Monday, June 11, 2012

My 2012 Tony Awards Show Review


Time once again to review the lowest rated Awards show in America – the Tonys. I have more Twitter followers than Tony Awards Show viewers. And in L.A. it competed with the Gay Pride Parade so no one was watching.

Thus it’s understandable that there was no pre-Tony’s Red Carpet Show, which is a shame. Would love to see Ant and Miss South Carolina broadcasting from the Times Square R Train subway platform as all the stars got off.

The Tonys are also the only awards show to still be tape-delayed to the West Coast. I think they will air sometime next Thursday.

Part of the problem is that no one outside of Manhattan and Fire Island know any of the nominated shows. The two big musicals were NEWSIES from a 20-year-old Disney movie starring songbirds Christian Bale and Robert Duvall and ONCE, the small Irish movie that delighted audiences in all twelve art houses it screened in.

But the Tonys are only once a year in the summer so you can understand why CBS continues to air it despite so little interest. I mean it’s not like it’s a weekly series about Broadway. What network would be crazy enough to have one of those, spend big bucks on it, and then renew it? Even NBC couldn’t be that foolish, could they?

Usually the purpose of the Tonys is to celebrate excellence in New York theater, but this year it was to pimp the Royal Caribbean cruise line. They even featured a ten minute number from HAIRSPRAY direct from a ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Why spend money on a big name host? Next year just have cruise director Sergio emcee the Tony Awards.

My delightfully caustic daughter, Annie and her writing partner, Jon Emerson are also contributing this year. Annie (during the JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR number): “That musical has had more revivals than Jesus.”

Host Neil Patrick Harris was charming as ever, but his opening number didn’t have the same zing and sodomy jokes that last year’s had. Cruise director Sergio will be better next year. You’ll see.


The big surprise was James Corden winning Best Actor in a Play over Philip Seymour Hoffman, Frank Langella, John Lithgow, and James Earl Jones. I suppose if you want to outperform some of the greatest actors of our time just smash a trash can lid on your head.

Very happy that Nina Arianda won even though you’re saying who is she and what did she win for?

This year we had JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, GODSPELL, THE BOOK OF MORMON, and LEAP OF FAITH. Don’t producers know that JEWS are the people who go to the theater? What’s next? A Mel Gibson one-man show?

Let’s face it -- the big prize for a dazzling performance on Broadway isn’t a Tony. It’s a TV series the following season. Congratulations to Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad!

Have not seen Best Play, CLYBOURNE PARK but hear it’s wonderful. All the nominees this year were supposedly great. They’ll get their chance again next year when they’re all up for Best Revival of a Play.

The theater community was thrilled and relieved when Audra McDonald finally won for lead actress. Her four other Tonys were just for supporting actress. Highlight of her speech was saying it was an honor to get raped by Philip Boykin every night.

How nice to have an awards show where the “Harvey” they’re saluting is Fierstein not Weinstein.

DEATH OF A SALESMAN won for best revival of a play, which makes sense since it’s maybe the best contemporary play ever written.

Was I dreaming? Did they really play walk-off music when Mike Nichols was making his acceptance speech? Seriously? They devote ten minutes to a bunch of Croatian kids singing a HAIRSPRAY medley but have no time for Mike Nichols?

Sheryl Crow looked fabulous! May she look that way for the next forty years.

ONCE was the big musical winner. I’ll see it on my next Royal Caribbean cruise to Costa Rica.

CBS kept promo’ing Ricky Martin as if that was a big deal.

In Los Angeles this was a Channel 2 news tease: “A mother and her two kids are missing. The search after the Tony Awards.” As if the search party couldn’t be torn away from their TVs while Ricky Martin was still scheduled to perform. 

The universally panned GHOST performed a number. To show that Mark Evans was the ghost he was followed by a blue spotlight. Annie said, “Why not just throw a sheet over his head and call it a day?”

Ellen Barkin has turned into Cloris Leachman.


I always find in unnerving to see a Judy Garland impersonator who isn’t a man.

Not hard to guess what demographic watches the Tonys. Sponsors included Embrel, Celebrex, and Cymbalta. I’m sure when the ship stops in Mexico you can pick up all of them for a fraction of their regular price.

The production numbers are always more fun at the Macy's Parade where they do the same thing but in 20 degree weather. If I don't see steam coming out of mouths I'm not as transported.

Ever notice that every Broadway musical has these same two songs -- “Love Me For Who I Am” and “I Have to Follow My Dream”? Or did you just fast-forward the minute you saw Matthew Broderick attempting to dance?

Play people take themselves waaaaaaaay too seriously. Musical people take nothing seriously. I prefer musical people.

PETER AND THE STARCATCHER won for best scenic design of a play. I thought it had no set. And it was up for Best Play even though there’s singing and dancing.  Hell, submit it for an Oscar as Best Foreign Film.  

Of all the great songs in FOLLIES, they chose that one? Danny Burnstein’s orange suit blended right into the red curtains. This won’t be a problem on the Royal Caribbean because the stage curtain is blue. And a Bingo tournament follows the show! 


Bernadette Peters was exquisite in her strapless purple gown. It’s what the well-dressed mermaids are all wearing this season.

Notice the guy with the giant Lion King head in the audience? I’m guessing that was the only person in the audience you were able to identify. Good luck to the poor schmucks sitting behind him. Annie: “As if Julie Taymor isn’t hated enough.” Jon: “Ruining the experience one person at a time.”

As usual, off stage announcer, Randy Thomas, was smooth and flawless. I want to win just so someday I could hear her say my name (and maybe plug my book).

Judith Light won the Tony for best revival of a face.

Tony speeches tend to be more heartfelt than other backslapfests. Lots of tears, even from the women. I loved when James Corden acknowledged the mother of his child and said, “I can’t wait to marry you.”

PORGY & BESS won Best Revival of a Musical. It seemed like thirty producers got up to accept the prize. All of them white.

Mandy Patinkin and Patti LaPone were presenters together. That’s like Godzilla and Mothra on the same stage. There must be teeth marks on every piece of backstage scenery at the Beacon and three neighboring theaters.

Otherwise, Hugh Jackman won an award for being Hugh Jackman. Ricky Martin was not worth the hype. Side effects of Cymbalta include a fast heart rate, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, canker sores, high cholesterol, and acne.

The show ran over. Normally that’s no big deal but there are three missing people out there with no one looking for them.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to join the after-theater crowd for an elegant midnight barbeque buffet on the Lido Deck.

Sea you at the theater!

44 comments:

AbbeyB said...

As a theater-lover, I have to admit I look forward to the Tony Awards probably more than any other award show. This year's show was definitely flawed -- it became a three-hour Royal Caribbean cruise line commercial -- and the hosting was definitely less amusing than last year, but overall I'm pleased with the result. I thoroughly enjoyed Jon Robin Baitz' "Other Desert Cities" and wish it had won more, I thought "Porgy & Bess" was well done and I'm glad to see it being positively recognized, and I thought "Peter & the Starcatcher" was charming and heartfelt and I'm so glad to see it recognized as well. I haven't seen "Once" but now that it's practically swept the Tonys, I might have to buy tickets...

lillispad said...

I actually like the Tonys. Theatre people know how to do smarm with class.

One more: "Mike Nichols was this year's Angela Landsbury. Jessica Chastain was this year's Brooke Shields."

unkystan said...

I saw "One Man, Two Guv'ners" last week and have to say that James Corden was amazing. Hope everyone who enjoys farce (which I assume is everyone who reads Ken)gets to see this. And as for beating out JE Jones, Langella, PS Hoffman and Lithgow all I have to say is thank goodness the Tonys award the indivdual performance rather than the name (the exception being Zeta-Jones a few years back).

Johnny Walker said...

NPH FTW

I'll happily watch the opening closing ceremonies for him alone.

PatGLex said...

Although I never get to NYC to see any new shows on Broadway, the Tonys Awards show does give me an idea of what I might want to go to when the touring companies hit town. I was particularly interested this year because a Kentucky "kid" from Ashland was up for a Tony. [Lead Actor in a Musical - Steve Kazee - and he won, yay!]

What I want to know is -- how did Christian Borle appear in Smash AND Peter and the Starcatcher on Broadway at the same time? (Was the Broadway run after the show ended? Or did they film SMASH in NYC and that was his day job?)

Roger Owen Green said...

I LOVE the Tonys. When these shows finally tour, I have a vague idea what they are. Memphis, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee I have seen this year. Oh, and Jersey Boys, but I didn't need the Tonys to tell me what THAT was about.

Unknown said...

Here's a Friday question from Mark

Hi Ken,

Really enjoyed Warren Littlefield's book about the rise and fall of Must See TV at NBC. I was wondering what did you think of it and were you asked to particpate?

Todd Ayres said...

That Lion King thing was a sight gag that fell flat. Didn't you see the guy behind him pretending to be annoyed that he couldn't see around him?

DJ said...

To make things a bit more clearer/poignant, Corden's child was born five days before he crossed the Atlantic to start previews for his first Broadway show.

*tarazza said...

Yikes, this review/recap was rather scathing...

I love me some Tony Awards. The musical numbers, the Broadway names I never get to see (except for the occasional appearance on Smash)... all awards shows are silly, and this one is no exception, but I'm grateful they air them. This Iowa girl doesn't get to go to New York that often.

BigTed said...

"Once" was an extremely charming movie, and the theme song "Falling Slowly" (which I think won the best song Oscar) is beautiful. But the couple from the movie performed that same song, and virtually nothing else, on every TV show appearance for the next three years. Now it's the theme to a Broadway show as well? (It was the walk-on music every time the show won another Tony.) I'm sure the couple who in the Broadway production also sing this song beautifully, but enough already.

OrangeTom said...

What was up with the song from Jesus Christ Superstar? Performer looked like he was borrowing Bill Murray's lounge singer act from SNL

Matt Patton said...

I assume the number from FOLLIES was the one with the endless title about only wanting the girl he can't really have and under-appreciating the one who's actually in love with him. It's actually wonderful, at least on the 1971 cast album (I make a point of ignoring awards shows) -- like most of Sondheim's shows, the score does all of the heavy lifting . . .

I also make a point of ignoring Judy Garland impersonators of all genders. That was easier yesterday, because they were showing THE WIZARD OF OZ, which manages to be a great vaudeville show, a fantasy adventure, and a not-bad action thriller pretty much at once and still runs under two hours. Garland was not only a very poised comedienne, she cried better than anybody in the business at the time. There are scenes in this movie that have torn me up since I was a kid and still do . . .

As for James Corden, I've seen the ad for ONE MAN, TWO GUV'NERS on YouTube, and if that's any sample of his work in the play, he deserved that Tony, if only for Most Stamina displayed by a Leading Actor (there's a bit showing him wearing a fez, and I suddenly found myself reminded of the brilliantly frenzied British comedian Tommy Cooper, whom I also discovered on YouTube. Check him out. You are pretty much guaranteed several serious belly laughs . . .)

Lauren B. said...

I missed most of the show because I didn't even realize it was on, but flipped past in just in time to catch the number from Jesus Christ Superstar. Yikes. I love that show, and have never seen it live, but I'll be skipping this production.

RCP said...

Very much enjoyed this funny review. While I fully support the theater, I'm afraid I was sidetracked from watching by a 1976 episode of Columbo (Ricardo Montalban was a villainous bullfighter) - sorry, Tonys!

Johnny Walker said...

Friday question:

Hi Ken, I know you're a fan of Coupling, but have you seen Moffat's earlier show, Joking Apart? If so, what did you make of it?

cadavra said...

PatGLex: SMASH was filmed before PETER began its run. Since it's an ensemble program and Borle's not in it all that much, it's possible that his scenes could be shot in two days each week, allowing him to do six performances of PETER.

Ken: If you haven't seen ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS, don't waste any time: Corden is supposedly leaving the show in September.

Also, it's unfair to compare the Tonys' ratings to the other awards shows. Movies, TV and music are seen/heard by millions, perhaps tens of millions. A hit Broadway show that sells out every performance will still only be seen by maybe half a million, most of them New Yorkers or other East Coasters. We should be grateful that CBS is still willing to carry the broadcast. Nothing is as exciting as live theatre, and if it encourages people to see a show--not just in NY but anywhere--then more power to it. Plus it's always the best awards program because most of the presenters are used to working in front of a live audience.

stang119 said...

I just realized! No In Memoriam! I actually look forward to them.

Cass said...

@DJ - Actually, it's Corden's second Broadway show. I saw him 6 years ago in The History Boys, another London transfer which won 6 Tonys.

A_Homer said...

I thought the NPH opening was witty, including the intermission and understudy bits. I just think NPH - who is a great for tv - doesn't have enough vocal dynamic and that projecting stage power to make it snap, which was obvious when you see Lupone enter and sing, the direction contained her to a very small dose, followed by more time given to the joke about interrupting the climactic scene for intermission. It was obvious when you see the "understudy" come in and give it all. NPH is the Tony Randall part (although sure, Randall played to the back rows, but for argument here) who is being cast against type as if the starring Rock Hudson part. That doesn't work for Broadway musical numbers where one strong presence is needed. It feels more cabaret, which is fine for hosting though.

Canuck said...

The Tonys didn't sell me any tickets this year. Neil Patrick Harris did the best with what he was given but it ain't nice to upstage dear old Angela
I had just watched Ferris Bueller again the other evening and it was disheartening to see Matthew Broderick waddle around now in a fat man's suit
Follies lost again. That obscure number from the show, didn't help.Few engaging new musicals now.
So many seem to call out for some of that Fosse magic

mikhail said...

Yeah and there was another one when NPH was with the audience again, the crowd was passing a lady to her seat in the background.

D. McEwan said...

"Canuck said...
Follies lost again. That obscure number from the show, didn't help."


How is Buddy's Blues "obscure"? It's been in every production of Follies I've ever seen, and on every Follies score recording I've ever heard. I thought it was done really well, obliterating the hated memory of Mandy Patinkin's awful over-performance of it back in the 1980s.

In any event, it in no way impacted whether Follies won a Tony or not. The voting is all finished before the Tony Awards show even starts, honest.

"Matt Patton said...
I assume the number from FOLLIES was the one with the endless title about only wanting the girl he can't really have and under-appreciating the one who's actually in love with him."


It was, except that the song's title is "Buddy's Blues". At 2 words, the title does not strike me as particularly "endless."

"OrangeTom said...
What was up with the song from Jesus Christ Superstar? Performer looked like he was borrowing Bill Murray's lounge singer act from SNL"


I must agree. It was slow, cheesy, and devoid of any sense of rock.

"RCP said...
While I fully support the theater, I'm afraid I was sidetracked from watching by a 1976 episode of Columbo (Ricardo Montalban was a villainous bullfighter) - sorry, Tonys!"


A good Columbo, despite having to turn somorsaults to justify a Los Angeles policeman investigating a murder in Mexico. Poor Ricardo killed a man who saved his life rather than have anyone know he'd grown afraid of the bulls. And it features an always-welcome performance by the late Pedro Amrmandariz Jr. (I watched the Tonys, but I don't think there is a Columbo episode I haven't seen 3 or 4 times minimum.)

No In Memorium. Hmm, did no one from Broadway die this year, or did they refuse to be "honored" on a show featuring a cruise ship performance? (Or worse, was the In Memorium cut to make room for the Cruise ship bit?) Sponsoring a show is supposed to buy you time in the commercial breaks, not on the show itself.

"PatGLex said...
What I want to know is -- how did Christian Borle appear in Smash AND Peter and the Starcatcher on Broadway at the same time?"


You do know, don't you, that Broadway performances are at night except for matinee days, while TV is shot during the day? You must know that. I mean, how dumb would a person have to be not to know that? Without Broadway actors being able to shoot TV shows during the day, Law & Order would have been 20 years of the cops just hanging out at the police station without suspects or lawyers.

chuckcd said...

The Tonys?
Do they still do that?

Dr. Hoo-Ha said...

The reason James Corden wears a fez for about 2 minutes in One Man Two Guvnors is a salute to Doctor Who fans. Corden appeared in two very popular episodes of Doctor Who, where the character of the Doctor occasionally wears a fez.

Anonymous said...

Ummm... Ken, I think you may have missed the lead...

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=dee_1339534288

D. McEwan said...

A friend of mine who works in NYC theater (Composer) informed me today that producers have to PAY to have musical numbers from their shows in the broadcast, never mind that without them, the ratings would be even lower than they always are. This is why un-nominated shows like Ghost and Godspell got numbers in the show. (Also the very, very cute black guy starring in Godspell is a lead from the popular Disney High School Musical series of TV musicals, I geuss he's the black Zac Efron, so he brings young fans to the broadcast.)

And of course, the cruise ship line paid a huge amount to have their crapola pollute the broadcast, even if meant slighting Mike Nichols, and slighting every Broadway great who died last year to make room for it.

James Corden was extremely likable on his two Doctor Who appearences, for which he is far better known in America than for anything else he has done. But really: "She's may baby mama and I can't wait to marry her!" He's been doing a good job of waiting up till now. (And yes, The Doctor established a catchphrase "I wear a fez now; fezzes are cool." He has since applied the phrase to other apparel: stetsons, bow ties. But even The Doctor saying "I wear a bow tie now; bow ties are cool," can't make bow ties cool.)

msnova said...

It seems like "Broadway" is becoming trendy code for "TV stars who got stale"/"TV stars in semi retirement", which is really sad.

Pat Reeder said...

To Doug McEwan:

Thanks for explaining that the number from "Ghost" was the result of paid placement. Now it makes sense. No wonder they nominated two straight plays for Best Score rather than nominate that actual "musical."

I didn't even recognize that as a song at first. I thought from the way the three of them were all screaming at once that they must've just SEEN a ghost.

BTW, the guy from "Follies" was okay, but nobody will ever nail that song like Ed McMahon did.

D. McEwan said...

Well, I certainly recognized Unchained Melody when the girl in Ghost was singing it, leaving me wondering if it conatined ANY original content at all.

Cedric Hogan said...

ghost wasn't "un-nominated". I think that it had 3 noms. that number that they did was the act one finale. I have the cd. it's pretty good, with awesome songs by the guy from the Eurythmics. Too bad that they only had two minutes to squish all of the songs together. I saw the show in London and it's mind blowing the way they use the illusions.

MK said...

Somewhere Che Guevara is rolling rolling rolling in his grave.

Tallulah Morehead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tallulah Morehead said...

You really think Che's ghost is heavily invested in The Tonys, or even gives a crap? If he is, he may be thinking: "I wish I'd looked that good."

I have no idea how well the real Che did or didn't sing, or if he ever sang at all, but he never looked as good as Ricky Martin. Better to look like Ricky Martin than Benicio Del Toro. (That said, Ricky's performance, and the Jesus Christ Superstar number, were spectacularly unspectacular and unexciting.)

Gin Martini said...

The Tony's unfortunately are trapped between three mediums....Theatre and TV and the Movies...the producers on Broadway have turned incessantly to names to sell the shows and the true spirit of the producing live theatre with actors trained in this specific craft is lost and completely dumbed down. So the cycle becomes interrupted with theatre composers and actors creating works that can rise up be special are lost to crass commercialism...whats a theatre to do?

cadavra said...

For the record, the character "Che" in EVITA is a fictional character and NOT Che Guevara. However, some productions have foolishly made-up and dressed the character to look like Guevara, which understandably adds to the confusion.

Doug: Apparently the "In Memoriam" segment ran in the theatre during a commercial break.

RCP said...

D. McEwan said...

"I watched the Tonys, but I don't think there is a Columbo episode I haven't seen 3 or 4 times minimum."

Just one more thing...

In "Wings of Desire" there's a great, brief scene in which Peter Falk is addressed as "Lieutenant" - one of the all-time great television characters.

D. McEwan said...

"cadavra said...
For the record, the character "Che" in EVITA is a fictional character and NOT Che Guevara. However, some productions have foolishly made-up and dressed the character to look like Guevara, which understandably adds to the confusion."


Just as long as he is not Mandy Patinkin!

"Doug: Apparently the 'In Memoriam' segment ran in the theatre during a commercial break."

Yes, I learned this after commenting on it. They shoved their tribute to Broadway's recently departed greats off the broadcast to make more room for the cruise ship crap. Utterly disgraceful and inexcusable!

cadavra said...

Agreed.

BTW, at the risk of starting another squabble, I just want to state for the record that I LOVE Mandy Patinkin.

(runs for the hills)

Kerri said...

Mandy patinkin is wonderful. How bitter do you have to be to snipe at him?

D. McEwan said...

You don't have to be "bitter" to snipe at Mandy Patinkin, just someone who hates extreme over-acting. The man even over-acts as he sings. probably over-act as he sleeps. I've seen acting in silent movies that was more subtle.

And of course, working with him also tends to turn many people against him, as the egomaniac is HIGHLY difficult to work with.

But I'll say this for him: you can always her every word clear as a bell, even in the cheap seats - of the theater across the street.

Lorimartian said...

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have seen Mandy Patinkin as Che in the US debut of Evita at the Music Center...or was it at the fabulous Shubert (RIP - miss you) in Century City...before it went to Broadway. His was a memorable, exciting, gritty, visceral, driving performance, totally deserving of the Tony he eventually earned for the role. Unfortunately, Ricky Martin just skims the surface. Sadly missed opportunity for him to impress.

However, I was disappointed in Mandy when I saw him perform in concert at the Hollywood Bowl, I think, some years back after his success with Sondheim. I was anxiously waiting for him to sing something from Evita. According to an acquaintance who claimed to know, "Mandy only sings Sondheim now." Sheesh.

Read your blog from time to time, Ken. Still funny after all these years.

Dorothy Douglas said...

Actually "buddy's blues" isn't the actual name of the song. That is what a lot of people call it because the name is actually pretty long. It's actually called "The-God-why-don't-you-love-me blues"

Anonymous said...

The Tonys is not the only major awards show that doesn't beam live to the left coast. The Grammys have been on CBS for 39 years and have ALWAYS been delayed for the west coast. Until a few years ago the Emmys were broadcast on a delayed basis. Only the Academy Awards have always been show LIVE in all time zones at the same time. Maybe ABC is onto something.