Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tony Tony Tony!

The Tony Awards are a wonderful night for those who follow what's happening on Broadway, and pretty much of a mystery to everyone else. So while I was at home thinking that Laura Benanti looked lovely and OMG, Patina Miller's water-color dress was awesome, aren't Santino Fontana and Laura Osnes just the cutest Prince Charming and Cinderella ever, wow, Christopher Durang doesn't look like I remember, and how does Martha Lavey not know where stage right is, I'm sure most people who happened across the telecast while trying to find Game of Thrones or the NBA finals were all, WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE AND WHAT ARE THEY SHOUTING ABOUT?

There were non-whos, there, of course, like nominees Tom Hanks, the most A+++-list movie star of our time, Glee's Jane Lynch, David Hyde Pierce of Frasier fame, and Tony Shalhoub, TV's Monk. Some of the presenters -- Jesse Einseberg, Sally Field, Jake Gyllenhaal, Scarlett Johansson, Zachary Quinto -- also brought movie cred, while Mike Tyson brought... I don't know what he brought. But he was there.

And host Neil Patrick Harris brought his chutzpah, charm, TV icon status and Broadway connections back once again to shepherd the whole thing from beginning to end. The Tony Awards? Well, maybe more like *NEIL PATRICK HARRIS* presents the tony awards.

I know, I know. Everybody loved his opening number, built around the idea of the show going BIGGER this year, combining bits from each of the nominated musicals, with a little Pippin magic, some cheerleaders from Bring It On and a girl group from Motown, Kinky Boots booting their way on stage, waltzing couples from Cinderella, and more kids (Annie, Matilda, Christmas Story) than you can shake a stick at, plus some shoutouts to past winners like Once and Newsies and Billy Elliot. I thought it was okay, but found the lyrics less than connected to the idea of making the show bigger. And I could've done without Mike Tyson and the bit about Berry Gordy banging Diana Ross. I mean, really?

I preferred the second number, the one written by Michael John LaChiusa to lampoon all the Broadway stars who flock to TV shows and then kinda, sorta don't make it. In the wake of NBC slaughtering Go On, Smash, and The New Normal, amazingly talented stars Laura Benanti, Megan Hilty and Andrew Rannells were more than welcome center-stage, showing just how wasted they were playing second fiddles on TV, anyway. Plus they got to sing LaChiusa's funny lyrics to music from West Side Story, Gypsy and Company, with Benanti pretending to be drunk so she could sashay her way through a "Here's to the actors with shows" version of Stephen Sondheim's "Ladies Who Lunch" (fabulous!) and then all three joining NPH to sing a take-off on "What I Did for Love" from A Chorus Line that ended with Hilty singing about how she'd done TV not for love, but for "the chance for producers and directors and writers and casting agents and just, well, everybody to see me and love me because after all, that's essentially what we all crave. Because nobody ever hugged us as children which is how we got into this business in the first place. Especially you, Neil."

Y'all can keep your opening number. I'm sticking with THIS one as the best Tony number ever.

Other highlights included Steppenwolf Theater's production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf winning Best Revival, plus Best Director for Pam MacKinnon and Best Actor for Tracy Letts, doing Chicago proud and showing that Hollywood star power is not the be-all and end-all on Broadway. (Sorry, Tom Hanks. You're going to have to wait a little longer to get the T in your future EGOT.)

Surprisingly, the person who is now closest to filling out her EGOT is Cyndi Lauper, who added a T for Tony to the Emmy and Grammys she already owns by virtue of winning Best Score for the musical Kinky Boots. Kinky Boots also took Best Musical, edging out Matilda, even if the Kinky Franken-number we saw on the awards show seemed like a rehash of 9 to 5 stitched together with a little Full Monty, La Cage aux Folles and Pajama Game. Or, you know, nothing new here, even if its heart is in the right place and the crazy shoes are a lot of fun. Not that I am begrudging Kinky its Tonys. It certainly seemed more interesting than Matilda, which looked like Spring Awakening, Grammar School Edition.  Who puts a big sign that says "revolting" at the back of the stage when they don't want you to think their show is, I don't know, revolting?

Just to make for an overall dandy night for the Kinky crowd, the show also won for lead actor Billy Porter, who plays the main drag queen who helps restore the shoe factory at the center of the plot, Jerry Mitchell's choreography, Stephen Oremus' orchestrations and John Shivers' sound design.

The revival of Pippin, with its emphasis on the circus, acrobatics and a recreation of the original Fosse moves, took awards for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Director of a Musical Diane Paulus, leading actress Patina Miller (in the Ben Vereen role), and featured actress Andrea Martin (of SCTV fame), while Matilda the Musical took home awards for Best Featured Actor in a Musical Gabriel Evert, Dennis Kelly's book, Rob Howell's scenic design and Hugh Vanstone's lighting design. Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella picked up Best Costume Design for William Ivey Long..

Paulus and MacKinnon together make 2013 the first time since 1998, when Julie Taymor and Garry Hynes were honored for their direction of The Lion King and The Beauty Queen of Lenane, respectively, that female directors won both the big prizes.

The late Nora Ephron was the lone woman nominated for her writing, but the Tony voters went with playwright Christopher Durang, giving him his first Tony for the dysfunctional family comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Veteran Cicely Tyson was named Best Actress for her work in the revival of The Trip to Bountiful, while Lucky Guy's Courtney B. Vance won Best Actor in a Featured Role and Judith Light, last year's winner in the same category, took home Best Actress in a Featured Role for The Assembled Parties.

John Lee Beatty was honored for his scenic design, Ann Roth for her costume design and Leon Rothenberg for his sound design, all for The Nance, with Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer from Lucky Guy awarded the Tony for Best Lighting Design in a Play.

Check out the Tony site for complete info, lots of pictures and videos, and all the acceptance speeches, too. For the fashion report, Tom and Lorenzo are on top of it. My own Best Dressed award goes to Patina Miller and her big, beautiful gown, with Cicely Tyson's purple people eater and Debra Messing's Donna Reed dress from 1953 at the bottom of the list.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you on the opening number. "Bigger" is not my favorite hook for a concept, and there were some eye-popping bits, but there were also some less-so bits (as you listed), and the repeated "Go, Neil, go!" kind of torpedoed it for me.

    I much prefer the closing song, the now-expected but no less awesome rap (lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda) about events we saw just minutes ago, this time with vocal stylings by Audra McD.

    And best of all, the middle number that you described. It started out unpromisingly, but then started soaring when Megan Hilty sashayed on, and just went into orbit when drunk Laura Benanti staggered in proclaiming "television sucks!" to a Sondheim beat. That was superb in every way.

    Not many of the sequences from new musicals seduced me, but two of the revivals certainly did: "Pippin," despite my feelings against Diane Paulus (not for this) and dislike of the whole circus-as-metaphor-for-life thing, won me over with its dazzle; and the sequence from "Cinderella" just stole my heart. The theater magic whereby Laura Osnes, just by spinning in place, turns her rags into a fabulous white gown... just for that, William Ivey Long deserves his Tony.

    For me, besides our host, the cherished people of the night were the two Lauras. And Santino F. Once he becomes the household name he deserves to be, wouldn't he be a good choice to host this? He has the humor and charisma and talent. Or -- remember the host trio of Glenn Close, Gregory Hines, and Nathan Lane? -- a trio of Santino Fontana, Raul Esparza, and Laura Benanti.