I gotta say, of the big four (EGOT), the Tonys are, and have always been, my favorite award ceremony. Is it the musical performances? Yes. Is it Neil Patrick Harris who has become a Tony award staple? Yeah. But…it’s also the fact that as much as I love theatre, I haven’t seen any of these shows. So not only is this show a great way to introduce to me to great New York theatre, but I can confidently say I can’t get upset when a “favorite” (if I even have one) loses because…unlike the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys…I HAVEN’T SEEN ANY OF THE SHOWS SO I CAN’T PROPERLY JUDGE! YAY!!!
But, I can still list some of my favorite moments from the entire evening. And there were a lot because, wow, this was the best Tony ceremony from the last few years. Very few sound issues. A couple great speeches (with a couple surprising wins). And Neil…wow. Just when I though having him as a host for a fourth time wasn’t a great idea, he proves me wrong and outdoes himself yet again. Can he PLEASE host the Oscars next year? Anyway…let’s do this:
- THE OPENING: What can I say? It was spectacular. An ode to all the musicals (sorry plays) that are still on Broadway. We saw the Newsies. We saw those bird puppets from The Lion King. We saw A LOT of kids (more on that later). We saw Neil sing really fast and dance and disappear before out very eyes. I think…this was my favorite opening of all time. It was a nice way to incorporate all the shows without doing an awkwardly edited medley. NPH (and his team) are always creative like that.
- THE KIDS: We got a lot performances from the kid performers on Broadway. We started with a performance by the cast of Matilda. “Revolting Children” is such a spirited number and I’m always in awe of the spirit and choreography when watching it. You can tell the cast has such a fun time performing it. By the end of “When I Grow Up,” all four actresses who played Matilda take the stage to sing a snippet reprise of “Naughty.” And then we got a performance from the kid cast of Annie, led by unfairly and criminally snubbed Lilla Crawford (OK, the only nomination snub that made me upset). They performed “It’s a Hard Knock Life.” I have a soft spot for both this musical and its revival so I’m glad it at least got this Revival nomination so they were able to perform, even if they had no chance of beating Pippin or even Cinderella. Unfortunately these little girls were interrupted by Jane Lynch who played Miss Hannigan. Jane Lynch does a good job but…it seemed like a way to sell tickets to the Glee crowd. I would have preferred a performance of “You’re Never Fully Dressed” instead. Lastly, we got a performance from the kid cast of A Christmas Story. Believe it or not, this was my favorite performance of the evening. Johnny Rabe as Ralphie was great, but that little tapper dude (Luke Spring) stole the entire night with that wonderful tap solo. All the kids in the number were wonderful at tapping. And while, having not been familiar with the movie, I didn’t quite understand what was going on, I still smiled the whole way through. Great job to all the kids!!!
- OTHER STRONG PERFORMANCES: I can’t say I fully understood what was going on during the Bring it On performance, but by time they got to what I think was the chorus of the song, I was definitely feeling it. Apparently Lin-Manuel Miranda co-wrote the book and lyrics which is no surprise considering how similar the rap is to the raps in In the Heights. It was a cool performance for a show that I wanted to see last year. Unfortunately, it had a short run. Cinderella was awesome mostly because of the cool quick costume changes done by Broadway’s future Laura Osnes and the always fabulous Victoria Clark (“You’d be surprised how many beautiful gowns have crazy women in them!”) who play Cinderella and Fairy Godmother respectively. William Ivey Long definitely deserved his Costume Tony (the only award the musical won that night.) And, despite the fact the high grossing show wasn’t nominated for Best Musical, Motown: The Musical was still able to churn out a couple dance numbers. I especially liked the performance of another child star, Raymond Luke Jr., as young Michael of the Jackson 5. I love this music so I was really digging it.
- WOMEN DIRECTORS: For the first time since 1998, two women directors won for both Best Direction of Musical and Play. First, Diane Paulus won for directing the beautiful and lavish Pippin. Her speech was very heartfelt and articulate, and she especially paid tribute to the great Stephen Schwartz. And then Pam MacKinnon won for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. She started her speech by going, “So…Vegas got this one wrong…an Diane Paulus’s speech was fantastic. Um…so that’s where my head is.” Who run the world!
- BROADWAY STARS ON CANCELLED TV SHOWS: While Andrew Rannells, Megan Hilty, and Tony winner Laura Benanti are all Broadway favorites, on the small screen, they aren’t quite as successful. So the three of them (joined by a smug NPH) sang their woes about being on cancelled (NBC) TV series. Laura Benanti (to the tune of “Ladies Who Lunch”) is especially depressed about being on TWO cancelled TV series. It was one of the funniest moments of the night and showed how talented each of them (esp. Megan Hilty wowza) are! If it’s any consolation, I loved The New Normal, “mildly” kept up with Smash, and…well…I didn’t watch Go On but I heard a lot of great things about it and I was a little surprised that NBC cancelled that one TBH.
- JESSE EISENBERG AND THE PLAYS: He introduced the nominated plays…and in record speed. I love Jesse Eisenberg. I love how he can’t keep his jittery body still. I love his speedy voice. Also, you all should watch Now You See Me. Anyway, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike won Best Play. Judging by the little snippets of each play, and the fact that I’ve loved reading all the other Christopher Durang plays, I think the Theatre Wing made the right choice.
- PIPPIN: Pippin was one of three musicals who dominated the night with four Tonys, including Best Revival and Direction. Andrea Martin won for Best Featured Actress, while Patina Miller won for Leading Actress in the same role that won Ben Vereen a Tony 40 years ago. (Is this the first time two people of different genders won a Tony for the same role?) Patina Miller dominated with a great acceptance speech and a great leading performance in “Magic to Do” with the rest of the spirited cast. However, I’m not going to leave out Matthew James Thomas who did a good job with “Corner of the Sky” in the usually thankless leading titular role. I have to say I love this interpretation of Pippin. The carnival aspect of the show definitely took me by surprise when I first watched the previews. The original production was definitely a lot subtler and simplistic (in an effective way of course). But, theatre is about embracing different interpretations, not clinging on to the old productions. So, I believe what Diane Paulus and her team did with this was excellent and made sense. And, honestly, such a great, talented company. I can’t wait to watch this on bootleg!
- KINKY BOOTS: When most people, including myself, began watching the Tonys, we expected the British import Matilda to dominate the same way Billy Elliot did. However, that wasn’t the case. Yes, Matilda still won 4 Tonys, but it was the supposed dark horse Kinky Boots that took the top honor Best Musical. This sort of surprise just made the night more exciting. And judging from other performances the cast has given on other shows and their performance of “Everybody Say Yeah” (which featured some cool treadmill choreography) tonight, I think this was a just win. Cyndi Lauper won Best Score, and looked so grateful and tearful accepting her award. It’s nice to see this global superstar so humble and gracious. Billy Porter won Lead Actor and gave one the strongest speeches of the night. (“I want to thank…my mother…you are the personification of true Christianity. Your willingness to embrace that which you don’t understand with unconditional love is a template that the world could benefit from employing. Your courage gives me life and I love you!”) It was a good night for the musical that will surely get a boost in ticket sales. The best part about all this is reading the bitter British presses try to bash Kinky Boots. Nice try.
- CICELY TYSON: And the award for the greatest speech in the history of awards goes to…the great Cicely Tyson. Let’s walk through this piece by piece. The nominations are called. Tyson is clearly nervous. She wants this. She wants this bad. Her name is called. The crowd goes wild. Most jump to their feet. Cecily stays seated, trying to take it all in. She finally stands, revealing a dress that’s made of nothing but extravagant purple ruffles. The announcer reveals that this is her FIRST Tony nomination and win. It takes her like 5 minutes to reach the stage. She gets a rousing standing ovation in the process. She reaches the mic, not holding the trophy. And she gives her speech in a slow, thoughtful delivery, with plenty of conviction. She takes in the moment. She starts out by talking about herself in the third person. She talks about how she’s last living member of her immediate family. She talks about how it’s been thirty years since she’s done stage work. She didn’t think it would happen again in her lifetime…but she had this burning to desire to just have “one more. One more great role, I said. I didn’t want to be greedy. I just wanted one more!” The audience laughs to this. She thanks the American Theatre Wing for welcoming her home. She takes a long pause before the music comes in. I’m already buying my ticket so I can fly to New York to murder the conductor that decided to play this living legend off. But then she recovers like the pro she is. “Please wrap it, they say…Well that’s exactly what you did with me. You wrapped me up in your arms after 30 years. And now I can go home with a Tony!” She thanks the crowd and they give her another standing ovation. A great moment of television and probably my favorite of the year so far. I still have tears in my eyes. Now, how about we give her one more great movie role, so she can win an Oscar! (And, going off of that, let’s give Cyndi Lauper an Oscar so she can complete her EGOT!)
- EMPIRE STATE OF MIND: The show ends with NPH doing his usual “recap” of the show with lyrics that were probably written a mere minutes before it happened. He rapped it to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” with Audra McDonald singing the chorus. Even when she’s not nominated, she’s still fabulous. She ends with a gif-worthy mic drop.
Overall, this was a great night filled with wonderful performances and funny bits in between. I think the only I didn’t like was the characters from previous musical introducing the newer musicals’ performances. (Like Spiderman…I didn’t get that.) But, otherwise, the Tonys prove why it’s better than the other award shows out there. Thanks for reading!