And yet, during the last commercial break, Lion abandons her usual caution and suggests that Waters move closer so they can reach the stage quickly - if Hairspray wins. He doesn't budge. "That's being too optimistic," he says.

Jackman, the ceremony's host, introduces the presenters of the final award - Jason Alexander and Martin Short on a live feed from Los Angeles where they are appearing in a touring production of The Producers. Lion covers her eyes, then her mouth. Her son slowly rubs his palms together, wiping off sweat. The tension flowing between Waters and Lion is palpable.

Then it happens. Short announces the winner: Hairspray.

Lion bounds up the aisle, grabbing the hand of the musical's choreographer, Jerry Mitchell, and leading a score of co-producers, the entire Hairspray creative team and some of the cast.

She has given a Tony acceptance speech once before - in 1994 when Perestroika, the second part of Tony Kushner's Angels in America, won best play, but she wasn't the lead producer. Back in high school at Park School, she suffered a bout of "incredible stage fright" while performing in Ionesco's The Chairs at Park School, and she has never forgotten it.

As late as this afternoon, she hadn't settled on an acceptance speech. "I've got five, 10, 20 things. You never know till you get up there," she explained.

Now she's there. She focuses on the advice of a friend who told her: Speak slowly and from the heart.

"This is the Hairspray family," she begins, gesturing at the crowded stage. She thanks the Tony voters, the musical's songwriters, librettists, designers, director, choreographer and "the big-hearted imagination of Mr. John Waters, my fellow Baltimorean and our patron saint."

Hairspray and its three competitors, she says, "are the results of the passionate determination of one person's, or a few people's, belief. If that's your dream, go for it."



  • Afterwards, Lion is whisked across the street to Rockefeller Center, where a cadre of reporters and photographers are camped out. As soon as the brief press conference is over, she rushes back to Radio City to continue the search for her missing glasses.

    Accompanied by the ever-present Conlon, the top Tony winner winds through the bowels of the music hall. In the auditorium, janitors are tossing litter into plastic trash bags. An usher produces two pairs of abandoned eyeglasses. Neither is Lion's.

    The limo drops Lion at the Marriott Marquis for an obligatory stop at the Tony Awards Gala, but the party she is most eager to attend is the Hairspray bash at the Bryant Park Grill. There, while the Tony broadcast replays on large screens in the corners of the room, Lion finally sits down to a meal - roast beef, salmon and salad. It's 1 a.m., and this is the first food she's eaten since breakfast.

    At 1:20, she's ready to part with her borrowed jewels. She and Conlon step to one side. He unhooks the necklace and slips it into its leather case. "Cinderella loses her diamonds," Lion says.



  • Most fairy tales would end here, but real-life stories have a tomorrow. By 9 a.m. on Monday - after about four hours sleep - the producer of this season's best musical is attending auditions for replacement actors and the cast of the touring production that will open in September at Baltimore's Mechanic Theatre.

    At 2 p.m., she's sitting at a huge conference table at the theatrical ad agency, Serino Coyne. The room overflows with co-producers, ad people and press agents. In less than 90 minutes, they decide to spend $750,000 on one week's worth of print ads proclaiming Hairspray's victory and announcing a new block of tickets on sale.

    There's much discussion and occasional disagreement, but the tone in the room is marked by quiet respect that Lion has worked hard to earn. It's too early to know the day's box office tally, but sales are already at $350,000; the final figure will turn out to be almost $500,000, five times the typical Monday amount.

    When the meeting breaks up, Lion makes one more foray to Radio City in search of her elusive eyeglasses. This time it pays off. A guard places six pairs of glasses on a counter, and with a whoop, Cinderella and her glasses are reunited.

    The day holds one more event - a benefit for the New York Theatre Workshop, the off-Broadway theater that launched the musical Rent and was the site of Hairspray's first staged reading three years ago. Dubbed "The Ladies Baltimore" and held at the Central Park Boathouse, the benefit honors Lion and her cousin, choreographer and director Martha Clarke, a MacArthur "genius" grant recipient.

    The accomplished cousins, who spent every weekend together when they were girls, make a storybook entrance in a gondola. When the boat glides up to the dock, they're greeted by a crowd that includes the Hairspray creative team, actress Marian Seldes and playwright Arthur Miller.

    Later, Waters - introduced by Shaiman as "our very special fairy godfather" - describes Lion as "the ultimate New Yorker in a way. You might not even know she was from Baltimore."

    "But," he continues, "just when she thought she was safe, eight Tony Awards are going to force her back to her roots for the rest of her life. She had to escape Baltimore to learn to embrace it."

    Then Lion and Clarke take the stage. They joke about clashes, from childhood on, caused by their dominant personalities. But standing so close that they're practically leaning on each other, their bond is unmistakable.

    As Clarke begins a story about a swim meet they once competed in, Lion says, "I thought we weren't going to tell that."

    "We are now," Clarke says, barreling ahead. "Anyway, I was a faster swimmer and she grabbed my bottom in the swimming pool, and she tried to push me under. After last night, she doesn't have to anymore."

    Shortly past 10 p.m., the event winds down, and Lion and some friends spill out into the moonlight. As they amble through the park on their way home, they break off into twosomes and threesomes, holding hands, singing softly, even dancing a bit. The air is balmy, the greenery lush and the flowers so fragrant that Central Park seems magical - a setting so ideal, even a cautious Broadway producer can believe in happily-ever-after.