Isn't the point of the TV telecast of the Tony Awards to lure tourists to come to New York and see all the shows? Therefore, shouldn't it be scheduled to get theater-loving viewers all across the country watching? So I think it was a poor decision to hand out the awards on the day of the Gay Pride Parade and Festival in West Hollywood, thereby losing its entire West Coast audience. I'm told that there was also some sort of sports tournament thingee on TV last night, involving glandular cases in shiny underwear running around a room for a few hours, bouncing a ball, and periodically throwing it through hoops, something they called a "basketball game," that somehow draws a lot of extremely-easily-entertained viewers (What are they watching? The color and movement?), but then, anyone not bored out of their mind by such a brainless spectacle is hardly likely to watch the Tonys anyway, even if it was absolutely the only thing on TV at all. Who could prefer watching that to seeing big stars, fine acting, toe-tapping musical numbers, and Angela Lansbury? Straight people are weird.
That the usual low ratings of the Tonys had resulted in a lower budget was apparent up front, when, instead of an orchestra playing an overture, they just had little Sean Hayes playing the piano. He plays it well. I guess learning the piano gave him something to do since Will & Grace went off the air. I don't want to say that Sean's career has gone to hell since that popular show ended, but the poor man has been reduced to appearing in live theater, and still worse, playing a heterosexual. Some people will do anything for money, even act straight. And then, just when it seemed he couldn't sink any lower, he hosts The Tonys. Let's face it, more people will see you when you're out of work and just guzzling vodka in your pajamas all day than will see you host the Tonys. And then there's the "What? Where's Hugh Jackman?" tune-out factor. I mean, when you turn on a show expecting to see Hugh Jackman, and you get Sean Hayes instead, well, things can turn ugly fast.
Which is just what happened. Sean's current Broadway co-star, the shrill, piercing-voiced Christian actress Kristin Chenoweth, joined Sean onstage, and immediately began singing about praying. Between no Hugh Jackman, and then a shrill Christian singing about praying, I was almost ready to try watching basketball instead myself. Almost! So that's why they cast a famous openly-gay man to star in Promises, Promises. No straight man could convincingly pretend to be in love with Chenoweth. It takes talent, something mostly found in gay men.
Once the Chenoweth creature had been hauled offstage, probably by force, some wonderful dancers began showing their stuff, while Frank Sinatra sang I'm Gonna Live 'Til I Die. Apparently Frank isn't aware that he did die quite some time back, so he really should have sung it in the past tense. "I lived 'till I died!" (Most people do.) So much for "Live Theater." There's nothing "live" about Frank, but it was a relief to hear his mellifluous voice after our ears had been assaulted by Chenoweth, and the dancing was delightful.
It had been easily 30 seconds since the show's last dose of religion had ended with the removal of Chenoweth, so they then trotted out three women from a show called, I believe, Everyday Rapture, though with my eyes, it may have been Everyday Rupture, which sounds most unpleasant, and they began singing about coming up to a roof to be closer to Heaven. Tony Awards, if I wanted to go to church, I would.
But then, just as I was wondering if I should forget about writing this column and just drink myself to sleep, out came a short number from a musical called Fela that was magic. Great rhythms, marvelous melody, terrific dancing by gorgeous men, and also some women I think, and I was reminded of why I watch The Tonys every year. No matter how annoying an entry on the show is, something wonderful may be just seconds away. Admittedly, this song's lyrics were just "La la la la," and it ended with a nails-on-a-chalkboard shriek that sounded like a cat being strangled with an air pump, but up until that unfortunate last note, it was delightful.
Then a tidbit from the latest revival of La Cage Aux Folles. Okay, the show gets overdone. The revival with Gary Beach only closed about 20 minutes before this revival opened, but once you've got a stage full of drag queens singing Jerry Herman's gay anthems, you know you're on Broadway!
And then a rock band called Green Day came out and shrieked at us. I missed most of their song, as I had to hit "mute" when they began screaming at me. Tony producers, putting loud, obnoxious rock music on after the drag queens exit still won't get anyone under 40 to watch. And worse, they did two songs! Sinatra, Fela, and the queens singing the loveable melodies of Jerry Herman only got to do one song each. But then, Green Day's second number had no detectable melody, just people screaming on the same pitch, so perhaps it didn't count as a "song."
Finally, the almost ten-minute opening medley was over. It had been about two great minutes, surrounded by eight annoying ones. The ratio didn't bode well for the rest of the evening.
And then we had Sean Hayes playing tonsil hockey with that hideous Chenoweth creature, and I was almost wishing Green Day would come back and shriek at me some more. Fortunately, I hadn't eaten before the broadcast. At least when she's kissing, Chenoweth can't assault us with that irritating voice of hers, and it showed us what turned Sean gay. Kissing her could turn Warren Beatty gay.
Sean began his monologue discussing something called "The World Cup." No one there, or in my home either, for that matter, had any idea what he was talking about.
Wait! Nathan Lane is there? Why isn't he hosting? I know from attending a few Will & Grace tapings that Sean can be very funny off-the-cuff, but his monologue was not very strong, apart from a good Carol Channing joke.
Daniel Radcliffe is going to play J. Pierpont Finch in (yet) a(nother) revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying?
1. The character is American, very American!
2. He's too young.
3. Much as I love the show and its great score, some of it is beyond dated. How do you perform a hymn to being an unliberated woman like "I'd Be So Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm" in 2010?
4. Besides, it's cheating when you can advance in the company using witchcraft.
They shackled poor, darling Daniel with Mrs. Tom Cruise as a co-presenter. She towered over him. Good grief! How can Daniel be shorter than Tom Cruise? Cruise himself makes hobbits look like NBA players. Yet, if Daniel had stood directly in front of Mrs. Cruise, her entire head would have still been fully visible, more's the pity.
Mrs. Cruise said of theater versus movies: "You can hear the actors breathing." Setting aside for a moment the question of why that would be something you'd want to do, I'm sure that when she was onstage, that sound she heard wasn't the actor's breathing; it was the audience snoring.
When Scarlett Johansson won Best Featured Movie Star in a Play, the announcatrix said she won "for her marvelous performance". Well I didn't suppose they'd given her the award for a lousy performance. (Unlike Mrs. Cruise, Scarlett Johansson is a wonderful actress. However, Scarlett's hairstyle looked better when Bela Lugosi wore it in Dracula.)
Ricky Martin, looking great, introduced a musical number. Finally a straight man at the Tonys. What, Dougie? You're joking! Never mind.
Martin said Million Dollar Quartet was a new musical. Then why were the songs they performed from it all well over 50 years old? (Including a spiritual! I had enough religion in the opening medley.) Levi Kreis, the guy playing Jerry Lee Lewis, is vastly better-looking than Lewis was on the best day of his life. Of course, if Levi really wanted to commit to being Jerry Lee Lewis, he'd have gotten married a minimum of twice just during the song he performed, either to a cousin, or a 13 year old, or both. I believe the quite-elderly real Mr. Lewis went through a few wives just during the broadcast, though nowadays when he sings "Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On," it has a whole different meaning. Perhaps Lewis should consider converting to Mormonism. Think of the time he could save, if he was able to marry teenage relatives two or three at a time.
In his opening monologue, Sean had described the character Scarlett Johansson shortly won her Tony for as "a young woman shocked to discover her uncle lusts after her," yet somehow, she wasn't in that same play about Jerry Lee Lewis. Apparently incest is hot on Broadway this season. I guess how attractive or repellant one finds incest to be would depend on whom you're related to. I'd be lying if I said the idea would hold no attraction for me if Hugh Jackman were my nephew, or brother, or son, or father, or fraternal twin. Fortunately, all my relatives are revolting.
The announcerette called Eddie Redmayne's Tony-winning performance in Red a "masterful portrayal." She was determined to make sure we didn't think they were handing out Tonys for lousy performances.
Kelsey Grammar, wearing a rug large enough to carpet my living room, came out and explained the plot of La Cage Aux Folles to the six people there who have never seen any of the three Broadway productions, the thousands of regional productions, the enormously-popular original French movie, the original stage farce the movie was based on, or the Robin Williams-Nathan Lane movie The Birdcage. I expected Lane, in the audience, to stand up and shout "Oh, that's what it was all about!" Perhaps next Kelsey could explain the plot of Charlie's Aunt for us.
And I'm sorry, but I find the whole idea of Kelsey Grammar, a notorious Republican, who gives money in large buckets to the Republican party to help keep The Party of No in power and firmly doing all they can to repress gay rights, starring in a famous pro-gay rights/pro-gay marriage play inappropriate at best, highly offensive at worst. Yes I know Kelsey himself is not homophobic, and has many gay friends, but he finances the very people who fight tirelessly to keep gay rights at bay. With friends like Kelsey Grammar, the Gay Community doesn't need enemies. Bear in mind: when you buy a ticket to see La Cage Aux Folles, part of your ticket money goes into Kelsey's pocket, and part of that money ends up going to help elect more anti-gay Republican politicos. At least when Elton John performed at Rush Limbaugh's wedding, it meant some of Rush's personal money (a big, huge chunk of it. Easily a million, if not two) ended up going to Elton's AIDS charities, in a delicious irony. But with Kelsey Grammar in La Cage, the money is flowing the wrong way! The number looked like great fun, but I will never pay a cent to see Grammar again in anything.
And is Kelsey getting all the money the show is bringing in? Because we saw his wonderful co-star Douglas Hodge apparently working for tips from the audience.
Michael Grandage, accepting his Tony for Best Direction of a Play They Forgot to Write Songs For, stared down at his award for his entire speech, as though terrified to look out at the audience, or make eye contact with the cameras. If he's a good enough director to deserve his award, he ought to know better. The man needed a director to yell: "We're out here!" at him.
Nominee for Best Play They Forgot to Write Songs For In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play turns out to be about the inventing of the vibrator. At last relevant theater about a subject of extreme importance, which can stir up deep feelings at the touch of a button. What a refreshing change from trivial fluff like Death of a Salesman or King Lear. But how can this not be a musical? Mine all make me sing! (But please, pick a title.)
When selecting a winner for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, how do you choose between the divine Barbara Cook, who can do no wrong, and Angela Lansbury, a brilliant legend who made her stage debut in the original production of The Importance of Being Earnest in 1895? Well they couldn't, so they gave the award to someone else. I'm sure "Katie Finneran" is probably very good in Promises, Promises (The announcerina said she was "wonderful"), but how could she be better than Barbara Cook? No one is better than Barbara Cook. Maybe they gave her the award simply for not being Kristin Chenoweth, much in the same way that if you repeatedly hit yourself with a hammer, it feels so great when you stop.
In some sort of horrible mix-up, they introduced a guy named Mark Sanchez, whose connection to theater is non-existent, saying he was a member of "The Jets." Well naturally we all assumed this meant he was from the cast of a West Side Story revival, but no. Someone goofed up. It turns out there's also a sports team of some sort by that name, which was news to me. He was passed off as a "Theater Afficionado". Well if being a "Theater Afficionado" is sufficient to get you a gig presenting at The Tony Awards, why isn't Little Dougie presenting? Did the Lakers bring out Harvey Firestein to throw out the first ball, or whatever it is they bring out people to do?
However, I'd rather have kept Sanchez around (He was easy on the eyes.) Than bring back out Kristin Chenoweth, which unfortunately is just what they did next. Will no one rid me of this troublesome Kristin? The audience laughed at her bit. I didn't.
I was shocked to see that Bobby Steggert was nominated for the Featured Actor in a Musical Tony. Two years ago I saw him play Mordred in Camelot on TV, and he was horrible, playing this classic villain as some sort of gay Goth, with all the menace of Chris Kattan's old SNL character Mango. How bad are you, when you and Roddy McDowell play the same role, and Roddy is the butch one? How terrible are you when you're in a show with Fran Drescher, and I hate your work more than hers? He must have gotten a lot better since. He was nominated for Ragtime, a great show. Maybe he was benefitting from the goodwill that lovely play creates in its audiences.
Anyway, they gave it to Levi Kreis for playing Jerry Lee Lewis without violating any laws or community standards of decency. But then he thanked his "Spiritual Center" and some Reverend, "for holding me up and making me more available to my good." Of course, all priests, ministers, and reverends hold people up. They all are, after all, simply smooth-talking confidence tricksters, but maybe he should see a shrink, to make him more available to his sanity. (I might add, he was wearing a string tie with a tux. Well, he hadn't thanked his fashion advisors.)
Barbara Cook introduced Catherine Zeta-Jones to sing "Send in the Clowns". Now I like Little Mrs. Douglas just fine, but this was horribly backwards. She should have been introducing Barbara Cook to sing it. No one sings better than Babs Cook! Just because Catherine's husband is older than Angela Lansbury doesn't mean she should sing when you have Barbara Cook standing right there.
I might add that Mrs. Douglas's performance of the song was odd at best. She was sending out rather peculiar vowels, and running out of air at the ends of phrases, so for instance one line became: "Me here at last on the ground; you in mid a---" Ironic that she hadn't enough air to finish singing the word "air." Her voice broke at one point, though I suppose she could claim that was "acting." It wasn't singing. She should have felt humiliated to have sung that poorly a few feet away from Barbara Cook.
Christopher Oram, accepting his Tony for Best Scenic Design of a Play, said winning it was "incredibly humbling." Why do people spout that cliche? "Humbling" is exactly what winning a Tony (or an Emmy, or an Oscar) is not! Winning a Razzie is humbling.
Christine Jones, winning the same award for a musical, thanked one man, whom she called "the love of my life and the father of my children," and then thanked another man, whom she called "the love of my other life and father of my other children." Is she a Mormon? Is she Jerry Lee Lewis? Is she schizophrenic?
The taste of Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas's valiant losing battle with "Send in the Clowns" was washed from our ears finally by a beautiful performance by Christiane Noll of "Back to Before" from Ragtime. Were you listening Catherine? Because that is how it's done!
Trust me, the play Lend Me a Tenor is considerably funnier than the lame banter performed when describing it to us, by Tony Shaloub, Anthony LaPaglia, and whoever the third actor from it was. (He wasn't introduced.)
For the record, Valerie Harper was not playing me in Looped. In fact, according to the critics and audiences, she was barely playing that other Tallulah either. How did she get a Tony nomination for that performance? It was panned left and right, and audiences stayed away in droves. The show closed about 20 minutes after it opened. Not surprisingly, she lost.
Viola Davis, who did win, announced she didn't believe in luck or happenstance. Does she believe in sunlight, or healthcare, or math? She found it necessary instead to announce her firm belief in God. Maybe I should go to her church, and announce my belief in drink, since she's insisting on taking up everyone's time making sure we all know she's just a teensy bit insane. Why must they keep dragging their superstitious delusions into a nice theatrical awards show? Viola began sobbing, as she thanked "entities" for her award. I liked her dress, but she'll never be able to return it all tear-stained, and it's hardly appropriate for church. You know, I liked her until she started talking, but by the end of her sobfest, I was wishing Valerie had won after all.
Denzel Washington won Best Male Movie Star in a play, he also stuck a bit of religious blather into his speech, but only a little, and he managed not to cry. Well, when you have a couple Oscars, a little thing like a Tony is not quite so impressive.
The big mid-show number from Fela started off worrisomely with some hideous, screechy singing from a woman wearing a hat twice as big as her head, but once she stopped harshly bellowing at us, it turned into something fine, with wonderful dancing by some very hot dancers wearing very little clothing, and one heck of a gorgeous, half-naked, well-muscled conga drummer. But they went to commercial while the number was still going on. Why couldn't they have done that while Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas was struggling through her song, or while "Green Day" were screaming at us?
They brought out Michael Zeta-Jones-Douglas to hand out the Regional Theater Award. Fortunately, he didn't try to sing.
Sir Alan Ayckbourne and Marian Seldes received Lifetime Achievement Awards, and lovely little David Hyde Pierce (who probably has a different opinion concerning Kelsey Grammar than I do) won an award for his fight against Alzheimer's, but these awards can't have been too heartfelt, as they weren't deemed important enough to award on the show, but were shunted off in a montage, along with other disrespected categories like Best Score of a Musical. Pierce thanked his "partner," among others. He's legally gay married. Why not let his pride flag fly all the way, particularly on Gay Pride Day, and call him "my husband"? It's not going to scare the horses at the Tonys, and he's certainly made no secret of it.
Paula Abdul presented Best Choreography. (Choreography gets awarded on the show, but not Best Score or Best Book of a Musical? Hello?) Paula seemed sober and lucid, but then every word she spoke was written - by someone else! Imagine if she'd been speaking off the cuff: "These choreographers really did their things - leave me alone! - and were themselves, and who is that? They know who they are, and they really - you have something on your nose. I like grapes. I was fired from the Bratz movie. This is hard!" Seeing Paula again, I was reminded of how much I have not missed her on American Idol.
We saw a dance number from Promises, Promises that consisted of Sean sitting at his office desk, "working," while people danced all around and over him. All I could think watching it was: how does he ever get any work done in this distracting office? The striking choreography of Fela won, although I was even more impressed by Twyla Tharp's amazing work in Come Fly With Me.
The Dead People Montage was mostly people named Redgrave. The applause always sounds weird, since it always sounds like they're applauding the fact that the person is dead. (And when they applauded for the death of one critic, I'm sure that's what it was.) But if you are going to applaud for some of the cadavers, then I must admit to feeling miffed that no one applauded for Larry Gelbart. Hello? Larry Gelbart! How does a critic get applause and not the great Larry Gelbart?
For Gene Barry, they put two photos side by side: a color shot of Barry in the original La Cage Aux Folles, and a black and white shot of someone else who was labeled as "Gene Barry." I met Gene just two years ago, and that wasn't him in that photo. Looking at the pictures side-by-side, and I froze-framed and did just that, anyone not blind could see the guy in the black & white shot had amuch bigger nose, for one thing. Whoever he was, he looked more like Robert Stack than Gene Barry, but it wasn't Stack either.
I guess they added a new category: Best Color, because the gave a Tony to "Red." Well, if they can have Best Direction (I like "Down," because that's how I like to go.), why not Best Color?
They brought out some gay guy from Glee (I don't watch it) to sing "All I need is the Girl" from Gypsy, which is a great dance number, and which he performed quite well, but I have seldom believed the lyrics less. Then they brought out someone else from Glee to sing "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl, which was also done fairly well, though not as well as "All I Need is the Girl." What wasn't made clear was why they did this. This was two and a half hours into the show. Time to cut stuff and speed it up, not add more utterly gratuitous additional filler.
In lieu of good comedy material, Sean kept coming out in "funny" costumes: Annie, Billy Elliot, Spider-man. The latter two costumes were at pains to display large bulges in Sean's crotch. Sean, find somewhere else to store your old socks, because you're not fooling anyone.
The always-hideously unpleasant Raquel Welch came marching out, apparently just to show off her fresh face-and-boob jobs. Honestly Raquel, you're what? 90? Do you think we all believe you look like that naturally? And actually, the work on her chin and cheeks wasn't of sufficient quality to stand up to Hi-Def viewing, nor was her wig remotely convincing. It may have been the same one Kelsey wore earlier.
Raquel was presenting Best Revival of a Musical, obviously in hopes of reviving her own moribund career. After she said: "A revival is not necessarily a reproduction," she laughed merrily, as though this simple fact, already known to everyone present, was a joke of some sort. Well, when you possess absolutely no trace of a sense of humor yourself, you sometimes have to just guess if what you're saying is a joke or not, but the only joke during Raquel's presentation was Raquel herself.
The Musical Revival award went to La Cage Aux Folles. Owing to its leading man, I'd have preferred any of the other nominees: Finian's Rainbow, Ragtime, or A Little Night Music, all of them better shows, with stronger scores as well, all though La Cage is a perfectly good, second-tier musical.
Some pratt from Green Day named Billy Joe Armstrong came out and proved he's unsuited to public speaking, when introducing a number from a show called American Idiot. In his intro he said the show, which began as a "concept album," (the concept was "Make Money") kept "the heart intact and the whole thing." Then began a deafening cacophony of horrible noise presented as "music." It was so loud, I could still hear it even with the TV turned off. I was enduring young people shrieking at me in a show that only allowed Barbara Cook to speak.
I assume the American Idiot piece was presented as a public service, so no one accidentally subjects themselves to this noisy grotesquerie. Not being an American Idiot myself, I will certainly make a point of avoiding it. In fairness, I should mention that the ghastly "music" was accompanied by some really terrible choreography. If this sort of crap is what's needed to keep theater alive, maybe it would be better to just let it die.
Two hours and forty-eight minutes into the three-hour show Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane came out and were actually funny. Finally, some laughs. Again: why wasn't Nathan hosting? He was funnier in two minutes than Sean had been in three hours. The Addams Family got majorly snubbed by the awards, but its stars were the comedy highlight of the eveing, and I'd rather have seen a number from their show than endure American Idiot's ear-torture, or listen to Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas strangle Sondheim.
Mrs. Douglas won Best Female Movie Star in a Musical. Well, maybe she's better in the show than she was singing last night. I'm open to the possibility. The award wasn't for Best Singing, and she sang better in the movie of Chicago, so maybe she was having an off-night. She thanked her co-star Angela Lansbury, probably for being too old to play Catherine's role.
At the end of her speech, Catherine pointed to her doddering, elderly husband and said: "That man there, who's a movie star, and I get to sleep with him every night!" Catherine, no one, no one there, no one watching, no one on earth is envying you that gruesome chore. He is the lucky one. You are roughly a billion times hotter than he is, or ever was. (Michael Zeta-Jones-Douglas wasn't sexy, even 40 years ago. And he's just plain creepy now.)
Interestingly, and to my delight, the English actor Douglas Hodge beat his co-star Kelsey Grammar for Best Unknown in a Musical. As it happens, I saw Dougie (Hodge, not my Little Dougie) play Shakespeare's Pericles in London 16 years ago. He was very good, though the production as a whole stank. (In fairness, it's possibly Shakespeare's worst play, but the production was a mess, despite Hodge, David Burke, and Toby Jones all enlivening the cast.)
In thanking Kelsey, Hodge said, "If you want to see a Democrat kissing a Republican, come to the Longacre Theater." I can think of few things I'd like to see less. After 8 years of Bush-Cheney raping the environment (Thank them for relaxing oil regulations and opening the door to British Petroleum's devastation, and thank Kelsey, who voted for Bush-Cheney, and gave them money.), destroying the economy, and waging war against everyone except the people who attacked us, not to mention exploiting anti-gay hatred to win The Bigot Vote, I'm in no mood to see any kissing of Republicans. Now, if I could see a Democrat kicking a Republican, I'd buy a ticket. (And how is Hodge, an Englishman appearing in America for the first time, a "Democrat"? He can't even vote here.)
As they trotted out Bernadette Peters, the announcienne mentioned that she was about to replace Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas in A Little Night Music. Oops. How screwed did everyone who paid to see Mrs. Douglas in the role feel now?
As they read out the four nominees for Best Musical, I realized I had scant interest in seeing any of them. You couldn't drag me into American Idiot of course, but I'd rather see The Addams Family, and the nominated revivals (Except for La Cage), than any of them. It went to Memphis, a show about which I know nothing aside from the facts that it has some good singing in it, and it's not about Memphis, Egypt.
And then they did a number from Memphis. It was after 11 o'clock. No one wanted another song. They wanted a drink. The cartoon character Yogi Bear said: "It's not over till it's over, Boo Boo," but you know, when it is over, it should be over, like this column is now.
See you soon, when Big Brother starts up again. Cheers darlings.