Theatre: Tony Awards 2012
The Tony Awards can be summed up with one word this year – Once. The show dominated the ceremony with eight wins, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical and Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical.
However, despite its eleven nominations, there was an element of surprise at its success at the ceremony, not because the show wasn’t seen as worthy, but because of worries that its beauty was a little too subtle to be appreciated under the blinding lights of Broadway. Especially when it was being pitted against this year’s flashy success story Newsies in most of its categories.
While many were glad to see Once enjoy such amazing success, there were some other deserving winners worth mentioning. Audra McDonald (Dr Naomi Bennett to any Private Practice fans out there) scooped the award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess – a show that also won Best Revival of a Musical. Sondheim’s Follies was the bookie’s favourite to win in that category, but it was nice to see Porgy and Bess grab this one. There are some musicals out there that need to be put to rest and Follies should top that list.
Another surprise winner of the night was James Corden who beat out Philip Seymour Hoffman for Best Leading Actor in a Play for his role in One Man, Two Guvnors. No one could argue that Corden didn’t deserve the nomination, but Hoffman’s handling of the iconic role in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman made observers confident that he’d dominate this category, despite Corden’s previous Drama Desk award.
Death of a Salesman came out on top in the Revival of a Play and Direction of a Play categories, but failed to win itself any acting accolades. One surprise loss for the show was in the Featured Actor category, where Andrew Garfield was beaten by Christian Borle for his role in Peter and the Starcatcher. Theatre fans will know Borle for his performance as the original Emmett in Legally Blonde: The Musical rather than for his role in that appalling television show Smash and so will know that he is a wonderful comic actor with a flair for subtly sensitive moments. His win is well deserved, but a lot of theatre geeks felt Garfield’s admirable handling of a tortured character like Biff would overshadow Borle’s lighter comedic performance. Thankfully that was not the case.
Other notable winners are Nina Arianda as Best Leading Actress for Venus in Furs (one of the few shows from this year that I’d be really eager to see) and a surprise win for Michael McGrath as Best Featured Actor in Nice Work If You Can Get It.
Of course, it’s impossible not to feel some sympathy for Newsies’ lack of success. It has a perfect musical theatre songbook and there have been rave reviews for its choreography. Both facts were recognised at Sunday’s ceremony, but Once really stole Newsies’ limelight.
As for the ceremony itself, personal highlights include Neil Patrick Harris just for being Neil Patrick Harris. His opening number was fun and catchy, while he himself was energetic and witty throughout – basically he was wonderful and we’ve come to expect nothing less from him when hosting award shows. Also he gets a gold star for securing Patti LuPone for the opening.
Other great moments included Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s appearance in the opening number and Nina Arianda wasting some of the precious 90 seconds allocated for her acceptance speech to make a pass at actor Christopher Plummer saying “When that whistle was blown in Sound of Music, you made my day”.
As for the musical numbers performed during the ceremony, there was nothing exceptional from this year’s nominees. Matthew Broderick was as bland in his Nice Work If You Can Get It performance as he almost always is on stage, Ghost‘s actors were good vocally, but it’s still shocking that the movie was ever turned into a musical and despite all the hype, Once’s song choice for the night failed to inspire. It’s always difficult for a show to express everything that’s good about it in a couple of isolated minutes during an awards ceremony, but last year’s Best Musical winner Book of Mormon’s opening performance proves it’s possible to dazzle, although it is admittedly easier for a comedy.
All in all, it was a good year for the Tony Awards despite a dwindling viewership, with close races in many categories, great speeches, some really wonderful shows on display and of course, Neil Patrick Harris.