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Drama Queens: Random Thoughts While Watching The Tony Awards Show

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The Tony Awards is the show where folks who even I, after a century of acting in theater and movies, have never heard of, thank other people I've never heard of, for roles in plays I haven't seen.

It opened with Sir Elton John performing a song from Billy Elliot as young boys danced with chairs, and one even flew through the air. I felt like I was watching Michael Jackson's erotic fantasies. Ew.

Thanks to horrific sound mixing, the opening medley of songs from nominated musicals was a ghastly mess. At one point two different songs from West Side Story and one song from Guys and Dolls were all being sung at the same time, creating a discordant cacophony, not helped by the fact that their mikes were off, but people in the audience were miked loud and clear.

Then up popped that sleazeball Brett Michaels, whom I've only ever seen licking diseased skanks in clips on The Soup. Apparently, he also sings. The descending "Broadway" marquee hit Brett in the head. It's the first time I've seen scenery that was smarter than the producers.

They had Dolly Parton, replaying the role she created in 9 to 5 100 years ago. Isn't 8 hours awfully long for a musical?

Liza Minnelli sounded awful. Liza is now almost 20 years older than her mother was when she died, and her performance made me realize the good thing about Judy dying in her 40s; Her voice never deteriorated into the wreck that Liza's was last night. Once Liza was a great singer and dancer. She's too old and had too many hip replacements to dance anymore, and now we can hear she can't sing anymore either. All she can do now is marry more gay men. Well she was in the right place to troll for her next set of husbands. There were fewer gay men at the GLAAD Awards. Look out, Neal Patrick Harris.

There's something profoundly wrong with seeing Liza singing with the cast of Hair. Maybe she needs a hippie replacement.

After the ghastly medley finally ended, bland, forgettable host Neil Patrick Harris said, "That was amazing!" It was. Amazingly bad. Harris was the weakest host they've had in years, and that's not forgetting Whoopi Goldberg last year. Hugh Jackman, where were you?

Jane Fonda presented Featured Actor in a Play. The nominees were John Glover and four guys I'd never heard of before. I hope that guy I've never set eyes on before wins. Oh good he did.

Shrek, apparently, is a musical for kids who can afford $100 for a theater ticket. Why can't I fast forward through a live broadcast?

The dwarf in Shrek was played by Christopher Sieber, a normal-sized man on his knees with puppet legs. Why isn't he being picketed by little actors for denying work to real dwarves? So much for "There are no small parts." The men in this number were wearing yellow wigs that made their heads look like gigantic jaundiced penises.

Neil did a Phantom of the Oprah joke that I've been doing for 20 years. Well Neil, steal from the best. At least "Obama Mia" was a fresh joke.

Angela Lansbury won Best Featured Actress in a Play, probably because she was the only nominee anyone had ever heard of before. This was Angela's 6000th Tony in over 300 years on Broadway. Angela doesn't appear to age, perhaps because she's looked middle-aged since Mame in 1966. Maybe Jessica Fletcher could find out who murdered the opening medley.

In introducing an unnecessary number from Momma Mia, Neil said it had been nominated for 5 Tonys the year it played on Broadway. This is a polite way of saying it lost 5 Tonys. (And why were the fake ABBA singers singing Dancing Queen while dressed as gay superheroes?)

Neil recommended Smell-o-vision to Broadway producers. Neil, these shows already stink.

Best Book of a Musical is too unimportant to include in the broadcast? Since my ghost writer and amanuensis, Little Dougie, is currently writing a book for a musical, he was really insulted by this.

Best Score: There's something nice about seeing song writers I've never heard of beat Dolly Parton and Sir Elton John. They said Dolly Parton's work "inspired us to become writers in the first place." Really? One of the song writers (They gave us no clue who was who) thanked his wife, and they cut his mike off. At the Tonys, even the sound crew is gay.

From West Side Story, we saw the dance at the gym number. Finally, 48 minutes into the show, some real, knock your-eyes-out, entertainment. The guy playing Tony is hot. I hope they changed the ending, and Maria dies instead of Tony. And after hearing Liza Minnelli's once-magnificent voice sound like crap, it was chilling and beautiful to hear the perfect control this Tony displayed in the final note of the song. That boy can sing! The girl can sing too, but she fell off her note; he nailed his.

(Incidentally, if you love musical theater enough to watch the Tonys, you'll want to read Arthur Laurents's wonderful new book Mostly on Directing which, among other shows, details the directing of this West Side Story revival. It's a great read.)

How gorgeous and elegant did Susan Sarandon look presenting Best Direction of a Play? If she weren't selfishly (Objectivistly?) standing between Tim Robbins and me, I would worship her. Unfortunate camera framing of Susan made it look like the words behind her said the category was "Best Erection". Finally a meaningful award!

In the Best Direction categories, I was rooting for Up. (I'm going to keep doing variations of that joke so long as I'm reviewing award shows, so get used to it.)

We saw a number from something called Rock of Ages. Constantine Maroulis is starring on Broadway in an obnoxious rock musical? Broadway seats nowadays go for over $100. I'd pay that much just to skip this excerpt, let alone miss the whole show. The guy in the fake-tux T-shirt must be gay; not only was he mincing about like Franklin Pangborn in a pre-Hollywood-production code comedy, but he came out and hit on Liza. Gay!!!

Liza won the Dame Edna Special Performance Award. I'd have been more likely to believe she deserved it if I hadn't just heard her sing. But watching terminally overpraised Will Ferrell lose a Tony Award the same weekend his big, terrible new movie tanked at the box office made my night. Liza thanked "My parents, Kay Thompson." Uh-oh. Liza's forgotten she's Judy Garland's daughter. She is in bad shape.

How nice to have the plot of Guys and Dolls explained to me. I don't think I've seen it more than a dozen times.

The Guys and Dolls revival has a big, flamboyantly effeminate black man playing Nicely-Nicely. You know what they call a big effeminate black gangster in real life? "The deceased."

It was great to see Gregory Jbara finally win a long-overdue Tony. I've thought he was terrific ever since I saw him in Damn Yankees in 1994, and not just because he showed his awe-inspiring butt onstage during You Gotta Have Heart. Lately the poor guy has been humiliating himself in "Erectile Dysfunction" commercials. Let's hope this award puts an end to that grisly phase of his career. He dragged his wife up onstage with him. Apparently he loves her. Well, he'll get over that.

I missed the announcement "Filling in for Carrie Fisher, who could not be here tonight, is Jabba the Hut." but there he was, pretending to be her.

In introducing Jessica Lange, Neil did a joke that implied he's had sex with her. Has he forgotten he came out as gay? Jessica Lange, wearing one of Janice Dickenson's old faces, quickly denied Neil's joke out of existence.

In the category of Best Leading Actor in a Play, we finally had four out of five nominees I'd actually heard of before, though the one I don't know I would like to know Biblically, because Thomas Sadoski is a little hottie. Geoffrey Rush accepting this award gave the first genuinely funny speech all evening, certainly funnier than anything Neil said.

After offending many people last year by running the Dead People Montage during a commercial break, they returned it to the on-air show. "This year we lost some giants," said Bebe Neuwirth. Does anyone ever introduce it with, "Fortunately, all the people who died this year were just awful!" Big applause for Bea Arthur and Paul Newman. None for Clive Barnes. To most Broadway actors, writers, directors, and producers, a dead critic is a good start. Over the montage, a chorus sang Kiss Your Ass Goodbye from A Chorus Line, which was perhaps a bit too - ah - on the nose.

Rick Fisher, winner of best lighting of a musical was heard to say, "I just want to encourage all of you to keep bringing little kids to the theater." Well if you do, sit them near him, not me. (LEAVE YOUR LITTLE KIDS HOME!!!)

Frank Langella's speech was very funny also. We saw a snap shot of him as a teenager in The Bald Soprano. Now he's a bald bass.

Marcia Gay Harden won Best Lead Actress in a Play. If only she'd drop her first name, she'd have the most-attractive name in show business.

Sir Elton John appearing onstage in a simple black tuxedo? Please. Who was that impersonating him? The real Sir Elton always dresses to make Dame Edna look frumpy.

The number presented from Billy Elliot was basically a kid having a tap-danced tantrum. Even talented kids are annoying. And unless my ears are as deceptive as my fifth husband was, Sir Elton has "sampled" Tchaikovsky in his "original" score for Billy Elliot. I know Swan Lake when I hear it. And I see why Sir Elton lost Best Lyrics. The lyrics of this song were: "Ah! ... Ah! ... Ah! ... Ah!" [repeat until exhausted] Well, at least it rhymed.

Gina Gershon told us: "Theatergoers made this the highest-grossing season in the history of the Broadway League." No. Astronomical ticket prices did that. For the price of a pair of Saturday Night front row orchestra seats these days, you can buy a three-bedroom house.

Jerry Herman is the very epitome of the Broadway songsmith. He may not have the complexity of Sondheim, but you hear one of his songs once, and you know it for ever. His tunes are catchier than swine flu, and vastly more fun.

Anne Hathaway looks great considering she was married to William Shakespeare some 400 years ago.

The exuberant performance of the title song from Hair (One title song not written by Jerry Herman) was the highlight of the night, pure fun, and a vivid reminder of how much sexier the 1960s were than now. And that guy playing Berger is gorgeous.

Unfortunately, they ruined it afterwards by trotting out that annoying, nasal-voiced, twice-born Christian, Kristen Chenowith, who mentioned the one flaw in the number, the cast remaining clothed, as though it was a good thing. Trust a devout Christer to get it backwards. Kristen laughed at her own jokes, saving me the effort.

Best Revival of a Musical was the one big surprise of the night. I was expecting Arthur Laurents's phenomenal bilingual revival of WestSide Story to win, but Hair snatched it away. An exuberant, anti-war, celebration of life, and recreation of what was best about the 1960s won out over the beloved Romeo and Juliet lift. Fine by me.

Oh David Hyde Pierce, how I've missed your comic genius.

Alice Ripley, in a stunning blue gown, overacted her brains out giving her acceptance speech for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. If her performance in the play is anything like her acceptance speech performance, they should take back her Tony.

Three children and Constantine Maroulis were all Tony nominees for Best Actor in a Musical? They were really desperate this year! And then, the kids won, over that hot guy from Hair? Insane. The world's gone mad. This was the first time I've heard a Tony winner thank his "guardians." Who's next? The chaperones? For once, I found myself saying, "Play them off! Play them off!"

Just to make a long show longer, they had musical numbers from Legally Blonde, Momma Mia, and Jersey Boys, all shows from previous seasons. Not being a tween, I hated Legally Blonde when I saw it, but any excuse to hear Can't Take My Eyes Off of You is fine with me.

The show ran overlong, so my DVR cut off as Liza was reading out the nominees for Best Musical. Or maybe it just couldn't take anymore of Liza. What won? If they'd cut the unnecessary songs from Legally Blonde and Momma Mia, they'd have finished on time. You'll have to make up your own joke about the last winner. I'm going to listen to my original Broadway cast album of Hair, and pretend it's 1968 again. Toking up!

Cheers darlings.

[Next day addendum. I have now learned that Neil Patrick Harris saved his big guns for the end, and finished the show with a big musical parody number that all seem to have loved, except all watching it on TiVO or DVR, like myself. Who waits until the end of a three-hour show (four hours for those in the theater) to pull out their best stuff for an audience that only wants to get to the bar fast? Bad decision. Open with the big stuff. At 11 o'clock-plus the losers want to get drunk, the winners want to celebrate, and no one wants any more show. Very odd. You can find a link to it elsewhere on these pages. And be sure to read the account of the show on Ken Levine's blog, also linked on this page, for the funny, funny take of his daughter and her writing partner. Great stuff, despite their not always agreeing with my assessments. ]

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