Friday, June 21, 2024

The Friday 5: 5 Tony Awards Highs...and Lows

5 Things the Tony Awards Got Right...and Wrong

High #1: The Lifetime Achievement Awards Speeches
Both George C. Wolfe and Jack O'Brien gave thoughtful, insightful and humorous speeches. Humble and grateful, these gentlemen showed us exactly why they deserved this honor...and why they aren't finished yet.

Low #1: The Opening Number
You know I worship at the altar of Tom Kitt, and Amanda Green is right up there in my esteem, too. But this slog of an opening was bland and had the energy of a deflating balloon. I'm no dancer, but considering what Ariana DeBose did with last year's opener, I can't see why she was that out of breath.

High  #2: Kara Young winning Featured Actress in a Play
When we saw Purlie Victorious this past winter, I remember saying to Mike as we exited the Music Box that Kara Young was going to win the Tony for her mesmerizing performance. It truly was one for the ages. I know I'll never forget it.

Low 2: The sound & camera work
It was embarrassing, really. From the opening number, right through The Outsiders' rumble, each musical number felt like I was listening through cotton at best, from underwater at worst. And the camera work was just as bad. When the presenters were naming their respective nominees, the camera was so close to their faces, they looked like they were in carnival fish bowls. And when will they learn that cutting to close ups in most production numbers ruins the effect. Long shots and stand still! (I'm still nauseated from the Cabaret shenanigans.)

High #3: Danya Taymor's shocking victory
I (and pretty much everyone I know) was so sure Maria Friedman was going to win, I almost got up to refill my drink instead of watching. I'm glad I didn't! And I'm happy for Danya Taymor, and she did some amazing work bringing The Outsiders from page to stage. It was 100% theatrical in all the best ways. Gritty and real. And gold.

Low #3: Hell's Kitchen & Cabaret
I can't remember the last time a Tonys performance made me not want to see a show, but it happened twice this year. Cabaret is one of my all-rime favorite musicals, but what I saw on Sunday was overblown, self-indulgent and creepy for the sake of being creepy. Eddie Redmayne was ridiculous. Period. And then there's Hell's Kitchen, which was granted nearly twice as much time as every other show. It looked sloppy, was definitely off-key throughout, and didn't showcase its strongest asset, Maleah Joi Moon. I feel sorry for ticket buyers who think Alicia Keys and Jay-Z are actually in the show. 

High #4: The Chita Rivera tribute number
It was as moving and exciting as the great lady they were paying tribute to. I loved how each of her signature numbers from her greatest triumphs were instantly recognizable, and so beautifully rendered by the ensemble. 

Low #4: No mention of the earlier award winners
As if it wasn't already shameful that so many artists are relegated to the no-man's land of the "warm-up" show, but then not to mention any of them during the main telecast? What an absolute insult.

High #5: The "In Memoriam" segment
Tastefully presented with large, flattering pictures and names, it was lovely. And hearing "What I Did For Love" sung with such poignancy by Nicole Scherzinger was the icing on the cake. She's sensational.

Low #5: The shout-outs
When pre-show host Utkarsh Ambudkar did it the first couple of times, it was funny and felt clever. But giving shout-outs is a bit with diminishing returns, and ended up sounding like what it was: name-dropping to let everyone know he has Broadway connections, no matter how distant they may be - Freestyle Love Supreme counts, but not as much as, say, being in Hamilton. And besides that, were it me, I'd have pointed out that Anthony Ramos wasn't wearing a shirt, and then have asked, "why are you wearing a jacket?"

Bonus Friday 5: 5 Favorite Shows of the 2024 Broadway Season
(In alphabetical order!)

1. Appropriate
2. Illinoise
3. The Notebook
4. The Outsiders
5. Water For Elephants

On any given day, this list might also include Back to the Future (most fun), Days of Wine and Roses (most brave), Lempicka (most thought-provoking), Purlie Victorious (most uplifting) or Stereophonic (most on my mind since seeing it). So it looks like I really have 10 five favorite shows!

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