The Drama Desk kicked off the 2010-2011 New York theater awards season with a cocktail reception at the Bombay Palace Restaurant in honor of such nominees as Daniel Radcliffe, Jim Parsons, Christopher Sieber and Colin Quinn among others.

The Drama Desk awards are the only honors for which productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway compete in the same categories.

The actors and creative teams that made this year in theater so special were out in droves to share their excitement over their nominations, and The Improper caught up with the best of the best:

Daniel Radcliffe, Outstanding Actor in a Musical (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying)

On his role as J. Pierrepont Finch: When you’re working on Broadway it is a sense of community, and it’s hugely exciting. I kind of can never get over how lucky I am to actually be performing. Also, the levels of talent that you work with every night are incredible. That’s not just on stage. For instance, the other night something went wrong and for the first time we had to stop the show because some automation wasn’t working. At that moment you just saw everyone backstage become so brilliant at their jobs, so it’s just an amazing group of people to work with.

On the irony that his performance actually demonstrated How to Succeed by really trying: Well, that’s the thing, in the lead up to this I had to do a huge amount of work to try and make it look effortless. It’s the art that hides art, hopefully.

Jim Parsons, Outstanding Ensemble Performance (The Normal Heart)

On being nominated for his Broadway debut: It is so thrilling to be here. First off, to be a part of this production in particular has been a dream come true to me. The ensemble work, the passion that we’re going on, to be a part of that as an actor it’s honestly everything that I would have ever dreamed for in doing theater. To be a part of this awards season now, to feel a part of this New York theater community, as a student of theater all my life is a dream come true. It’s very much pinch-me moments happening, and I’m thrilled.

The cast of Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles on Broadway, Outstanding Revue:

On Rain’s long run: We never expected Rain to go past Christmas. To be on Broadway in this community of so many talented people is just surreal. (Ralph Castelli)

On making Rain a unique Broadway experience: We bring the authenticity to the show. It’s not so much about being original as it is being true to the music. The originality comes from the way in which we portray the Beatles’ career. We go to great lengths to be authentic as far as different aspects of their career, from the Ed Sullivan years to Shea Stadium and the Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road albums. It really is a celebration of all that they achieved. I think Beatles fans of any sort can really appreciate it. (Steve Landes)

On your favorite comments from kids who have seen the show: We get quite a few people who come backstage just to talk to us, and they were not fans at all, but now they are. They realize how powerful the music was, and how powerful the message was that the Beatles sent. They leave us smiling and happy, they say they’re going home to buy all their records, or all their digital downloads. (Joe Bithorn)

Christopher Sieber, Outstanding Actor in a Musical (The Kid)

On being nominated for a show that meant so much to so many people: It was cool because the Drama Desk remembered us. It is such a great show. We were the first show of this season. We opened a year ago. That was such an emotional and wonderful story based on Dan Savage’s book, “The Kid”. The creators made this wonderful musical that was an original true story that wasn’t based on a movie. It spoke to so many people because it was just honest and true about open gay adoption, and it was about being a family and about love. But it was so funny and moving, and it had absolutely everything in it. It was just terrific.

On feedback he received after the performances: Lucas [Steele] and I had so many couples coming up to us after the show to say, ‘That was our story, we couldn’t stop crying throughout the entire show because we went through everything you went through, so thank you.’ We opened a few eyes as well, I think.

Colin Quinn, Outstanding Solo Performance (Colin Quinn Long Story Short)

On how he got in shape for his rigorous schedule on Broadway: I went on the stupid treadmill everyday for 45 minutes- but I walk, I can’t run because of my knees. Then I only ate salads for dinner and salads for lunch. When I would get so hungry at night I would have one orange. It was pathetic! I went to bed so early every night because I was miserable. I’ve gained about twelve pounds since the show ended. I’ve been lifting weights, I feel like a really massive man.

On his Long Story not coming up Short for an award nomination: It feels good. I’ve never got a nomination for anything. I’m very happy.

Christian Borle, Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play (Peter and the Starcatcher)

On how he made his character, Black Stache (who is known as ‘Captain Hook’ in the Disney film) original: Half of the work was the pants, and the other half was the boots (laughs). It was all in the walk, and it was [directors] Roger Rees and Alex Timbers pushing me in a very specific direction. They reined me in, necessarily.

On his favorite fairy tale when he was growing up: I wasn’t a big fairy tale kid. I was a child of Star Wars, which is its own modern day fairy tale I suppose. It’s more than science fiction. Peter Pan wasn’t a huge part of my life actually. I watched a whole lot of Disney movies growing up, but Peter Pan wasn’t a big one for me. I came to it more along the lines of the movie Finding Neverland coming out. That was so beautiful.

On what it was like to also be a part of the epic Angels in America this year: It was colossal. I couldn’t believe my luck. I couldn’t believe that I got that audition. I couldn’t believe that I got that part. And working with those people and being in a room with Tony Kushner and Michael Greif, it was life-changing obviously. It was a dream come true.

Nikki M. James, Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (The Book of Mormon)

On her first Drama Desk nomination: I don’t want to say that it’s a dream come true because that seems cliché, but it really is. Except that I don’t think I actually thought that hard that this was actually a possibility. I was like, ‘That’s something that happens to Patti LuPone.’ Me and her are nominated in the same category. It’s outrageous. I’m happy that I got this little certificate that says my name so now they can’t take it back!

(laughs) When people say it’s just an honor to be nominated, it seems like they’re full of it. But it is, it really is. It’s a crazy honor to be nominated. I’m so proud of the show. It’s that much better to be nominated for a show that you not only believe in, but you love doing every single night, and that I think is the best show ever, so I’m happy that everyone else agrees with us. Not everyone, but lots of people!

On the humor in being nominated for a show by the creators of South Park: I think anyone who has seen it gets it. It’s weird because they have a reputation that precedes them. People have a lot of preconceived notions about what they do or do not do. But what they do really well is tell a great story. And so, if you can get past whatever your apprehensions are, and you can get in that room and you can make it through all the way to the end, and you can get on board our train, you’re sort of taken on this really sweet journey. I think people are surprised that they really like it as much as they do. It’s really fabulous. I’m keeping all my fingers and toes crossed about this.

Tom Wopat, Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical (Catch Me if You Can)

On first hearing of his nomination: I jumped up and down! (Laughs) No, I try and take these things in stride. I’ve been nominated a few times and never won anything. It’s an honor to be nominated, but I try not to get too excited about this.

On advice he has received from the real people on whom the story is based: I’ve spoken to Junior [Frank Abagnale] a few times. That’s been helpful. I talked to him about his dad, and his dad was nothing like my character, so it doesn’t make a hell of a lot of difference.

Rory O’Malley, Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical (The Book of Mormon)

On being a fan of Avenue Q and South Park before working on The Book of Mormon with the same creative teams: I’m a huge Avenue Q fan, and huge South Park fan. I watched most of the episodes of South Park. When I first got the call about doing the reading of this show, I brought my copy of Team America: World Police and I was like, ‘As long as I get the guys to sign this, this is a winning situation.’ I did bring it, and they totally signed it for me. I thought, ‘Alright, if I don’t hear from them again, that’s all good.’ I think their satire is legendary. I believe that for all time they will be known as these amazing artists who really pushed the envelope and pushed everything forward. The same could be said about Avenue Q and Bobby Lopez. I’m just so honored to be a part of this show.

On being a part of a show that is very much “untraditional”: Just being a part of this show in any way is one of the greatest gifts that I’ve ever been given as a performer. You get a lot of jobs that you enjoy, and you’re like, ‘I’m glad I have a job this week,’ but this is a different level. This is something I truly believe in, and something that I think is really hilarious and thought-provoking and ingenious. I really feel like these writers and our director and the entire creative team have done something remarkable, not just about the show but about our art form, and they kind of pushed it further along.

Victoria Clark, Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (Sister Act)

On being nominated for awards in theater: I’m definitely a veteran, but this is the best ever. Character parts are my favorite. Transformation is great, that’s why I’m an actor. I’m delighted.

On Sister Act being adapted from a film: I think it’s a really, really, really good adaptation! The best adaptations of movies stand on their own. I think that’s what our show does. I really have nothing to compare it to because I didn’t see the movie. I don’t know the source material. I just know that it’s a great musical. God bless Whoopi [Goldberg] for giving us the green light.

On deserving an award just for making it through the show in heavy costumes: The costumes are hot and they’re very heavy. I haven’t weighed them yet. Sometimes when people come backstage I just have them hold the costume. The sequined ones that we wear at the end are unbelievably heavy. I’ve had to readjust the way I’m standing. The wimples weigh quite a bit also. These aren’t what real nuns wear. I’ve met a couple of real nuns and what they wear every day is much lighter.

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