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5 minutes with a Tony nominee: ‘Days of Wine and Roses’’ Adam Guettel and Brian d’Arcy James

The pair delve into the differences between Off-Broadway and Broadway, the details in the score and what it felt like to perform the musical.

(L-R) Adam Guettel, Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James attend the 77th Annual Tony Awards Meet the Nominees Press Event at Sofitel New York on May 02, 2024, in New York City. (Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Before previews began for the Broadway engagement of “Days of Wine and Roses,” star Brian d’Arcy James called the show “the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.” Now, he’s nominated for a Tony Award for his turn as Joe in the new musical. Composer-lyricist Adam Guettel, who created such a difficult yet rewarding score to sing, is also nominated.

“Days of Wine and Roses” marks James’ fifth Tony nomination. Having made his Broadway debut as in 1993’s “Blood Brothers,” the actor earned his first Tony nod for a featured performance in 2002’s “Sweet Smell of Success.” He followed that with noms for playing the titular role in 2009’s “Shrek the Musical,” the lead character Nick Bottom in 2015’s “Something Rotten” and the Baker in “Into the Woods.” With 16 Broadway shows now under his belt, James told Broadway News in this “5 minutes” chat why “Days of Wine and Roses” stands out.

As for Guettel, with “Days of Wine and Roses” he tapped into a fresh sound. He won Tonys for his score and orchestrations of the lyrical and soaring “Light in the Piazza.” “Days of Wine and Roses,” which skews a bit jazzier, marks his Broadway musical return since “Piazza,” though he did pen original music for the play “To Kill a Mockingbird” (earning another Tony nod). Guettel told Broadway News that he works slowly, and the intricacies of “Days of Wine and Roses” are, no doubt, part of the reason why.

The musical follows lovers and eventual spouses Kirsten and Joe as they wrestle with alcoholism. Sometimes they win the battle, but will they or the drink win the war?

“Days of Wine and Roses” is an expression of the peaks, through songs like “Evanesce” and “Forgiveness,” and valleys, in numbers like “Underdeath” and “435.”

Guettel and James discuss these songs — what it feels like to write and perform them — the complexities of the musical and their collaboration with actor Kelli O’Hara, book writer Craig Lucas and director Michael Greif.

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