Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The 2009 Tony Awards: Proving that You Can Be "Whelmed"

Finally, here is my take on the dizzying highs and terrifying lows of the 2009 Tonys:

The Highlights:
  • I have never been a big fan of Hair, but their showing at the Tonys won me over. "Hair" was fun and energetic, and "Let the Sunshine In" was transcendent. Watching the cast run into the aisles, dance with the other nominees and audience members (Elton John looked so happy), and throw flowers was a nearly perfect moment. Overall, the cast's overwhelming enthusiasm and passion were infectious, and I liked how humble the entire cast and production team seemed, even as they won for Best Revival of a Musical. I also loved how happy Gavin Creel looked when he was giving a standing ovation to the three actors who won Best Actor in a Musical for Billy Elliot. That's class.
  • Neil Patrick Harris wasn't given much to do, but he was a great host (for the little time that we saw him). He was smart, charming, funny, and subtle, which made him a breath of fresh air after the insanity that was Whoppi. His closing number was also fantastic. Dear Tony producers: Please bring NPH back next year (and let him do more)!
  • Angela Lansbury's speech was lovely - very articulate and gracious. She also did a wonderful job presenting Jerry Herman the Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • Anne Hathaway looked so damn happy to be there, and it was nice to see a young, talented Hollywood actress (I know, she started off in theatre, but still) be so excited at the ceremonies. Whether she was introducing "Hair," enjoying Liza's performance, or just reacting to whatever was happening onstage (the cameras kept cutting to her for some reason), she looked like she was psyched.
  • I know that this is complete schadenfreude, but I'm convinced that the theatre gods were smiting Bret Michaels. I've watched his collision with the set numerous times on YouTube, and it never fails to make me giggle like a schoolgirl.
  • The three boys who won for Billy Elliot (David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish) were adorable. Even though they were a little flustered, it was obvious that they had rehearsed what they were going to say. More importantly, their speech was heartfelt.
The Lowlights - There were so many, but here are the worst of the worst (at least in my book)
  • The technical aspects of the show were atrocious! As a former theatre techie, I hope that someone (perhaps multiple someones) got fired for the shoddy, shoddy work that was done on Tony night. The horrible sound problems, the ADHD-inducing camera work, and other technical snafus were inexcusable, especially when you consider that this show was for THEATRE AWARDS!!! I loved how Audra McDonald and Marcia Gay Hayden were very quick to point out the technical problems that occurred during their brief segments. Honestly, I've worked with high school kids who might have done a better job.
  • Usually the Tonys does a pretty good "In Memorium" segment. In past years, the audience was very respectful (unlike the Oscars, no one clapped until the end of the montage). However, this year's was painful on several levels. In addition to the producer/ director's questionable choice of using a choral version of "What I Did for Love," the camera work made it impossible for us at home to see who was being shown on the screens. Also, for the first time in my memory, the audience clapped for specific people during the montage, which made a potentially moving moment a morbid popularity contest.
  • Oh Alice Ripley - I and many others had a great deal of good will towards you, and you managed to diminish it or completely kill it with your acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Musical. Yelling at the audience was jarring and unnecessary (for a moment I wondered if she was channeling her mentally unstable character from Next to Normal), and a lot of people thought the entire speech was condescending and pretentious. This is unfortunate because you are talented, and from all reports, your Tony was well-deserved. Next time, work being likable instead of insufferably arrogant and loud.
  • While featuring some touring shows might have seemed like a good idea in theory, the reality was a terrible, confusing, off-key mess. The worst of the three definitely was Mamma Mia!, but Jersey Boys and Legally Blonde the Musical were awful as well. Jersey Boys needs to be retired from the Tonys for at least a decade or two - according to one site, the show has been featured three times in the past four years. There were other shows, like the straight plays, that deserved to be featured.
  • The straight plays continue to get the shaft. While they actually got to have a tiny clip on the broadcast this year, the clips were less than 20 seconds each (I got my stopwatch out and timed them). I would much rather see the straight plays get some respect than suffer through another damn performance of "Dancing Queen."