30 Days Of The 2014 Tony Awards: Day #1 - AVENUE Q Vs. WICKED
Today we conclude the 2014 edition of our annual BroadwayWorld feature series spotlighting the very best Tony Awards-related moments of all time with a special focus on one of the biggest and most brutal battles for Best Musical ever with AVENUE Q versus WICKED.
No other musical in the last 10 years has had quite the impact on not only Broadway itself, but pop culture as a whole in the same way that WICKED has managed to since its rocky debut in 2003. No, WICKED was not a critical favorite and it was faced with many hurdles in its trek to the Great White Way - alterations as significant as whole songs being thrown out and a new Wizard being cast in place of erstwhile Robert Morse, as a matter of fact; yet, it is far from unusual for an aborning musical to experience growing pains - but, after a few weeks of less-than-stellar sales, the word got out: WICKED was a hit... a really big hit. Gaining a vociferous, vocal fan base the likes of which no musical since RENT had acquisitioned, WICKED set flight following those first faith-trying weeks and managed to become one of the most lucrative musicals in history - as the West End, touring and various subsequent international productions all clearly (and greenly) attest. Yet, the biggest battle of all that WICKED faced was at the Tony Awards - as one of the entrants in one of the most surprisingly exciting and anomalous seasons in Broadway history.
SESAME STREET-esque parody musical for adults AVENUE Q not only swept the Tony Awards in 2003 in many important categories despite WICKED looking like a front-runner, but also seemed to signal a snarky new attitude permeating much of the Broadway community at the time. Case in point: earnest and daring new musical TABOO had been met with vicious press and withering reviews despite an unquestionably strong score and generally inspired production earlier in the season - a show spearheaded by 2014 Tony Awards special honors recipient Rosie O'Donnell, incidentally - while 2014 Tony Awards host Hugh Jackman seemed to almost single-handedly carry the Peter Allen biomusical THE BOY FROM OZ. Then, there was smart, stylish and carefully crafted CAROLINE, OR CHANGE, featuring a titanic central performance by Tonya Pinkins in an incredibly imaginatively directed production by George C. Wolfe. Nevertheless, looking back now, 10 years later, AVENUE Q is almost a relative footnote in theatrical history when compared to the global impact that WICKED has had. Truly the mega-hit of the new century, WICKED may have lost Best Musical but ultimately claimed the big prize - longetivity.
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So, now, let's take a look at the 2004 season 10 years later as we get ready for Broadway's biggest night tonight.
First, Hugh Jackman kicks off the 2004 Tony Awards in grand fashion.
Next, the cast of AVENUE Q performs on the Tony Awards.
Now, the cast of WICKED performs on the Tony Awards.
After that, see Hugh Jackman become Peter Allen in THE BOY FROM OZ.
As a special bonus, see Audra McDonald accept her 2004 Tony. Will 2014 spell a historic Tony #6?
Looking back, which musical of the 2003-2004 season was your personal favorite then and which do you prefer most of all now? Furthermore, what do you think that the strongest show actually was? With a season as jam-packed with quality and talent as that one undoubtedly was, we can hope we will see more major battles along these terrific lines for Best Musical and beyond in the coming years. But, before that, who will win the top trophy tonight? Tune in to CBS beginning at 8 PM to see!
From This Author Pat Cerasaro