Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Get Ready for the TONY AWARDS!

I used to be all about the Oscars. And then I saw my first Broadway show. It was "Nine," it was on a Monday night, Tommy Tune's off-night from "My One and Only," and he sat right in front of me at "Nine." Next I saw "Sunday in the Park with George." After that, after I was writing romance novels and taking trips to New York fairly often to see my agents and editors, I became pretty addicted to Broadway shows and the Tony Awards that recognize the performers, musicians, designers, directors, choreographers and producers who create them.

Although they are now officially called The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards®, they started out as the Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre, honoring Mary Antoinette Perry, an actress and director who'd co-founded the American Theatre Wing. She died in 1946, and the first Tony was handed out in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria hotel on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947. That year, honorees included Ingrid Bergman for "Joan of Lorraine," José Ferrer for "Cyrano de Bergerac," Helen Hayes for "Happy Birthday," Fredric March for "Years Ago," and David Wayne for "Finian's Rainbow," with Kurt Weill winning for composing the music for "Street Scene." Agnes de Mille ("Brigadoon") and Michael Kidd ("Finian's Rainbow") shared the award for choreography, while Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan took home awards for writing and directing "All My Sons."

Pretty heady stuff for the first year! But also proof that movie stars coming to Broadway and scooping up Tonys was happening right from the beginning, what with Ingrid Bergman and all. (Bergman was also on Broadway in 1940 in a play called "Liliom," but she was lured to Hollywood by the movies, after several Swedish films and then "Intermezzo" in the US in 1936. She counts as a movie star to me -- for "Casablanca," if nothing else -- well before her Tony for "Joan of Lorraine.")

This year, I haven't seen the big nominees, like "Book of Mormon," created by the South Park guys (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) and the co-composer/lyricist of "Avenue Q" (Robert Lopez), nominated for 14 Tony Awards, or "The Scottsboro Boys," with 12 nominations, including the Kander and Ebb score, David Thompson's book, and Susan Stroman's direction and choreography. Other shows which did well in nominations include the Roundabout's revival of "Anything Goes," with 9 nominations; the Harry Potter version of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," with 8; "The Merchant of Venice" that put Al Pacino back in the role of Shylock, with 7; Jez Butterworth's "Jerusalem," with 6; and Stephen Adly Guirgis's "The Motherf***er With the Hat," which may present issues on title pronunciation on the live awards show, with 6 nominations.

Pundits are expecting "Book of Mormon" to carry off quite a few trophies, including Best Musical, with Nick Stafford's "War Horse" (which is, yes, about a horse that goes to war) a popular choice for Best Play, although Guirgis's "Motherf***er" may just be the dark horse that can nip "War Horse" at the finish line. (And I'm really sorry I stretched that metaphor.)

"Anything Goes" is the favorite to win Best Revival of a Musical, along with star Sutton Foster as Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, while Larry Kramer's emotional play about the beginning of the AIDS era, "The Normal Heart," will battle it out for Best Revival of a Play. Some folks think the Roundabout's "The Importance of Being Earnest" or the Public Theater's "Merchant of Venice" will sneak by, but I'm betting on "The Normal Heart," and keeping my fingers crossed for Joe Mantello for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play, even though that is one stacked category.

Brian Bedford ("The Importance of Being Earnest"), Bobby Cannavale ("The Motherf***r With the Hat"), Al Pacino ("The Merchant of Venice") and Mark Rylance ("Jerusalem") are the other contenders, and every one of them is possible. Rylance has been the most talked about as the winner, but Cannavale just took the Drama Desk Award in that category. And I would never count out Pacino or Bedford on general principles. I don't care -- I'm still rooting for Joe Mantello!

And as for the rest... I want to see Laura Benanti win Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for her role in the "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," a hotly anticipated show that really wore out its welcome quickly. But Benanti, a beautiful actress with an even more beautiful voice, was the sole stand-out in a lot of reviews, and I want that award for her. I've still got her "Unusual Way" on repeat on my iPod, even though that revival of "Nine" was eight years ago.

And I am also rooting for Judith Light ("Lombardi") to win the Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play. I don't know a thing about the play, but I do know the other actresses in the category are all terrific in their right. Still, I love Judith Light from her "One Life to Live" days, and now that "OLTL" is in its last days, it would make me happy to see Light on stage with a Tony medallion.

In the end, though, it really doesn't matter who wins, at least not to those of us who watch at home and didn't sing, dance, act, direct, produce or design a single thing in any of these shows. But the Tony Awards are almost always a good show all by themselves. With Neil Patrick Harris hosting and performances expected from Sutton Foster, Norbert Leo Butz and Aaron Tveit, Daniel Radcliffe and John Laroquette, Patina Miller, Andrew Rannells, and Joshua Henry, the 65th Annual Tony Awards promise to be a very good show. I'm still wearing a boot from recent foot surgery, but I'm going to put on a decent dress and get out the champagne glasses for this, anyway. Nobody better call me between 7 and 11 Central time on Sunday, June 12. I'm busy!


  1. You know I'll be watching then too, Julie! I don't have strong feelings about most of the nominees, as I haven't seen them. But of those I have seen, I would certainly be in favor of Laura Benanti winning (I very much enjoyed "Women on the Verge" and think it ought to win Best Score as well -- the cast CD is available, so anyone can confirm that I'm right! -- but I suppose it hasn't a prayer there).

    I saw "Arcadia," and think it's excellent and a strong choice for Best Revival, but "Earnest" (which I saw at the cinema) is even more remarkable, and then there's "The Normal Heart" ("Motherf**ker" isn't in this category), so forget it "Arcadia." Billy Crudup is a great, great actor, but I suspect the Tony will go elsewhere. As for "Earnest" itself, normally performing in drag is enough to get attention, but I think the buzz is not on Brian Bedford this time (he was glorious, though).

    By the way, "Liliom" (in which Ingrid Bergman appeared) is the source play for "Carousel" -- set in Budapest, and Billy/Liliom goes to hell at the end (as he should!).

  2. Ooops! What did I mean in the Play Revival category? I'll fix that...

  3. "Merchant of Venice," of course. Because they both begin with M... And they have so much in common...

  4. I also double-checked all the withs and withouts to match them with the titles of the shows as nearly as I can figure out.

    "Sunday in the Park" seems to be with, while "How to Succeed" is Without and "Motherf***er" is With. Go figure. Consistency/hobgoblin/small minds, etc.

  5. You just wait -- next year, they'll be nominating both "The Motherf***er of Venice" and "The Merchant With a Hat." The first one is about a streetwise dude who lends some cash to his pal but has to borrow from a loanshark to cover some gambling losses and the second one is about an Italian haberdasher who secretly yearns for his BFF but makes hats for him, anyway, so he will look nice when he goes to woo a beautiful jet set contessa who is being impersonated by her identical twin, a law student. It could work.

  6. Is there a way we can tweet, or liveblog, or some such newfangled thing, while it's going on, to stay in touch during the telecast?

  7. Do you Skype? There is also some sort of chat function on Facebook, the modern-day equivalent of "term-talk," if you remember that from the Very Olden Days.

  8. I remember term-talk! (Though I had forgotten till you reminded me.) I think the Facebook chat feature might work best. I'm up for it during the Tonys if you are!

  9. I'll try! I have Comcast weird internet transmission issues fairly often, so if I drop out unexpectedly, don't be surprised.

    Are you starting with the awards themselves at 8 Eastern, or is there some other pre-show show I'm not aware of to show the awards they don't care about on CBS?

  10. I thought I posted a response on this! (Did it end up in another thread?) There's a webcast at , starting 2 hours before the telecast. Red-carpet stuff. I also remember from a previous time I've seen this, they show clips of what's going on inside, including the Garbage Awards (typed with an eye-roll: all the stuff I care about), which Laura Benanti and Katie FInneran are hosting this year. That'll be tricky, you and I watching on one web page while we type on another, but we'll see.

    The guide page with most of the useful links: