Marian Seldes Wanders Around
The locally-televised Tony preshow is a strange creature to begin with. There’s no real host and no live music. Most people are seeing many of the winners’ faces for the first time. So you can image how odd it got when actress Marian Seldes, accepting a lifetime achievement award during this year’s preshow, simply got up on stage, gave a weird little smile, and walked off without saying a word. Some called it a classy, humble move. The effect if you were watching at home, however, was so ill-suited to television and so weirdly timed, that it seemed like anything but. Seldes looked more confused and bewildered than anything else, like she’d wandered onto the wrong stage on the wrong day. It made for some pretty fascinating entertainment, but it also made me think, “And this is why they don’t include this in the national telecast.”
Gimpy Karen Olivo
When actress Karen Olivo, still injured from a performance of West Side Story, hobbled onstage to host this year’s preshow, we all gasped a little. Fitted with a crutch and a massive cast around her foot, she seemed anything but suited to the task of like… standing around for a while. Which is exactly what her job entailed.
You Go to the Tonys and a Green Day Concert Breaks Out
Sure, it was a little inappropriate. But that’s the whole point of being Green Day, right? Ten minutes into the national telecast, the original casts of all the nominated shows all stepped aside and Green Day played half a set. It was ridiculously out of place, really energetic and loud, and basically awesome—a loving middle finger to an organization that wouldn’t recognize American Idiot with nominations, but was happy to use its composers to boost their ratings. The cast were relegated to backup singers. The audience looked really confused. And for a few minutes, American theater woke the fuck up. Of course, then Memphis started winning and it went right back to sleep, but we’ll take that five minutes, and pray that we get more of them in the future.
Denzel Gets Kind of Uncharacteristically Rude and Flustered
What happened to Denzel Washington? I remember his polished, moving Oscar speeches. At the Tonys, however, he just seemed kind of unfocused during his thank you speech, and struggled to think of what to call the folks who, you know, voted for him. It was probably just a mistake, but it gave the odd impression that Denzel doesn’t really get this whole Broadway thing, and further anchored the impression that Hollywood actors are a little clueless and stuck up about doing 8 shows a week. Scarlett Johansson and Catherine Zeta-Jones, on the other hand, seemed genuinely humble and happy about being recognized, despite their fish-out-of-water status.
Matt Morrison Just Sang on Your TV Without Auto-Tune
And he sounded good. In fact, Morrison’s performance, sans-computer generated pitch correcting, was even better than any Glee number of his I’ve ever seen. Maybe the Tonys producers can pass the Glee producers a few notes on how to handle Matt Morrison properly, because all that auto-tune does him no service. (Same goes for Jon Groff, actually.) It was refreshing, nay, exciting, to get a reminder of why we all love Matt Morrison so much in the first place.
Also Starring… Jonathan Groff
Jonathan Groff’s appearance at the Tonys wasn’t exactly shocking. He’s a Tony nominated actor who is about to open a show on the West End—he belongs there. Plus, days earlier, Lea Michele not so subtly hinted that she’d be bringing him as her date. But Jonathan got a lot more screen time than expected for someone neither presenting, nor performing, nor nominated, when they moved him to an aisle seat for Lea’s performance of “Don’t Rain on my Parade.” Jesse St. James and Rachel Berry, together at last! And on a rival network! Honestly… what was CBS thinking? I mean, I love seeing Jonanthan Groff on my TV and all, but the amount of Glee promotion that occurred at this year’s awards ceremony was crazy—prompting NY Magazine to declare Glee the ceremony’s biggest winters—especially for a network that doesn’t air the show or profit from a boost in its ratings. I know, I know, CBS was just trying to boost the ratings of the Tonys broadcast itself by shoving as much mainstream star-power into the schedule as possible, but this all just seemed incongruous to me. No matter how much I love the Groff.
Sean Hayes Runs at Your Screen Dressed Like Spider Man and Singing Like Barbara (Almost)
Welcome to the funniest moment of the entire damn show, and perhaps Sean Hayes’ most epic moment of comic genius since Will and Grace took its final network bow. When he came tearing down the aisle dressed as the comic book super hero, attempting to sing like one of the theater community’s real-live heroes, Mr. Hayes proved how perfectly suited he was for the Tonys hosting gig. Though Hayes had already shown a remarkable lack of pride and willingness to do almost anything for the sake of a good joke (his Billy Elliot joke was so good he didn’t even have to open his mouth, the costume earned uproarious laughter on its own), the Spider Man joke also showed a keen awareness of the Broadway community, present and future, and hit all the right notes. So, bravo, Mr. Hayes! We’re glad to have you here on the Great White Way.
Catherine Zeta-Jones has Verbal Diarrhea
I confess, I was momentarily disappointed to hear Catherine Zeta-Jones’ name called. This was partly because I was rooting for Sherie Rene Scott, and partly because I’d witnessed CZJ’s weird, angry-Stevie-Wonder-esque performance of “Send in the Clowns” earlier in the show. But within about two seconds, she’d won me over with her genuine shock and honest appreciation for the award she’d just been presented with. Maybe you could say other performances were more deserving. But at least CZJ showed heartfelt understanding of the honor that had just been bestowed upon her, unlike, say, Denzel Washington. I loved her dress, her cooky, way too honest acceptance speech, and her parents in the first row right beside her. I loved that she loved Broadway and the Tonys as much as I do. After my disappointment wore off, in fact, all I can say is that I just love Catherine Zeta-Jones.
The Women Win All the Hottie Awards
Is it just me, or were all the hottest looking people at that ceremony card-carrying, bona fide, adult women? I don’t mean adult in the same way that my twenty-something rear-end is supposed to be adult. No, I mean women in the 40+ age demographic. Kristin Chenoweth wore a skirt so short even I wouldn’t dare go near it, and she looked bangin’. Viola Davis’ outrageously sculpted biceps and triceps ignited a fire of envy in my heart (as did her absolutely stunning vivid green dress). Jesus, even Idina Menzel’s mom looked hotter (and younger) than Idina. Between all these foxy older women, and Angela Lansbury’s svelte, 84-year-old figure (a knockout in fire-engine red), I feel really good about my future.
It wasn’t unexpected, but the multiple wins for Memphis, including the win for Best Musical, still left a bad taste for all kinds of reasons. Here’s the main one: The show isn’t very good. An oversimplified, weirdly-paced, over-performed, borderline racist show about the early days of rock and roll, Memphis hardly leaves a mark after you leave the theater—except to make you wonder what in the world just happened, and whose reality you just witnessed, for the last two hours. Both Fela! And American Idiot tell their stories more deftly, with a better sense of history, and with way better songs. So what the hell happened? Chalk it up to Tony voter conservatism, and the odd idea that a musical can and should be only one thing—and an outmoded thing at that—and voila. Memphis wins best musical.