Monday, June 12, 2006

"Insanely talented people" win Tonys

"You people are insanely talented people," said visiting movie star royalty Julia Roberts to her Broadway brethren during last night's Tony Awards telecast. Heartfelt, if rather inelegantly phrased, though at least America's senior sweetheart did hazard to go off book and say a little something spontaneous to the crowd at Radio City. Indeed, Tony Award nominees and winners are all insanely talented, but you wouldn't have known it from last night's sedate broadcast, in which 60 performers representing variable definitions of stardom took to the stage in tightly organized, repartee-free flights, as if ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST's Nurse Ratched had spiked their Evian water with lithium beforehand. Except when Roberts' co-star Paul Rudd fumbled, embarrassingly but humorously, with the Teleprompter, this was by far the dullest Tony Awards in recent memory, and not a worthy celebration of 60 years of great theater. The Beano ads were of greater interest.

Note to the producers: For better or for worse--clearly, for better in this instance--a host acts as focal point, and the lovely, even witty, 11 o'clock presenting by Julie Andrews was a hint of what could have been. You're never, ever going to get the ratings up appreciably so to hell with it and concentrate on putting on a more rousing show for the audience that does tune in, year after year, and not from their porch rocking chairs.


*Harry Belafonte looks sensational. He and the ever-spooky Bernadette Peters must have portraits moldering away somewhere.

*No HISTORY: There was some small excitement that THE HISTORY BOYS had made history by winning six Tonys, then someone noticed that a little something called DEATH OF A SALESMAN had rung that bell in 1949. Ever hear of that one?

*JERSEY BOYS is a better musical than THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, and the voters made the right call. Its book should have won, though. The downside: More jukebox musicals of inferior vintage.

*Unless I missed it, no one thanked God. But the winning Jersey Boys did thank their skeptical, suspicious dads, a sort-of antidote to the barrage of Father's Day ads.

*It's the nomination, Manoel.

*What an exuberant speech COLOR PURPLE winner LaChanze gave. Will she ever get a role that allows her to smile? Her lips are pretty much sewed up for that entire mirthless show, which very nearly replicated the same win-less fate as its film adaptation.

*Deathwatch: THE WEDDING SINGER. The cute musical number won't help it. There's no room on Broadway for any more Jersey boys. Bad choice: THE DROWSY CHAPERONE number just didn't click out of context.

*The Best Play presentation continues hapless. One line allocated to each show was simply absurd.

*I'm loving the new Carnegie Hall SOUTH PACIFIC CD, with its magisterial Brian Stokes Mitchell performance. Mitchell (who has a solo CD out, his first) did what he could with that disembodied Hal Prince presentation, the show's one near-camp moment. Later, there was an In Memoriam card for Brock Peters, when it hit me: Surely Mitchell could star in a revival of LOST IN THE STARS, which Peters appeared in in the early 70s (and the American Film Theater movie). He's the right age and right voice for it. A great idea for the Roundabout.

Playbill has the best coverage of the festivities, including bloggage from senior editor Robert Simonson, the No. 1 fan of LESTAT and IN MY LIFE.

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