THE 2014 TONY AWARDS: A RECAP

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65th Annual Tony Awards - ShowNow that we’ve all had the chance to catch our collective breath following Hugh Jackman’s exhilarating (and now doubt exhausting) performance hosting this year’s Tonys, let’s take a few moments to look back on the show…

Hoffman hopped, he hoofed, he sang, he rapped, he kibitzed, he did some stand-up–was there anything he DIDN’T do? He is a Hollywood movie star–an action hero, at that–who’s also a genuine song-and-dance-man capable of holding his own with anyone on Broadway.  What a talent!…Pity that the hoped-for Jackman/Neil Patrick Harris duet never materialized, though; they shared a couple of brief comic moments, but that was all…Congrats to Mark Rylance, humble as ever, as he accepted his award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for “Twelfth Night”…Congrats as well to Lena Hall, looking far more fetching than she does every night as the androgynous Yitzhak in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, for her win as Best Featured Actress in a Musical…And kudos (again!) to Audra McDonald, who nabbed an unprecedented sixth Tony Award for her stirring portrayal of Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill”.  You would have thought this would all be old hat to McDonald by now; glad to see it’s not…

Also glad to see that “Les Miz” production number; true, the show never seems to go away, but you’ve got to admit, a soaring rendition of “One Day More” can still tug at the old heartstrings…

Other musical highlights: “Aladdin”…”Bullets Over Broadway” (a rousing number that’s sure to sell some tickets, but left me wanting more–much more)…”Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” (Tony winner Jessie Mueller as Carole King! Even better–Carole King as Carole King!)…”Hedwig”, with NPH prancing about, heels and all, onstage AND off…Best Musical winner “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” (kudos to the remarkable Jefferson Mays for changing–with the help of his onstage “dressers”–from one zany character to another)…”Changed for Good” from long-time hit “Wicked” (touching, as always)…and Alan Cumming, leading his merry band of melancholy misfits, through that number from “Cabaret”…

On the other side of the ledger, the “Rocky” excerpt was a bit of a disappointment; the climactic battle between Rocky and Apollo Creed is supposed to be one of the highlights of the season–couldn’t they have allowed us to see more of it? Or–even better–thrown in a song or two? Watching them “fight”–and only for a few moments, at that–it was easy to forget that “Rocky” is a MUSICAL!…

The idea of having all the Best Play nominees introduced by the authors themselves was an awfully good one–it’s not often that we see these talented folks up on stage, is it?…and congrats, of course, to one of them, Robert Schenkkan, for winning the Tony for his historical drama about the LBJ years, “All the Way”–as well as to his star, the versatile Bryan Cranston (late of “Breaking Bad”, currently in “Godzilla”), for copping Best Actor honors.  Way to go, Bryan–even you AREN’T as tall as LBJ himself…

As for my own favorites this year, from Broadway (and beyond)…Best Play: The funny and fiery British import “Red Velvet”, about the real-life black American actor of the 19th century, Ira Aldridge, and his experiences with the all-white London theatre company that has hired him to play Othello…(My Best Actor award, by the way, would go to the fellow who played Aldridge, British thesp Adrian Lester)…Best Comedy: Michael Hollinger’s “Incorruptible”, which I saw at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia, and featured desperate monks, nasty nuns, minstrels, mirth and mayhem–all within the confines of a 13th century French monastery!…”Beautiful” might not have won Best Musical, but it gets my vote; how could it not, with all that wonderful music?…my choice for Best Actor in a Comedy: a tie between Arnie Burton and Robert Sella for playing to perfection all the parts (some in drag) in the most recent revival of the late Charles Ludlam’s quick-change farce, “The Mystery of Irma Vep”…Best Actress in a Comedy goes–hands down–to the amazing Alex Keiper in “Incorruptible”…Best Actor in a Musical? The hammy–and always hungry–Brooks Ashmanskas in “Bullets Over Broadway”…and, from the same show, Marin Mazzie gets my vote for Best Actress in a Musical thanks to her wonderfully comic turn as the aging but lascivious diva…

As for Best Director honors, who else but Matthew Decker and Susan Stroman for “Incorruptible” and “Bullets”, respectively?
Both shows were hilarious, and “Bullets”–a good old-fashioned musical–had some of the best singing and dancing on Broadway.
Bravo!

Inevitably, people are already griping about what needs to be done to make the Tonys “better”–what needs to be tweaked, what needs to be added, what needs to be shown the door.  And, yes, even I’ve got some complaints–the In Memoriam segment should never have been dropped, for one thing.

But, thanks in no small part to Mr. Jackman–with his boundless energy, beaming smile, and bravura vocals–it was a wildly entertaining show that actually seemed shorter than its three-hour running time.

Hm.  An awards show that DIDN’T drag on forever.  What more could you ask for?

THEATRE REVIEW by Stuart R. Brynien