Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Anything Goes stands to grab a lot of attention at the Tony Awards on June 12. The cast has a crowd-pleaser nonpareil to perform, the tap dance extravaganza that is "Anything Goes." And the show's a virtual shoo-in for Best Revival, having already won that award (and more than half a dozen others) from the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League.
Anthony Wayne is one of the sailors hoofing alongside Sutton Foster in the title song of Anything Goes, his Broadway debut, and he's prominently featured in other numbers as well. On Tony night, millions of television viewers will see him dance. Yet when Wayne looks out into the audience, or amid the throngs at the stage door every night, he sees expressions on faces that he remembers from his own days as youngster enthralled by musical theater. First, there was Gregg Burge's portrayal of Richie in the film version of A Chorus Line—"the one that really kind of did it for me," Wayne says. "I used to watch his part on the Chorus Line video all the time, over and over and over again." Along with Burge, Wayne considers Hinton Battle an idol, and Miss Saigon—for which Battle won a Tony—was the first show he ever saw on Broadway. But the true epiphany happened during his senior year in high school, when he came to New York and saw Fosse just a few days after it opened on Broadway: "Watching Desmond Richardson dance the way he did, with such joy, that was it. I said, 'I want to do that for the rest of my life.'"
These days, Wayne realizes that a kid in the audience of Anything Goes may be having a similar experience watching him. "Whenever I walk out of that stage door now, I feel like I'm on the inside looking out, but I want to inspire and encourage every single person who comes to see the show. Especially young people—to let them know that they can do it, because I once was there, seeing everything from the outside looking in."
Wayne's first-ever appearance at the Tony Awards is just one of the big events coming up for him this month. He's also performing for the first time in Broadway Bares, turning 30 and moving into a bigger apartment uptown. And he gets to take his mother to the Tonys—she not only has always been his greatest source of support and strength but also is a breast cancer survivor.
Wayne was on tour with A Chorus Line when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. He played Richie—the part he'd loved Burge in so much—for a year and a half on Chorus Line's first national tour, which included an engagement in Tokyo. He'd played Richie twice before—at Commonwealth Musical Stage (now Virginia Musical Theatre) when he was a teenager and Papermill Theatre in Lincoln, New Hampshire, while in college—but says he "didn't get it" on those occasions, since he wasn't yet dancing for a living, with all the struggles and uncertainties that entails. By the time he did the Chorus Line tour, he did get it, as that occurred after "the fall of 2006, which was one of the hardest times ever in my life," he says. As of late '06, Wayne had done tours of The Will Rogers Follies, Smokey Joe's Cafe and Fame and even made his New York City debut, in Once on This Island at Brooklyn's semiprofessional Gallery Players. But he was sleeping in the living room of a friend's Queens apartment, was still non-Equity and "was fighting to get people to know who I was," he says.
He would earn his Equity card on his next show, the 2006 holiday-season production of Beauty and the Beast at Alabama Shakespeare Festival, then go on to do the Color Purple tour in Chicago, San Francisco and L.A. for about a year, followed by the Chorus Line tour in 2008-09. Then came the breakthroughs in New York. Last year Wayne performed in two City Center Encores! shows, Anyone Can Whistle and Bells Are Ringing, as well as his own cabaret acts, Crossing the Line and Moments: The Power of Words and Music (which had performances at the Triad in February and December 2010, respectively). Anyone Can Whistle introduced him to director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw, who then cast him in last summer's world premiere of Robin and the 7 Hoods at San Diego's Old Globe. Bells Are Ringing was directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, right around the time she was auditioning people for Anything Goes.