Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year...The TONYS

It has taken me a few days but I'm finally ready to give my overall impression of the 2010 TONY awards and comment on the accuracy of my predictions.

So for being a performer, not a techie, I did okay with my picks for the design awards. I predicted that American Idiot and Red would take the lighting and scenic design categories and I thought they were very deserving. My favorite moment of the creative arts awards was the speech by Christine Jones, scenic designer of American Idiot, where she declared her undying love for director Michael Mayer and the songwriting team Green Day. Red's sound designer wanting to wear his Tony on a chain as bling with a reference to Jay-Z was also a hilight. I do have major issue with the fact that CBS cannot include design awards in their regular broadcast. The technical artists deserve just as much respect as the actors and producers and their awards should be presented on the television.

This year's opening number was kitschy and it was certainly evident, from the pop song theme, that its goal was to draw viewership outside of the normal TONY-watching crowd. In my mind, nothing can compare to the 2009 opening number, but this year's production was good in its own right. Having host Sean Hayes show off his piano playing skills was a great choice and framing the number with Chad Kimball as host was quite clever. The signature Kristin Chenoweth performance of I Say A Little Prayer was obviously a hilight and Sherie Renee Scott and the Mennonettes' trio Up The Ladder To The Roof was simply fabulous. The Memphis, Fela, and Million Dollar Quartet sections were simply forgettable. John Gallagher Jr singing Boulevard of Broken Dreams with the cast of American Idiot was energetic and almost touching until Green Day came onstage and made it a complete cliche.

Scarlett Johansson's win for Best Featured Actress in a Play for A View From The Bridge was certainly a surprise but it was well deserved and she gave a very gracious and eloquent speech. Eddie Redmayne was simply perfection in his speech for Best Featured Actor in a Play for Red as he spoke of the value of the performing arts in all of our lives and acknowledged his great mentor and co-star Alfred Molina.

Normally TONY performances make me anxious to see the new musicals, but the performances from Million Dollar Quartet, Fela, and Memphis were not the least bit enticing. Actually, I was much more intrigued by the package introducing the best play nominees. And for me to be more interested in a play than a musical really speaks to just how bad the quality of musicals was this year.

Katie Finneran is my new idol and she absolutely deserved the TONY for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Promises, Promises. Her speech was so inspiring and I felt honored that she chose to give advice to aspiring actors, telling us to follow our dreams and ignore everybody who tells us otherwise. Yes it sounds cheesy, but Katie was so sincere, and funny too as she thanked Kristin Chenoweth for lending her eyelashes for the evening. I basically expected Levi Kreis to win Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Million Dollar Quartet but I was really hoping for Bobby Steggert from Ragtime. Levi seemed unexcited about his win and was boring in his speech......next subject.

Christianne Noll's rendition of Back to Before from Ragtime was stunning and I only wished this show had lasted longer rather than the rest of the trash from this season that is currently running. On the opposite end of the female solo performance spectrum was Catherine Zeta-Jones with her performance of Send In The Clowns. I wanted so much to love the performance but she overacted it to the point that it became difficult to watch (and listen to). Her musical phrasing was a disaster and she held certain notes forever while barely giving value to others. Her head movements were distracting and she looked like she was seizing...enough on that trainwreck.

Viola Davis and Denzel Washington won the leading categories for Fences and while Davis seemed genuinely moved and thrilled, Washington looked like he would have rather been anywhere else and even forgot the name of The American Theatre Wing. Fences' win for Best Revival of a Play was no surprise and based on its sales, it seems that audiences adore it.

American Idiot's performance was much stronger without Green Day and I really want to see this show. I also forgot to mention the La Cage Aux Folles performance which I found energetic and entertaining. The audience interaction was priceless and this is another show I will be seeing in the near future.

Bill T Jones was totally deserving of the choreography award for Fela and I was happy to see anybody but Twyla Tharp win. Her work was so great in her earlier shows but it is really all starting to look the same and she seems to have lost her innovative spirit.

Don't get me wrong, I love Glee, but in my opinion a television show has no place on theatre's big night. Matt Morrison did give a stellar performance though, in All I Need Is The Girl, and I desperately want him to come back to Broadway. Lea Michele and Don't Rain On My Parade...those two things have become synonymous right? I wasn't sure if Lea was trying to audition for the upcoming Funny Girl revival with this performance or what because she looked like she was about to either kill twelve people with her daggers for eyes of if her head was actually going to explode. When you start out at a 10, there is nowhere to rise to in the climax of the song without looking like you are about to spiral out of control.

Oh, I've forgotten to mention some of Sean Hayes' funnier moments as host, from the major liplock with Kristin Chenoweth and his Bernadette Peters/Annie wig to his Billy Elliot tights and Spiderman costume. He really was fabulously entertaining and his great showing as host made up for his loss in his category.

Red wins Best Play! No explanation needed.

The funniest moment of the entire show for me was the presentation of Best Leading Actor/Actress in a Musical by Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane. The irony of the situation was uncanny as the pair, two of the theatre's brightest stars were not nominated. But they were great sports and it was a very memorable TONY moment. Maybe this will be the 2010 addition to my decade of favorite TONY memories? There were no surprises in these categories as Douglass Hodge won for La Cage Aux Folles and Catherine Zeta-Jones for A Little Night Music. Hodge is a class act and was charming in his speech. Zeta-Jones seemed absolutely floored when her name was announced, almost to the point where it seemed rehearsed. Thank god the awards are not based on TONY night performances or she wouldn't have had a chance, but I believe her performance in her show did indeed merit a win.

La Cage Aux Folles wins Best Revival of a Musical--we all expected it, and it probably deserved it as well.

Normally TONY night ends with a bang as Best Musical is announced. The category started off well with Bernadette Peters presenting, but the excitement soon fizzled as Memphis was announced. I can't say I was surprised but I would have loved to have seen a more innovative show take the night's top prize and would've been much happier with Fela or American Idiot.

As for the accuracy of my picks, I was correctly chose Redmayne, Davis, Finneran, Hodge, and Zeta-Jones in the performance categories, Grandage for direction of a play, and Bill T Jones for choreography. In the pre-broadcast, I had both of the lighting and scenic design categories correctly pegged, along with costume design of a play. And most importantly I was 4/4 in the big categories as Fences, Red, La Cage Aux Folles, and Memphis were all on my list.

In a word, the 2010 TONY awards were predictable. I love seeing a few great upsets and there really were none this year. Overall, it was a mediocre awards ceremony for a mediocre Broadway season with a few blips of pizazz from the Chenoweth/Hayes and Neuwirth/Lane sideshows.

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