The Tony Awards were more fun to watch last year, although seeing host Sean Hayes (Will and Grace) dressed as orphan Annie and singing as Spiderman was somewhat amusing. Annie will be revived on Broadway, again. Bernadette Peters won’t be in it because she’ll be taking over Catherine Zeta Jones’ role in A Little Night Music, for which Jones received her first Tony.
I really liked Angela Lansbury’s acceptance speech for becoming the first Honorary Chairperson of the American Theatre Wing. Lansbury recalled that as part of the war effort 70 years ago she received a scholarship from ATW to continue training in theatre. Lansbury urged the younger generation to hone their knowledge and skills and to take advantage of available resources, one of them being the ATW’s website. She reminded people that achieving dreams takes a lot of hard work and determination.
Angela Lansbury’s speech
Denzel Washington received a Tony for his role in Fences, which received an award for best revival of a play. August Wilson’s play about racial barriers and dreams is still on my reading list.
With the presences of Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, and Bebe Neuwirth it was half of a Frasier reunion. Grammer is in La Cage aux Folles, which was selected as best musical revival, while Pierce is in the revival of comedic La Bête. I’d like to see Neuwirth, who is currently Morticia in the Addams Family, on stage one of these days. She’s a fantastic triple threat who I still think should have been cast in the movie Chicago, even if not as Velma.
La Cage aux Folles, “the Best of Times”
Nineteen new plays opened this past season, which is great. I wish I could see them all, but I’ll settle for possibly reading a few. John Logan’s Red is a portrait of an artist who is challenged by his assistant as he tries to create his definitive work. Geoffrey Nauffts’s Next Fall examines believing and what it may cost us not to through the relationship of Adam and Luke. Going beyond a typical love story, it’s a “witty and provocative look at faith, commitment, and unconditional love”.
The theme for this year’s musical nominees is music. Fela! is the story of Nigerian Fela Kuti who devoted his life and music to civil rights in country with a corrupt, oppressive military government. Among its producers are Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, which explains why I saw them in the crowd for the first time. Named after the album, Million Dollar Quartet captures the only time that Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Carl Perkins played together. The impromptu jam session and recordings in 1956 made music history. Set in the underground clubs of the fifties, Memphis is about a white DJ who falls in love with a black singer and rock ‘n roll and the ensuing revolution. It’s loosely based on Dewey Phillips, who was one of the first DJs to play black music on the radio. Green Day has made it to Broadway, or at least their music has. American Idiot is about young Americans struggling to find meaning in a post-9/11 world.
Million Dollar Quartet
Coming from their glee club were Mathew Morrison and Lea Michele. It was nice to hear them sing live with an orchestra. Morrison’s voice suits jazzy music and I like Gypsy, which I saw last year with Patti LuPone. I was impressed with Michele’s rendition of “Don’t Rain On My Parade”. It’s not an easy song and Barbra Streisand set the bar pretty high. The showtune covers make Glee worth watching once in awhile, that and thespians I like such as Idina Menzel (Rent, Wicked, Chess) and Neil Patrick Harris (Rent, Sweeney Todd) make guest appearances and sing. It’s not a bad show and hopefully it helps make musical theatre more popular among a wider audience.
I believe Angels in America, one of my top-favourite plays, will be returning to Broadway, but I’m not sure what else the coming year will bring. I hope Hayes was kidding about Spiderman, but with the way franchises like Disney have been taking over, it wouldn’t be too surprising. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. As they say, the shows must go on.
Mathew Morrison & Lea Michele