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6/10/14

The Good and the Bad of the 2014 Tony Awards

The Good

Hugh Jackman is Back! - Say what you will about this year’s ceremony being…well, weird amongst a lot of other things. But there was Hugh Jackman; working his ass (and calves) off and genuinely looking excited to host the ceremony. The Tonys never had an official ambassador, but Jackman’s name has been one of the few associated with that distinction. Not just because big, manly-man, Wolverine has a modern-day Gene Kelly side to him - going against heteronormative type in the process - but because he played a part in the trend of A-List stars doing Broadway for the experiment and/or the love of the art form. Couple that with taking the Tonys hosting gig and select Broadway engagements numerous times - including the upcoming Jez Butterworth play, The River - when he could be elsewhere starring in a film and raking in more money then I will see in four lifetimes, Jackman is the real deal. It is disappointing to see the ratings didn’t reciprocate Jackman’s enthusiasm, but the job is always his, if I have any say in the matter. Which I do on some level - this is my website, after all.

As If I Couldn’t Love Mark Rylance Any More - It is is easy to be enamored by Mark Rylance; he is a talented beast and every one of his performances deserve all the awards (I’m not exaggerating). Garnering his third Tony for his Olivia in Twelfe Night, I was readying myself for another WTF of a Louis Jenkins poem/speech. Instead, he was his typical humble, well-spoken self and thanked Sam Wannamaker’s contributions to the Globe Theater. Rylance? Never change good man and come back to the New York Theatre scene. You are already missed and it only has been, like, a few months.

Hedwig Goes Big Before Going Home - Where else on television do you have Neil Patrick Harris done up like a transvestite in gold heels and fishnets, and in a matter of a minute, grind his crotch in Orlando Bloom’s face? And lick Samuel L. Jackson’s glasses? And give a lap dance to Sting and Kevin Bacon? And tongue his hot fiancee? Why, the Tony Awards, of course! In fact, I can’t help but wonder how all of that happened, and, so far, there isn’t some mom-group or council up in arms and sharpening their pitchforks (after all, people got pissed off at the sight of Kinky Boots’ drag queens dancing on the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade telecast). Kudos to CBS for not sugar-coating Hedwig because if it can’t be celebrated on the Tonys, what could possibly be the alternative location?

Chris O’Dowd Raises a Flask - My kind of Tony nominee is someone who doesn’t have a single fuck to give. How else to explain Chris O’Dowd, nominated for his performance in Of Mice and Men, taking a drink - OUT OF A FLASK! - after Bryan Cranston was announced in his stead? And there wasn’t a moment of hesitation; that flask was on standby, bitches! If anything, it was a nice reminder that O’Dowd has been a benevolent presence on Broadway this season and we’d love to see him around these parts more often.

Bridges Last Stand - You know what is integral to a great musical? The music. Enlightening stuff, I know. The Tony committee rightfully rewarded Jason Robert Brown for Best Score and Best Orchestrations for The Bridges of Madison County, although you might not have remembered that because the category was not televised (less a three-second clip). It does further highlight how the Tony Awards can make exactly zero sense, what with Bridges still-shocking omission from the Best Musical category, but it was a nice little "Fuck Yeah" for all of us crying listening everytime the cast album comes up on shuffle.

A Moment in the Life of Ramin Karimloo - So, you find yourself nominated for a Tony in a category that is a virtual lock for one of your competitors. And your adorable ragamuffins have fallen asleep all around your business. What do you do? For Ramin Karimloo, it’s simple - as the camera pans to you, sshh the fuck out of everyone applauding and sit back in your chair with poise and profile. Karimloo looked like the most suavest, laid-back Iranian James Bond and I wanted to grab a drink and a cigar with him afterwords. And bang him, but that’s a given.

A Gentleman's Guide... is All Settled In - With its win for Best Musical last night, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder will be around these parts much longer. Sure, its victory is basically by default, but it is a correct one nonetheless. And it warms my heart to see a Broadway show with an original score and book take down the night's top honor. The fact that is opened last Fall and held off the entire Spring gamut, when the Tonys could have pulled a Tonys and rewarded a more mediocre, commercial show, is an additional plus - I can't recall the last time that happened.

Bad

Paging Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt - You know all those things that made the Tonys telecast shine going back the last few years? Like, the kickass opening and closing numbers, the musical interludes and such? “No thanks, we’re good," said the Tony Awards. Miranda and Kitt’s absence from behind-the-scenes were noticeable in .02 seconds, as Hugh Jackman is hopping up-and-down like a pogo stick. Hell, the After Midnight performance was about four times as long as Hugh’s opening number (if you can call it that). I’m no insider expert, but I’m guessing Kitt’s lineage to If/Then squandered his invitation and...well, I've got nothing re: Miranda. Whatever the case may be, I hope this wrong will be righted - if not the dream team of Kitt/Miranda, then someone else.

Hi Kenny Leon, I Need A Word - I can't really comment on Leon's directorial contributions to A Raisin in the Sun, as that is one of the few shows that has eluded me (although, need I remind you, this is the second time he has directed A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway. So, his award eligibility is totally an even playing field). But once you get up on that microphone, it is all on you buddy. And name-dropping your not-yet-open Tupac musical, Holler If Ya Hear Me, as if the Tonys is your own bullhorn for shameless promotion, rubbed me the wrong way. I'm sure there were more people you can thank or a quote or a poem you can recite - we would eat that shit up with a spoon! - but instead, you were all, "thanks Raisin - now, go see my new show!" There were other deserving directors (hint: all of them), not to mention the non-televised award recipients whom would have likely just reveled in the euphoria of winning, but Leon had a more maligned objective in mind. Tsk, tsk...

And Speaking of the Non-Televised... - There is only so much time in a Tonys telecast and I understand the need to cut corners. But, in a ceremony that ran over anyways, they couldn't squeeze out another few minutes to recognize those for...Best Book? Or Score? Or Costuming? What is it going to take to recognize the hardworking behind-the-scenes folks, whom had all, but three edited seconds make air time? But The Last Ship and Finding Neverland - the latter featuring a singer not even attached to the show, less maybe the concept album - get all the time they need, despite having nothing to do with the current Broadway season? And what about every other not-nominated show getting their own big-ass number? That Wicked performance (because there wasn’t enough Wicked exposure in the mainstream in the last year?)? All just because these shows in question have a six-figure check in hand? Tonys, I say this with love...but are you fucking kidding us?

Oh Look, Here Comes All The Way - You should have seen the smoke come out of my ears as All The Way won two of the nights most sought-after honors, Best Play and Bryan Cranston for Lead Actor. The latter is deserving (and gave a great speech!), but I’m still pouting over the former. Talk of a post-Broadway life for All The Way has been rumored for months - a mini-series, evidently, and a movie right out of the Frost/Nixon mold - and the Tonys, never passing up the opportunity for commercial gain and/or larger exposure, rewarded All The Way for that. Talk about a stacked deck and a disadvantage that the other more deserving nominees didn’t have.

Actually, WTF Recipients in General - The Cripple of Inishmaan? Mothers and Sons? Casa Valentina? Violet? They all went home empty-handed. Even The Glass Menagerie felt under-rewarded, with only one Tony for Natasha Katz’s lighting design. On the heels of the last few years, when the closed Death of a Salesmen and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf would take home multiple big-name honors, it felt sort of “ho-hum" to see The Tonys turn the other cheek and insist on rewarding A Raisin in the Sun, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill and All The Way multiple times. I’ve always had definitive differences amongst the Tony ballot and eventual winners, but this was a compellingly bad year for me - and it wasn't due to a shortage of quality out there. Ahh Tonys - I wish I knew how to quit you.


Photo Credit: CBS

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