stage dive

New York Magazine Theater Critic Scott Brown Live-Blogs the Tonys

Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images
Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

There’s nothing like the thrill of live theater: the immediacy, the intimacy, the hearing-aids-squealing-out-feedback-at-especially-inappropriate-moments. Only one sensation can compare, and that’s … live-blogging a live theater awards show from home, in one’s Les Miz jammies, with a tumbler of cold Scotch and an open tub of Costco cookie dough. That, my friends, is as immediate and intimate as it gets. For me, at least. (You’ll have to provide your own refreshments.) So, buckle your defective Spider-Man carabiners and hold onto your Mormon-frakkin’ hats: Here we go! It’s the 65th Annual Antoinette Perry Awards, muchachos! Feel the intensity!


I am agog: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony wrap-up/rap-up (as performed by NPH) is, I think, my favorite rap of his. The “fences” bit, on Rylance? The Fanny Brice name-check? The Tonycast has a way of focusing the minds of talented people, doesn’t it? How long before a hastily-concocted broadcast-specific insta-number becomes de rigueur for every awards show? Soon, I hope.

Kudos, also, to The Daily Show’s David Javerbaum, for his spectacular opening number.

All in all, a completely unshocking yet consistently riveting Tony-rama. I’m sure it pulled numbers comparable to a Cop Rock rerun, but for those who bothered to watch, there were promising signs: The show was, for the most part, handsomely assembled and produced and highly entertaining. And now, it’s time to go Tivo-review Game 6. Gotta burnish those hetero credentials if I want to stay butch enough for Broadway.


“You did it, Joseph Smith! You got the Tony!”

And it’s MORMON, by more than a nose.


Chris Rock:

“If you told me two years I would miss the greatest basketball game ever to hang out with Nathan Lane, I’d say, ‘You’re crazy!’”

A hooker joke, a nod to the wife, and we’re nearly to a Mormon triumph.


Rannells and Gad split the vote, as expected, and everything’s comin’ up Butz. No complaints here.

Norbert doesn’t have a walking-through-walls speech prepared, but he, too, gives deep love to his dressers. At the Oscars, you thank your agent; on Broadway, it’s your dresser. The difference is, one of those people actually has to physically touch you on a regular basis, while the other one works tirelessly to avoid that. It just underlines how theater’s a tactile art in an increasingly intangible world.


Mark Rylance takes it!

“Unlike flying or astral projection, walking through walls is an earthbound pursuit…”

I’m fairly sure if you play Rylance’s speech backwards, you will hear satanic messages.

What a year.


Checked Mavs/Heat score, just to confirm that this is still a “het” Tonys. Mavs win! They’re the War Horse of the basketball world - and all of them very lifelike.


And here’s Priscilla to remind us that Broadway - cheeky Glee-clusive opening numbers aside - is still very much “for the gays.”


Franny McD in a jean jacket! And with a Tony. And a Greg Allman joke! What a saucy combo.

“I love my job!”

And here’s Sutton, falling apart beautifully - and thanking her dresser! That’s the real deal. She may be the Sutton Industrial Complex, but she’s also a public trust. Good show, lass.

And now Paul Shaffer is talking - we’re all briefly confused, and then, suddenly, IT’S RAINING MEN.



And what, so did Tom Bosley? How did I miss that?

(The In Memoriam montage shouldn’t be a news ticker, but for some of us, it always is.)

How wonderful is it, though, to take part in an art form that applauds Ellen Stewart and Elizabeth Taylor with equal fervor?


I do believe CelebriCompany is in better voice tonight than they were the night I saw them perform at Avery Fisher Hall.

Maybe we can skip the next commercial break and watch Anika Noni Rose reprise her atomic-strength take on ANOTHER HUNDRED PEOPLE?


Somebody slap me the next time I use the phrase “I can’t deny her anything.” I keep repeating it. Getting punchy here! Time to crack into that Scotch. It’ll go well with James Earl Jones talking about the magic of theater.

Wow, glad I had a drink: That montage didn’t really end with HIGH, did it? I hallucinated that, right?

And that’s not really Christie Brinkley, is it?


Anything motherbleepin’ Went! Not that I begrudged Kathleen Marshall her Best Choreography Tony, but reliving that number made me feel better about HOW TO SUCCEED’S Rob Ashford’s shutout. I think, for sheer inventiveness and muscular staging, Ashford still squeaks it, on merit alone. But Marshall, with that number, makes it pretty difficult to deny her anything. And Sutton Foster’s smile - man, that thing is weaponized - is pretty difficult to resist. She apparently read from the Book of Merman before this performance (I don’t remember those strangled/gargled high notes from the press preview), but I find it hard to deny her anything, triple-threat supernova that she is.




Well, this is the first travesty of the night, and hardly a fatal one, by Tony standards. And the crowd goes mild!

The message here, unfortunately, is tour or die - and tour BIG, or don’t bother. Probably not the most productive message to send to an art-form dependent on risk-taking and originality.

Soothe me, Joel Grey.


Samuel L. Jackson: The motherfucker without the hat. It’s Fury time.


Social evolution alert: An IT GETS BETTER ad, running during a major awards broadcast. I’m guessing the same one is running during the Mavs/Heat NBA final, right?



Money quote from Larry Kramer: “Let them know we are… an exceptional people.”

In this and only this, Kramer and Sarah Palin have an accord.

Actually, I’m shocked and impressed by Kramer’s restraint. Everyone expected a jeremiad; in the end, he said fewer words this Tonycast than Bono. (Maybe not the hardest benchmark to beat, but still.)

Oh, look, it’s MEMPHIS: In case you forgot what a disappointing year it was last year. “Nah nah nah nah / nah nah nah nah nah!”



THE NORMAL HEART lands Revival, as expected.

Buckle up: The Larry Kramer show begins now.

Hot Neal Patrick Harris-on-puppet-horse action! Damn, this IS a hetero Tonys!

Elizabeth Rodriguez in lingerie gets applause - for a still photograph! Damn, this IS a hetero-Tonys!

Y’know, I didn’t have much use for SISTER ACT when I saw it, and I still think it’s a classic case of less than meets the eye. But Alan Menken can sure write a foursquare rafter-rattler, and Patina Miller-and-co. can certainly perform it. I think I just enjoy seeing this number raised out of the aquarium-lighting it’s submerged in over at the Broadway Theater.


The MORMON march continues, and here comes Trey Parker again - I only now realized that he’s wearing what appears to be the Tar Creature from Star Trek. Seriously, who else are you gonna give Best Book of a Musical to? I mean, for my money, a nod to Alex Timbers (a personal friend) might’ve been nice, in a year where innovation is being praised. Whatever you thought of the Broadway incarnation of BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON, no one can deny its innovations: It’ll be copied and referenced (and better understood) in the years to come.


“If there’s no such thing as sorrow
“There’s no such thing as time.”


Wow, this is the most electrifying number they can perform without an aerial rig and an EMT team? I think SPIDER-MAN just sold negative-1000 tickets.

(Please Tweet Bono your questions about his lyrics. He is doing a “humble” thing right now, and is liable to answer your questions in less than 50,000 words.)


“In rock and roll, a deadline is just a lie your manager tells you to get you back on the bus.” - Edge

“Ha ha ha ha ha! Hey, didn’t your show try to, like, kill people?” -Me

“Jennifer Damiano and Reeve Carney… To us, they are the superheroes.” -Edge

“[drinks a shot]” -Me


Hollywood rears its head - not dead yet! John Larroquette edges perceived-front-runner Rory O’Malley, breaking the MORMON streak. He was quite appealing, I must say.

Oh, John Larroquette: You don’t watch the Tonys in your underwear every year. But it’s nice to think you do.

“Your show is How / I Met Your Mother.”


Am I actually having fun in Hour two of the Tonys? I am!


It begins: The Jack(man)-off!


Discuss: Did Andrew Rannells just set white people back fifty years? OR Was that, more or less, the best and worst of American civilization, in perfect harmony with each other?


I think Andrew Rannells just sent Mitt Romney’s polling numbers up by at least ten points.

Well, if anyone doubted the sweep, doubt no more. Nikki James was truly excellent in a deceptively difficult role. Laura Benanti was my pick, of course, but who am I to argue with a long line of bumblebees?

I liked Matt Stone’s sweetly skeptical look when James said MORMON is changing the face of musical theater. Which it is, of course. But still.

Angela Lansbury discusses streaming media. My sexual fantasy come true.

Watching this number, I’m reminded, for the billionth time, what an enormously talent-packed year this was. SCOTTSBORO is no lyrical revelation, for sure, but that melody line is just so taut. Same goes for the ensemble singing it.

Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker! A complete non-surprise! The surprise is, Trey Parker doesn’t make a single joke - just gushes like a schoolgirl, as is entirely appropriate. Sincerity still reigns!

In other news: War Horse takes Best Direction of a Play. I’m totally fine with this - it’s a tremendous production of a barely-there play. They’ve probably done more sheer creation on stage than anyone else nominated. And maybe this means voters didn’t feel obligated to hand it Best Play, just because it’s selling like gangbusters on the road.

When Bono laughs ruefully, somewhere, an angel dies.

Wow, how much did Pacino-and-date not enjoy “Don’t Break the Rules”? Or was that deeply-annoyed looking brunette Baldwin’s plus-one? That’s one phlegmatic row.


I’ll say this: The production values of the Tonycast this year are head and shoulders above previous years. Somebody got the memo last year about all the sound-flubs, incompetent camerawork and generally lackluster acoustics. You don’t go up against LeBron with lackluster sound design!


I think Norbert Leo Butz just broke my TV. He’s the first performance of the night that might be too big for the small screen. Notice how few close-ups they’re attempting?


And Feat. Actor in a Play goes to… John Benjamin Hickey! Not an enormous surprise, but a fairly gratifying one. He wasn’t my pick - that was Yul Vazquez - but it was a tremendous performance. Where are the reaction shots of Larry Kramer? Can they not find him?

Now, on to the Aaron Tveit redemption-rama!


I think the rap on Radcliffe has been: He certainly did his homework, but he’s no natural. A few weeks ago, when the show opened, I think that was a pretty legitimate position. But now? Something new has infused his very cartilage. And the mark of a true performer is, when the chips are down, the doubters are nattering, and you’ve got something to prove? Prove it. I think he did.


Well, I think Danny Radcliffe just vaporized any remaining Death Eaters in the audience who still didn’t feel he’d earned his way into the brotherhood of Broadway.


Best Featured Actress in a Play goes to Ellen Barkin, and it’s pretty hard to argue with, in my opinion. She tore the roof off the place - and, from the sound of her, the epithelial cells off her vocal chords - every single night. Slightly awkward cut to Joel Grey, as Barkin bestows the laurels on George Wolfe. But then, c’mon, we all know who directed that show.


A fabul- sorry, AWESOME opening number. The tradition of in-ceremony lyrical hot-dogging matching or exceeding the actual nominated shows continues.


Mark it: Spider-man joke #1! And it’s a good one.


Joe Mantello, thanks for coming! And thanks to Brooke Shields, for playing. Off beats are hard! And so are Weiner jokes.


“Attention every breeder / You’re invited to the theater.” Sing it, girl.


That Green Lantern commercial just took the Tony for Most Dynamic Manscaping. And it was a competitive year!


Book of Mormon’s already taken Orchestrations and Score. Are things looking sweepy? Steady, Catch Me-thugs. Don’t call blades until they call blades.


On full Tony lockdown. Seeing an increased police presence on streets of Brooklyn tonight. The Catch Me If You Can crowd could make trouble if things don’t go their way.

New York Magazine Theater Critic Scott Brown Live-Blogs the Tonys