2010 Tony Awards

Segregation and rock ‘n’ roll triumphed over corrupt government regimes and Afrobeat, men wearing wigs toppled Sondheim, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis swung and hit a homerun past the fences and Red is the new color of the Great White Way.  If you are confused about what I was just referring to, then you missed the live broadcast of the 2010 Tony Awards on CBS.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

The stars of Broadway and Hollywood filled Radio City Music Hall while fans in Manhattan braved a downpour to watch a live simulcast of the event in Times Square.  Sean Hayes did not disappoint, the Promises, Promises star and Tony nominee was just as enjoyable as the host of the Tony’s as he is on stage at the Broadway Theatre.  The show opened with Sean Hayes tickling the ivories singing “Blue Suede Shoes” with Levi Kreis (Tony Award winner for Best Performance by a Featured Actor) and the cast of Million Dollar Quartet; he also accompanied fellow cast mate Kristen Chenoweth as she sang “I Say a Little Prayer.”  The casts of Come Fly With Me, Fela!, La Cage Aux Folles and Everyday Rapture provided audiences at Radio City and at home with a small glimpse of why they were nominated and the opening number closed with the Green Day and the cast of American Idiot having stars like Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Will and Jada Smith clapping to their punk rock masterpiece. 


Photo: J. Countess/WireImage.com

Although Fela! and La Cage Aux Folles accumulated 11 nominations, each only walked away with three awards.  Bill T. Jones won for Best Choreography for Fela! and the musical centering on the Afrobeat pioneer/activist also won Best Sound Design of a Musical and Best Costume Design of a Musical.   La Cage Aux Folles won Best Direction of a Musical, Best Revival of a Musical and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for Douglas Hodge.  Catherine Zeta-Jones won Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for A Little Night Music and Katie Finneran won Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of the hysterical Marge MacDougall in Promises, PromisesAmerican Idiot won for Best Scenic Design of a Musical and Best Lighting Design of a Musical, but it was Memphis that took home the Tony for Best Musical as well as Best Book of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical and Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre.


Photo: J. Countess/WireImage.com

The Tony Awards were seeing Red literally; the play won the most awards of the evening including Best Play, Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for Eddie Redmayne, Best Direction of a Play, Best Scenic Design of a Play, Best Lighting Design of a Play and Best Sound Design of a Play.  The revival of August Wilson’s Fences won the Tony for Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for Denzel Washington and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for Viola Davis.  The beauty and talent of Scarlett Johansson lent itself well to the stage and garnered her Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play Tony for her performance in A View from the Bridge


Photo: J. Countess/WireImage.com

The main feature of any award show is the performances and the Tony Awards provide the best of any award show.  Audiences were wowed by performances casts of Memphis, Million Dollar Quartet, American Idiot and Fela!  Catherine Zeta-Jones delivered a powerful performance of the Sondheim standard “Send in the Clowns” and brought her husband, Michael Douglas, to tears.  This year marked the 64th anniversary of the Tony Awards and with it being a year away from the age of retirement I can confidently say that I see no departure any time soon.  Exciting and provocative shows like Next Fall, American Idiot and Fela! are breathing new life into Broadway and changing the ideas of what a production can do, and revivals like Fences, La Cage Aux Folles and A View from the Bridge show why a classic stage production has staying power.  Although Manhattan is battling through one of the worst global economic periods on record, Broadway proves why humans will always crave drama and a little night (or matinee) music. 

Top Photo:  Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage.com

Promise Fulfilled

As I stood outside the Broadway Theatre, my original thought was maybe the name for this production should’ve been changed to lines, lines.  The appeal of this play was obvious from the procession of people with tickets in hand anticipating the opening of the doors. While I slowly made my way inside the venue, I had another thought.  I realized that every time the curtains rise on a stage a promise is made.  So what do you get when you combine a concept based on a Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond screenplay, a book by Neil Simon, music by Burt Bacharach and lyrics by Hal David? You get a formula for success, success.  And that is exactly what the revival of Promises, Promises is.

Sean Hayes, Kristen Chenoweth and cast had huge shoes to fill.  The original 1968 production garnered a Grammy award for Best Cast Recording and two Tony awards.  The simple, soft, yet potent elegance of Burt Bacharach’s and Hal David’s music is deeply woven in the fabric of pop culture.  Songs like “I Say a Little Prayer”, “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”, “Promises, Promises”, and “A House Is Not a Home” have been indelibly ingrained on the psyche of any music lover thanks impart to iconic singers like Dionne Warwick, Luther Vandross and Aretha Franklin.  The musical is based on the hilarious, Oscar winning comedy, The Apartment, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley McClain.   Although I was not alive when the original musical appeared on Broadway, the music and movie it was based on is very familiar to me.  Needless to say, I had high expectations and I was not disappointed. 

From the opening overture to the reprise of “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”, Promises, Promises delivered absolute amusement.  What a joy it was to witness Burt Bacharach’s and Hal David’s music come alive in a way I had never experienced before.  Sean Hayes was born to play the charming, ambitious to a fault Chuck Baxter, a young bachelor that works at Consolidated Life.  Will & Grace showed he had the comedic chops, but his overall talent shines in this musical comedy.  He is exceptional in his Broadway debut, so much so that his portrayal of Chuck has garnered a Tony nomination for Best Actor in a Musical.   His constant breaking of the fourth wall in order to narrate the story was a scream. 

Kristen Chenoweth is simply adorable as the sadder but wiser Fran Kubelik, the young waitress that has an affair with a married executive, played by Tony Goldwyn, and is the girl of Chuck’s dreams.  Her renditions of “Whoever You Are”, “A House Is Not a Home”, “I Say a Little Prayer” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Againare heavenlyShe and Sean are a delight to watch and have great chemistry. 




The slinky, Fossesque choreography of Rob Ashford was right on queue.  The hip-swiveling, energetic moves harkens back to a time when the mash potato, frug and monkey ruled. Rob Ashford received a Tony nomination for Best Choreography and it is well deserved.  Combined with the orchestrations of Jonathan Tunick, 2010 Tony nominee for Best Orchestrations, Promises, Promises provides its audience with a knock out punch.  

For me the breakout star of this musical comedy is Katie Finnerman.  She is a sensation as the brassy, sex-crazed Marge MacDougall.  She delivers some of the most side-splitting lines of the show and is one of the reasons why “A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing” has become my favorite number.   Tony Goldwyn and Dick Latessa also give stand out performances as J.D. Sheldrake, the womanizing executive, and Dr. Dreyfuss, Chuck’s cynical neighbor.

Set in Manhattan during the early 60s, Promises, Promises transports the audience back to a simpler time just before the nation lost its innocence from the eruption of Vietnam War protests, assassinations and riots.  The show is filled with unethical and immoral subject matter, yet in the wake of all the ills that plague us today, infidelity, nepotism, attempted suicide and turkey lurking hardly seems like issues that would raise any eyebrows.  Besides, I so entertained by the performances of the cast that the depravity of the show themes did not register.  Sexy…witty…gut-busting humor…memorable music Promises, Promises has it all.  It is a tremendous triumph.

After seeing Promises, Promises I walked the streets of the new Times Square floating on a cloud of Bacharach.  Once you see it, you will fall in love and stay in love with the revival of this groovy musical.  I promise.

FAMERS to order discount tickets for Promises, Promises, click  http://www.promisespromisesbroadway.com/PPAMC56.php.

Photos courtesy of Promises, Promises.com and Broadway.com