30 Days Of The 2014 Tony Awards: Day #5 - NINE Vs. DREAMGIRLS
Today we continue 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 battles for Best Musical with NINE versus DREAMGIRLS.
One Night Only
The student taking on the teacher is a tried and true trope of drama and comedy and the 1982 Tony Awards featured one of the most epic battles for the big prizes amongst a protégée and his mentor in theatrical history - Tommy Tune up against Michael Bennett. While Bennett's contributions to landmark musicals such as PROMISES, PROMISES, FOLLIES, COMPANY and A CHORUS LINE were immeasurably influential to their success, Tune's rising star wattage as a performer and associate choreographer under Bennett set the stage for him to come into his own as a formidable director/choreographer in his own right just a few years later byway of the rapturously received THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS. When Bennett's veiled Motown/The Supremes musical masterpiece DREAMGIRLS set the street afire early in the season, it seemed a sure BET to take many top honors at that year's Tony ceremony - that is, until Tommy Tune's idiosyncratic and magical NINE snuck in right under the wire in the same season. Who would take home the trophy that matters most of all?
DREAMGIRLS was highlighted by not only one of the most dense and complex musical scores in musical theatre history, but also one of the most flashy and fabulous production designs Broadway had seen up until then, as well - with mind-blowing staging, direction and choreography courtesy of Bennett to match, natch. Then, there was the score - and the performances of it! With one of the only breakout songs from a musical to make a mark on the public at large in the last several decades, Jennifer Holliday's hugely emotional and gigantically sung "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" is a classic Broadway moment for the ages with few equals. While the show could never match the incredible impact of a sequence such as that that closed the first act of the show, DREAMGIRLS as a whole is one of the most compelling and performance-rich theatrical experiences ever crafted.
In comparison, NINE is something completely different entirely. Loosely based on Federico Fellini's celebrated semi-autobiographical cinematic tour de force 8 ½ and highlighted by a mostly female cast, Tune's eye-grabbing original production was dominated by a monochrome color scheme and an unusual white tile set populated by cubes upon which the majority of the performers would perch for the entire intermission-less show. Endlessly long boas, white doves and multiple striking mise en scene made NINE a visual feast, while the dedicated commitment of the commendable corps of players made for a more than merely satisfying dramatic and musical feast for all to savor, too.
Multiple awards went to both productions, but NINE claimed Best Musical in addition to Best Featured Actress In A Musical (Liliane Montevecchi), Best Original Score (Maury Yeston), Best Direction Of A Musical (Tommy Tune) and Best Costume Design (William Ivey Long). DREAMGIRLS took home trophies for Best Book (Tom Eyen), Best Actor In A Musical (Ben Harney), Best Actress In A Musical (Jennifer Holliday), Best Featured Actor In A Musical (Cleavant Derricks), Best Choreography (Michael Bennett/Michael Peters) and Best Lighting Design (Tharon Musser).
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So, now, let's take a look at some of the most celebration-worthy moment from NINE and DREAMGIRLS.
First, see the original cast of DREAMGIRLS on the 1982 Tony Awards.
Next, see Jennifer Holliday's emotional acceptance speech.
After that, see the performance from NINE as well as acceptance speeches by the NINE winners.
As a special bonus, view the entire 1982 Tony Awards telecast.
Which would you choose as the ultimate winner of the 1982 season? Is DREAMGIRLS the one to beat still or does NINE hold special sway? Whatever your preference, we can all agree that if every season featured two musicals as strong as these two classics that Broadway babies would have very little to complain about on Tony night.