Looking at Broadway, through the Tony Awards

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How it’s New York: New York City is a theatre town, and the Tony Awards in June are where the Great White Way shows its stuff to the world.TA-0014M-WindowCard-14x22
How it’s Irish: Once was a big hit at the Awards last year, and was here again this year too. 

Ok, we’re late posting this to the blog– it was in Irish Examiner USA right after, on Tuesday, June 11. But we think it’s still useful as it’s a run-down of the big winners, and big wins tend to mean long runs, so think of this as quick guide to the Best of Broadway. Can’t read through all of it? Pippin is a Must.

Video below!

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How great was it that the opening number of last night’s Tony awards evoked Once, last year’s Best Musical, with host Neil Patrick Harris costumed as Guy, vest over white shirt, and the set with the onstage bar, and seated onlookers?

It doesn’t last long before we go into big stage numbers, but it made me happy to see the Irish musical (music and lyrics by Glen Hansard) has not been forgotten.

The medley “It’s Bigger,” with little routines and funny lyrics from musicals from this year and last, was fun.His “mash-ups” of titles were also hilarious, especially “Children of a Lesser Godspell.” Heh.

We won’t give you a full run-down here – for a full list of Tony award-winners, visit tonywards.com – but we will pick out some of what happened last night with our thoughts.

Cinderella

10 Minutes Ago, I Saw You... ©Carol Rosegg

10 Minutes Ago, I Saw You…
©Carol Rosegg

One design award that made us happy was that Best Costume Design of a musical went to William Ivey Long of Cinderella— you can read our review here.

In that review on Tuesday, May 28, we said his costumes dazzle throughout, and they do.

In a medley from the show, the whole television audience got to see how Cinderella’s peasant gown turned into a ballgown before our eyes – a trick latch? Very smart, and very magical.And the ballroom scene, with “10 Minutes Ago,” dreamily danced by the chorus and by Laura Osnes as Cinderella and Santino Fontana as Prince Topher, made me sigh again.

Osnes was nominated for Best Actress in a Musical, too – it would have been nice if she’d won. Princess roles never do.

Once

Once returned with the actors currently playing Guy and Girl, Arthur Darvill and Joanna Christie, to announce the Sound Design winners, after a teensy little snippet of “Falling Slowly.”

Design winners don’t make the broadcast. John Shivers won for Kinky Boots. Earlier, Stephen Oremus won Best Orchestrations for Kinky Boots, also.

Late in the broadcast there was a strange section of the end of one of the songs from Once, too with the onstage cast singing their hearts with their onstage band.They must have been told they had exactly one minute, so they took the minute at the end of the song, which doesn’t really serve Glen Hansard’s songs all that well.

Another Irish connection, as Tony-nominees Oliver Platt and Liam Neeson came on, wearing laurels in their hair, looking a little silly.Platt said he is the joyous spirit of comedy. Neeson said,

“I am the spirit of tragedy. Screw you.”

They were there to promote americantheatrewing.org and its backstage passes for young people.

Pippin

The Best Director of a Musical Tony was then announced by Jon Cryer and Martha Plimpton: Diane Paulus for Pippin.Pippin Music Box Theatre

That show was amazing, truly terrific. I’m happy to see Scott Ellis was nominated for The Mystery of Edwin Drood, too; it was also wonderful.

But I have to say, Pippin was so good I’m going to see it again. Don’t wait. I haven’t written about it yet because I attended as a civilian. But I’ve always loved the show, not just the songs, and here the show is given a truly glorious theatrical reimagination.

It was nice when Paulus recognized Harvard University, where this production of Pippin was created, as well as the composer and book-writer, Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson. It was pretty touching when she thanked her parents for encouraging her to do what she loved with her life, and said she hoped she could be as good a mother to her own daughters.

No surprise either that Andrea Martin won Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Pippin. She stops the show with her number. She plays a granny in the show, and in the ceremony she’s wearing an awesome, sexy black dress.

That her figure is amazing is no shock if you’ve seen the show. “It’s time to start living…” is her song.

PippinMusic Box TheatreWhen I saw the show, I got home and typed the lines into FaceBook, only to have high school friends type succeeding lines at me.

One of the things that makes Pippin so extraordinary is that it’s set in a circus and uses aerial performers.

The Tony broadcast gave us some of that, but you’ve got to see it live: trapezes, acrobatics, fireworks and waterfalls don’t televise all that well. Pippin also won Best Performance by Leading Actress in a Musical, for Patina Miller.

The show also won Best Revival of a Musical. It deserved it, but it was also very nice to see a medley from The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which closed a little while back. Jim Norton was spectacular, in a music hall bauble of a show. Read our interview with Norton here.

 

Plays

Remember when the Tony Awards used to show long scenes of plays, and make you want to see them? Well those days are gone.

Each nominee for Best Play had about a 30-second excerpt, but at least it was introduced. That boils down to maybe four exchanges of dialogue.

It was nice to see the excerpt of Colm Tóibin’s Testament of Mary, with Fiona Shaw talking about Jesus’ coming crucifixion. You can read our interview with Tóibin here, and our review of the show tm4-369c3_the_testament_of_maryhere. It was tremendous.  I would happily sacrifice a few minutes of song if each show could have a few pages of dialogue.

It probably will not be long before they begin announcing these, too, before the show airs.

The Best Revival of a Play nominees didn’t even get the 30 seconds; they got scenes (people throwing up their hands! Looking dramatic!) over music.

And weirder, strange medleys of moments from scene, montaged over a rock song, in this case “Good Lovin’.” The scenes make zero sense if you don’t know the shows.

Steven Van Zandt introduced the medley talking about his show The Rascals, Once Upon a Dream, a hybrid of a Broadway musical and a concert.The show was on Broadway in late April, and is now touring.

On the other hand, I loved the tap dancing bit from A Christmas Story. Broadway needs more tap, in my opinion. Watching Caroline O’Connor and the kids do time steps made me just very, very happy.

Still, it would not be hard to shave five minutes somewhere so that the Best Play Revivals could have their 30 seconds each.

Motown

Motown: The MusicalLunt-Fontanne TheatreThink Motown is not Irish? Well, think Commitments. Jimmy Rabbitte would love Motown (well, actually, he’s enough of a musical snob that he would never say that, but he would, anyway).

The medley included “Dancing in the Streets” and “Get Ready” showed off what the show does: bombard you with those irresistible songs, performed by an energetic company of singers and dancers.

Yes, it’s kind of dumb. Yes, it’s kind Saint Berry Gordy, Jr. (Gordy wrote it), but you cannot argue with the great songs that come at you one after another and the really talented cast.

Read between the lines of every review and it boils down to this: “I know better than to like this, but I had a good time.”

I won’t bore you with that. I saw those other critics tapping their feet. They don’t fool me, and shouldn’t deter you.I just had to grin when they showed us the show’s Jackson 5, that little singing Michael in his purple suede vest, with the brothers dancing behind him and the background doing its psychedelic comic book thing, “Stop, the love you save may be your own…”

Kinky Boots

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Kinky Boots wins Best Musical! ©Matthew Murphy

Cyndi Lauper won Best Score for Kinky Boots, and cried when she got up to accept.

“I can’t say I wasn’t practicing in front of the shower curtain for a couple of days,”

she said, and thanked her mom for allowing her to wreck the Broadway Cast Albums when she was a kid, saying that’s how she learned to sing.

I love her kind of old-school, Brooklyn accent in that still-punky way of dressing.

We said when we reviewed this show  that “Lauper’s score sparkles like the glittery shoes we see.

New rock songs in a rock musical are terrifically risky; so often they just drag the story down or make you think of other, better songs. Not so here.Stay tuned for the Cast CD. Cyndi’s also the first woman to win for book and lyrics.

Jerry Mitchell also deservedly won Best Choreography for Kinky Boots.

Annaleigh Ashford didn’t win for Best Featured Actress, losing to Andrea Martin, but she’s a particular treat. No shocker that Billy Porter won for Best Actor for his portrayal of Lola.

We wrote,

“He’s funny, a little tender, and overall delicious.”

I was touched that he was inspired by Dream Girls.

      NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 09: Cyndi Lauper, winner of the Tony Award for Best Original Score for 'Kinky Boots,' performs onstage at The 67th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 9, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)     By: Kevin Mazur      People: Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper sings True Colours ©Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Tony Awards

Cyndi sang “True Colors,” one of her sweeter songs, some sort of instrument that looked like but was not, I think an autoharp, surrounded by red candles,while the “In Memoriam” played, showing us names and pictures of Broadway greats who died this year, including Jean Stapleton, Richard Adler, Hal David, Nora Ephron, Charles Durning, Bonnie Franklin, Milo O’Shea, Jack Klugman, Andy Griffith, Gore Vidal, John Kerr, Mark O’Donnell, Celeste Holm, Marvin Hamlisch.

It was one of the classier memoriam segments I’ve seen.

Kinky Boots won for Best Musical – and it was not a shoe-in (pun intended, of course); some critics predicted Matilda. But in the end Kinky Boots went home with six Tonys– and the shoes are made for dancing.

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