Neil Patrick Harris may not have hosted the Tony Awards this year, but he still stopped the show with his performance from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” during which he pulled his real-life husband up to the stage and planted a kiss on his mouth. If any homophobes watch the Tony’s (questionable, right?), I’m sure a few exploded. I, on the other hand, sat in front of my TV and applauded.
Then, I applauded more when NPH won the Tony for best leading actor in a musical, and when his costar, Lena Hall, won for best featured actress in a musical, and when the show won best revival of a musical. It’s one electrifying night in the theater.
And then there’s Hugh Jackman. God love him, he’s truly wonderful as a host, but no one can hold a candle to NPH. It’s just the way it is.
But enough of the NPH love fest. There was plenty of love to go around during the awards ceremony, but what a lot of people won’t talk about is … the murder.
Yes, the Tony’s are a tale of love and murder, much like the best musical Tony winner, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.” Even though the voters could have included more than the four new musical nominees, they chose to omit one of the few with a new score – in fact, the winner of the Tony awards for best original score and best orchestrations – “The Bridges of Madison County.” But did television audiences get to hear any of that beautiful music by Jason Robert Brown? Nope.
Starring the great Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale, “Bridges” never quite caught on with theater-goers and closed much too soon. Still, it deserved a nomination for best musical and an opportunity to perform on stage. O’Hara garnered a nomination for her performance, but there was no love for Steven Pasquale, whose voice is so stunning I could listen to him sing the Barney song ad nauseum and never get sick of it. (“I love you, you love me…” Sing it, Steven!)
But instead of “Bridges,” upcoming shows “Finding Neverland” and “The Last Ship” and the long-running show “Wicked,” none of which have anything to do with Broadway’s current season, were given time to perform. Granted, for a show to do a number on the Tony Awards, the producers have to fork up the dough. Maybe the “Bridges” folks didn’t want to do that; I don’t know. While I don’t begrudge these other shows their moment, it bites that “Bridges” was not included.
And, of course, they had to make time for that icon of Broadway – as NPH’s character on “How I Met Your Mother” would say, “Wait for it” … LL Cool J in a “Music Man” rap. I wish Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers could join me in a rousing chorus of “Really? REALLY?”
Okay, enough pouting. In spite of it all, I love Broadway and the Tony’s. It remains the best award show, and there was no shortage of stellar performances.
The opening with Hugh hopping into and through the theater was probably confusing to a lot of people, though. It was an homage to Bobby Van in the film musical, “Small Town Girl.” I loved Bobby Van, but the reference was a bit obscure.
The next number from “After Midnight” brought together three of the women who have starred or will star in the show – Fantasia Barrino, Gladys Knight, and Patti Labelle – followed by some great tap with Dule Hill and the cast. It was also nice, later in the show, to see yet more tap dancing from the cast of “Bullets Over Broadway.” (I’ve been a tap dancer since age 4, so I always appreciate the hoofers.)
Another highlight was when Carole King joined Jessie Mueller and the cast of “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical.”
There were too many performances to mention, but perhaps as notable as Idina Menzel’s big voice in her number from “If/Then” was the fact that Jonathan Groff had no trouble whatsoever pronouncing her name properly when he introduced her.
Of the award shows, the Tony’s are also certainly the most welcoming of diversity. For that, I give the voters major props. Three of the top awards went to black actors. Audra McDonald won her sixth – count ‘em – Tony, this time for best actress in a play, making her the record-holder for the most Tony Awards ever won by an actor. In her tearful and impassioned speech, she thanked the women who paved the way for her, including Maya Angelou and, of course, Billie Holiday, whom McDonald portrays brilliantly in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.”
James Monroe Iglehart won best featured actor in a musical for his role as the genie in “Aladdin,” and he brought some church at the end of his speech with a fun “praise shout.”
Sophie Okonedo brought perhaps the only upset of the evening when she won best featured actress in a play for her Broadway debut in “A Raisin in the Sun.” I think most people expected the award to go to Celia Keenan-Bolger for “The Glass Menagerie.” Kenny Leon also won for best direction of a play for the revival of “Raisin in the Sun” starring Denzel Washington.
Well, despite the low number of new scores on Broadway this season, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” – the winner for best new musical – has an original score by Steven Lutvak and Robert L. Freedman. All murder aside, I love that fact. And whether Neil or Hugh are at the helm, the Tony’s always deliver top-notch entertainment. Theater, folks. Support it, love it, nurture it.
Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees. Below is a full list of winners. “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” tied with four awards each – the most of the evening.
BEST MUSICAL – “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL – “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL – Jessie Mueller, “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL – Neil Patrick Harris, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
BEST PLAY – “All the Way”
BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY – “A Raisin in the Sun”
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY – Bryan Cranston, “All the Way”
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY – Audra McDonald, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY – Sophie Okonedo, “A Raisin in the Sun”
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL – James Monroe Iglehart, “Aladdin”
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY – Kenny Leon, “A Raisin in the Sun”
BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL – Darko Tresnjak, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL – Lena Hall, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY – Mark Rylance, “Twelfth Night”
BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL – Robert L. Freedman, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE – Jason Robert Brown, “The Bridges of Madison County”
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY – Beowulf Boritt, “Act One”
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL – Christopher Barreca, “Rocky”
BEST ORCHESTRATIONS – Jason Robert Brown, “The Bridges of Madison County”
BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY – Steve Canyon Kennedy, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”
BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL – Brian Ronan, “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY – Warren Carlyle, “After Midnight”
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY – Jenny Tiramani, “Twelfth Night”
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL – Linda Cho, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY – Natasha Katz, “The Glass Menagerie”
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL – Kevin Adams, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
SPECIAL TONY AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN THE THEATRE – Jane Greenwood
REGIONAL THEATRE AWARD – Signature Theatre, New York, N.Y.
ISABELLE STEVENSON AWARD – Rosie O’Donnell
TONY HONORS FOR EXCELLENCE IN THE THEATRE – Joseph P. Benincasa, Joan Marcus, Charlotte Wilcox