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The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center honored playwright and screenwriter John Logan with the Monte Cristo Award on Monday night at the annual gala at the Edison Ballroom, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, Judith Light and more turned out to celebrate the decorated writer.
“It’s an amazing way to connect with what theater’s really about,” Logan told The Hollywood Reporter about his experience at the O’Neill. “Because no one’s there to make money. No one’s there to win awards. Everyone’s there because they believe in telling a story to an audience, and young people, old people, emerging artists, veteran artists are all there together. So it’s a crucible of creation.”
The honoree was last at the O’Neill in 2017 with his musical Superhero, which just closed its limited premiere run off-Broadway. Next up, Logan will have the stage adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge on Broadway, which begins performances June 28 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre ahead of a July 25 opening.
“To get to play in Baz’s world and create our own version of it is really fulfilling,” Logan said. “Baz Luhrmann is the first person to say, ‘be bold and make it your own,’ so we’ve done that. It’s a responsibility because the audiences come in expecting a certain thing and it has to be Moulin Rouge. By the same token, you don’t want to slap the movie onstage because the demands of the stage and cinema are very different. So we let it be a work of musical theater so that means the characters changed, the story changed, song selections changed. It is Moulin Rouge but it’s a uniquely new Moulin Rouge.”
Aaron Tveit, who stars in the musical as Christian (played by Ewan McGregor in the film), performed a medley, including songs from the film (“Come What May” and Elton John’s “Your Song”) and Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance.”
“I get the complete honor every night to try to channel you onstage and make you proud playing the writer in the show,” Tveit said of working with Logan on the musical.
Miranda, who received last year’s Monte Cristo Award, opened the evening by introducing himself: “I’m Lin-Manuel Miranda. I was rejected for the O’Neill’s summer musical theater institute in 2004.”
The Hamilton composer was accepted the next year with his breakout musical, In the Heights. He told The Hollywood Reporter how gearing up for the film adaptation, which starts location shooting in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood in June, feels similar to the development process for the stage show at the O’Neill.
“One of the things the O’Neill gave us was time and coffee and also you’re surrounded by other incredible writers creating their own work,” Miranda said. “A lot of working on this script with Quiara [Alegría Hudes], who wrote the incredible screenplay, has been like we’re back at the O’Neill except we’re providing our own coffee this time.”
Light, who received the Monte Cristo Award in 2017, presented Logan with the honor, calling him “a man who shapes all culture through his art.” Logan thanked everyone from his early mentors in Chicago to the O’Neill for their support over the course of his career.
“Emerging artists need to find their voice,” he said. “They need a safe space to do it. They need to have a place to fail, to try things. For over 50 years, the O’Neill has been helping artists like me, young yearlings who barely know how to stand, find a voice, and we in the theater are about listening to those voices and encouraging those voices.”
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