks turned into a sing-through, and then we realized we had a lot of similar ideas for the show and for the character and it all happened very naturally. So I'm really very grateful and happy that I waited for the right thing.
Corey, you previously acted in a different John Guare play when you were at Juilliard and you've also previously been on Broadway, in 2013 Romeo and Juliet — but a lot has happened since then. People might have heard of Straight Outta Compton, 24 and Kong: Skull Island. Talk about why, when you can really have your pick at things to do, you decided to come back to Broadway?
COREY HAWKINS I don't know, man. I grew up a theater nerd — I actually grew up singing in the church first, that was my first love — and then in high school I was in musical theater and then, of course, they cut it due to funding, and then I ended up going into straight theater at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in D.C. I just think there's something about coming back to the stage, man, just sharpening that tool and keeping that muscle firing, you know what I mean? And this character is one of those that's sort of like a gymnast or an acrobat or an athlete — like, he's a different guy in every scene — and I just thought it would be fun to do that right after coming off of a TV show. Fun, or scary as hell, and why not do it if you know if it scares you? So I just wanted to challenge myself and see where it took me, and I feel like a lucky guy.
Andy, this show brings you your third Tony nom in four years, and I feel like the other two sort of paved the way for this — Rocky was very physical, obviously, On the Twentieth Century was very comedic, and Groundhog Day is, if anything, a great blend of physical comedy.
ANDY KARL Yeah, I sort of feel like that, too. Matthew Warchus approached me with Groundhog Day while I was filming Law and Order: SVU. I was becoming a nice little character on there and I was like, "I don't think I want to do any theater for a while. It's gotta be really good if I'm gonna go back to theater." And then I got that script and I was like, "Oh, my God what they're going to do with this movie—" transform it into the musical that it is, with Tim Minchin and Danny Ruben, who wrote the original script — everything seemed right. And the character is the combination of so many different things that I've done, so I was like, "Okay." And then SVU was like, "We're going to kill you off," so everything worked out.
Josh and Danny, as the Broadway "rookies" at the table, I want to ask you what has surprised you most about working here. You've both done theater before, but what sets Broadway apart? Josh, your show is staged in such a way that it almost feels like a concert, with audience members right on top of the stage...
GROBAN Well, there were a lot of things that were very intimidating for me. This was the first time I'd done any character live-theater work since four shows in Fiddler on the Roof in eleventh grade. What a run! Oh, yeah, I was Tevye, with a fake beard. You know, I was nervous going into The Great Comet, but to Corey's point, it was that feeling of going, "After 15 years of album, tour, album, tour, I'm really excited by the idea of scaring myself and doing something that's going to challenge me and make me feel like I did when I made that first record or that first tour." And then, like you said, there are people sitting inches from you the entire time, even if you're not in the spotlight, and Pierre sits there the whole time, so it's just an amazing exercise in realizing how much you're capable of and how much you're able to break through. I also was very nervous about eight shows a week — I didn't know if that was something I could handle vocally or physically — but the muscle memory kicks in. And you find ways of getting more comfortable and confident with people looking you down, very close to you — when when we were rehearsing, Rachel Chavkin, our incredible director, would bring in friends and have them sit near us when we were rehearsing and she'd just say, "For this next scene, you are not allowed to look into the ether. You are singing to somebody's eyeballs." You know, that's weird at first. But you start to get used to that intimacy and it keeps you honest as an actor on stage. And it's a treacherous stage — I've fallen in the pit. I wear padded suits so I don't feel it, but I fell in. There's a lot of ways to get hurt up there.
DEVITO 40-some-odd years ago, I did [One Flew Over the] Cuckoo's Nest Off-Broadway. I did a lot of theater in summer stock and children's theater and stuff like that. Then, going to California, Taxi was really the training ground for me with the audience because we did it in front of 300 people every Friday night — it was on film, but we still had the audience to play with, and it was cut with four cameras. [It's Always] Sunny [in Philadelphia] is different — we don't have an audience, the crew is the audience — but the five years of Taxi was almost like doing Off-Broadway. And then it wasn't until I did The Sunshine Boys in London — that was so much fun, the West End, Neil Simon — again, I like to work with these young fledgling writers, people who are like working out things and you figure, you give them a little boost! But the stage is just a wonderful place to be, I feel at home, I feel comfortable there, especially with the people I'm with in The Price, and the play — the words are just amazing. It's a play that a lot of people haven't seen — they usually see the normal Arthur Miller plays. I'm having a ball up there.
Let's talk about being the first to play a role on Broadway versus stepping into a role that others have played before. This year, Josh, Andy and Ben are originating parts and Danny and Corey are in revivals. Corey, yours is a part that Courtney B. Vance played en-route to a Tony nom of his own, it's one hat helped make Will Smith a star when they did the movie. Is it intimidating to know that people of that caliber have done it before? And did you want to see footage of Courtney's performance or watch Will's performance, or do you prefer to stay away from that?
HAWKINS To your first point, yes, it's very intimidating! But the fun of it and the challenge of it is to take the play — to take the text — and make it your own, to find it your own way. I'd seen the film when I was really young, and I took away certain things from what Will brought to it — you know, the charisma, the charm, the danger and all of that — but, I hadn't seen it since and I hadn't wanted to watch it since seeing it back then. I'm sure there's footage of Courtney doing it, but I'm like, "I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy." Trip Cullman I think expertly directed this revival, in terms of tone and just letting us start with the words on the page, and John Guare was in the room every single day, which can be intimidating, but he's a fun dude so we got to hear the stories from back then — and it's based off of a real character, as well. It's fun to get in there and just play with the text. It's like jazz — you take it and you lift it and each character's an instrument. You just kind of bring your own thing to it and every night. People have been asking me, "Who is Paul Poitier, who is Paul Kittredge or whatever he calls himself?" If I had the answer to that, I wouldn't be able to get up there and do it every night because it's different every single day on the stage and it surprises me. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
Ben, when there is nothing to even have the option of referring to, to see how somebody else did it, is that itself daunting or is it actually an advantage? My understanding is that the creators, Pasek and Paul, and everybody else, have been able to tailor the part to your own strengths and preferences.
PLATT Totally. I think it's both incredibly freeing and also super terrifying. This character is doing a lot of things that are very morally ambiguous and is not on paper a very easily likable person, so I felt a deep responsibility to make sure we were always making his intentions really clear and making sure the audience was very tuned in on why he was making each decision he was making. I think that the beautiful thing about getting to create it from scratch, with these writers, is that they have such an incredibly collaborative spirit and were really open to my ability to gauge what felt honest in a way that they maybe couldn't, as somebody that's on the inside of it, and they always took that into account. It was a thrilling thing to do, and the fact that we got to have two productions before Broadway gave me the opportunity to fine-tune it and really find who this kid was and figure out which physical things were really important and which ones were extraneous. But also on a purely physical, technical level, it gave me the opportunity to figure out how to sustainably make this performance happen eight times a week, because the blessing of it is that it's super physically and emotionally and vocally demanding, and so to have the opportunity to have some trial runs helped me to answer questions like, How many physical therapy sessions do I need a week? How many voice lessons do I need a week? What diet should I be on? What supplements do I take in the morning? Stuff like that was really nice to know before we got on the Broadway train.
Andy, you have an interesting situation with Groundhog Day that you've also had before with Legally Blone and Rocky, in that your show is original as a musical, but it's been done before as a movie, so people do still go in with some expectation of what they're going to see. When Bill Murray is playing a jerk, maybe they cut him a little more slack because they know it's Bill Murray and he's gonna redeem himself in the end. A lot of Broadway fans know you, but there also are a lot of people coming to see your show who don't have that familiarity. Does that affect the way you have to calibrate this guy?
KARL Originating the role in London helped that a lot. There's such a journey with Phil Connors because he has to be redeemed at the end of the show, but how far back do I set him first? Actually, one of the great compliments I get from like friends and family is that they didn't think, at the beginning of the show, that I was going to be able to redeem him. "How is this person going to be redeemed? He's such a jerk." But the fact is that it's essentially a comedy, and there's so much good writing that Danny Ruben's done to make all of the sardonic stuff land really well, and it's like Danny's character in Taxi — people love to hate him. That's what I was going for. I don't think of myself as a jerk — that may be a point argued by other people — but I found him. And the end of the show is a release of all that and it's very personal to me when I sing the last song and I'm looking at the audience and I'm telling them, "Let's open our eyes to what really matters in the world." That's a huge journey to make. So I've watched the movie with Bill Murray a million times — I'm sure everybody has — but I don't feel like I'm imitating Bill Murray, I feel like I've found my own Phil Connors.
I want you all about the sense of responsibility that you feel when you're up there. None of these are one-man shows — there are a lot of people helping to make them happen every time out — so what is the moment in your show when you feel the greatest burden about pulling something off? Is there a scene, a song, a beat — something that you know you've got to get right or you're letting down a bunch of other people?
GROBAN Well, Pierre sings with Anatole [fellow Tony nominee Lucas Steele] towards the end of the second act, really taking him to task. We have a fight call everyday, and I definitely feel that for the dance of our physicality there we need to be on our toes, because I'm throwing him around this little small pit, and we've got a piano there and a bassist and a drum set, and the main thing there is I don't want to miss a beat. So much of Dave's writing is like a domino effect — sometimes very fast, sometimes notes are coming out of nowhere, and you're just like, "God, how could he have written this extraordinarily complicated thing?!" But it's that thing where you can't miss a word. At the very top of Act II there's a song called "Letters," where everybody gets a spot to sing about what they've been doing in their life, and I swear, every single person's solo is more complicated than the next. Sometimes you get out on that stage and it takes you like a few minutes just to acclimate to the energy of the space, but there's no acclimation in that song. You're coming out of those double doors and you've gotta jump right into the beginning of this song, so that's one where I say to myself, "Please don't mess this up for the rest of this cast."
HAWKINS I think it is something to do with starting, too. Allison Janney and John Benjamin Hickey are my rocks in this show, along with this fantastic cast. I'm so thankful for them because, you know, there are moments when they start the play and break the fourth wall, recounting this night that they had when this young guy comes into their lives, this burst of color, this dude in his pink shirt, Paul Poitier, the son of Sidney Poitier — and then he has to come on and bring that burst of color and he has to be on, he has to believe that he is the son of Sidney Poitier. And then Paul proceeds to go into this huge monologue, this huge thing about his thesis on imagination which, we later find out, he didn't come up with himself. But you gotta make the audience believe it. And, listen, some nights we're singing and it's just there and it's just firing on all synapses, but some nights it just isn't, and I'll look over to Allison or John, and sometimes they're like, "You got it." It's such a technical show. It feels like we're doing a musical, strangely, and it's tight, 90 minutes, but it's a play that feels like it has three acts. Trip has mapped out this thing and you have to play the beats in order for the audience to to be willing to go on this journey with you all the way to the end.
PLATT My show starts right out of the bat with a monologue and then two numbers back-to-back. You have to get inside this kid's head right away and feel like you know him and you're on his side because 12 minutes into the show he does something really terrible. Like Josh and Corey were saying, every day is a different sort of vibe and feeling. It can be impacted by anything from like, "Is it raining outside?" to "Are there a lot of old people?" And it's just making sure that the main beats of those first few scenes — that monologue and those songs — are always calibrated to the point where you are deeply understanding where he's coming from and that you can get on his insides before he's doing things that are going to make you want to back up. What's more of "the moment" that is sometimes hard to create each night is at the end of the second act when there's a song called "Words Fail," where Evan sort of has to confess all the terrible things that he's done. It's a hugely cathartic number with a lot of crying and screaming and singing because it's incredibly important for the people in the audience to deeply understand his remorse and to feel that he knows, better than anyone else, why it's wrong what he's done and that his self-hatred is sort of the overlying cause of it all. In a technical sense, it's a tough line to ride each night, to try to not sacrifice any of the beautiful music or the technical of the signing for the emotion, and also sort of vice-versa — sort of finding where that middle-ground is.
KARL This entire show is measured out within a fraction of an inch. The floor revolves in five different directions, it spins backwards because you're rewinding time, you're starting time, the pieces become undone. I have to get dressed on stage — tie a tie, no mirror, and do it within a certain amount of counts. So everything is really mathematical. That's Matthew Warchus — mathematical, with emotion — so it becomes very technical in that way. But then I put on my hat of like, "But you've gotta wrap all that in like what you're going through today, so everything's gotta be coated with that emotion." There's certainly things that go wrong. Everybody in the ensemble has to be on a fraction of an inch. Everything has to meet at the same time. It took a lot of rehearsal to get that. It's very smart in that way, but it's also very complex.
DEVITO The big thing is for me is that if I ever get anywhere that I feel is unfamiliar while I'm going, it's always go back to the play, just sit on the play, because the play is so amazing. And the audience is changing every night, so that's a big part of it, but no matter how wacky it get —, whether it's candies being unwrapped or cell phones going off or whatever's going on — the thing that you can always do is when you have good material like an Arthur Miller play is you sit on those words, you find that spot where he's taking you, or she's taking you, the author, and you embrace it, and you go with it, and it's, and then you circumvent things and you can play. Like, I have this section in the middle where I eat an egg. I take out an egg and I crack it on my cane — a hard-boiled egg — and from there there's a bunch of beats that just go off the charts, and you can take that thing and just go with it. The whole rest of the play could be about eating the egg because I eat the whole egg.
And not everybody spits an egg like Danny DeVito.
DEVITO No, I spit an egg pretty good. Depending on how nice Mark is to me, I go easy on him. Sometimes, if he's really good to me, sometimes I spit a little bit. If he's like getting on my nerves, I give him the whole nine yards.
There's a price for doing something eight times a week, for anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours, over the course of months. It can be physical and it can be emotional, and I want to ask you about that. Ben, let's start with you. To play this character, you change your physical posture, which must affect your vocal delivery, and I've sat close enough to the stage to see how deep you go with the emotional side of things, too. In fact, one of the many people who have given you great reviews for this performance is The Hollywood Reporter's own theater critic, and his one note was, "I'm actually a little concerned for Ben because he's going so deep here. I hope he's not damaging himself." So how do you find that line?
PLATT It's a daily thing that I'm still figuring out. What we all look for as actors are pieces that we want to throw ourselves into and make us want to give everything to, and I'm so in love with this piece of theater — I've obviously had four years to fall in love with it, but I mean, I couldn't believe in it any more, and characters like this do not come around ever, where you get to use all the tools on your belt and really feel this synergy between you and the character. I feel a deep responsibility, as the person who's administering the story every night, to give it at the same level each night. But I've had to come to terms with the fact that I'm a human being and that days are different and that there are some days I feel better than others. It's the kind of role that has taken over my whole life — as I've alluded to earlier, I have very strict regimens, as far as eating and sleeping and therapy and all that. It is a sacrifice, but the experience is all the sweeter because you're making it, earning every last drop of it. We've been open for six months now, so maybe let's talk again in another five, but so far so good. I'm just really trying to take it one day at a time and let each show be its own experience and try to maintain that level of decorum. I will say that I have seven other actors on stage with me and it's a really tight-knit cast, the eight of us, and everybody is really giving of themselves and nobody is holding anything back. There's no vanity. If there are days when someone needs to be lifted up, there are seven other people to lift you.
Danny, you're playing a guy 20 years older than yourself. What do you have to do to make that work?
DEVITO I come in a little early and do my make up and put on some spots on my hands and mess with my teeth, change everything about myself. You come early and you stay late. The first thing I do when I'm finished with the first show on a Wednesday or a Saturday, the matinee, is I go right into my pajamas. I have a little room right off of the stage and I just I lay there and wait for the next one to come 'round, and it's just so much fun. I also have a little trampoline that I got online, and I have a little bathroom that I put it in, and I jump on that before a show. It's simple exercise for me, it's low-impact and it's really kind of nice and gets you going. I do it without my costume, then I add the layers of clothes and I keep doing it until I'm finally standing there in my overcoat and my hat and my cane and the whole thing. I have a Kandinsky — like a beaded curtain, because my character was born in 1879 and Kandinsky was like the turn of the century. I have chicken soup. Anything to get into the mode.
Josh, while wearing a fat suit and singing and playing the accordion, you have to navigate a complicated stage with a lot of stairs...
GROBAN Yeah, you start to really learn to be much more in-tune with what your body needs and you start listening way more to yourself. And you do feel guilty sometimes about wanting to throw on pajamas and just do nothing. Broadway has been hell for my social life. I can't wait to say "yes" to things again. Because I know I'm going to sweat a lot, I try to hydrate. Because I know the singing style that I have out there is very different from the singing style I have when I'm doing a concert, I have to warm up in a certain way that I know can be healthy and do that eight times a week. With the stairs, as soon as I feel a tweak, I try to nip it in the bud and just find ways to stretch or whatever. It's a lot. It's something I've never done before. But I think we're all so grateful to be doing this when the words are great and the notes are great, and after you do 100 or 150 performances, there is that feeling that you can go back to just resting on the work. Sometimes after a 100 shows, you find new things when you finally let go. It's those nights sometimes when you're feeling so tired or that you can't physically do that thing that you were doing two weeks ago and you have to go back to the basics that you actually find a new thing.
Corey, you have to deal with something that the other folks here, with these particular shows, do not, which is the absence of an intermission. How does that affect you? You're also playing a guy who is shot out of a cannon, talking a mile a minute. Do you miss an intermission, or do you like that you go right through?
HAWKINS I love being able to get to the bar quicker after the show. (Laughs.) No, what's interesting with this play is it starts as a dinner party and the audience is sort of trying to figure out this Upper East Side world of art and Kandinskys — and then it turns into this farce, this whodunit? "Who is this guy?!" Then in the third act of the play, the rug gets pulled out from under you, and you realize — or you think you realize — what went wrong. But I don't think this play could sustain itself if it had an intermission because there's the ride that Paul is on — I mean, like I said, in every scene he's a different character and, emotionally, it can be so taxing to go out there and really have to commit to being this person. It's horrible, some of the stuff that he's doing, but, again, it's that theme of redeemability, and actually I'm hearing for the first time how present that is this season actually.
Andy, three days before your opening night, during the second act of one of your last previews, you experienced a pretty terrible injury. Can you share what happened?
KARL I still haven't actually emotionally dealt with this, so talking about it is very hard. Three days — 72 hours — before opening night, I did something on stage that I've done a million times — a leap — but this time I tore my ACL completely, went down, crawled off stage, sobbing, knowing that it was all over. I felt like it was all over. [chokes up] I hate talking about this. But the great thing that I realized about the piece — you know, we're talking about relying on the text and everything — is that the last song that I sing in this show is all about seeing the people around you for the first time with open eyes and not having any sort of preconceived notions, seeing that they can lift you up. I knew that I had to go out there and limp or whatever, just get out there with a cane, and sing that last song, "Seeing You." And the audience was part of it, so I could just look all around, 360 degrees, and all of a sudden have this huge leap of a cathartic moment — just, "This is what theater is all about, and this is where I'm supposed to be, and this is how I'm supposed to be." I went to the hospital later, they told me the bad news, I got into physical therapy, and somehow I made it on stage three days later, limping, with a cast. I wondered, "How do you act when you have a big brace on your leg? How am I going to get the audience to not look at that?" But then I relied on the text, I relied on the comedy, and I made a joke out of it — I was like [plops leg on table], "Hey, aren't you curious?" And it was one of those moments where everybody was with you and you work with what you got, you know? I think there's so much to all of that. It was my Karate Kid moment. The show must go on.
Amazing. Well, what we're going to do now is something we call "Rapid Fire," where I raise a topic and ask you to quickly name the first thing that comes to your mind. To begin with: your most unusual ritual before a show, after a show or during intermission. Danny's trampoline sets a high bar.
PLATT I get a fiberglass cast put on every day before the show, like full sock and everything, and before intermission it gets sawed off with a Dremel, so I have to do that. It's a real-ass cast and everything.
Oddest thing in your dressing room.
PLATT A deer who's dressed like Evan Hansen, who's "Deer Evan Hansen."
Entrance applause: like it or not?
KARL There was a time when I was getting entrance applause but it drowned out a really great lyric that I had to sing — "pointless erection" — so the director asked me to wake up a little earlier and pick up the phone.
HAWKINS I have the weirdest thing because people clap for Allison Janney and John Benjamin Hickey — they come on a lot earlier than I come on — and then I show up a quarter of the way into the play, and people are like [slow claps].
DEVITO In The Price, Arthur Miller built in a wonderful thing for my character, which is I come up a staircase to this attic where all the furniture is, and he's got me coughing. It's in the script. The first line in my scene is Mark saying, "Can I get you some water?" So that helps out because we don't really have to start the scene, we let them applaud, you know?
Most annoying thing audience members do.
PLATT Phones. People's faces illuminated by phones, thinking that I can't see your blue face. Like, I can see your blue face.
GROBAN For me, it's when somebody says, "Hey, Josh!" Or when I just like finish my big eleven o'clock number and somebody's like, "Great one, Josh!"
KARL With movie musicals, usually you have lines that everybody knows, so they'll say them with you.
DEVITO The one annoying thing that happened to us a couple of times is in the second act, there's a blackout and in the middle of the blackout somebody pulls out a flashlight trying to help you.
What you do on your off day.
KARL I do The Hollywood Reporter roundtable!
Number of performances a week you wish your show was offered.
PLATT I would take seven.
DEVITO I would do nine. Well, with a limited engagement, if you do nine, do you get out of the show earlier? (Laughs.)
Non-friend or relative whose attendance at your show has meant the most to you.
PLATT Hal Prince.
DEVITO Harry Belafonte.
GROBAN Singing about a comet for Neil DeGrasse Tyson was really cool. Singing the word "parabola" to his face was awesome.
HAWKINS Debbie Allen.
KARL The original Rita from the movie, Andie MacDowell.
The biggest thing Hollywood can learn from Broadway.
PLATT Strangeness is successful and powerful and interesting.
GROBAN Stay weird.
Last but not least, what you would be if you were not an actor.
HAWKINS A pilot. I still want to try.
DEVITO Hairdresser [his profession before he became an actor].
Guys, we just established that an off day is a precious thing, so thank you for sharing one of yours with us. And congratulations on the great work and Tony nominations.