Sunday, June 7, 2009

2009 Tony Award Musings

So, the Tonys have come and gone. How was the award ceremony? Entertaining. Few surprises. So, here goes…at least my highlights…

Opening Number
Great idea to have snippets from nominated shows. Started the program off with a good dash of energy and pizzazz. Personally, I would have liked more of Billy Elliot and why did they have such a wide shot of the actors? Trying to cover them and Elton John singing was too much. West Side Story and Guys and Dolls combo was well done; Stockard Channing was pleasing from Pal Joey, but next to normal got shafted. If you blinked you missed Aaron Tveit with a few lines from “I’m Alive.” Shrek was fun, but not the best song from the show even though it did showcase Tim Hatley’s whimsical costumes; 9 to 5 was too focused on Dolly and not enough on the threesome of Allison Janney, Stephanie J. Block, Megan Hilty. Rock of Ages--too much airtime; and Hair was a grand way to end the segment with everyone rocking out on stage.

Neil Patrick Harris
His opening monologue had some good lines and knows the show is not about him. The winks and nods to the TV and movie people weren’t really necessary, but a good easy transition to the body of the show.

I liked that he kept the show apace with his self-deprecating wit. He also had an easy, unassuming manner in his hosting style. Nice closing number. Good job, Doogie.

Shrek (nomination number)
Suprisingly full production number with sets and all. But while “What’s Up, Duloc?” showcased Christopher Sieber as the vertically challenged, Lord Farquaad, I would have preferred more of Brian D’Arcy James and Sutton Foster. The opening number, “Big Bright Beautiful World” or “Morning Person” that features Sutton Foster tap dancing away with a pack of rats would have been better.

YEAH Angela Lansbury
for winning best supporting actress in a play! The only reason to see Blithe Spirit. Five Tonys. Goodness. (quick—who is the only other actress to win 5?—see below) We’re always ecstatic to have you back. Keep coming!

Touring Productions
The road is where producers make A LOT of their money, but the presentations of Mamma Mia, Legally Blonde, and Jersey Boys were unnecessary and a shameless promotion. Enough said.

Best Play Nominees
WHY? Thirty seconds of each nominated play, maybe? You get absolutely no sense of the show. Again, why bother?

next to normalBest Score
I have not seen the musical, but I do have the cast album and while I LOVE Elton John’s score for Billy Elliot I have to admit the total score for next to normal is outstanding and is very deserving.

West Side Story (nomination number)
Rousing intro by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Perfect number to showcase the revival—Jerome Robbins’ athletic, energetic, and bounding choreography, Leonard Bernstein’s music, and two star-crossed lovers. I can see the lines at the box office forming already.

Rock of Ages (nomination number)
How was this nominated for Best Musical over 9 to 5? Great number if I need my 80’s fix, but otherwise underwhelming.

[answer to quiz – Julie Harris]

Guys and Dolls (nomination number)
Rather lame rendition of “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat.” I yawned. I think I took my frig break.

Supporting Musical Actor/Actress
Best acceptance speeches. Bravo Gregory Jbara and Karen Olivo.

next to normal (nomination number)
What the Tony Awards can do – take a musical most people haven’t heard of and present a powerfully, well-acted number that showcases the best it has to offer. I was transfixed.

Tribute to Those that Passed
Could you have showed a little dignity for those that have left us and made sure we could have at least read their projected names?

Billy Elliot (nomination number)
Trent Kowalik’s tap dancing was fantastic, but when they added the other cast numbers to the stage it became a mish mash. [For those that have not seen the show, it is staged with much more precision live] What was one of the best numbers in the musical became a disappointment. They should have gone with “Electricity” and just kept the spotlight on Kowalik.

Jerry Herman Tribute
Rather lackluster. It would have been nicer to see a live production number that incorporated some of his better known songs. Maybe even have had Angela Lansbury warble a bit.

Hair (nomination number)
High energy. Great camera work. Almost made Radio City Music Hall seem intimate. A full throttle success.

Best Revival of a Musical
Hair. Was it really a surprise?

Best Actor/Actress in a Musical
Surprise? No. It's nice to see a Broadway veteran like Alice Ripley win even though I could have done without the shouting of the acceptance speech. The boys from Billy Elliot actually acted like little boys up there. Congrats!

Best Musical
And the envelope...oh, my goodness. It's Billy Elliot! One of the best musicals I've seen in a long time. Bravo. And how gracious was Elton John? One of the only losers from the Billy Elliot juggernaut and what does he do when he takes center stage--congratulates the composing team for next to normal. Good for him.

So, overall, a typical Tony Award ceremony. Some good production numbers and some disappointments. The main surprise was there were no real major surprises. Big winners -- Billy Elliot, of course, with ten Tonys; next to normal with two major awards; and God of Carnage with Best Play, Best Director and Best Actress. I'm already looking to next year when, musicals at least, we have Spiderman (directed by Julie Taymor) and The Addams Family with Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane. Can't wait for those production numbers.