Once, Twice, Eight Times Blessed

11 Jun

The Tony Awards, honoring the best of the current Broadway season (the pinnacle of American theater for many professionals and fans alike) were held last nigh, Sunday (06/10/2012). I skipped them, a rarity that, because I was watching the season finales of The Killing and Mad Men–and I don’t record shows anymore because if I don’t watch it while it’s actually airing, the chances are slim that I’ll make time to catch it later.  Here are some highlights:

^ Steve Kazee triumphed as Best Actor in a Musical for Once, which also won Best Musical in addition to 6 other awards. The most honored show at last night’s Tonys, Once is based on an Oscar winning film of the same name.

  • Best Musical: Once

Before Once was a smash Broadway musical with 8 Tony awards, it was a 2007 Irish indie flick about a random, if meaningful, encounter between a male and female musician  that won the Oscar for Best Song (“Falling Slowly”).  Besides Best Musical, Best Actor, and Best Director, Once also captured Tony awards for Best Book of a Musical (Enda Walsh),  Best Orchestrations (Martin Lowe), Best Scenic Design (Bob Crowley), Best Lighting Design (Natasha Katz), and Best Sound Design (Clive Goodwin).

^ Bruce Norris wins a Tony for Best Play (Clybourne Park) less than two months since he snared a Pulitzer Prize. nice work if you can get it, indeed. Right, Bruce?

  • Best Play: Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris

Norris won the Pulitzer earlier this year as well. His play spins off from the characters and situations in Lorraine Hansberry’s classic A Raisin in the Sun (1959), offering glimpses at life in the same community in Hansberry’s original both before and after the African-American Younger family moves into an all-white neighborhood.  Norris reportedly thanked Hansberry in his speech.

^ Audra McDonald (l) onstage performing a number from the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and (r) on the red carpet at the Tonys with her fiancee, Will Swenson

  • Best Actress in a Musical – Audra McDonald (Porgy and Bess–aka The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess)

McDonald has now won a staggering 5 Tony Awards, which puts her in a three-way tie with such legends as Julie Harris and Angela Lansbuy for most wins by an actress although, technically, Harris has an additional Lifetime Achievement award as well, bringing her total to 6. McDonald’s previous wins are for A Raisin in the Sun  (Best Featured Actress Actress in a Play, 2007),  Ragtime (Best Featured Actress in a Musical, 1998),  Master Class (Best Featured Actress in a Play, 1996), and Carousel (Best Featured Actress in a Musical, 1994); FYI:  Despite being officially titled Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, this staging of the classic American opera has undergone significant tinkering, thereby making it’s title somewhat of an orymoron.

  • Best Actor in a Musical – Steve Kazee (Once)
  • Best Actress in a Play – Nina Arianda (Venus in Fur)

This was arguably the most heated of all acting contests as Arianda was competing against a trio of popular, previous winners, Stockard Channing (Other Desert Cities), Linda Lavin (The Lyons), and Cynthia Nixon (Wit), in addition to a widely heralded newcomer, Tracie Bennett in the powerhouse role of Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow.  It does seem a little odd to me that Bennett was positioned in this category rather than the “musical” category, btw, since she does perform several of Garland’s greatest hits in the show.

James Corden: One Man, Two Guvnors–and one Tony

  • Best Actor in a Play – James Corden (One Man, Two Gu’nors)

I don’t know who Corden is, but I’m grateful that Tony voters weren’t all gaga starrry-eyed over Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the big hit revival of Death of a Salesman. A few years ago, the Tonys sort of lapsed into a trend of honoring movie stars seeking acting cred by appearing in limited runs of high profile shows.  Plus, I simply can’t imagine that Hoffman is really any good as Miller’s Willy Loman.

  • Best Director (Musical) –  John Tiffany (Once)

^ Legendary director of stage and screen, Mike Nichols

  • Best Director (Play) – Mike Nichols (Death of a Salesman)

Okay, y’all, listen up: Nichols is one of a rarefied few individuals who has won a Tony, an Oscar (Best Director –  The Graduate, 1967), an Emmy (Best Director – Angels in America,   2003;  Wit ,  2001), and a Grammy (the comedy album, An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May). Actually, Nichols has multiple Tony awards, for either directing or producing such shows as Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Luv, Plaza Suite, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Annie (producer),  The Real Thing (director and producer), and Spamalot.  Wow!

  • Best Featured Actress in a Musical – Judith Kaye (Nice Work If You Can Get It)

Judith Light on winning a Tony: “…the luckiest girl in the world.” Incredibly, Light’s role was originally played off-Broadway by Linda Lavin, who left the production for The Lyons when it opened on Broadway, earning her own Tony nod in the process.

  • Best Featured Actress in a Play – Judith Light (Other Desert Cities)

Light was just nominated last year in the same category for Lombardi. I was never much of a fan of her 80s sitcom Who’s the Boss though I’m always glad to see her when I can.  I have been a huge HUGE fan ever since her two-time  Emmy award winning portrayal of Karen Wolek on daytime’s  One Life to Live back in the late 70s and early, early 1980s.  Fans and people in the biz are still raving about her testimony in the Victoria Lord murder trial.  Riveting stuff if you can find a clip on YouTube without gnarly audio.

  • Best Featured Actor in a Play – Michael McGrath (Nice Work If You Can Get It)
  • Best Featured Actor in a Play – Christian Borle (Peter and the Starcatcher

A new play that purports to be a prequel to Peter Pan. Huh? I’m skeptical though it seems to have worked for Norris’s play.

  • Best Original Score – Newsies  (Alan Menken and Jack Feldman)

Menken, of course, already has 8 Oscars for his work on Disney’s animated musicals, such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas, winning two Oscars for each film (for scoring and for songwriting). No single living human being has more Oscars than Menken. Newsies originally began life as a flop Disney live-action musical starring a then teen-aged Christian Bale, and it was the “cult” of Bale that helped give the movie a strong afterlife on home video, thereby setting the stage, so to speak, for the current smash Broadway edition.

  • Best Revival of a Musical –  The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
  • Best Revivl of a Play – Death of a Salesman

Official Tony Awards site: http://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/index.html

The Internet Broadway Database: http://ibdb.com/index.php

Huffington Post article on Judith Light:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/10/tony-awards-2012-judith-light-wins_n_1585295.html

Read about Linda Lavin’s incredible year on Broadway in the New York Times:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F07E6D8133FF93AA15756C0A9649D8B63&ref=lindalavin

Thanks for your consideration, and thanks for not c0mmenting on the fact that I have written about Broadway theatre even though the name of this blog is Confessions of a Movie Queen.

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