Monday, June 13, 2011

My 2011 Tony Awards review

Time for my annual Tony Award Show review, or, for the 99.99% of you who didn’t watch it – a recap of what you missed. I’m joined by my adorable snarky daughter Annie and her twisted writing partner, Jon Emerson.

I had a rooting interest in the program this year. Several friends were up for awards. Bill & Cheri Steinkellner for the book of SISTER ACT (lost), John Benjamin Hickey for Best Supporting actor (won!), and Andrew Rannells for best actor in a musical (lost). Andrew, however, sang the featured song from THE BOOK OF MORMON and I think the four of you who saw the show will agree that he’s going to be a huge star. Proud to say he starred in the musical I co-wrote that went nowhere and the reading of my play that went nowhere.
Meanwhile, over on ABC, the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA Finals. But if you know who Nina Arianda is and not Dirk Nowitzki, you were watching the Tonys.

Usually I say the Tonys are the only award show where no one thanks their wives. This year, with THE BOOK OF MORMON there was the chance that winners would thank many wives. But not so. That would require Mormons to actually be involved.

THE BOOK OF MORMON won every award except the one I wanted it to win – Andrew’s. Norbert Leo Butz got that prize and I’m sure he was very deserving but shit! He never collaborated with me on any theater projects that went nowhere.

My guess is Andrew and fellow cast member Josh Gad split the votes.

The Tonys are still the only major award show that is tape-delayed for the West Coast. But considering it will take three years for the winning shows to get to the West Coast, three hours is no big whoop. Besides, everyone was watching the basketball game anyway.

Usually the ceremony is held at Radio City Music Hall. This year’s venue was the much cozier Beacon Theatre. So for the first time, the CBS television audience will be larger than the attending audience.

I didn’t cover the Red Carpet coverage because, well… there was Red Carpet coverage?

Neil Patrick Harris is the best awards host EVER. His opening number was hilarious. “Broadway is Not Just For Gays Anymore”. Of course, as Annie pointed out, five minutes later they did a production number called “The Brotherhood of Men” (from HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS).

One thing we learned last night: NEVER use Brook Shields on a live show. What a disaster. She completely bollixed her four-line stanza in the opening number and then as a presenter had to be bleeped. I’m sure another twelve seconds on camera and her nipple would have popped out.

Favorite lyric in Harris’ opening number – “Come in and be inspired/No sodomy required”. I’m only sorry those weren’t Brook Shields’ lines.

Say what you will about the Tonys -- they are for Gays… and Jews. And most people have never heard of any of the shows or performers – but there is always more actual entertainment in their ceremony than all the other award shows combined. I find it a little odd that 30 million people will watch Bristol Palin clomp around like a Clydesdale on DANCING WITH THE STARS but eight people tune in to see the finest singers and dancers in musical comedy perform magnificent production numbers.

In pre-show non-televised ceremonies, Eve Ensler, who wrote THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES received a special award for her humanitarian efforts and for reminding us that Broadway is firmly committed to social change and vaginas.

John Leguizamo is painfully unfunny. He’s the George Lopez of Broadway. Awards for Choreography and Best Score weren’t deemed important enough to air in primetime but it was okay to give this enemy of comedy ten minutes of precious air time. When he was finished they cut to a shot of Chris Rock in the audience who spoke for all of America when he mouthed, “What the fuck?”

Samuel L. Jackson, in his white jacket, black slacks, and white shoes came dressed perfectly for the occasion – if the occasion was the shuffleboard championships on the Lido Deck of the Crystal Serenity.

A big winner was the very deserving THE NORMAL HEART (a gut wrenching play about AIDS) and the big surprise later in the evening was the cast reunion of PRICILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT. Maybe they should have saved that “Broadway is not just for Gays anymore” number for another year.

Mark Rylance won for best actor in JERUSELEUM. But he would have won for LA BETE had he put that one up instead. One of the greatest comic performances I have ever seen.

He also gives the most unique speeches. For the second time he just read a prose poem. This one on how to walk through walls.

Thank God Al Pacino didn’t win. I don’t think I could have endured another of his rambling incoherent acceptance babbles. I’m still trying to figure out what he was saying at the 2004 Emmys.

Nikki James from THE BOOK OF MORMON gave the most frenetic speech. When she launched into some incomprehensible story about bumblebees five minutes in, I found myself yelling “Get off! GET OFF!” It’s like the first minute I’m thrilled for these people, the second minute I start getting antsy, and by minute four I want them off the stage even they’re in the middle of thanking me.

Still, the most emotional moment of the night was when Sutton Foster (who I absolutely love) almost broke down because her long-time dresser gave notice. I’d say folks in the Red States might click off at this point but who are we kidding? They were gone by the sodomy joke.

Winner Ellen Barkin gets the “Diva” award for the speech by an actor who takes themselves the most seriously. Her speech, delivered without a trace of irony, included all of the following words and phrases: profound, transformed me as a human being, one person can change the world, genius, Atlas, bravest. What she didn’t do was thank her children.

Patti LuPone was nominated for WOMAN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. Annie observed, “She was nominated for playing herself?”

No one was happier that WAR HORSE won Best Play than the CBS censor. One of the other nominees was THE MOTHERFUCKER WITH THE HAT. I can only imagine if that had won.

Off-stage announcer, Randy Thomas was, as usual, flawless. She should announce every award show, be the voice of my GPS, and give the starting line-ups at Yankee Stadium.

In an attempt to capture a larger audience, the presenters were all TV or movie personalities. The Tonys this year was a “No Nathan Lane Zone”. Instead you had Brook Shields, Jim Parsons, Chris Rock (who was hysterical), Marg Helgenberger, Christy Brinkley (for crying out loud), and Karl Marx. (Huh? Oh. That was Robin Williams?) I’m surprised they didn’t have Mr. Ed introduce WAR HORSE.

Whoopi Goldberg came out wearing a pirate hat the size of Lichtenstein. She really needed it because she wasn’t overbearing and over-the-top enough.

For the first time in the 65-year history of the Tony Awards, they waited a full two hours before the Sondheim tribute number.

Annie wondered why Bono and The Edge introduced their own song (from the musical SPIDERMAN), and Jon said, “Because no one else would sign the waiver”.

Sick joke alert but I laughed: When Tyne Daly was introducing the In Memoriam segment and saying the theater lost many great people this year, Jon chimed in with, “Yeah, and half the cast of SPIDERMAN”.

Frances McDormand must’ve known she was going to win. She wore her best Levi jacket. Maybe next time she’ll also wash her hair.

The show concluded with another amazing Neil Patrick Harris musical re-cap. Whoever writes these intricate numbers (obviously on the fly) is brilliant and how Harris can perform them live with no rehearsal is beyond me. All I could think was – oh please, next year let Brook Shields host.


Kerri said...

Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of In The Heights, helped write NPH's rap and was on hand to teach it to him. There is apparently video he plans to upload when his Twitter following increases a litte.

Unknown said...

Mavs won! Finally!

While Wade was playing soccer with the ball and LeBron thought it would be a great day to test if he could throw the ball up, over, and behind the ring without touching anything (magical!) Dirk put it in!


Wearing that Mavs cap I bought in Dallas in 2003 and never wore before worked! Finally!

Glad to see you and your daughter had a nice evening too Ken :-D

Charles H. Bryan said...

If anyone else had hosted the Tonys last night I would have been watching the game (although game stats show that the part of Lebron James was being played by Angela Lansbury).

The opening number -- full of great lines -- is here:

Also, I'd like to be inside Mark Rylance's brain for even just a little while.

wv - chances. No, seriously, I got an actual word. What a disappointment.

Paul Duca said...

This is the second best reason to be a Mormon...the first being that when you die, you get to be the God of your own universe (the males, that is...females ust marry a God and churn out the population of His universe).

Debby G said...

Great piece, Ken! I'm going to NYC in a few weeks with tickets to Book of Mornon. Can't wait!

Thanks for posting the link to the opening number, Charles. That was fantastic! Except for Brooke's idiotic screw-up, which at least showed off NPH's remarkable ability to save the show in a charmingly entertaining way.

Mary Stella said...

I was flipping channels back and forth so now I'll go on YouTube to watch the opening number. The closing rap was hysterical.

Laughed out loud at the acceptance speech where the guy from Book of Mormons thanked their collaborator Joseph Smith who would have been there except he's dead.

Saw Frances McDormand and wondered when The Gap started supplying stylists to the stars.

bobg said...

Though it weakens your joke, the number is called "The Brotherhood of MAN."

Ian said...

I have to admit that Neil Patrick Harris is probably the best awards show host there is. Imagine how good he'll be when he's old enough to vote.

And what about little Harry Potter? Who knew?

Normally I wouldn't even notice, let alone comment, on a performer's appearance, but what happened to Frances McDormand? Were they out of shampoo at her house?

Allison H said...

The NBA is so boring and obnoxious. Why would anyone choose to watch that over the awesomeness of The Tony Awards? And no, I'm not joking.

Please Don't Eat Me said...

Oddly, I must have been one of the eight who were watching the Tony's and when Mark Rylance began his speech I said to my wife, "He's reciting Louis Jenkins again. Don't they have any Wisconsin poets (Jenkins is from Minnesota and Rylance is from Wisconsin)?

And for those of you who care (maybe half of the eight), here's Louis Jenkins reading "The Back Country" the poem Rylance recited when he won the Tony in 2008 and here's an audio link to "Walking Through a Wall" the poem Rylance spoke when he won last night.

Mike Botula said...

You nailed it, Ken.
Monica and I loved the show, and your review took me back to one of my best "Awards Show Evenings" ever. I wish Comcast offered a "bars and tone channel," so I would have some meaningful alternative programming when it's time for the CMT Awards, DWTS and the other "awards" shows.

David P said...

Leo Norbert Butz is a hilarious performer. He previously won for "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" - look on youtube for his performance of "Great Big Stuff". Because, Ken, if you wrote lyrics like "The fashion plate I date will give me hummers in my Hummer" your performaers would win Tonys, too.

Anonymous said...

Can we get the guy who wrote NPH's songs start writing for the Oscars? LOVE watching the Tonys because it is the only way I will get to see any of the shows.

I couldn't believe that NO ONE was on their feet for Angela Landsbury. How fabulous did she look?

I missed NPH's first number. I'm sure it is out in the ether somewhere.

Sick humor is the best kind. Loved the 6 Spiderman jokes in 1 minute or what ever he did.

Pam aka SisterZip

Mr. Snrub said...

I know i'm out of step with the rest of the country on this, but, i just don't get Neil Patrick Harris. He comes across as a guy who thinks he's really funny, but, just...isn't. Like that guy who plays 'Chuck'. NPH just seems a bit like a Matthew Perry re-tread to me...

That said, he's really talented. Good actor, great singer, confident, etc... I just don't know why people think he's HILAAAARIOUS.

Ken, you're right, though. I don't know how Dancing with the Stars gets high ratings and the Tony's gets soccer numbers. Unreal.

Kyle said...

On Bono & The Edge...
I was impressed that they were able to poke fun at the Spider-Man musical and at themselves...I've never thought of Bono as being particularly self-effacing. Also, whenever they were shown in the audience, they really seemed to be enjoying the show.

RCP said...

Missed a good chunk of the first hour (as Laurel and Hardy were on TCM) but did tune in to most of the rest of the show and was pleasantly surprised. You make an excellent point about the quality of the singing and dancing that a good chunk of viewers miss out on.

Wonder what was going on with Frances McDormand, who looked like she had just spent a week driving around and sleeping in a VW bus.

Terrific recap - thanks Ken, Annie, and Jon!

Cap'n Bob said...

Since I don't care about the NBA and am too far from Broadway to have any interest in the Tonys, I took a nap that evening. When I woke up I worked on my jigsaw puzzle, which is very difficult. Thank you for taking the time to tell me what I missed, Ken.

Anatomy of A Dinner Party said...

Thank God. I thought I was just imagining most of my dismay at those weird speeches (and Frances's awful jacket - was she on her way to McDonalds when she turned to Ethan and said - "Cripes, the Tony Awards are tonight!")

Cannot get enough of NPH - he is the greatest.

sewa mobil said...

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*tarazza said...

Love this quote, Ken: "I find it a little odd that 30 million people will watch Bristol Palin clomp around like a Clydesdale on DANCING WITH THE STARS but eight people tune in to see the finest singers and dancers in musical comedy perform magnificent production numbers." So true!

And enjoyed this recap a lot. GREAT year for the Tonys.

FYI, Lin-Manuel Miranda (Tony winner for writing/starring in In the Heights) wrote those end-credit lyrics. That guy is amazing.

BigTed said...

Norbert Leo Butz won because he plays the Tom Hanks role from the movie -- and Tom Hanks has to win everything.

Didn't John Larroquette win so many Emmys for "Night Court" that he finally took himself out of the running? That must be what he was referring to when he went on about getting more honors than he deserves.

Not only were there a lot of TV stars in the show, but especially a lot of CBS stars. Is that because the network airing the show gets to choose some of the participants (as other awards on Fox and ABC seem to)? Or is it just that CBS is the network for middle-class tourists and old people -- Broadway's real mainstay audience?

mintice said...

@BigTed - John Larroquette previously won five Emmys and has been pulling himself out of running ever since.

I remember there being speculation a few years ago that he was going to be put in a sixth time for Boston Legal but it didn't happen.

I'm happy that he won the Tony, he's much better on Broadway/theater than he is on television (How To Succeed was GLORIOUS!), TV seems to have been confining and typecasting him over the past decade.

kim said...

Great review. I loved the show - the entire thing was entertaining. And I love NPH. He's the best of the best. :)

Michael said...

Chris Rock "hysterical"? I'd use another adjective that also begins with "h." Barely 24-hrs. after having reversed his defense of Tracy Morgan's endorsement of murdering one's gay son, Rock couldn't resist ending the broadcast by pitting for millions of Tony Awards viewers his attending a basketball game ["butch heterosexuality"] against an evening with Nathan Lane ["nelly faggotry"]. Anyone so concerned about affirming his straight masculinity might want to avoid being such an asshole. Is he producing another movie exploiting black homophobia as his rewrite of the British film "Death at a Funeral" did? We humbly suggest, Mr. Rock, that you have someone read to you the life of Bayard Rustin, mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr., and learn how you'd be lucky to be sweeping the stage rather than on it were it not for a gay black man.

basura said...

Here's an entertaining/surprising youtube clip involving Lin-Manuel Miranda

Deanna said...

I found myself screaming at the TV, "THAT'S NOT how bumblebees fly!!!"

Sharon said...

Well, sure, I watched the Tonys and not the NBA finals. It was another fine evening of entertainment.

Nice review, Ken. However, here's when I DID switch the channel to the NBA finals: Whenever the winner went on and on and on and on until my ass squirmed far too much in my easy chair and I simply HAD to get away from them as fast as I could.

It wasn't just one winner, as you mentioned in your review, it was many winners who blathered on too long that I screamed out loud, and reached for the remote.

CBS censors were also annoying - and also had me screaming at the TV. Hey, maybe the Tonys weren't all that dissimilar to being a Miami Heat fan watching the finals - lotta screamin' at TVs Sunday night.

Loved NPH as usual - he does such a fine job with these shows, as does Hugh Jackman - so I did enjoy their "sing-off."

Poor Brooke. I could picture her confabing with her husband (or Lin-Manual) after her major gaff as to what to say once she presented an award - and you know, I think it worked. Made us laugh at her laughing at herself.

And as for Frances - nothing says "I don't really give a fuck about awards shows" better than a beat up jeans jacket and bed-head.

Loved the shout out to Randy Thomas, who always does such a good job.

Okay, when do we start the campaign to get NPH to host the Oscars?


Mac said...

The opening number is friggin' hilarious; Neil Patrick Harris was terrific - even faced with Brooke Shield's slow car-crash, he was in total control.

I used to see Mark Rylance in his tights and codpiece, giving it the old Shakespearean vibe at the Globe Theatre in London. Who knew that he had such phenomenal comedy chops as well? The guy's amazing.

bettyd said...

Leo Norbert Butz was also in the original cast of Wicked as was great as well.

I flipped to the game at the longer speeches as well. I thought Chris Rock's comments were amusing, but I see the point that it goes back to NPH opening song about "not just for gays".

I thought this show was so much more fun than any of the other big-4 award shows this year.

Jusces Americus said...

When Stern is gone and the Sonics return to Superdom, I'll consider watching the NBA again. And, when I have access and the financial wherewithal to attend Broadway shows, I'll be concerned with the Tonys. Till then, I'll by-pass both in favor of whatever re-runs are clogging Sunday night TV...last night, 2 hrs. of Soap. Richard Mulligan, what a great comic actor!

Anonymous said...

To Mr. Snrub. You are not alone. I think NPH is way to full of himself, and I do not think he is funny. The writer who wrote the banter songs is the one who is funny.

Bring back Hugh Jackman. He's awesome!

There was a basketball game?

KXB said...

Hey "Michael"- Yeah, let's supress any form of free speech that YOU (or other special interest groups) find "unsuitable", why don't we...that last line you wrote was quite telling, almost sounds like wishful (group)thinking on your part...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing THE funniest, most succinct review of the Tonys telecast. The Bristol Palin - Clydesdale comment is hilarious. We've linked your blog to ours...and we're now devoted fans of your site.

P.S. For what it's worth, I thought that Mark Rylance was the only person in Tony history to successfully "pull off" the difficult task of summing up his play in that horrid segment where actors/puppet horses are forced to describe their play in 45 seconds or less...

Becky said...

Thank you for writing THE funniest, most succinct review of the Tonys telecast. The Bristol Palin - Clydesdale comment is hilarious. We've linked your blog to ours we're now devoted fans of your site.

P.S. For what it's worth, I thought that Mark Rylance was the only person in Tony history to successfully "pull off" the difficult task of summing up his play in that horrid segment where actors/puppet horses are forced to describe their play in 45 seconds or less...

6/13/2011 2:33 PM

Buttermilk Sky said...

I'm confused. Was Nathan Lane there hanging out with Chris Rock, or not?

Pat Reeder said...

And I thought I was the only straight man who watches the Tonys. Except last night, I had to record it off of rabbit ears because ATT-U-Verse was on day five of providing me no TV/phone/Internet, so I was doing my writing work at Kinko's. BTW, I'm in Dallas, and my Kinko's shares a parking lot with Bikini's Sports Grill, which of course was PACKED. I strongly considered sticking my head in the door and yelling, "Hey, could you change the channel?! I want to see who wins the Tony for Best Musical!"

Also, I freely cop to having a sick sense of humor. I had a line on our radio comedy service weeks ago about how the Tonys would include a special "In Memorium" segment just for actors killed while performing in "Spider-Man."

VW: Cytonni - The special Tony Award presented to Cy Coleman.

SharoneRosen said...

no mention of Daniel Radcliff?? Our little Harry Potter danced his ass off! I was impressed.

I knew Book of Mormon would sweep, I was just sorry to see Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (my horse in this race) walk away unnoticed. They deserved more notice, and definitely more nominations.

Over all, you nailed it! Loved the show. Loved NPH (esp. with Hugh Jackman) and the opening and closings were bloody brilliant!

Cap'n Bob said...

Speaking of censorship, FRASIER has been rerunning on the Hallmark Channel recently and I notice they bleep out every word that might offend their Amish viewers. Crap, butt, pissed off, ass, and probably forsooth if it was ever uttered. How do you feel about this, Ken?

Eileen said...

Googled "2011 Tony Awards TV Show Review" and was rewarded with this plum of a blog. Thanks for your witty comments and insight. Also, wasn't Daniel Radcliff terrific? He looked like he was having the time of his life. Thanks!


te said...

Cap'n Bob:

Funny coincidence: I am this very moment watching Frazier on Hallmark (most recent beep I noticed was "bitch") and was thinking of raising the same point.

But Frazier sure does hold up! (they've been running the arc with Felicity Huffman).

xjill said...

Daniel Radcliffe dancing his as* off is forever awesome. Ken - are you going to see "Company" in a movie theater on Wed. like me?

Ellen's speech was too much for me. She was SO. SERIOUS.

I liked that they showed Jim Parsons in the audience with his partner - I don't think he's ever "come out" so that was nice to see.

David P said...

Here's the difference between Daniel Radcliffe (not nominated) and Leo Norbert Butz (Tony winner):

You can see the effort Daniel is putting into the number. With Leo, you can't.

And re "Wicked": if I want great Leo Norbert Butz I'll listen to "The Last Five Years". I saw the original cast perform "Wicked" and was underwhelmed; a handful of OK songs and no memorable performances.

Anonymous said...

Leo Norbert Butz is from St. Louis and his brother talks about how hard the last couple of years have been for Leo and the family. That is what he was referring to in his acceptance speech.


Anonymous said...

Am I the only one disappointed in the number from Book of Mormon (great though it was)? I love, love, love the soundtrack, and I was hoping they'd do Turn It Off, because it sounds like it has tap dancing in it.

mrswing said...

Daniel Radcliffe was very impressive, especially as he's neither a singer or a dancer. He really gave it his all. (incidentally, why isn't he starring in The Hobbit???)

Hugh Jackman was grrrrreat - please, somebody, put him in a classic-style musical while he still has his looks, pipes and dancin' feet!

Sutton Foster was absolutely awesome in Anything Goes, which reminded me of those big MGM Eleanor Powell ship routines. If she'd been around in the 40s or 50s, ms. Foster would have been an international superstar. Such a shame all this musical theatre talent doesn't get to make movies anymore...

Tallulah Morehead said...

"mrswing said...
Daniel Radcliffe was very impressive, especially as he's neither a singer or a dancer. He really gave it his all. (incidentally, why isn't he starring in The Hobbit???)"

Because Bilbo is supposed to be 50 in The Hobbit, and so casting an actor who went through puberty a week ago would not be right. And just maybe, after over a decade playing wizards, he felt it was time to play a human being.

Radcliffe is a very talented actor, but he was miscast as an American (on BROADWAY! You'd think there was at least ONE American who could have played it!), and awards for singing an dancing go to singers and dancers, not non-singers and non-dancers who are visibly winded by halfway through that horrible choreography they threw out all the great original Bob Fosse choreography in favor of.

Infauxtainer said...

NPH's opening number was just fab!

"...and well-to-do suburbanites,
and liberal intellectuals,
oh that group is only Jews and homosexuals..."

David K. M. Klaus said...

Moe Howard received mail addressed to "The Three Stooges, Hollywood, California" and answered it. A young fan from Ohio struck up such a friendship that Moe and his wife invited the kid to their house for lunch when he visited Los Angeles.

On The Tonight Show Johnny once showed a letter delivered to him at NBC addressed in pictures: a toilet, someone's bent leg, an automobile, and our star. The Post Office had no trouble correctly interpreting John-Knee Car-Sun

cityslkrz said...

but there is always more actual entertainment in their ceremony than all the other award shows combined. I find it a little odd that 30 million people will watch Bristol Palin clomp around like a Clydesdale on DANCING WITH THE STARS but eight people tune in to see the finest singers and dancers in musical comedy perform magnificent production numbers.