Monday, June 14, 2010

A Tony Award Journal---Completed!

There were only three of us here last evening: Me, Mark, and our friend Jillian.  Yet our annual Tony Award get-together  was terrific fun, and had all the laughs, witty comments and surprised gasps as the spectacle at Radio City Music Hall.  Huddled in our tiny converted bedroom-turned-screening-room just large enough to seat three, on our HD TV and armed with snacks and "beverages", we reveled in the speeches, costumes and hair, the music and scenes from the big plays, cheered for our "favorites", and planned our fantasy itineraries for our next trip to Broadway (next fall, maybe?)

I also got my motivation going to finish a that some day, I can give the thank-you speech I have carefully prepared many years ago....something some stars clearly forgot to do (Denzel?)

I used to watch the Tony's to get a sort of preview of the material Hollywood might use for its big productions for the coming year. Big Hollywood musicals, and some classic dramatic films,  were often Tony-winning shows at first. I'm remembering classic vintage films like "My Fair lady", "Sound of Music", "Lion in Winter",   Now, Broadway has scavenged the Hollywood creative factory for its concepts and ideas, so that a good number of shows seem to have been Disney Animated features or obscure TV sitcoms ("Shrek", Addams Family", etc.)

Living in the middle of the country, we don't have immediate access to the big Broadway shows honored by Tony.  Yes, we eventually see them arrive in Chicago in wonderfully mounted productions, but at award season it's like being made to watch the Oscars without having seen ANY of the films in competition.  So, I try to stay current by reading about the shows following the trade notices..and of course assessing their award chances!

"Red" seemed to get the most press, and I was well aware of the show and its premise going in.  I wasn't too surprised it won Best Play, given the number of its nominations.  I felt most sorry for Alfred Molina, who appeared to be the only nominee from the show not to have earned a trophy...and he was the lead character, no less!  This story of artist mark Rothko and his protege intrigues me.  Too bad we could not see a scene, even on tape, to showcase the performers and the drama.  I must see this one.

What can you say about "La Cage"?  It's one of those perennials, like "Gypsy", that seems to win every time it's produced.  And why not? it's a crowd-pleaser with gorgeous design, lots of humor, and with a message of acceptance that can't fail to stir all but the most jaded in the audience.   

Jillian just saw "Memphis" in her last trip to NY and was wildly enthusiastic.  She was out of her seat when it was named "Best Musical".  I knew that, sadly, "Memphis" was the ONLY eligible nominated musical with an original music score, which is why I gave it the edge in my prediction it would win.  All others were compilations of music, or, in the case of "American Idiot", taken from a concept "rock-opera".

Speaking of "A.I.", I sort of "got" it....I think it's this generation's "Hair", or "Rent", basically an anthem to youthful idealism, this time presented in an in-your-face, confrontational style...loud and rude, and exhilarating nonetheless.  Mark and Jillian were less enthusiastic about it, and it might not top my to-see list, but I would go if I got a chance.  I still wonder if Broadway is the appropriate venue for highly amplified musicals. Green Day and the cast members of "American Idiot" certainly have something important to say, and loudly; however I hope they understand the effectiveness of the occasional whisper.

"Fela" was appealing in an intellectual, "culture-is-good-for-you" kind of way.  I know this is not fair, having seen only one or two brief numbers from it.  But what I saw engaged my mind, and I told myself how unique and wonderful it was...but it left me unmoved.  It's a show that I think might grow on me after seeing it through, and maybe again.  I was awe-struck by the rhythm and choreography, and the costuming (although we couldn't resist taking a swipe at the Jiffy-Pop headgear on the opening singer...and what about those glasses??) 

Some of my least favorite moments; Catherine Zeta-Jones' slog through "Send in the Clowns" and her strange acceptance speech; Denzel forgetting who had just honored him; Nathan Lane recycling Bob Hope (to an Oscar fanatic his remark about Passover was just too recognizable--although in general he and Bebe Neuwirth made me laugh); Scarlett Johannson's overlong acceptance speech to kick off the show; and the poor directing and technical difficulties for the telecast, with wandering teleprompters, indiscriminate editing, and horrible sound that always seemed to be on a delay.

SEAN HAYES did a surprising and extremely smart thing to kick off the show with an instrumental performance and immediately deflect controversy. This way he did not risk an immediate turnoff with lame jokes or the appearance of trying too hard to be classy.  His bravura turn at the piano was eye-opening, and all criticism of his supposed effectiveness as a romantic straight lead evaporated...the man has talent.  He carried the event well, although I could have done without the Spiderman-Orphan Annie costuming during the show.  And aside from a nod to the naysayers with an exaggerated kiss on the lips of his "Promises" co-star Katherine Heigel, the only political statement was in mentioning BP, and that by way of introducing Bernadette Peters.

As award shows go, this is always my favorite.  One day perhaps I will have seen more of the plays and musicals before the awards are given out.  And I hope Mark and Jillian and I continue to have our annual gala.....adding more guests as the years pass, as there will always be room for one more friend of Broadway!

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