FLASH FRIDAY: Everything's Coming Up Rosie O'Donnell, 2014 Tony Award Honoree
In honor of this week's announcement that talk show queen, Broadway star and arts advocate Rosie O'Donnell will be receiving a special 2014 Tony Award Honor, the Isabelle Stevenson Award, named after the longtime Tony Awards committee chairman, we take a look at some of her best Tony-related moments from her years as host, performer and presenter - GREASE to Taboo and beyond.
There Are Worse Things She Could Do
Admitted musical theatre obsessive and die-hard devoted Barbra Streisand fan, Rosie O'Donnell in many ways heralded the era of fan-generated and fan-focused entertainment that is so copiously visible today with her wildly popular TV chat show THE ROSIE O'DONNELL SHOW from 1996 to 2002. Nicknamed "The Queen of Nice", O'Donnell shamelessly embraced her love of theatre and showcased countless productions and Great White Way notables over the six years of the show's run - including Streisand herself. Besides mega-wattage stars, O'Donnell also appreciably gave her national stage over to the stalwart stars of Broadway who may have been lesser-known to a nationwide, let alone global audience back in the early days of the internet - and pre-GLEE. Indeed, without Rosie, many twentysomethings of today may have never gotten that first taste of live theatre and thereby witnessed the power of live performance so expertly and consistently showcased on her show - and all of us are in her debt as a result. If only for that, Rosie's forthcoming Tony Award has been well-earned. Yet, the media mogul put her money where her mouth is by not only following through on returning to Broadway and Off-Broadway following the cessation of her talk show - even while its ratings were soaring high as ever - as a performer onstage, but also as a producer behind the scenes.
Rosie O'Donnell made her Broadway debut in the hit 1994 revival of GREASE directed by Jeff Calhoun and capitalized on her screen success in the hit Nora Ephron romantic comedy SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE with her presence in the production, which also boasted early roles for future superstars Megan Mullally and eventual 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Actor, KINKY BOOTS star Billy Porter. While appearing on her own series during the day, O'Donnell took on the challenge of starring in struggling new musical SEUSSICAL: THE MUSICAL in 2001 as the Cat In The Hat, replacing David Shiner. While her participation boosted sales considerably while she was in it, the show unfortunately failed to find an audience otherwise and closed following her departure, though it went out on tour. Nevertheless, her act of goodwill in championing the musical on her show - along with other tricky sells such as TITANIC: THE MUSICAL, which went on to win Best Musical - showed clear evidence of her undying patronage of the theatrical form and her desire to see shows she loved succeed in any way possible.
Following the end of THE ROSIE O'DONNELL SHOW, Rosie eventually ended up in the hit 2004 revival of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, replacing Andrea Martin, starring opposite crossover star Harvey Fierstein. Then, following O'Donnell's stormy and much-publicized departure from talk show The View in 2007, the actress perfected her tap skills for the limited run Encores! revival of musical comedy classic NO, NO, NANETTE and subsequently showed off her dramatic chops in the Off-Broadway production of Nora and Delia Ephron's play LOVE, LOSS AND WHAT I WORE, as well, displaying yet another set of skills in doing so. Versatile, for sure.
While her sole venture as a theatrical producer to date was not financially successful, 2003's risky and audacious rock musical Taboo has proven to be one of the most well-regarded scores and most hotly debated new musicals to arrive on Broadway in recent memory - and justifiably so. Furthermore, the smash hit recent UK tour of the musical reflecting many changes made for the Broadway edition could very well spell a return for Taboo to the West End some season soon - if not New York, too. Certainly, a recent 54 Below concert celebrating the score proved that there is a lot of love still lingering out there in the universe for the Boy George musical about a group of social and artistic underdogs coming into their own.
Always an iconoclast and ahead of her time, we can't wait to see what Rosie does next and this all-too-deserved Tony Award special honor in the form of the hallowed Isabelle Stevenson Award will hopefully be inspiration to her to return to the place she admittedly loves best - and that loves her back in very much the same way.
So, now, let's take a look at some of the most memorable theatrically-related moments from Rosie O'Donnell's career as they pertain to her upcoming 2014 Tony Award special honor.
First up, the 1994 revival company of GREASE perform on that year's Tony Awards telecast, introduced by Victor Garber.
Next, see Rosie O'Donnell emcee the show herself in 1997.
Rosie returns the next year to host the 1998 Tony Awards - with the help of some dynamite divas.
After that, see the 2000 Tony Awards opening featuring O'Donnell once again taking on hosting duties.
Check out Rosie onstage in SEUSSICAL: THE MUSICAL in this rare clip.
Rosie O'Donnell presents Taboo star Euan Morton singing a standout from the sensational score on an R FAMILY cruise.
Rosie O'Donnell makes a lifelong dream come true and interviews the one and only Barbra Streisand.
Enjoy this incredible medley brimming with Broadway bravado and brilliance as seen on the final episode of THE ROSIE O'DONNELL SHOW.
Lastly, spy Rosie O'Donnell in the Tony Awards-centric last episodes of NBC musical drama series SMASH.
As a special bonus, enjoy this hilarious and rockin' 2010 appearance by Rosie on late-night TV.
So, what specific Rosie is your absolute favorite of all - Rosie the host/emcee, Rosie the political activist, Rosie the producer or Rosie the performer? With a talented and passionate personality as uniquely committed to the theatre as she unquestionably is - a true Blue ally like few others in the entertainment realm - perhaps Rosie the advocate of the arts is the one we all love best. Nonetheless, we'll accept them all - with the hope she has a new skill ready to reveal someday soon, hopefully onstage.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro