Macon’s Grey Henson shines as one of Broadway's brightest in 'Mean Girls' Tony nomination

Grey Henson
Grey Henson

Grey Henson was still in bed in Harlem, New York, Tuesday morning when his name was called in the Tony Award nominations.

At the same time, his parents back in Macon were struggling with an iPad, trying unsuccessfully to watch the nominations streaming live on tonyawards.com.

Then Paige Henson's phone rang.

Longtime friend and retired Theatre Macon manager Charlene Churchwell was bursting with the good news of Henson's first Tony nomination for featured actor in a musical for his performance of Damian in Tina Fey's "Mean Girls."

"It's pretty darn exciting," Paige Henson told The Telegraph. "He was more than thrilled that "Mean Girls" was nominated as Best New Musical."

"Mean Girls," based on the 2004 movie written by Fey and starring Lindsay Lohan, tied "SpongeBob SquarePants" with a dozen nominations apiece.

Paige Henson, her husband, Johnny, and son Jack were in the audience for the grand Broadway premiere of the show April 8.

The family was beaming as they had their picture taken with Fey, who also wrote the book for the show and was nominated Tuesday along with lead actress Taylor Louderman.

"Those kids are so close. It was a two-year project," Paige Henson said. "(Tina Fey) is truly one of the dearest, soft-spoken, understated persons, and she loves the kids in this play."

Grey Henson, 28, is the third oldest in the cast, his mother said.

The Hensons first saw the show in Washington, D.C., where their youngest child had been rehearsing, but they loved the Broadway production even more after the addition of a dance number for Henson's character.

The musical also is nominated for Featured Actress Ashley Park, Direction, Choreography, Original Score, Costume Design, Orchestrations, Scenic Design and Sound Design.

Henson made his Broadway debut nearly four years ago in the "Book of Mormon" after being tapped in 2012 to play Elder McKinley in the touring production of the show even before he graduated from Carnegie Mellon University.

He grew up in Macon, although he was born in Nashville, Tennessee, when his mother was attending a conference at the Opryland Hotel.

He tap-danced his way onto local stages and first appeared as one of the lost boys in the Macon Little Theatre production of “Peter Pan."

As a boy, Henson studied with the Jane Madison Dance Studio and wanted to become a professional dancer.

"He grew up so tall, it's hard to dance at that level," his mom said.

While driving in the car one day with Macon musician Louise Barfield, Grey started singing in the back seat, his mother said.

"Louise said, 'He's a singer,' and I said, 'No he's not. He's a dancer,'" she said.

When he started performing at Little Carnegie of the South, his mother realized he was both.

Behind his Broadway success are many influences from his hometown: former Stratford Academy teacher Robert Stallworth, Academy of the Performing Arts instructors Laura Voss and Sylvia Haynie, whose son F. Michael Haynie just performed in the Easter live production of "Jesus Christ Superstar," and retiring Theatre Macon artistic director Jim Crisp.

Henson was a little boy when Crisp first met him.

Crisp recalls his "sweet, pale" face and an "aura of magic and elfishness about him."

"There's no one more deserving, who has worked so hard and is probably one of the kindest, sweetest, most gentle-natured persons," Crisp said.

Establishing a career in theater is difficult enough, but to be nominated for a Tony at age 28 is like "winning the Mega Millions jackpot," Crisp said.

Looking back at the evolution of her son's talent and career, Paige Henson said: "It's been wild. It's been wonderful how it comes together, how grueling and how much work it is."

The awards ceremony will be broadcast live on CBS from New York's Radio City Music Hall on June 10 from 8-11 p.m.