As of last night, the 2015 Tony Awards has come and gone, celebrating Broadway’s most profitable season in history. In other words, theater ain’t dead, folks – not by a long shot. And this season was a virtual travelogue of shows set in Paris (“Gigi” and “An American in Paris”), Thailand (well, back when it was Siam – “The King and I”), and the New York, New York of “On the Town” because, you know, it’s a helluva town, as the Tony Awards showed all too well.
England was most represented with seven shows set in the country – “Something Rotten!,” “The Audience,” “Wolf Hall,” “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” “Finding Neverland,” “Skylight,” and “The Elephant Man.”
This year, we didn’t have the huge opening production number written especially for the show as in past years. Kristin and Alan did a short little number at the top of the show that paid tribute to some of the people who weren’t nominated, including producer Harvey Weinstein for “Finding Neveland,” a show that was mercilously and unjustly overlooked. But Kristin and Alan also pointed out that Harvey is laughing all the way to the bank because the show is doing quite well at filling the seats regardless of the Tony’s or the critics.
So, why no big opening number this year? The writers of the Broadway show, “Something Rotten!,” created a number that could have easily been written just for the Tony’s. They subbed in as the first big performance of the evening. Take a look.
How did Kristin and Alan do as hosts? I thought they did a fine job, but I still miss Neil Patrick Harris. No one has ever hosted the Tony Awards better, and even when he appeared briefly to present an award last night, he proved that he has better comic timing than just about anyone. Perhaps his experience at the Oscars has soured him forever on hosting award shows. We’ll see.
My favorite moment of Kristin’s and Alan’s came after the performance by the cast of “The King and I.” Alan dressed as Anna, and Kristin came out from under his skirt dressed as a miniature King of Siam.
The actual cast of “The King and I” gave one of the evening’s best performances. I thought it was smart that they did snippets from the show rather than one full number. It gave most cast members a moment in the spotlight, including the wonderful Ruthie Ann Miles, who won the Best Featured Actress in a Musical award for her performance in the show.
The Best Leading Actress in a Musical award was the hardest one to call of the evening because the category included Broadway darling Kristin Chenoweth, Broadway stalwart Chita Rivera, the Susan Lucci of the Tony Awards Kelli O’Hara, and Beth Malone of Best Musical favorite “Fun Home.” It could have gone to any of them, and I actually thought Chita Rivera had it in the bag, as it could be her last chance. But happily, Kelli O’Hara is no longer the Susan Lucci of the Tony’s. Much deserved after six nominations, and she got a standing ovation for her ample talent as she accepted her award in an emotional speech.
Don’t even get me started on the fifth nominee in the Best Leading Actress category, Leanne Cope. While she’s a lovely dancer, this is an acting award, and I think it’s a travesty that she was nominated instead of Laura Michelle Kelly of “Finding Neverland,” who sings and acts her butt off in every performance. There, I said it.
But let’s talk about acting royalty. Bradley Cooper presented the first award of the evening to Helen Mirren for her performance as Queen Elizabeth in “The Audience.” When her fellow cast member, Richard McCabe, won the next award for Best Featured Actor in a Play, it was the first upset of the evening, as everyone seemed to think Micah Stock of “It’s Only a Play” would walk away with it. Personally, I was pulling for Alessandro Nivola for his performance in “The Elephant Man.”
I felt similarly about the Best Featured Actress in a Play category. I love me some Annaleigh Ashford. She was hilarious in “You Can’t Take It With You,” but Patricia Clarkson’s performance in “The Elephant Man” was a master class in acting.
Alex Sharp won the Best Leading Actor in a Play award for his Broadway debut as an autistic boy in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” I thought his speech was one of the most inspiring of the evening.
All of the Best Musical nominees performed during the award show, of course, along with some shows that were not nominated. I have mixed feelings about this. While I enjoy seeing these shows perform, it begins to feel more like a commercial than a celebration of the nominees. I loved “Finding Neverland,” which I’ve seen twice, but I was disappointed that they chose “Stronger” as their number to perform on the Tony’s.
I think the show would have done better to do snippets from the show like “The King and I” and show the kids in the cast, which are its heart and soul. While “Stronger” is a fine number in context, it appeared trite on its own despite excellent vocal performances by Matthew Morrison, Kelsey Grammer, and the rest of the cast.
One of the highlights of the evening was Josh Groban’s In Memoriam performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with 175 Broadway show cast members. The only complaint is that the projections with the names and images of the deceased were hard to see.
Despite 11 nominations, “An American in Paris” only garnered four wins. I did not like this show, which I felt relied too heavily on dance (even though I’m a former dance teacher). I felt strongly that the relationship between the leads was not sufficiently established, and I hated the second act opener, which was a throwaway dance piece using an obscure Gershwin song. I felt the show would have done better to include another of the many romantic Gershwin songs to help us believe that the two central lovers had actually met each other. But that’s just me.
I also thought the costumes of “Gigi” were exquisite and that its sets evoked Paris more than those in “An American in Paris.” Again, I seem to be in the minority on this since the designers did not receive nominations. And yes, I’ll shamelessly brag that I’ve been to Paris several times. Maybe a Belle Epoque staircase just says Paris to me more than moving platforms and projections of the Eiffel Tower.
Live online before the Tony Awards show aired on CBS, there was a red carpet pre-show hosted by Broadway actors Laura Osnes and Sierra Boggess, along with Darren Criss of both Broadway and television’s “Glee.” My favorite moment of this pre-show was their interview with six-year-old Iain Armitage, who has become a celebrity himself for his YouTube reviews of shows. He has even become more famous, I think, than his actor father, Euan Morton, most well-known for playing Boy George in “Taboo” on Broadway. Watch some of Iain’s red carpet interview.
Tommy Tune, who won a lifetime achievement award, was given a throwaway tribute that seemed more like lip service than what the man truly deserves. But, thankfully, the most exciting and historic moments of the 2015 Tony’s were the female winners in the writing and directing categories. Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, who won for book and score of the musical “Fun Home,” were the first all female writing team in history to win. The only woman nominated as Best Director of a Play (for “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”) beat out the men in her category. Women also won awards for scenic design, lighting design, and costume design.
“Fun Home” walked away with the Best Leading Actor in a Musical award for Michael Cerveris and the big award of the evening, Best Musical. I’ve never been a huge Larry David fan, but his mock rant with Jason Alexander before presenting the Best Musical award was a hoot. Meanwhile, Michael Cerveris also gave a particularly inspiring acceptance speech.
I’m glad the hip hop musical, “Hamilton,” which is opening on Broadway this summer after a blockbuster run Off-Broadway, was not eligible for the Tony’s this year. If it had been, “Fun Home” wouldn’t have had a chance. Both shows are game-changers for the art form. “Hamilton” will no doubt sweep the awards next year, as it has already done in awards this year that included Off-Broadway shows.
“Fun Home” took home five awards in total, as did “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” “The King and I” won four, and poor “Something Rotten!” only won one award despite nine nominations when Christian Borle won his second Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical, beating out his costar, Brad Oscar, in the same category.
In celebration of the Best Musical winner, watch the amazing young actress, Sydney Lucas, who was nominated for her performance in “Fun Home.” The two big winners of the night celebrate characters who are not in the proverbial “mainstream” – a lesbian and a boy with autism. The times, they are a-changin’, and it’s a welcome change indeed.
Here is a list of all winners and nominees (winners are in bold), and check out my photo gallery of the nominees at their annual reception at the end of April.
An American in Paris
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Hand to God
Wolf Hall: Parts One & Two
BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
The King and I
On the Town
On the Twentieth Century
BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
The Elephant Man
This Is Our Youth
You Can’t Take It With You
BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Michael Cerveris, Fun Home
Robert Fairchild, An American in Paris
Brian d’Arcy James, Something Rotten!
Ken Watanabe, The King and I
Tony Yazbeck, On the Town
BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Alex Sharp, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Steven Boyer, Hand to God
Bradley Cooper, The Elephant Man
Ben Miles, Wolf Hall: Parts One & Two
Bill Nighy, Skylight
BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Kelli O’Hara, The King and I
Kristin Chenoweth, On the Twentieth Century
Leanne Cope, An American in Paris
Beth Malone, Fun Home
Chita Rivera, The Visit
BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Helen Mirren, The Audience
Geneva Carr, Hand to God
Elisabeth Moss, The Heidi Chronicles
Carey Mulligan, Skylight
Ruth Wilson, Constellations
FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Christian Borle, Something Rotten!
Brad Oscar, Something Rotten!
Andy Karl, On the Twentieth Century
Brandon Uranowitz, An American in Paris
Max von Essen, An American in Paris
FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Ruthie Ann Miles, The King and I
Victoria Clarke, Gigi
Judy Kuhn, Fun Home
Sydney Lucas, Fun Home
Emily Skeggs, Fun Home
FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Richard McCabe, The Audience
Matthew Beard, Skylight
Todd Freeman, Airline Highway
Alessandro Nivola, The Elephant Man
Nathaniel Parker, Wolf Hall: Parts One & Two
Micah Stock, It’s Only a Play
FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Annaleigh Ashford, You Can’t Take It With You
Patricia Clarkson, The Elephant Man
Lydia Leonard, Wolf Hall: Parts One & Two
Sarah Stiles, Hand to God
Julie White, Airline Highway
BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
Sam Gold, Fun Home
Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!
John Rando, On the Town
Bartlett Sher, The King and I
Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Stephen Daldry, Skylight
Scott Ellis, You Can’t Take It with You
Jeremy Herrin, Wolf Hall: Parts One & Two
Moritz von Stuelpnagel, Hand to God
BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
Lisa Kron, Fun Home
Craig Lucas, An American in Paris
Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, Something Rotten!
Terence McNally, The Visit
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, Fun Home
Sting, The Last Ship
Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick, Something Rotten!
John Kander and Fred Ebb, The Visit
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY
Bunny Christie and Finn Ross, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Bob Crowley, Skylight
Christopher Oram, Wolf Hall: Parts One & Two
David Rockwell, You Can’t Take It with You
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Bob Crowley and 59 Productions, An American in Paris
David Rockwell, On the Twentieth Century
Michael Yeargan, The King and I
David Zinn, Fun Home
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY
Christopher Oram, Wolf Hall: Parts One & Two
Bob Crowley, The Audience
Jane Greenwood, You Can’t Take It with You
David Zinn, Airline Highway
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Catherine Zuber, The King and I
Gregg Barnes, Something Rotten!
Bob Crowley, An American in Paris
William Ivey Long, On the Twentieth Century
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY
Paule Constable, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Paule Constable and David Plater, Wolf Hall: Parts One & Two
Natasha Katz, Skylight
Japhy Weideman, Airline Highway
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Natasha Katz, An American in Paris
Donald Holder, The King and I
Ben Stanton, Fun Home
Japhy Weideman, The Visit
Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky, Bill Elliott, An American in Paris
John Clancy, Fun Home
Larry Hochman, Something Rotten!
Rob Mathes, The Last Ship
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN THE THEATRE
SPECIAL TONY AWARD
John Cameron Mitchell
REGIONAL THEATRE AWARD
Cleveland Play House, Cleveland, Ohio
ISABELLE STEVENSON AWARD
TONY HONORS FOR EXCELLENCE IN THE THEATRE