FLASH FRIDAY: 2004 & 2014 Tony Awards Parallels Aplenty! With Hugh, Idina, Audra, NPH & More
Today we celebrate the many, many parallels between the 2004 and 2014 Tony Awards races with a celebration of both seasons as we look ahead to this Sunday's 2014 Tony Awards telecast, hosted by - who else? - none other than 2004 Tony Award winner Hugh Jackman!
Another National Anthem
History repeats itself. Time and time again, coincidences and striking similarities crop up and we are forced to ponder: why? Is it fate? Circumstance? Divine irony? Magic? Time immemorial, some things happen for a reason - and then happen again. And again. And... again. Such is certainly the case with many appreciable elements of this year's 2014 Tony Awards race versus that of 2004. Although the 2003-2004 Broadway season could not have been more wildly different than the 2013-2014 season insofar as the topics, themes, style of the various shows themselves and subsequent general atmosphere on the Street, a number of familiar faces are once again set to take the stage - or at least the auditorium - of Radio City Music Hall this Sunday, so this is an ideal time to ask: why?
First things first, though, let's start with: who. Acting as genial emcee once again - his umpteenth time doing us all the estimable honor - is international stage and screen superstar Hugh Jackman. As many Broadway babies may remember, Jackman took an extended break from his then-burgeoning film career to essay the title role in the Peter Allen biomusical THE BOY FROM OZ on Broadway back in 2003 and was met with rapturous reviews and a well-earned 2004 Tony Award for Best Actor In A Musical for his work. Additionally, Jackman also served as host of that year's telecast, kicking off the ceremony in memorable fashion with a show-stopping, high-kicking rendition of the DREAMGIRLS hit "One Night Only" alongside not only the Rockettes, but Tony Awards champ Tommy Tune, too. And, the similarities extend far beyond that.
Then, there is another Broadway breakout star, celebrated stage and screen headliner Neil Patrick Harris. As a 2004 ASSASSINS revival featured player, Harris joined his cast-mates in a risqué and attention-grabbing performance of the smart and darkly poigniant Sondheim show opener "Everybody's Got The Right" on that year's Tony Awards telecast and contributed to their win as the 2004 Best Revival Of A Musical Tony Award winners along with the producers and creative team. This year, Harris is a nominee in the Best Actor In A Musical category for his spellbinding performance in the gender-bending raucous rock musical HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH, with many prognosticators fingering him as a front-runner in the category.
Plus, there are the ladies. While LADY DAY AT EMERSON'S BAR & GRILL star Audra McDonald is undoubtedly already theatre royalty of the highest order, the versatile stage and screen player looks likely to be placing yet another Tony Award on her mantle this season for another play following her well-earned 2004 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress In A Play for A RAISIN IN THE SUN - the latter being a classic play which is also being revived this season yet again, 10 years later, as a matter of fact, with 2004 Best Featured Actress In A Musical winner Anika Noni Rose incidentally stepping into the shoes of McDonald this go round. Then, too, there is IF/THEN's 2014 Best Actress In A Musical nominee Idina Menzel, who has found international acclaim and superstardom this year thanks to her incredible work in Disney's mega-successful FROZEN and originally claimed her very first Tony Award back in - you guessed it - 2004, for her turn in WICKED.
Most of all, there is the uneven season itself and the open-field atmosphere of many of the categories. Just as in 2004 with AVENUE Q up against WICKED and CAROLINE, OR CHANGE, there is no clear-cut winner emerging out of this season's Best Musical nominees - A GENTLEMEN'S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER has won many early awards, but so did WICKED; the top honor could just as easily go to Disney screen-to-stage smash ALADDIN or even dueling jukebox revues, BEAUTIFUL: A CAROLE KING MUSICAL and Duke Ellington-infused AFTER MIDNIGHT. The 2013-2014 season epitomizes up-for-grabs.
So, now, let's compare the 2003-4 season and the 2013-4 Tony Awards seasons clip by clip.
First, can Hugh Jackman possibly top this tremendous 2004 Tony Awards opening number?
Next, will Idina Menzel be repeating her 2004 Best Actress In A Musical speech, this time for IF/THEN?
And, will Audra McDonald repeat her 2004 Tony win in a play category, this time for Best Leading Actress In A Play?
Also, will Anika Noni Rose find a matching play category trophy for her Best Featured Actress In A Musical CAROLINE, OR CHANGE win from back in 2004?
Can Neil Patrick Harris and the company of HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH court more controversy with their performance than he did with ASSASSINS back in 2004?
Will Harvey Fierstein once again be taking the stage of Radio City Music Hall to accept an award for his 2014 Best Play nominee CASA VALENTINA?
Can 2014 special musical performance leaders Jennifer Hudson and Sting hope to compare to iconic music legend Tony Bennett crooning a classic tune as only he could as 2004's musical guest?
How will the WICKED 10th anniversary celebration compare to the original "Defying Gravity" as seen on the Tonys in 2004 led by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth?
Plus, will 2004 Best Musical AVENUE Q be commemorated on the telecast 10 years later, too?
Lastly, will the Best Musical announcement at the end of the night be as shocking as it was when AVENUE Q won back in 2004?
Additionally, will Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris somehow make a more memorable mark together than they did here in 2011? No matter what, let's all hope they duet again!
Looking back, could you have ever foreseen back in 2004 that the 2014 Tony Awards would have quite so many connections to the 2004 season? While some of these stars we always knew we would see on a stage again - very likely getting nominated for awards; and many winning, too - it is a truly unique occurrence to have a season shape up in quite the way that this one has, particularly with so many surprising and unusual similarities to the ceremony celebrating and capping the season 10 years ago. Now, just as then, Broadway's best remain brilliant. The question now to consider is: what will 2024 bring?