BWW Tonys Special: Recap of the CBS Broadcast
Did you miss the Tonys Broadcast? Never fear, BroadwayWorld's got you covered. BroadwayWorld writer David Clarke took copious notes during the show, and his highlights are presented below.
Kevin Spacey did a laudable job as host for the 71st annual Tony Awards, presented at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Sunday, June 11, 2017. The acclaimed actor cut his teeth on stage acting, but is best known for his film acting. As host, he reminded TV viewers at home of his singing and dancing chops, which most haven't seen since the 2004 Bobby Darin biopic Beyond the Sea.
Spacey's opening song and dance medley was charming, but the true highlight of the segment was seeing him don full Norma Desmond drag to sing "As If We Never Said Goodbye," albeit with altered lyrics. This was followed by a quick change into top hat and tails for a rousing tap break.
Throughout the evening, Spacey did impersonations. He was rib tickling as Johnny Carson, ensuring the Baby boomers had plenty to laugh at and guaranteeing that millennials had something to look up on Google midshow. He later came out as Bill Clinton and made a fabulous joke about fake e-mail accounts.
Towards the end of the evening, he stopped the show as Francis J. Underwood. He offered a brilliant ad-lib saying, "I want to get out of here before Bette Midler thanks anyone else." This good humored jab poked fun at her lengthy acceptance speech in which Midler talked longer than her play off music. The diva owned her stage.
The Low Key Politics During the Broadcast:
The Tonys were sometimes subtly political. A large number of the celebrities and luminaries at the awards show proudly wore blue ribbons on stage in support of the American Civil Liberties Union and their "Stand With the ACLU" campaign. The ACLU is recognized for guarding our national liberties through working in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country. Repeatedly filing lawsuits against the Trump administration, there is no denying that supporting the organization is more important than ever.
Lin-Manuel Miranda wore a rainbow ribbon on his lapel in honor of June being pride month.
The Best Speeches:
Cynthia Nixon won her second Tony. In her beautiful and profound speech, Nixon said, "I share this with my God sent wife, and our beloved children, Sam, Charlie, and Max. It is a privilege to appear in Lillian Hellman's eerily prescient play at this specific moment in history. 80 years ago she wrote 'There are people who eat the earth, and eat all the people on it, and other people who just stand around and watch them do it.' My love, my gratitude, and undying respect go out to all the people in 2017 who are refusing to just stand and watch them do it. Thank you."
Sally Field celebrated the American Theatre Wing. In her presentation on the organization, which is responsible for the awards show, she said that the Wing has always celebrated "strength in diversity, common bonds, and the enduring national spirit that has bore us through periling times." And that the Wing champions the theater because it can "illuminate the darkness with the blazing truth of art."
Kevin Kline ended his acceptance speech with a wonderful plug for arts funding. He said, "I would like to thank a couple of organizations, without whom, probably half of the people in this room would not be here. That would be the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Thank you."
Rebecca Taichman, during her acceptance speech, powerfully said, "[INDECENT] is a story about love in perilous time and about speaking out and making art when ... one is at great danger." This masterfully adds sentiment to the play's powerful hashtag, #ArtMatters.
During his acceptance speech, Ben Platt powerfully said, "The things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful." His ability to do this eight times a week as Evan Hansen is what earned him his well-deserved Tony award. Also, this sentiment couldn't be more true, timely, and relevant.
COME FROM AWAY performed their show opener "Welcome to the Rock." The performance was packed with emotion and raw energy. It served as a great kick off to the Best Musical race for the TV broadcast, and it hopefully convinced some people at home to buy tickets for the stirring musical.
MISS SAIGON performed a medley of "This is the Hour" and "I'd Give My Life For You." The chorus got a nice chance to show off at the top of the medley, but it was saddening that Eva Noblezada's electrifying solo wasn't sung in its entirety for the program. Despite some awkward cuts in the music, Noblezada owned the performance and showcased her talent nicely.
FALSETTOS performed "A Day in Falsettoland/Raquetball." This performance was a brilliant plug for the musical's upcoming movie theater engagement in July. It also served as a sturdy platform to introduce some of the altered, TV friendly lyrics written for the Live From Lincoln Center taping. Most importantly the performance allowed audiences to experience the captivating jovial spirit of the production. Spoiler alert though, you'll need tissues for pretty much everything that happens in the musical after this number is performed.
Following their win for Best Score, DEAR EVAN HANSEN performed "Waving Through a Window." I thought for certain, we'd get a medley of "Waving Through a Window," "You Will Be Found," and "Words Fail," but I'm not complaining that they went with this option. Ben Platt gave a truly brilliant, emotion filled performance. Sadly, he didn't hit the high notes captured on the cast album. However, he does perform them live eight times a week on Broadway, so no one should fault him for this. Especially, since every other aspect of his performance was rich, evocative, and flawless.
Strangely, GROUNDHOG DAY performed their finale "Seeing You." It was ultimately a lackluster performance that didn't do a great job of showing off the show or its charm. Obviously "Hope" is too dark for the TV broadcast, but "If I Had My Time Again" or even an abridged version of "One Day" would have made more sense. These numbers would have also served as a better way to advertise the show's charm and spirit and convince people to buy tickets all while showing off the cast and ensemble.
We all knew that Bette Midler wouldn't be performing at the Tonys in support of HELLO, DOLLY! It was announced that David Hyde Pierce would perform "Penny in My Pocket." I'm sure this seemed like a good idea on paper, but in reality it appeared as Broadway's most coveted ticket of the season not caring if they impress or wow the nation in any way, shape, or form. HELLO, DOLLY!'s score is so widely cherished that there are a handful of beloved other numbers that could have been picked to show the world (especially those who cannot score tickets) what is happening in the Shubert. Instead, we all sat through such an uninspiring and dull performance that we are second guessing if the tickets we have are worth it.
In another interesting turn of events, The Rockettes performed at The Tonys for the first time. They did a medley of "One Singular Sensation" and "New York, New York," featuring Leslie Odom Jr. and Cynthia Erivo on vocals. Their impressive high kicks and indelible smiles set the stage for Odom and Erivo's killer singing. While this was a mostly fun performance, it seemed pointless since The Rockettes won't be performing their Spring Spectacular again until 2018.
NATASHA, PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 performed a medley of "Dust and Ashes" and "The Abduction." The whole cast (and the lucky fans who got to perform on stage with them) offered up a high-energy performance that gave audiences in Radio City Musical Hall a small taste of the immersive staging that happens at their home in the Imperial Theater. CBS's camera crews also made sure to capture Sam Pinkleton's wild and dazzling choreography during "The Abduction." And, hopefully LGBTQIA+ audiences and allies alike cheered when the cameras even caught Amber Gray and Grace McLean's impassioned kiss, which is part of the show's staging.
WAR PAINT performed their Act I finale "Face to Face." Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole looked stunning in their costumes, and both served exactly what their fans and followers wanted from them. This show is their show, and it will likely not survive when they leave it. So, truthfully, this performance served to remind audiences that if they want to see these two legends together on the same stage, they need to get down to the Nederlander Theatre.
BANDSTAND performed their Act II opener "Nobody." This gave the production a chance to show off their Tony Award winning choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. The 40s swing dancing and big band music was definitely beguiling and entertaining, but it didn't stand out as anything special. While the performance was packed with pizzazz, it didn't come across as anything more than light entertainment.
The Other Cheer Worthy Moments:
One of the smartest and most profound choices made for the broadcast was having the four nominated playwrights for Best Play introduce their own plays. Standing center stage Paula Vogel described INDECENT, Lucas Hnath told audiences about A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2, Lynn Nottage illustrated the Pulitzer Prize winning SWEAT, and J.T. Rogers explained OSLO. Letting each of these artists talk about their pieces allowed us all to celebrate the playwrights while gaining insight into each work.
Josh Gad, proved he is a good actor when he gave theater fans the world over heart palpitations by announcing that he would be coming to Broadway next season as Pseudolus in a revival of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM. Sadly, this was a lie. After all, he was showing us how Carnegie Mellon trained him to be a great actor.
Stephen Colbert offered some hilarious jabs at Trump, mentioning that his presidency has such bad reviews that the show in Washington D.C. may close early and not run for its full four years. He also said that the "Miss Saigon" competition locker room is the only one that President Trump hasn't stumbled through.
For a full list of winners, please click here.