Monday, June 13, 2011

Tony hits, Tony misses

Sunday evening, I played piano in a music school recital, but missed the second half to dash eagerly home for the opening of the Tony Awards broadcast ... only to be dismayed by an opening number that was swell and witty for the New York crowd but of questionable taste in an international broadcast meant to promote Broadway theater.

Declaring that theater is "not just for gays anymore" (hunh?) Neil Patrick Harris' number told us "there's no sodomy required" and had him parading through the auditorium pointing out the straight people. What did this opening number actually have to do with theater? Not much - and Brooke Shields should never be required to ad-lib anything, messing up her bits both in the auditorium and onstage.

Halfway through the show, what should have been the opening number arrived - a delightful "competitive" turn between Harris and Hugh Jackman about who was the better awards-show host, with witty musical references, a spot of dancing and overall sparkle from two men who are real stars.

Most of the awards went as predicted, with The Book of Mormon taking home prizes in the musical categories and War Horse in the play categories. What keeps award shows interesting, of course, are the upsets - John Larroquette from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Norbert Leo Butz in Catch Me If You Can beating out the Mormon contenders in their featured actor/lead actor categories.

Speaking of Catch Me (my favorite show this season by a long shot), it is a mystery to me why Aaron Tveit, who stars as con man Frank Abagnale, Jr., seems to be getting the shaft. They're saying the same thing about Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed, but Tveit has a stronger voice, excellent acting chops, compelling stage presence - and made a strong impression when he was in Next to Normal. What more does a guy need to do?

Winners thanked the usual grocery list of names, now including dressers. I so wish nominees would think of perhaps making a statement about their craft, what theater means to them, etc., with perhaps a blanket thank you or a few names. An intriguing exception to this was the protean Mark Rylance (best actor in a play for Jerusalem), who treated us to a stream-of-consciousness poetry ramble about walking through different kinds of walls (wood, steel, etc.), which I took to be a metaphor for how one perseveres in the difficult world of theater.

In the end, the question was asked, "What survives tonight?" And the answer: theater. Yes it does. 


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