There were only two things that excited me about this year’s Tony Awards ceremony: Sean Hayes and Glee-cast member Matthew Morrison. Hayes is currently staring in his Broadway debut in “Promises, Promises” for which he was nominated best actor, and was the host of the show. Every bit as funny as he was as Jack on “Will and Grace,” Hayes delighted us whenever he appeared on stage. He opened with a surprisingly gifted performance of a Gershwin tune on the piano, and continued to play throughout the night. Who knew? But his comedy bits with “P, P” co-star Kristen Chenowith, his jokes, and his comic appearances in ballet tights (from “Billy Elliot”), Spiderman (a new musical) and in a Little Orphan Annie costume were executed with perfect conviction and timing. Love that guy.
So it turns out that Matthew Morrison (“Will Schuester” in “Glee”) is an experienced Broadway performer having played the original “Link” in “Hairspray” and “Lt. Cable” in “South Pacific” and has been nominated for 6 awards. For me, this gives him artistic legitimacy. His performance at the Tony’s of “All I Need Now is the Girl” proved his abilities and secured me as a fan.
Lea Michele (“Glee”’s “Rachel Berry”) is also a Broadway veteran best known for her part as “Wendla” in the Tony Award-winning production of “Spring Awakening.” While her performance of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” at the Tony’s was perhaps not her best, when she hit those Streisand-high-notes…well, they were as true and clear as anything the Divine Barbara ever hit.
The Tony’s is where most of us discover what’s going on in NYC’s theater district. I kept waiting to be thrilled with new music, exciting choreography, an outstanding new artist. It never really happened. I was bored with the revivals and remixes of previously recorded music. New shows are financially risky and producers are not usually risk takers. This may explain the large numbers of film and television stars performing on Broadway who may attract audiences that the stars of theater may not draw.
Even “Fela” and “Come Fly Away”—choreographed by two of my fav’s, Bill T. Jones and Twyla Tharp—didn’t boost my interest. The only shows I would go see (as if I’ll ever be able to afford a Broadway show ticket again) are “Promises, Promises” because of Hayes and Chenowith; “A Little Night Music” for the incomparable Angela Lansbury who was awarded the first Honorary Chairmanship of the American Theater Wing; and “American Idiot” because Green Day’s music brings a fresh energy to Broadway.
And by the way, the DVR is the only way to go with award shows so you can fast forward through the dull acceptances and endless ads.