I really love the Tony Awards, you guys. Some thoughts on this year's show:
In conclusion, I really love the Tony Awards, you guys.
- James Corden was a pretty good host. Certainly better than last year's unfunny and uninteresting combination of Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth. Corden was funny and seemed sincerely delighted to be there, and he didn't take up too much space in the show either—he did a few bits but was mostly out of the spotlight. The exception was his Carpool Karaoke skit, which was entertaining, but we don't watch the Tonys for pre-recorded content, and since it was pre-recorded, haven't we all already seen it on YouTube anyway?
- "The Oscars, but with diversity"—sick burn, after a year in which #OscarsSoWhite was a trending hashtag, and then they made good on that: half of the winning actors (and all of the winning musical actors) were black.
- The opening numbers utterly won me over. I love a good Hamilton parody, especially one performed by the actual Hamilton cast. And then James Corden's actual opening song was both a really sweet and sincere love letter to theatre in general—and set one of the main themes of the whole show, which was "we're all here because we think theatre is just the coolest thing ever—and a hilarious showtune medley. (The "Luck Be a Lady" segue into "Tonight" was a joke I've hoped someone would do for ages, but I didn't foresee the transition from there into "Tomorrow".)
- "You're in the Band!", the performance from School of Rock, was ideally placed as the first show to perform; it's very similar in theme to the opening number and it was able to ride that wave of enthusiasm for the concept. Also, watching the performance at first I thought, wow, Alex Brightman really looks a lot like Jack Black; but then when we got a closer look at his face I realized, no, he's just really good at acting like Jack Black.
- The concept of doing Ham4Ham-style mini-performances on the street in front of the theater was really smart, I thought—taking advantage of a clever concept Lin-Manuel Miranda thought up to make the experience just a little bit more inclusive. The performances themselves I could mainly take or leave, but I thought the cast of The Color Purple doing "The Circle of Life" was great.
- "Only on CBS," eh? Ha! Shows what you know! I'm watching on CTV!
- Shuffle Along looks like so much fun. One of the things I really love about musical theatre is just getting to watch people doing some really great dancing and just enjoying it so much. And to this Ragtime fan, getting to see Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell share the stage was something special.
- I'm sorry, I mean Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. Very amusing to hear the presenters have to announce the full title of the show every time. (And to a lesser extent, the same for Arthur Miller's The Crucible and Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge.)
- In the categories where multiple Hamilton actors were nominated—Best Actor and Best Featured Actor—they made the right choice in giving the awards to Leslie Odom, Jr., and Daveed Diggs. Also Daveed Diggs's acceptance-speech anecdote was one of my favorites, and his jacket was outstanding.
- See, this year they put the award for Best Score in the show. Last year it was during the commercials. I suspect they only put it in the broadcast if Lin-Manuel Miranda is winning the award. (Do the people who schedule the program of the awards show know who's winning?) I suspect everyone was disappointed when Miranda announced he wasn't going to rap his acceptance speech ("I'm not freestyling, I'm too old")—and then he said he wrote a sonnet instead. Which sounds like a joke, of course, but the result was a beautifully sincere poem about love and art. The laughs when he said "I wrote you a sonnet" reminded me of the laughs he got in 2009 when he said "someone who embodies hip-hop: Treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton." You laugh, but it's true.
- Miranda's sonnet also contained one of a few mentions and allusions to the homophobic hate crime that took place in Florida the previous night. Frank Langella's acceptance speech is also worth watching in this respect. I think overall the Tonys responded in the right way—by emphasizing inclusiveness as one of the fundamental themes of the show and of theatre in general.
- Lin-Manuel Miranda's other acceptance speech, for best book, was rapped, more or less. But this award wasn't in the broadcast. (By the way, for show that's fully sung-through like Hamilton, how to they decide what to evaluate for "best book" vs. "best score"?)
- Why is Meg Ryan here? Oh, hah, she's introducing She Loves Me because she was in You've Got Mail, which is based on the same story. Okay, I guess that makes sense.
- You've Got Mail and Fiddler on the Roof are two of my favorite shows (and both by Bock and Harnick), but I wasn't really that blown away by the performances from either of them. Well, with the exception of the blocking and staging of "Ilona" from She Loves Me; I can see how Jane Krakowski earned her nomination, and she doesn't even sing in that number. (Both performances were marred by odd technical glitches, too—the spotlight didn't find Zachary Levi until a few bars into his performance of "She Loves Me", and the camera never found whoever was playing Perchik for his solo in "Sunrise, Sunset".)
- On the other hand, I don't really like the score of Spring Awakening, but the performance from that looked amazing.
- Who decides how to pair presenters? The Best Director award was presented by Lucy Liu and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Both of whom are great, but as far as I know they have nothing in particular to do with each other. I wonder who made that decision, and why. (I don't mean to imply it was a bad decision; I just don't really see the motivation for it.)
- Similarly, how do they decide what music to use to play on people who aren't associated with a specific musical? Claire Danes came onstage to "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered"—who made that choice?
- The best-named director this year was also the winner of Best Direction of a Play: Ivo Van Hove. I also loved his anecdote about someone asking for his autograph when he was a kid, in case he should become famous later. Runner up for best name is Jonathan Kent, who I assume spends his time raising Superman when he's not directing A Long Day's Journey Into Night.
- Josh Groban described the "message of Fiddler on the Roof as being "a beacon of life, love, and tolerance"—I'm not sure that's the message of Fiddler on the Roof. But pulling out the video of him in his high school production of Fiddler was hilarious—and it actually tied really sweetly into one of the recurring themes of the night, along with Ivo Van Hove's autograph, the "this could be you" refrain of the opening number, "You're in the Band!" from School of Rock, etc.
- Hamilton lost only two of the awards it was nominated for—She Loves Me won for set design, and Cynthia Erivo from The Color Purple beat out Philippa Soo (and three other people) for Best Actress. The performance from The Color Purple made it clear why.
- Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones gave a speech thanking Andrew Lloyd Webber for donating a lot of money to support theatre education. I got the impression that Andrew Lloyd Webber is kind of the Bill Gates of Broadway—made a ton of money producing hugely popular but arguably second-rate products, and devotes a lot of it to supporting good causes.
- I say this every year, but I wish they would show us something from the Best Play nominees. This year we got silent video clips of the plays while the presenter gave plot synopses of them, but I'd really prefer to actually see just a bit of an actual scene.
- I thought the performance from Waitress was delightful, but I wish it hadn't been interrupted by Sara Bareilles singing one of the songs in a non-theatrical way, just sitting at the piano. Jessie Mueller was amazing, and people don't come to the Tonys to see songs being sung non-theatrically.
- Okay, getting the Obamas to introduce the performance from Hamilton, that's pretty impressive. ...Except they didn't actually introduce the performance, because after the video from the Obamas, the performance was actually introduced by the rapper Common. Under Common's introduction, the orchestra started playing the introduction to "Satisfied" and I got very excited, but then the song they actually performed was "Yorktown". Which is a great number for the Tony Awards show, totally, but don't tease me like that, Tony Awards.
- Although "Yorktown" shows off the ensemble, I was kind of disappointed not to get to see a performance from Leslie Odom or Renee Elise Goldsberry or Philippa Soo. Which is why I was so thrilled when the show closed with a performance of "The Schuyler Sisters"! It's a great song to end the Tony Awards on, especially this year—"history is happening in Manhattan, and we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world!"
In conclusion, I really love the Tony Awards, you guys.