Just like last year, I went to my friend Vanessa’s to watch the Tonys, dish on the nominees, and nosh on some lovely vegan food. And just like last year, I’m writing up a few of my post-Tony musings for you.
Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth were cheesy, they mugged too frequently, they worked some pretty lame jokes, and they were given lousy song and dance material. Kristin could hardly walk in those massive heels. Alan looked ludicrous in those shorts. And you know what? I liked ’em anyway. I found them dorky and lovable. There was no pretense that this show was for anyone but theater nerds, and to me they fit much better into the Tonysphere than Hugh Jackman and his Hollywood splash. Of course, they were not any match for Neil Patrick Harris, but come now. They were never going to be any match for Neil Patrick Harris. I don’t care that it wasn’t objectively a very good hosting performance. I liked the silly irreverence a lot more than the bloated grandiosity of the Oscars. They were cute.
Halfway through, I turned to Vanessa and exclaimed: All the show numbers thus far were pretty terrific! Wow! Something Rotten‘s big number translated fairly well, Gigi seemed like old-fashioned fun, An American in Paris looked beautiful. Plus On The Town and The King and I showed that Tony medleys can sometimes work. (I generally hate Tony medleys. Just do one song!) Fun Home sounded wonderful, of course, though I do wonder why they cut the very helpful line from Beth Malone’s Big Allison at the beginning. “She was a delivery woman, an old school butch” is how the song is introduced onstage, and those lines were inexplicably missing. I almost wonder if Sydney Lucas accidentally started too early and cut off that line from Beth Malone. Or maybe the orchestra started too early and she had no choice. Something seemed messed up. In any case, it was a lovely performance once it got going.
Things went pear-shaped later in the telecast, though. The Finding Neverland song was completely ridiculous (“I don’t remember anything like THIS in the movie…” I said, dumbfounded) and On The Twentieth Century medley was frenetic, manic, and confusing. (Again, medleys don’t usually work, producers!) And then there was The Visit. What a mess! As Vanessa, who hadn’t seen the show, exclaimed halfway through the song: “I DON’T UNDERSTAND THESE PEOPLE!” I explained a little bit of the context (“Well, Chita was dancing with her younger self, and those guys are singing like that because they are eunuchs”) but how the show’s producers gave it the green light baffles me. Josh Groban’s In Memoriam was OK, I guess, especially once the stage filled up with Broadway performers and musicians, but the Tommy Tune tribute was simply pathetic. And that closing number: I like Jersey Boys, but enough already! Why is Jersey Boys always on the Tonys?
The Best Actress
I’m going to focus on one Tony winner in particular: Kelli O’Hara. Since I didn’t write about The King and I when I saw it (it was during my fallow period), I thought I’d give a few thoughts on her performance. To get right to it: I was a little surprised that this was the performance that finally won her a Tony. Don’t get me wrong, she was a good Anna Leonowens: She was poised, she was determined, she was in lovely voice, she looks beautiful as ever. But to me she didn’t bring anything revelatory or particularly moving to the role. I didn’t find myself getting choked up during “Hello Young Lovers”, and I wasn’t emotionally drawn into the love story between Anna and the King either.
I have two theories as to why this was the case.
- Theory One is that’s my fault: I have become so deeply familiar with The King and I that I’m more or less immune to it by this point. How many times have I seen the movie? How many times have I listened to the cast recordings? How many times have I seen the stage show over the years? And this production, though lovely, doesn’t really plumb new depths in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic. It doesn’t matter what kind of performance she is giving, because I’ve exhausted the emotional possibilities of this musical through overexposure.
- Theory Two puts a little more blame on Ms. O’Hara. A friend made the case that “She has absolutely no warmth!” I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I do think she really played to her strengths in Bridges. Her role as Francesca was a little more thoughtful, a little more still, a little more wistful. Two minutes into her performance of the Bridges opening number and I’m ready to give her a dozen Tonys, but as Anna she just didn’t win me over in the same way. Perhaps it’s just not as good of a fit.
In any case, I haven’t seen On the Twentieth Century, so I certainly can’t say Kristin Chenoweth deserved it more. Plus Ms. O’Hara gave an absolutely lovely thank you speech. It’s just wonderful to see an actress who has really focused her career on Broadway finally get her due. I just wish that she’d have gotten the award last year, when I was rooting for her wholeheartedly.
The Big Win
And then of course, there was Fun Home‘s win for Best Musical. The highlight of the night, of course. If you saw my last post (or have spoken to me in the last few weeks) you know that I was simply desperate for this show to get the recognition it deserves. I was full of preemptive woe and irritation. In fact I’ve essentially been throwing a tantrum all week as though An American in Paris had the thing sewn up: “Broadway doesn’t know a good thing when it gets it!” “Why are we so concerned about which show is going to tour better? Can’t we just give the best musical Tony to the actual best musical of the season?” “How is a movie musical adaptation a NEW MUSICAL?” “What is WITH the Gershwin obsession anyway?”
Naturally, I gasped and cheered when Jason Alexander said: “Bravo. Fun Home.” Oh Tony voters. Let’s be friends again. I like you better than ever and that ridiculous win for Kinky Boots is a distant memory. However on my bike ride home I gave it a bit more thought: “Now why am I so thrilled that the Tony voters picked the obvious best musical? WE SHOULD BE EXPECTING THIS!” In any case, I’m happy to relax and celebrate Fun Home‘s very well deserved win while waiting for Hamilton‘s coronation next year. For once, a Best Musical race won’t be stressful. (I’d say “famous last words” but seriously. No one is beating Hamilton.)
The Shows I Want to See Now
The Tonys left me wanting to see The Curious Incident, of course, but no more than I’d already wanted to see it. No surprise there, as plays are barely featured in the telecast. As for musicals: I’m sure I’ll get to An American in Paris at some point, though to be honest I’m a little reluctant to pay $57 for a balcony ticket. I may wait a few years until it goes back up on TDF. On the Twentieth Century didn’t particularly tempt me, but on the other hand, when will I have a chance to see a high caliber production of that musical again? Maybe I should look into tickets. As for next season: I know I’m going to see Hamilton on Broadway in August; beyond that I know I am interested in American Psycho, School of Rock, and who knows what else. As ever, I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring. Bring it on!