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Monday, June 12, 2017

Dear Tony Awards: The Good, the Bad and the Bette

Photo credits: Kevin Mazur (David Hyde Pierce, Bette Midler), Theo Wargo (Ben Platt), Jenny Anderson/Getty Images (Gavin Creel, Cynthia Nixon)

Dear Tony Awards:

It's a damn shame that Bette Midler didn't sing. She should have. Both Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey performed songs from Hello, Dolly! on the Tonys (in 1971 and 1968, respectively). So I don't care if it was Bette or her producers who made this decision - it was still a lousy one. She could have just made an appearance in the ensemble number, "Call on Dolly", but instead we got David Hyde Pierce crooning "Penny in my Pocket". He was good, but there are so many better songs in the show worth singing. Okay, I'm done bitching - but that audience would have gone wild if Bette had showed up as Dolly Levi. Sadly, it was a missed opportunity.

Now let's move on to Kevin Spacey, who hosted last night's 71st awards. From what I've read online, almost everyone disliked him and his "stale" impressions from the 1990s. The Guardian newspaper even went so far as to say he won the Tony Award for worst host. Well, I have to disagree. I liked Mr. Spacey, who made me laugh quite often. And he's got a great singing voice (it was nice to hear him and Patti LuPone perform Bobby Darin's "The Curtain Falls" as the evening's closing number). However, I do agree with those folks who weren't happy with his coming out of the closet jokes. If Spacey is gay, he should proudly admit it. It's 2017 for God's sake - even Barry Manilow has officially come out! Anyway, although Mr. Spacey is no Neil Patrick Harris when it comes to hosting, I think he did a fine job - but it's doubtful that we will ever see him again since the ratings were down 31% from last year. But in his defense, 2016 was the year of that little show called Hamilton.

Below are more highlights and lowlights of the Tony Awards (the pink categories are the ones I correctly chose to win):

No more Rockettes please: I don't care that they are Radio City's legendary dance company. It was just plain terrible that they got to appear TWICE during the show while we didn't get to see James Earl Jones accept his much-deserved Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. Shame on you, Tony Awards!

Most Pointless Gig of the Night: I love Rachel Bloom and her CW show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but her brief backstage announcements were not worthy of her talents.

Best Musical Number: I was very disappointed by the selection of musical numbers - these were the BEST songs from the nominated shows? I certainly hope not. Most of the tunes were either boring and/or instantly forgettable. The Great Comet and Bandstand both tried to add some pep to the telecast late in the evening, but I didn't find either number to be all that memorable. However, one performance did stand out from the rest - and that was Ben Platt's wonderful rendition of "Waving Through a Window" from Dear Evan Hansen.

Best Acceptance Speech: I'm not a fan of those who read their speeches from a piece of paper - just say what's in your heart and if you forget someone, no big deal. I don't think Bette, who (of course) won for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, forgot to thank anyone. And her speech was the most entertaining.

Most Memorable Line of the Night: "Shut that crap off!" - Bette to the orchestra, whose music tried but failed to end her acceptance speech

Best Acceptance Speech Runner-Up: I was hoping that Andy Karl would win for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for Groundhog Day, but that number he performed just didn't do anything for me. So I was happy that Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen) won this category - and it's always fun to see someone who is thoroughly excited about winning.

Best Acceptance Speech Honorable Mention: Cynthia Nixon, who won for Best Featured Actress in a Play for The Little Foxes. I just like her - she seems like a down-to-earth gal who would be fun and interesting to have a drink with.

Best Standing Ovation: I know everyone in that audience was wishing that former Second Lady of the United States Jill Biden was our current First Lady. If only!

Hottest Hunk of the Night: 62-year-old Scott Bakula who is aging like fine wine.

Hottest Hunk Runner-Up: Jonathan Groff, who (with Brian d'Arcy James) handed out the Creative Arts Awards before the live broadcast. I could see him hosting the Tony Awards someday.

Best Dress: I thought presenter Allison Janney's red gown was quite lovely.

Most Entertaining Presenter: Stephen Colbert, who definitely should host the Tonys in the future.

Best Revival of a Musical: Hello, Dolly!

Best Silent Appearance: Robin Wright as Claire Underwood from Netflix's House of Cards

Best Musical: Dear Evan Hansen

Other Categories Unworthy for Television (but you can watch all of their acceptance speeches here)

Best Book of a Musical (Dear Evan Hansen)
Best Choreography (Bandstand)
Best Orchestrations (Dear Evan Hansen)
Best Costume Design of a Musical (Hello, Dolly!)
Best Costume Design of a Play (The Little Foxes)
Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812)
Best Scenic Design of a Play (The Play That Goes Wrong)
Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812)
Best Lighting Design of a Play (Indecent)
The Isabelle Stevenson Award (Baayork Lee)
The Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement (Sheldon Harnick and Marshall W. Mason)
Special Tony Awards (Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin, sound designers for The Encounter)
Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre (General managers Nina Lannan and Alan Wasser)
The Regional Theatre Award (Dallas Theater Center)

And here are all the other winners:

Best Original Score: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for Dear Evan Hansen

Best Direction of a Musical: Christopher Ashley for Come From Away

Best Direction of a Play: Rebecca Taichman for Indecent

Best Featured Actress in a Musical: Rachel Bay Jones in Dear Evan Hansen

Best Featured Actor in a Musical: Gavin Creel in Hello, Dolly!

Best Featured Actor in a Play: Michael Aronov in Oslo

Best Leading Actress in a Play: Laurie Metcalf in A Doll's House, Part 2

Best Leading Actor in a Play: Kevin Kline in Present Laughter

Best Revival of a Play: Jitney

Best Play: Oslo

And that's all, folks. I'm giving a grade of B to Mr. Spacey and a C to the telecast. Hopefully next year will be better.


Paul Decker said...

Wait a minute. Scott Bakula was five years older than me when I represented him in the 80's, and now we're the same age? How'd he do that? And, yes, that means he's really 66, which makes him even more spectacular. Unlike me, who has not aged anywhere nearly as well.

Marc Harshbarger said...

Well, every website says he was born in 1954 - but I agree that he is "spectacular" whether he's 62 or 66.

Christoph said...

I have to say that I am reeling that Great Comet lost the best direction nod. Even if you are like me and thought the final third of the show had issues and ended unsatisfactorily, there was no denying that the show was an amazing and unique experience and the outside-of-the-box direction was wholly responsible for that. Plus it would have been a real coup to see two women carry home the direction awards.

I am with you on Andy Karl. He seems to be the new Kelli O'Hara. He keeps turning in great award-caliber performances, but then constantly gets supplanted by someone else for the gold. I thought he had this award cinched after the British award and his injuring himself but boldly continuing onward. I guess one needs to break ones neck in order to win the Tony. Plus GHD could have used the boost whereas DEH did not need it. I hear a lot of people wondering aloud about whether in a year where there were many eclectic and first-rate shows under consideration (and some overlooked in nominations as well) whether Tony voters did not simply go the easy route and go down the line to check off DEH and Hello Dolly on everything that they possibly could (direction aside).

I also agree that not allowing Bette Midler to perform has to rank as one of the dumbest decisions in Tony Award Show history. Not that their box office will suffer, but jeez!

I am curious about Kevin Kline winning. Did you actually see his perf? I am just wondering because it seems like everyone I know that saw him in Present Laughter said he was completely boring and phoning it in. I also note that was a huge complaint about him on the Broadway chat boards. Then suddenly he is the front runner in the category?! Did he improve that dramatically or was his name enough to carry him to the win?

Marc Harshbarger said...

Thanks for your comment, Christoph! I didn't see The Great Comet so I can't comment on its direction (but I'm not a fan of its score). As for Mr. Karl, I guess he is the new male version of Ms. O'Hara - but she eventually did win and I'm sure he will, too (I look forward to seeing what he does next). As for Ms. Midler, she and/or some of the cast could have easily performed many songs from the show that would not have harmed anyone. I do wish the Tonys had called the Dolly producers' bluff and agreed to let them perform at their own theater. Would Midler have performed then? We'll never know. As for Mr. Kline, my husband saw Present Laughter and said he was great (the show itself was good but nothing extraordinary).