So, my very favorite weekend of television just passed…the second Sunday of June, when the Tony Awards airs and the Broadway season is condensed for those of us rabid theater fans with extremely shallow pockets. I never get to watch it the night of, from my conflicting dance recitals in my early VCR days to working a night job in this TiVo Season Pass age…but I do get to delay it a day with little to no spoilage. A blessing and a curse, that–while I’m glad I can usually view it fresh, I’m saddened that everyone doesn’t find theater’s biggest night more newsworthy. So when I saw that Buzzfeed had chronicled all of the performances of the evening, I was tickled pink….until I read it. Their ranking and commentary left me annoyed as a still-aspiring performer and a Broadway fan. So I’m calling them on the carpet.
(I’m responding in the order of their “worst to best” ranking only because it’s easier, and NOT because I agree with their classification. I quite enjoyed the entire evening–so much so that I saved the entire show as opposed to just the numbers like I usually do.)
18. “Rock Island,” The Music Man
“Weird doesn’t even begin to cover it” is the commentary attached to the performance of this tune performed with a hip-hop flair by host Hugh Jackman and rappers T.I. and LL Cool J (with a track assist courtesy of The Roots’ drummer ?uestlove). Look, if Meredith Wilson’s 1957 lyrics carry a cadence that lends itself to hip-hop, I’m all for it, as it might just interest a new audience of people who thought musicals were beyond them…can we say In The Heights, y’all? I bet y’all weren’t saying that when Jay-Z took a little red-haired girl’s stylo and threw some swag on it….
17. “The Last Ship,” Sting
“…the Tonys is not a time to debut a new lush melody that no one has ever heard before.”
We HAVE heard it before. It’s not our fault you don’t watch Great Performances on PBS or didn’t find the soundtrack album in the store, buy it and play it incessantly in your car. Or was that just me?
16. The Opening Number
OK, not gonna lie, I was confused, too. In fact, my exact FB post was “OK, finally getting started….um, what’s the deal with Hugh “Tigger” Jackman? I mean seriously, WTF?” But an homage to a Busby Berkeley number called “Take Me To Broadway” was a good call. Yes, Buzzfeed, an obscure one…but a good one nonetheless. It not only reinforces the importance of and respect for the musical’s life on the big screen, but gives us musical and musical theater geeks something to research and YouTube. (BTW, a friend of mine recognized it right away–even without the video clue provided right in the middle of the broadcast.)
15. Closing Number
Not everything has to be an 11 o’clock number…the Tonys run long as it is. I think an early winners’ celebration on stage lightened things up–a nice warm-up for all those after-parties people were about to attend.
14. “Eye of the Tiger/Undefeated Men/The Fight,” Rocky
“…this incredibly condensed version lost a lot of the WOW factor you get in the theater.” You don’t say….IT’S THE TONYS. Stuff is going to get condensed, and starting with the fight instead of doing the medley is a disservice to the TV viewer. How else are we going to get a decent sample of a musical that shouldn’t make sense but somehow does? There are guys who switched from the NBA Finals just to check this out. That’s huge!
13. “‘Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do,” Bullets Over Broadway
“Who doesn’t love a group of tap-dancing mobsters?”, they said. Who would dare challenge a group of tap-dancing mobsters if they didn’t? One less number I have to chew them out over.
12. “Always Starting Over,” If/Then
They liked her–they really liked her. It was good, too–the best live stage performance I’ve seen from Idina Menzel. She had some shaky moments with “Defy Gravity” and “Let It Go”, both of which I chalk up to the harness and, well, the freakin’ Oscars. At home on the Broadway stage and in comfortable clothes, Idina hits a home run. So clearly the elaborate, sparkly dresses are unnecessary.😉
11. “On My Way/”Raise Me Up,” Violet
BF questioned the decision to use the high-energy, high-powered gospel number that opens Act 2 of the play, but again, a good capsulized version of the entire play in a bite-site, TV viewer morsel. Everybody got a little piece of that, and I’m good with it.
10. “For Good,” Wicked
The 10th anniversary brought this performance of the current stars of the Broadway run, Jenni Barber and Christine Dwyer. And yeah, in a perfect world, a Chenoweth/Menzel duet would have been sublime. But considering a) Wicked is STILL RUNNING ON BROADWAY, and b) Idina is starring in another, totally different show, FOR WHICH SHE JUST PERFORMED, I think this was the best choice.
9. “Never Neverland,” Finding Neverland
Complaining about Jennifer Hudson not being in the show but singing at the Tonys…like no one’s ever done THAT before. Who cares? It’s J-Hud. (A later update to the article puts her as a part of the concept album, so there’s that plate of crow for them.) And add to that the dancing of SYTYCD Season 8 champion Melanie Moore as Peter Pan…well, let’s just say J. LENO could have been singing and we wouldn’t have cared.
8. Um…no 8? Too busy being snarky, I guess…..
7. “One Day More,” Les Miserables
So now we’re coming into the section of stuff they actually liked and had nothing bad to say about. It’s hard to sit unstirred by this number, particularly when voices like Ramin Karimloo, Nikki James, Andy Mientus, Will Swenson and Keala Settle are attached to it.
6. “Friend Like Me,” Aladdin
Hailed as “the best musical moment of the season” but still bitching about condensing. Do you even WANT people to try to see the whole show? We got the gist of it. Besides, James Monroe Iglehart is larger-than-life, and that’s enough to dazzle us right there.
5. “On the Sunny Side/It Don’t Mean A Thing,” After Midnight
More nice things to say–although you could have taken a cue from Hugh Jackman and acknowledged Dulé Hill, who had a featured moment AND is actually in the show. I WOULD like to know how and why Miss Patti missed her end cue, though….
4. “Wilkommen,” Cabaret
Alan Cumming. As the emcee. AGAIN. But this time half-nekkid and BUFF.
Thank you, sweet baby Jesus.
3. “I’ve Decided to Marry You,” A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
This was funny and delightful–very Edwin Drood-y. I’d go see it.
2. “Sugar Daddy,” Hedwig and the Angry Inch
So clearly Billy Porter played fairy godmother to NPH and out popped Hedwig. My only complaint is that this was listed as #2 and not #1. OK, one other complaint…yes, it IS primarily about Hedwig, but how you pass over the clear evidence of why Lena Hall walked away with a Tony as well is completely baffling. As is watching and listening to the bubbly actress earlier in the evening strut around and sing in that deep, gravelly tone. NPH is a beast but dammit, give props where they’re due!
1. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”/”I Feel The Earth Move,” Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Jessie Mueller did that. No lie. She did the HELL out of that, to the point where if Carole King hadn’t walked on stage with her and sang at the same time, I’d have sworn there was lip-dubbing going on for the first time at the Tonys. But I put this at #2 because Jessie clearly had a fangirl moment in the middle of that duet and lost a beat or two. Which, granted, is understandable because, hey, you’re singing a Carole King song…AS Carole King…WITH Carole King. I get that. NPH edges her out mainly because he never dropped character…and I’m sure he could have right at the moment he laid a big, juicy smooch on his husband (planned move, natch, but the subject had to be a thrilling bonus). Since she’s a semi-relative newcomer in comparison, I guess I’ll give it a pass.