Native Pittsburgher wins Tony Award
She has produced more than 60 shows on Broadway, including "Bright Star," which ran in Pittsburgh last month.
Jamie deRoy has a knack for picking winners.
The native Pittsburgher, and longtime Broadway stalwart, just took home her seventh Tony Award as “The Ferryman” won for Best Play on Sunday, June 9, at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
DeRoy was nominated for five additional Tony Awards this season. “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus” was also nominated for best play; the “Waverly Gallery” got a nod for best play revival; and “Tootsie,” “Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations” and “Beetlejuice” were all in the running for best musical.
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To wake up the morning of the Tony nomination announcement and learn that so many of her shows were recognized was “was very exciting and shocking,” said deRoy, speaking from her home in New York City. “Maybe it’s just luck, I don’t know. I mostly gear toward things that I like, and I like very eclectic kinds of things.”
She holds six other Tony Awards, including three that she picked up last year for “Once on This Island,” “The Band’s Visit” and “Angels in America.”
“I like plays, musicals, comedies, I like it all,” deRoy said. “I just want something that speaks to me, and touches my heart, whether it makes me laugh or cry or just think about things.”
DeRoy, whose family was affiliated with Rodef Shalom Congregation, was raised in Squirrel Hill, and graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School. Her mother was the famed artist Aaronel deRoy Gruber, whose large metal sculpture “Steelcityscape” is installed in Mellon Park.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, deRoy acted in community theater and school plays, but caught the theater bug in a serious way after her father — an investor in the Broadway production of the “Pajama Game” — took her backstage to meet the cast.
“From that point on, forget it,” she said. “I was hooked.”
DeRoy attended Carnegie Mellon University for a year before heading to New York to find her place on the Great White Way.
Finding work first as an actress in “The Drunkard” off-Broadway and on tour, then as a cabaret entertainer, deRoy “accidentally” moved into production after a friend took her to see the British spoof “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” which was in New York for a very limited run. She loved the show, so when that friend asked her to try to raise money to bring it to North America for an extended run, she decided to try her hand at producing.
“I got good at it,” she said.
“Shakespeare” opened in 1995 off-Broadway and was a hit, and by 2005, DeRoy was co-producing her first Broadway show, Chita Rivera’s “A Dancer’s Life.”
DeRoy has since worked as a producer on more than 60 Broadway shows, and more than 45 shows off-Broadway.
One of the plays she produced, “Bright Star,” which opened on Broadway in 2016, ran last month at the New Hazlett Theater in Pittsburgh, presented by Front Porch Theatricals as the first show in its 2019 “Family…Secrets” season.
“Bright Star” features a Tony and Grammy Award-nominated score by actor-comedian-writer-musician Steve Martin and singer-songwriter Edie Brickell. The story centers on a literary editor who meets a young soldier just home from World War II, which awakens a longing within her for the infant son she lost years ago.
“I thought it was a really moving, sweet story, even though it seems kind of horrendous in a way because of the subject,” deRoy said of “Bright Star.”
She first saw it performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and although, at that point, “it still needed work,” she knew she wanted to be involved.
“It was Edie Brickell, whose work I was vaguely familiar with because she is married to Paul Simon, and Steve Martin, who obviously I’m very familiar with,” deRoy said. “It just spoke to me. I knew that it wasn’t going to be the easiest sell. But I always loved it, so I went with it. And I was glad that I did.”
DeRoy still has family in Pittsburgh, and makes it back here from time to time. Most recently, she came in the weekend of Oct. 27, 2018, for her uncle Stanley Gruber’s 100th birthday celebration. She and her brothers threw him a party on Friday night.
The next morning, 11 people were murdered at the Tree of Life building.
“It was just so devastating,” deRoy said. “It would have hit home if I had been in New York, but to be in the town at that time was just so devastating.”
She is currently working with other Pittsburghers in the entertainment business in New York to try to organize a benefit performance to raise funds for the community here around the time of the one-year anniversary of the massacre. The planning is in the early stages, but deRoy is hoping to involve the Actors’ Fund, a national human services organization that helps to meet the needs of those in the entertainment community. pjc
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at