Monday, June 8, 2009

Tony Tony Tony Tony.....

So the annual commercial for Broadway was broadcast last night. This was reportedly one of the best seasons in years, but the real brilliance was in the new plays and, especially, the revivals. As for the musicals, only Billy Elliott and Next To Normal on the new side and Hair and West Side Story on the revival end caused much excitement. However, scenes from plays are not popular at CBS, who broadcasts the awards--apparently they aren't exciting enough, and the people demand more glitz. As a result, the plays were only presented through brief descriptions and maybe 15 seconds from a pre-taped scenes. In fact Best Revival of a Play was going to be presented before the televised ceremony until Kevin Spacey and others raised a stink. Therefore, the season looked less exciting than it actually was. Ah well.

While many of the awards were seen as tossups this year, they tended to go to the front-runner in most categories. The big winner, of course, was Billly Elliott, with 10 awards. After that, the wealth was spread around quite evenly--God of Carnage and Next To Normal got three awards each, Joe Turner's Come and Gone got two, and another ten shows got one a piece.

I didn't do great on my predictions--I missed nearly all of the design categories, and thought Next to Normal would take the award for Best Book while Billy Elliott would take score, when they were in fact switched. However, I got 3/4 of the production categories and 6/8 of the acting categories, so I made out alright.

The first show to close after winning no Tonys has been announced (more are doubtless to come). Neil LaBute's reasons to be pretty will shut down on Sunday. Still, it can doubtless look forward to a long and productive life in storefront and college theatres in the years to come, so I won't cry for Neil LaBute.

Herewith, a few more thoughts on the show:

--That opening number was the singing, dancing definition of a clusterfuck. Who thought that putting numbers from nine or ten shows on simultaneously was anything like a good idea? It was confusing and ugly, and sounded terrible. Also, apparently Brett Michaels of the band Poison got hit in the face with a backdrop. He's alright now, but eep.

--It started in the opening number and continued throughout, but the miking was terrible. Balances were off, we couldn't hear things, and Titus Burgess' mic in "Sit Down Your Rocking The Boat" died entirely, so we got to hear a stagehand panting out "I'm going, I'm going" while running him a hand mic. To his immense credit, he didn't skip a beat.

--The song itself, though, was pretty pedestrian. There just wasn't much passion (and the background projections were awful) until Burgess and the invaluable Mary Testa started riffing at the end. They were very impressive, but how can the production mess up a number that foolproof?

--Also on the debit side for performances Shrek (a few laughs, but pretty dumb), and the three touring shows (unnecessary and not very good).

--I have no idea what I saw in the Rock of Ages number, but it sure was...something. I think I was getting high from the hairspray fumes, and I know the cast and creators were.

--I enjoyed the "Dance at the Gym" from West Side Story--a little short of amazing, but it's always a stirring number. The piece from Next To Normal was intriguing--I'm not sold, but I'd like to see it. Billy Elliott actually gave me chills. Even if the description--of Billy doing an angry dance while riot police dance around him with truncheons and shields--sounds silly, the number still worked. I now understand why the Billys won for Best Actor. And I thought that the cast of Hair doing the title number were pretty fantastic, but my love for that production is well established.

--There was a tie this year for Best Orchestrations, with Normal and Billy both getting the nod--the first in 15+ years! It's a less heralded award, but it's still pretty cool.

--My favorite acceptance speeches included the very classy Roger Robinson, Karen Olivo crying, Gregory Jbara bringing his wife (and her boobs) onstage to thank her, Geoffrey Rush talking about how French existential absurdist tragicomedy rocks, Matthew Warchus thanking the casts of both shows that he was nominated for directing, though he only won for God of Carnage, and the Billy boys, adorable in their adolescent awkwardness. Alice Ripley's shouting quotes from JFK was clearly passionate and well-intentioned, but came off as downright unhinged. Then again, I imagine that playing the bipolar lead in Next to Normal would make someone a little highly strung.

--And finally, high marks for Neil Patrick Harris as host. Though I'm not sure what his suit was made of (Leather? Shiny velvet?) he looked damn good in it. He wasn't given much stage time but he had some very clever jokes--his bit about Jeremy Piven and sushi was priceless--and his closing number was absolutely fantastic. I hope he hosts the Tonys again--and does another Broadway show soon.

And now I'm off to an event more suited to this blog--the Non-Equity Jeff Awards are tonight, and I'll be there cheering on Brian Plocharczyk of Stage Left's After Ashley and everyone else responsible for this fantastic season in Chicago. I'll report back tomorrow!

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