Monday, June 8, 2009

2009 Tony Awards Post-Mortem

The Tony Awards were last night. And that pretty much sums up the entire evening. They weren’t terribly exciting, nor were they terribly…well, terrible; they just were. For an event that’s commonly known as the gayest night in New York, the ceremony was surprisingly subdued. Neil Patrick Harris did the best he could with the thankless job of being host; he hardly had any stage time (and I continue to wonder why awards shows even bother to have hosts at all), but when he did appear he was entertaining, joking about how he’s actually a TV star and poking fun at sushi-overdosing Jeremy Piven.

As expected, I performed pitifully in my winner predictions, but I did get the play and musical picks right, which were the only ones I guessed at with any confidence. Billy Elliot was the night’s biggest winner, though Elton John lost the Best Original Score prize, which was surprising given the show’s sweep in nearly every other nominated category. Angela Lansbury took home another Tony for her performance in Blithe Spirit, which is a remarkable feat for a woman in her 130s (or so). Liza Minelli beat Will Ferrell for Best Special Theatrical Event, and after lisping and slurring her way through the acceptance speech, I continue to wonder why anyone still enjoys seeing her perform (entertainers should eventually retire from work, just like regular people do). Some other highlights (and lowlights) from the evening:

* Holy technical difficulties, Batman! The entire ceremony was fraught with audio problems, starting from the opening moment when the performers’ microphones weren’t on, but everything going on backstage could be heard loud and clear. Then during the musical number from Guys and Dolls the lead performer’s mike wasn’t working, so a stagehand had to dash onstage to give him a handheld one. And during several presenters’ speeches, the audio would fade in and out. Hey Tony Awards audio director, step into my office. Why? Because you’re fucking fired!

* The performance from Best Original Score winner, Next to Normal, which consisted of the actors scream-singing at each other about how “you don’t understand”…and that was pretty much all the number consisted of. To quote Homer Simpson, “I’ve seen plays that were more exciting than this. Honest to god, plays!”

* In the evening’s cutest moment, the three boys who share the responsibility of playing Billy Elliot in Billy Elliot (obviously) collectively won for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. At first they stood around the microphone, nervously giggling, then each gave heartfelt shout-outs to their families and the various teachers that helped get them where they are. I don’t even like children, and that goes double for child actors, but even I said “Aww…”

* Angela Lansbury is a classy old broad who always dresses age-appropriately, and still looks lovely. Susan Sarandon and others, please take note.

* Hair. Good god, Hair. While performing the show’s title number, the cast stormed the audience just like they do every night at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, giving the Tony Awards a much-needed energy boost during the final hour. And making me wonder if I can scrape together enough pennies to go see it again. And again, and again, and again…

While the evening as a whole was sort of lackluster, host Harris closed the night with a cute song saluting some of the winners and encouraged everyone to come see a Broadway show. I’d love to see him get a chance to host again next year, provided they give him something more to do. And maybe check the audio equipment during dress rehearsal.

Photo © Anita and Steve Shevett

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