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Sunday, June 15, 2008

(Amost) Live-Blogging the Tonys
If the term controversial can accurately be attached to an event most commonly commemorated by being ignored, adding musical numbers from shows other than those nominated for Best Musical or Best Musical Revival to the Tony ceremony was controversial. When the telecast kicks off with “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King, it seems smart in that the performance is spectacular and gripping and just the kind of thing to send 60 Minutes viewers who haven’t yet changed the channel to the appropriate ticket-selling monopoly, but I do worry that the rest of the numbers will pale by comparison.

The first closed captioning weirdness of the evening comes in “The Circle of Life” when the subtitles indicate “Singing in African dialect.” If they don’t teach it in high school, is it a “dialect” instead of a language?

Whoopi Goldberg’s first moments decidedly shaky—the crab costume schtick brings back painful flashbacks to her turn hosting the Oscars when most of her material seemed to consist of her putting on costumes (I still remember the QEI outfit), and when she returns, she doesn't seem to have had enough time to get her dress on properly. I like Whoopi Goldberg, and I’m already reaching for the Fast Forward button. The line about Thurgood Marshall being “the only African-American Supreme Court justice” seems like a goof rather than a political dig at Clarence Thomas.

Even before Rondi Reed is announced as the night’s first winner, it’s obvious (as if there were any doubt) that August: Osage County is going to need a new trophy case. Featured Actress is probably their weakest category, but the applause for Reed overwhelms the rest. Her dedicating the Tony—part of it anyway—to Tracy Letts’ dad, who played the father of the ferked-up family until he died of cancer earlier this year—was touching. “Happy Father’s Day” is a great thing to say just before you walk off stage with a statue.

Cry-Baby does a smart number. The license-plate song is fun and energetic—far more fun and energetic than the rest of the show.

The second bit of close-captioning subversion comes when Bart Sheer thanks “my designers” and the subtitlers render it as “my design whores.”

For totally irrational reasons, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acceptance rap, which might well be the coolest acceptance speech ever, kind of bugs.

Laura Benanti goes into a superhigh register when she accepts the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Shouldn’t actors—especially actors known for their singing—be able to control their voices?

The musical selection from Grease achieved the impossible and failed to meet even my ankle-high expectations. The reality-show-recruited leads, and the rest of the cast for that matter, seemed incapable of singing on key, and they chose horrific numbers. Whatever else it lacks, Grease has some incredibly catchy songs, none of which they chose to sing. Although I think the show is doing pretty well at the box office, it looked like they chose to play it cheap. Instead of doing songs that required a set (which requires the producers to drop a wad of cash to create another set of scenery and stage props just for the telecast), they stuck with doors and a kick-line. They did themselves no favors, but I suppose the fact that the show’s doing OK financially proves that quality is irrelevant to the success of this production.

Third piece of unintended subversion (or absolute genius subversion) came when the Chicago cast members appeared over a network promo for “Greatest American Dog.”

The selections from The Little Mermaid and A Catered Affair were pretty uninspiring—especially the Little Mermaid excerpt. The song had horrific lyrics, and Sierra Boggess had appalling breath control and a puny little head voice. We didn’t even get to see the cool skatey gliding except from a great distance.

After Anna D. Shapiro’s husband kissed her when she heard she’d won for Best Direction of a Play, he immediately resumed chewing. I wondered if she’d passed her gum to him during the smooch.

Mark Rylance’s speech made me feel uneducated. I’m sure truly erudite viewers immediately recognized its provenance, but I didn’t. (UPDATE: He revealed the source of the text in a post-award interview.)

Sunday in the Park With George was robbed in the Best Scenic Design category. I loved South Pacific, but the SPWG set was far better.

Shocking to see how early in the evening the Best Play winner was announced--and how early the music started playing on Tracy Letts.

Mandy Patinkin's beard was a little scary. Made me wonder if he is going to play the lead in The Harvey Fierstein Story.

Liza Minelli looked amazing, though she sounded like Sean Connery. Paulo Szot was shockingly excited about receiving his Tony from her. Thanking his dresser was the sweetest tribute of the evening.

Patti Lupone looked gorgeous in that beautiful dress. And if the conductor thought a mere orchestra could overpower her, he obviously hasn't seen Gypsy. Her "Thank you. Good night!" really should've been the end of the show.

Most shocking part of the evening? We got through an entire Tony Awards ceremony without a single overt display of homosexuality. What is Broadway coming to?

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