To the credit of Sunday night’s Tony Awards, I wasn’t tempted once during the broadcast to check in on the inmates at Litchfield or those who’ve taken the black at the Wall. That’s the magic of a well paced, mostly inoffensive, and relatively diverse major televised awards show.
Hosted by Hugh Jackman (returning to Broadway in The River this fall), the show began with a great (if slightly obscure to those not obsessed with the MGM Studios of the 1953) homage to Bobby Van with a performance from the cast of After Midnight following, featured Audra MacDonald’s 6th Tony win, that one time when Hugh Jackman, TI, and LL Cool J rapped lyrics from The Music Man , Neil Patrick Harris licking Samuel L. Jackson’s glasses during a performance of ‘Sugar Daddy’ from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a montage of nominated playwrights that reminded us just how white and male Broadway has chosen to let that world become, and a performance of ‘One Day More’ from Les Miserables that was just the opposite.
Kenny Leon’s third iteration of A Raisin in the Sun took home 3 awards including Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance By An Actress in A Featured Role In A Play for Sophie Okonedo, and Best Director of a Play for Leon himself. Audra McDonald won Best Performance By An Actress For A Leading Role In A Play for Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar And Grill, James Monroe Iglehart of Aladdin won for Best Performance By An Actor For A Featured Role In A Musical, and Linda Cho won for Best Costume Design of a Musical for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love And Murder. The send up to 1920s Harlem After Midnight which has, at different times, starred Fantasia Barrino, Toni Braxton, Baby Face, Dule Hill, and Vanessa Williams, with Patti LaBelle starting this week, also took home a win for best choreography.
Even if The Great White Way is still pretty white the Tonys seem to at least make more of an effort to showcase the diversity that does exist on New York stages. Six winners of colour make for two more than we saw last year, and certainly more than we’re going to see at, say, this year’s Oscars. With shows like Holler If Ya Hear Me (aka, ‘The Tupac Musical’), You Can’t Take It With You (starring James Earl Jones) opening this summer and The King and I, and Oprah produced ‘night, Mother eyeing 2015 runs the future shows that theatre will at least stay the course.
For more highlights highlights, tweets, and performances jump under the cut!
It’s impressive how well Fantasia Barrino’s found her niche in the Broadway world. Here she is performing with Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight from After Midnight. Why the show won for its choreography becomes obvious fairly quick.
Literally the nicest thing I can say about this performance from the cast of Les Miserable is that they’re a diverse bunch.
With this Tony Audra McDonald has won an award in all four acting categories. A teary McDonald included Lena Horne and Maya Angelou in her acceptance speech for playing Billie Holiday in Lady Day which prompted some reflection on how thanks and credit are doled out:
These award shows reinforce cultural differences in how we see our own accomplishments-“My work” vs. “The shoulders on which I stand”.
— Ja’Dell Davis (@MsJaDell) June 9, 2014
When they kept teasing TI during the commercial breaks I assumed we were going to get some sort of preview from Holler If Ya Hear Me (a show I’m desperately trying to reserve judgement on until I see it live, because this is worrying). Instead we got Hugh Jackman rapping lyrics from The Music Man. I’ll let you guess which one I would have preferred. If the Tonys want to feel cool and hip by including rap in the show every year, I do have a suggestion. Instead of creating strange gimmicks that give white men the opportunity to awkwardly try their hand at rapping, try talking to someone about getting more than one hip-hop based show on Broadway every three years (In The Heights (’08), Bring It On (’11), Holler (’14), in case anyone’s counting). It’s just a thought.
If we’re basing summer ticket purchases on Tony performances alone then Hedwig is the only show that I can guarantee my money. The look on Sam Jackson’s face is worth the ticket price alone.
Sometimes it feels like A Raisin in the Sun is the only Black play that consistently finds its way to Broadway. It’s still nice to see the cast recognised though, as Sophie Okonedo is here for her role as Ruth Younger.
First I couldn’t figure out why Tina Fey was introducing this performance from the upcoming Finding Neverland and then I couldn’t understand why Jennifer Hudson was singing to those four white children in pajamas, why she was dressed in a silver ball gown to do it, or who she was supposed to be playing. I guessed Nana. Arturo guessed Tinkerbell. Neither of us got an answer.
Finally, James Iglehart brought a little church to stage, making his win a highlight of the evening and forcing me to reconsider paying to see Aladdin.