The 2014 Tony Awards have come and gone, but for me it was one of the best shows in recent memory. Hugh Jackman never disappoints, even if his hopping in the opening was curious and unexplained. His humor, charisma, and talent feel effortless and natural. His script and unscripted patter and song seamlessly connect awards, snippets, and speeches. I am a huge fan from the get go, but can't imagine anyone doing a better job, even Neil Patrick Harris.
This year's awards had special meaning for me. I had been touched in my life and career by many of the nominees. The ever great Tony Shalhoub was a client of mine for many years and he holds a special place in my heart. His talent, humor, and humanity is always pervasive in all his characters. His performance in Act One is brilliant and his only bad luck was being nominated the year Bryan Cranston finished Breaking Bad and starring in All the Way. Any other year, it was Tony's year. Not to say that Bryan Cranston wasn't also brilliant. I do not take anything away from his great portrayal of LBJ in All the Way. Audra McDonald also was a client in her early career. A truly talented woman. I haven't seen her performance in Lady Day, but, if I am completely honest, she is one of those talents that just stepping on the stage wins her a Tony. The critics, the Broadway community and her fans are devoted and in tranced by her stardom, the x factor. Whatever it is, she's got it. She now has six Tonys and the first actress to win in all four acting categories at the ripe young age of 43. Jefferson Mays starring in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder is a very special talent. Unique in every way. I was lucky enough to be one of his agents in his early years, too. What an incredibly special and one of a kind actor. And again, his bad luck, nominated the same year as Neil Patrick Harris blows every one away in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Saving the best for last....Robert Freedman the lyricist and book writer of A Gentlemen's Guide to Love and Murder and one of the nicest men out there. Robert and I went to UCLA together and I was honored and blessed to be cast in his one woman/one act play called Hello Gorgeous. It was my greatest showcase in college, terrifying and fun! Always a wonderfully gifted writer, we lost touch when I moved to NYC and our lives moved along. Lo and behold, two years ago the buzz started to build in the regional theatres about this new musical with the long title and the buzz grew and grew until it was opening night on Broadway. It's a fantastic, inventive show. The cast is amazing and I felt hands down it should win Best Musical. The word on the Rialto and all the prognosticators thought it should win but the jukebox musical about Carole King, Beautiful, would win. Made me angry. What message would that be sending for all the fledgling writers and composers? As the evening went on, Facebook was a twitter that Robert won for Best Book, but they didn't show his speech on the air. Appalling, but thrilling nonetheless. Went passed 11pm until they announced Best Musical. Drum roll please, A Gentlemen's Guide to Love and Murder won!!!!!!!!!!!!! Well deserved, dreams come true, and it's one for the good guys!! For those who missed the acceptance speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARxXhE7OHAY
Okay, now I will have to rewind and do a few spot notes. The Bullets Over Broadway musical number wasn't great and I couldn't get over that the actor Nick Cordero, playing a 1920's gangster, pronounced the "t" in often in the song Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do. That was not authentic to the song or the period. Aladdin's musical number didn't do anything for me at all. I'm sorry about that, but it seemed so juvenile and Disneyfied. Not classy. Beautiful's musical number was good, but not great. Jessie Mueller is special and did win for Best Actress in a Musical for playing Carole King. Carole introduced the scene. For her unbelievable level of talent, it's stunning how uncomfortable she is in life. I don't know how she ever became a performer. Her music can't be matched, but....She, too, performed with Ms. Mueller and the cast. After Midnight brought out the big guns to showcase their show. Fantasia, Patti LaBelle, and Gladys Night and the rest of the cast sang and danced. I personally missed Adrienne Lenox getting a featured role on the Tonys. She was not only nominated but was fantastic in After Midnight. Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring NPH was wild and intriguing. Idina Menzel sang from If/Then. For me, it will be never. She always makes it hard for me to watch her. She does have a beautiful voice but it doesn't translate on the boob tube. The far too up close camera work emphasizes her overwrought facial expressions. There were other great performances for the tenth anniversary of Wicked and the revival of Les Miserables. The song sung by Sting didn't sell me a ticket of his upcoming show, The Lost Ship, and the introduction by Gloria and Emilio Estefan confused the whole thing. It was a weird combo.
Here's the problem with Broadway and many of these shows, many are limited runs. They win Tonys and the shows are closing so tickets can't be bought. The faux touting of the incredible record breaking box office by Judith Light over the Memorial Day week, left me irritated beyond all means. Can't compare dollars to dollars because tickets have become prohibitively expensive. The movies do the same thing. The only real measure of success is the number of tickets sold. That's all they should be crowing about. Not the dollar amount. I recently went to pick up tickets for three Broadway shows: All the Way, Of Mice and Men (starring James Franco), and A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder (a big Broadway Musical). The least expensive tickets were from A Gentleman's Guide by $40/each!!!!! Disgraceful. The logical reason for this disparity is All the Way and Of Mice and Men are big stars with big salaries and are limited runs so they need to get their money, and then some, back. Broadway is pricing themselves out. It's almost $1000 for a family of four to go to the theatre. That's hard to swallow. I don't know the answer to counter that. Inflation, unions, healthcare costs, yada, yada, yada.
All in all, I think the Tonys did what they are supposed to do. They give the public a taste of what's out there. The Tonys did an incredible job of marketing for current and future shows, but sadly, they are preaching to the choir. I don't know what the ratings were, but the people that watch year in and year out are people who already love the theatre. It's a shame because a show as well produced as last night's Tony Awards could have been eye opening and enlightening to many.
Had to add this: In Memoriam cut from last night's telecast
Had to add this: In Memoriam cut from last night's telecast
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