The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards’ long association with Broadway has created 64 chapters filled with red carpet glamour, humor, special surprises, musical numbers and acceptance speeches. Last night, the 65th chapter was recorded, and this year’s show was filled with a Mormon takeover, puppet stallions, Spiderman jokes and a whole lot of heart.
Host Neil Patrick Harris is eons away from his teen surgeon days and his second round at playing master of ceremonies was even better than the first. Held at the iconic and grand Beacon Theatre, this year’s events started with an irreverent number that pokes fun at the relationship between the theatre and the homosexual community. Harris informed one and all that the theatre is “not just for gays anymore.” The number would have come off without a hitch if not for a cue card flub from Brooke Shields after Harris jumped off the stage for a little audience participation. Cue card-gate aside, the 65th Tony Awards production team must have learned from the Oscars mistakes. This year’s show was as electric as the marquees on 42nd Street. Presenters included Alec Baldwin, Robin Williams, Viola Davis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Harry Connick Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson (both Connick and Jackson will be coming to Broadway later this year). Ghetto jester and actor John Leguizamo and others shared their Broadway moments. But showcasing to the world the dedication and pizzazz of Broadway is truly what the Tony Awards are all about. Revivals like Anything Goes and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying showed the greatness past American musicals; new productions such as The Book of Mormon, Sister Act, Catch Me If You Can and The Scottsboro Boys presented the inventiveness of future American musicals.
Although this season presented singing nuns on Broadway, it was South Park fans that were rejoicing. The Book of Mormon came, performed and conquered, sweeping this year’s awards. The cheeky musical about religion walked away with nine Tonys including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Orchestrations, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Scenic Design of a Musical, Best Sound Design of a Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for Nikki M. James who gave an emotional acceptance speech. The spirit of Cole Porter is alive and the three Tonys Anything Goes won proves why his music is timeless. The revamped Porter production won Best Choreography, Best Revival of a Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for Sutton Foster. It appears that Broadway was too busy creating new chapters to revisit its past. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was the only other musical that was up for best revival, and although they did not win, they did not walk away empty handed. John Larroquette won for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical. The story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. has now added music, lyrics and choreography. Catch Me If You Can has also provided Norbert Leo Butz with his second Tony for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical.
War was also ubiquitous theme for Broadway’s big winners. War Horse took the lead and never gave up the reins. The poignant production about a boy who loves his horse so much, that he enlists in the military and risks his life to bring him home won every category it was nominated for including Best Sound Design of a Play, Best Lighting Design of a Play, Best Scenic Design of a Play, Best Direction of a Play and Best Play. The woods of South West England was setting for a standoff in Jerusalem, which garnered the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for Mark Rylance who offered jocular commentary about walking through walls. Frances McDormand delivered a passionate speech upon accepting her Tony for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play. Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart is the personification of the phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” His compelling examination of the early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York was a call for action in the fight against AIDS and gave voice to a mute sector of our society. The production won Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for John Benjamin Hickey and Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for Ellen Barkin.
After parties are over, websites have been updated and reviews of Sunday’s award show are in. As Broadway gets back to penning new chapters of the modern theatre experience, I believe the Tony Awards proved why The Great White Way is still profitable during The Great Recession. There were plenty of memorable moments, but for me the most impressive aspect of the show was Neil Patrick Harris. From his blithe exchange with Hugh Jackman to his final riveting recap of the show, Harris was the Motherf*cker with the Mic and he was wicked!
Photos: Kevin Kane/Wireimage.com