Well. That happened. And not a moment too soon. If we saw another 2013 Tonys Predictions article we were going to projectile vom. Now, before we all start talking about our new favorite subject — the 2014 Tony Awards, natch — let’s pause for a moment to appreciate the show. The good, the cray and everything in between.
The Opener of Openers
Remember that time that the opening number of the Tony Awards was better than any single number in any musical in the actual Broadway season that preceded it? Yeah, that was last night, and Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt wrote it, and Neil Patrick Harris performed it, and it was so good that it left us gobsmacked and teary-eyed, all before a single trophy had been handed out. With a cast that seemed like it was comprised of literally every actor on Broadway and rhymes like, “You can bounce a quarter off the ass of Billy Porter,” it was more than just a run-of-the-mill medley or a turnkey list of nominees designed to Teach America About Broadway. It was a razor-sharp homage to the state of Broadway right this moment, saturated with more inside jokes, backhanded compliments, and winking double entendres than there are in the whole first act of The Book of Mormon. If Smash was that good, and that smart, it would still be on the air. And host Neil? Forget Alec Baldwin. Broadway’s best ambassador is chosen and crowned, and he’s not even in a show.
Laura Benanti, National Treasure
The number where Broadway actors lamented their canceled TV shows was an easy win for the sheer force of the talent on stage. That it was a not-so-subtle, CBS-endorsed dig at NBC was just icing on the cake. Andrew Rannells channeled his best Elder Price – all cotton candy and battery acid. Megan Hilty seemed utterly freed from the ghost of horrible Ivy Lynn and her horrible wrap dresses. But no one rocked this segment like Laura Benanti. Flouting the empty-headed, silly-girl-in-a-pretty-dress stereotype that dogs so many attractive leading ladies, Laura busted out her best belt and her killer comedic timing to incredible ends. And with lines like, “Suck it, Will Chase,” – delivered as Will himself fake-snoozed in the front row – Broadway proves that it can poke fun at its foibles, and its privilege, without flinching.
Stark Sands Gives America the Eye
Stark Sands may have lost the Best Actor in a Musical Tony to his benevolent costar Billy Porter, but several million young women (and young men) in the viewing audience likely did not care, because of that wink. Delivered as his nomination was read, it was like the exclamation point at the end of the declaration that Stark Sands is the cutest human being ever! His obvious glee at seeing his costars and his show take top honors, and a gazillion other trophies, didn’t hurt things. We loved him already, it’s true, for all sorts of reasons. (Those eyes, though.) But Tony night anchors Stark Sands in our heart of fangirl hearts forever.
Patina Miller Triumphant
Laura Osnes won the Drama Desk Award and the Times predicted that she would win the Tony, but it was Patina Miller who came home with the prize. It’s not like we didn’t want Laura to win – she’s giving a fine performance in Cinderella – but Patina’s gutsy, ice-cold Leading Player in Pippin was our favorite performance of the year. We give the Tony voters props for not automatically opting for the warm and fuzzy – especially where a woman is concerned. Added bonus: Patina’s win gave us a good look at her showstopping blue-and-blush Zac Posen dress.
Jane Lynch Forces Us to Ponder What Could Have Been
We expected Jane Lynch would be good in Annie, no lie. But we’re not sure we expected her to be quite that good. With a belt for days and a brittle, spot-on nastiness that gives her Miss Hannigan a real sense of unapologetic terror, we’re suddenly finding ourselves wanting to see Annie again. This is no small feat, considering that Shows With Adorable Children are not generally at the top of our must-see list, and that we weren’t entirely thrilled with this production. Watching Jane kill it on the Tonys, you had to wonder: If she originated the role, would she have been nominated for a Tony? We think she would have been, and that all of us – and this Annie revival – missed out.
Let’s hear it for the girls: Both Diane Paulus and Pam MacKinnon took home directing trophies this year. Cyndi Lauper became the first woman to nab the Best Score prize completely solo. We couldn’t help but love all the commentary in the media in the next day saying that Broadway is more diverse and inclusive than other aspects of the entertainment industry. Because duh, we knew that already.
Tracy Letts for the Steal
On what planet do the star-hungry Tony Awards pass up a chance to put an important award into the hands of a beloved Hollywood actor? On planet Sunday Night, that’s what. Tracy Letts bested Tom Hanks in the Best Actor in a Play category, shocking basically everyone. Especially the mainstream media shmucks in the press room who had to take an extra three minutes out of their night to Google Letts’ name. But Letts deserved that little spinning disk for his astonishing performance in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and we were thrilled to see it happen. Let’s hope all the Tony voters like the weather so much on this planet that they stay.
Terrence Man Gets Closer to the Four-and-Forlorn Club, of Which Raul Esparza is the President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer
Third time’s a charm? Not so much for legendary Broadway Actor Terrence Mann, who arrived at the show Sunday night as a three-time Tony Nominee — for his gleeful and glorious performance as Charlemagne in Pippin — and left as a three-time Tony Also Ran. This is Broadway royalty, you guys. He’s the American Javert for chrissakes! How could this happen? And who does he have to hunt down across time and space and the entire imaginary nation of France to make sure that next time, he fucking wins?
Please Welcome, Mufasa
So, what was up with this extreme fuckery wherein all of the technical awards were handed out by characters in shows, instead of by actors? Never mind that we really like knowing the names of actors in Broadway shows, who don’t often receive much mainstream recognition. Never mind that two of the “characters” onstage were played by Anthony Warlow (well-known in his homeland, and in theater circles here) and Reeve Carney (who’s about to star in a biopic about Jeff Buckley, has a rock album, and has dated famous people). Never mind that poor Corey Cott had to bust out not just his dumbass newsboy cap, but his full-on oldschool New York accent. And never mind that no one would dare insinuate that Scarlett Johansson or Alan Cumming present an award in character. The worst thing about this idea is that it just made no goddamn sense. The Oscars can get away with this nonsense when it’s a joke, and when the awards are presented by, say, an animated Snow White. Or by Chewbacca. But actors are real-life people and contrary to the look of 42nd Street these days, this is not Disney World. Spare us, Tony Awards. Our belief suspension systems stop squarely at the TV screen.
Mike Tyson Is Still a Convicted Rapist and an Alleged Wife Abuser, Even Though He’s Funny Sometimes
Just so we’re all clear. You know, in a year where we’re celebrating women and all.
Will Tim Minchin Please Stand Up
Nope, he won’t! Caught up in Australia in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, Matilda writer – and total crazy genius – Tim Minchin didn’t make the round-the-world flight to the Tonys this year. Not gonna lie: We were sad to be without him for his smarts and energy and guyliner. And for the missed opportunity to give him his own singer-songwriter concert segment, a la Cyndi Lauper. But maybe he made the right call. He didn’t win.
Matilda, We Called It
Remember a year ago when we said that Matilda was too good for Broadway? What we should have said was that it was too edgy for Broadway. A show about children, but not necessarily a “kid’s show,” Matilda, for all its squalling onstage brood, has an unsettling dark streak that clearly got to the Tony voters. Easily the most critically acclaimed show of the year — and a show that blew our minds for its blatant refusal to sanitize or sugarcoat its pointed source material — it still lost out on the top prize of the night to the more upbeat Kinky Boots. Surprising? Not really. The Tonys have a track record for neatly swerving around the serious stuff for lighter fare. The biggest surprise, really, is Matilda itself, and its coolheaded commitment to its purpose, awards and nominations be damned.
Audra Literally Drops the Mic