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12 Things About the 2012 Tony Awards

It’s done, you guys. Done. Finito. All gone. And here’s how last night’s ceremony shaped up, from the coolest moments to the lamest…

Everything Old (and Profitable) Is New Again
Never have we felt the influence of the almighty dollar as profoundly as we did on this year’s telecast. Broadway’s revenue powerhouse, The Book of Mormon, opened the show, and with a number that only tenuously and fleetingly tied it to any of this year’s nominated musicals. The pre-show awards were boldly sponsored by Intercontinental Hotels on an individual basis, leaving Norbert Leo Butz and Beth Leavel the totally awkward job of having to call out the sponsorship before they opened nearly every envelope. And then there was the matter of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, which effectively bought a four-minute ad in the middle of the show with a number from Hairspray, which performs aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas ship. Piped in from some random part of the Caribbean, the number felt so utterly cut-rate — and so irrelevant — next to this year’s newer, more polished fare. We know the marketing and ad sales powers in these situations always presume that the average American TV viewer can’t fully grasp what’s being advertised, and can’t tell what’s truly Broadway-calibre and what’s not, but like… we can tell. We can absolutely tell, you guys. Sure, each Tonys performance is essentially an ad for the show itself. But this starts to get real uncomfortable when the thing being advertised isn’t a piece of theater, but a cruise ship. You can call us cynical for noticing, but selling the Tonys telecast like it was just one giant block of bookable ad space — for stuff that isn’t theater? That feels pretty cynical to me, too. Can’t wait for next year’s offering: Staples: The Musical.

The Amazing Opening Number; No, the Other Amazing Opening Number
Neil Patrick Harris’s quirky, wonderful “If Life Were More Like Theater” montage, which re-imagined everyday life as a musical, made us giggle. As far as the cameos went, Amanda Seyfried doesn’t seem to have totally grasped the concept of live performance, but Patti LuPone’s stupendous entrance — with a fucking lawnmower — kind of made our lives.

Black Stache Triumphant
WE SO CALLED IT. Christian Borle, winner of a Tony of Our Hearts, got himself some well-deserved Tony love in the Best Featured Actor In a Play category. His spot-on comic timing and rubber-limbed antics clearly won the voter’s hearts too. While we were busy being incoherent with happiness, he was being dashing and giving a sweet, humble, and witty speech which proved our hearts right. Here’s to many more Tonys, Christian, both of the kind you can put in the bathroom and the kind we make up in our heads.

Porgy and Bess Upsets Follies Like a Boss
The unbridled joy on director Diane Paulus’ face said it all — Porgy and Bess’s win for Best Revival was kind of a shocker. And damn did it feel good to see Paulus take the stage and receive recognition for her part in updating the classic Gershwin/Heyward opera for the 21st century. We can only imagine what it must have felt like to bag that honor after all the scrutiny brought down upon the show by crotchety old Stephen Sondheim and his early, public criticism of the production. But we’re hoping there was at least one toast to Mr. Sondheim at their after-party. And another to modernity and art and experimentation that still honors its artistic forebears. We’d drink to that!

Judy Kaye Is the Classiest Class Act You Ever Did See
Judy Kaye took home her second Tony for Featured Actress in a Musical for the role of Estonia Dulworth in Nice Work If You Can Get It (her first was for playing Carlotta Giudicelli in The Phantom of the Opera) and simultaneously proved herself to be a total class act. Kaye made tasteful jokes — you get down with your bad self on that chandelier quip, Judy! — and eloquently and succinctly thanked all the people you’re supposed to remember when you get up there on that stage. And then, she broke all of our hearts just a little bit, dedicating the award to her father who passed away just last week. Kaye’s beautifully spoken, heartfelt tribute brought more than a few tears to more than a few eyes. And, in a night full of outsized, made-for-television moments, Judy’s unexpected, quiet tribute left an indelible mark.

Nina Arianda Overshares with Us and Christopher Plummer
Who doesn’t love them some famous people oversharing on network television? I mean, really. The latest and greatest overshare on theater’s biggest stage came at us courtesy of star-on-the-make Nina Arianda told Christopher Plummer — and the entire viewing public — that she had an enormous crush on him as a child. Then she made a vaguely (and possibly unintentional) sexual reference to the way she used to feel when Captain Von Trapp blew a whistle in The Sound of Music. And we absolutely died of happiness. Because a) How fun and lovely and perfect is Nina Arianda, and how wonderfully did she project that essential self on national television? And B) GIRL. Get it! You SO deserved that award for your fierce performance as Vanda in Venus in Fur. Now quick, come be our bestie!

The Revival of Raul Esparza Leap of Faith
There wasn’t a whole lot of love lost on Leap of Faith this spring, but it must be said: the show’s performance on last night’s telecast felt weirdly good. No, the material hasn’t improved. But Leap was part of this season — a big enough part to get a nomination for Best Musical — and in a ceremony that theoretically celebrates the theater season as it was, it felt good to see Leap represented up on that stage. Especially considering we had to sit through a total irrelevant non-equity performance of Hairspray of the Seas, first. Props to Raul — and his likewise revived beard — for turning up and putting on a show, even after being snubbed by the committee like woah.

Ben Vereen Is Confused About Some Things
We love Ben Vereen. The man is a legend. But what happened to him last night? He flubbed the introduction to Jesus Christ Superstar‘s performance so solidly that he wound up calling Canada’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival the Stamford Shakespeare Festival. As one of our Twitter followers pointed out, that would be a way easier from NYC, but… it doesn’t exist. Plus, this will do nothing for US-Canada relations.

Norbert Leo Butz and Beth Leavel Keep It Real
It kind of sucks that the real Tony Awards, the ones for people who actually love theater, have been relegated to a mostly offscreen ceremony wherein the design and writing prizes are presented separately. But. It’s kind of cool, too — a little inside shindig for the die-hards. This year’s sideline, parallel-universe Tony Awards, hosted with good humor by Norbert Leo Butz and Beth Leavel, actually wound up being pretty entertaining, and never moreso than when Norbert said he wanted to put his Peter in Beth’s Starcatcher. Maybe this will become a bawdier, less stuffy cousin to the “real” show. And speaking of bawdy, it must be said that Norbert’s scruffy-chinned, erudite-professor look basically slays us. If Beth’s not up to this challenge, we’ll stand in.

Steve Kazee Wrecks our Hearts and Souls, as Expected
Steve Kazee — actor, singer, and giver of feelings. Kazoo won, you guys! From his statement that, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams,” to his blatant love for Cristin Milioti and the rest of the cast, to his tearful tribute to his mother, who died recently after a battle with cancer, we were charmed and moved to tears.

James Corden Can Do So Much More than Make Us Laugh
Sure, we knew he was funny. But when he won the Best Leading Actor in a Play Tony, we fell in love with him for a whole other reason. He dedicated his performance to his girlfriend and “baby mama,” Julia Carey, and said of her: “I would not be holding this if it wasn’t for her. She made me say ‘us’ instead of ‘I’ and ‘we’ instead of ‘me’ and I love her.” Did we mention we have a weakness for guys who can make us laugh and cry?

The McDonald/Swenson Clan of Cuteness
It takes some work to upstage Audra McDonald. Or maybe just a cute smile, depending on who that smile belongs to. Audra’s fifth Tony win, for Porgy and Bess, was a lovely moment — particularly when the cameras panned to the audience to fiance Will Swenson, his kids, and Audra’s daughter Zoe, who beamed. Having your illustrious, Tony-winning mom declare on national TV that your birthday was the biggest moment in her life? Oh you know… typical day, if your mom is Audra McDonald.

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