Ah, the Tony Awards. The major day that all Broadway players and fanatics emerge from their caves and join as one to celebrate the performing arts. Musicals, plays, and the enjoyment that is stage acting, creating, and consuming.
It is certainly one of my favorite holidays, one that my family and I indulge every year. The opening numbers, the audience inclusion, and the performances and awards given by and too decorated Broadway veterans and newcomers. A moment of celebration, and far too often, a center of controversy.
So that’s what this post will be rid of. Any opposition or negative remarks on those that performed during the Tony’s. This post will be a celebration of all performers and creators. The controversy surrounding the stellar musical Tootsie will also be touched on, but will not be the central thing discussed of when it is mentioned.
Another thing to say before I dive into fangirl mode over this spectacular event is that I won’t be speaking about anything non-musical. This isn’t because I’m not interested in the plays, but because my knowledge of them is more limited than that of musicals and so my opinions on things involving them should be considered irrelevant.
In addition, all pictures in this blog post are obviously not mine- though I wish they were- and unless they are mentioned otherwise, are from the Playbill and Tony Awards Instagram page.
Ok! I think that I covered all that I wanted to in the category of explaining the post, so without further adieu, here is a recap on the performances of the 73rd Annual Tony Awards of 2019!
THE OPENING NUMBER
The opening number is usually a make or break for the Tony Awards. If the hosts perform below the standard of the millions of theatre geeks watching the event worldwide, they tank ratings and the rest of the show. Needless to say, any host is a risk. Except for Neil Patrick Harris, obviously.
This isn’t James Corden’s first rodeo, though. He hosted the Tony’s back in 2016 and even won an award in 2012 for his performance in One Man, Two Guvnors. There were no doubts in many peoples’ minds that James could handle the job, including me. But as always, there were many who were skeptical of his abilities to wow the audience with the opening, and many still ended up being disappointed.
As for me, I think that the opening was absolutely electrifying. The number started in what felt like an SNL skit, a simple but realistic set of a living room, James dressed comfortably and singing away his woes of binging TV on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.
Then, just as James started singing about the magic of the stage, the drop lifted and revealed behind him the audience of the Tony’s. Suddenly, James turned to address this audience in his number, and dancers begin to sprout and spring from the impossibly small spaces of the couch James sits on, the second amazement of the number within less than 30 seconds.
The dancers continue with the amazing choreography they’re performing, and the nominees for Best Musical start to strut across the stage and perform with James individually, encouraging cheers from the audience and their fellow performers.
I especially favored the “Take 5” moment in the performance that momentarily broke the excitement, an example of the unbeatable magic of Broadway-as well as the known pain of the amount of exhausting skill and stamina needed for such a high-energy number.
Featured actors come out from the wings to join Jame’s song of comparison between TV and Broadway, stopping to note the triumphing pay grade of television over that of live performances. There’s also a moment of brief plug for Corden’s show, which I thought was funny enough to note, apparently. That and the raising of all of the actors’ hands when James says, “Law and Order Corpses?” when referring to the difference in pay.
What really sold the performance to me, though, was when the tone got serious about appreciating the magic of live performances. Musicals and plays alike create atmospheres of pure inclusion of that world, whichever they are creating for you. You are one with the actors, and there are levels of trust between a stage cast and crew and their audience that go unmatched anywhere else. This beauty has always been something that has made this dream so incredibly real and painfully necessary to me, so the fact that the performers on stage were able to display that feeling on stage nearly brought tears to my eyes.
The final gathering of FULL CASTS on the stage gave me so much hope and need, I can’t begin to describe the other emotions ignited in me at that very moment. So many talents on stage, so many watching proudly from the seats. It only made my need to reach that level even stronger. Needless to say, the opening number blew me away, and it definitely set the bar high for next year’s.
AIN’T TOO PROUD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS
Keeping with the topic of performances, I bring you an overview of the performance from the cast of Ain’t Too Proud- The Life and Times of the Temptations. To begin, the lighting and set design immediately pulled me into the time period. Despite being completely digital, the music and the images displayed captured the era in relation to the group perfectly.
As a granddaughter of a woman so obsessed with rhythm and blues, these are songs that were basically the soundtrack behind my early childhood. Even now I can hear these songs being played in the kitchen while she’s cooking or at family gatherings when they’re all putting an end to a good night. In this way, my expectations for the cast were incredibly high, and extremely well met. Their voices were impeccable, and the choreography even more so.
The cast performed a Temptations medley, with the song “Just My Imagination” being a top contender in my book. Those vocals and the use of the stage’s turntable to create imaginative choreography was heavenly, along with the high note that nearly reaches the sun itself. The band, the cast, the outstanding vocals, and the lighting and set design all worked in favor of the overall feel-good atmosphere of the show was perfectly encaptured in the Medley.
As you want with a jukebox or true-story musical, it’s upbeat, fun, and incredibly real. It welcomes you to its world and makes it hard for you to leave. This musical was something I hadn’t really ever considered getting into, but after that performance, it was all I could think about researching and listening to.
It was truly lively in all aspects of the performance and something that definitely pulled in a larger and more attentive audience.
First and foremost, I feel obligated to inform you of the constant controversy surrounding this show.
This show has been viewed as transphobic because of the backbone concept of a man dressing as a woman, a constant and wildly untrue misconception that transphobic people use as the descriptor of what transgender women are. Because I am not a member of the transgender community, it is not within my rights to define whether or not it is. But, as a musical theatre nerd, it’s my natural instinct to review and gush about Broadway and Tony performances, and so that I shall do.
First and foremost, I have seen this song performed on so many different New York talk and morning shows. Each time was amazing, but on the stage of Radio City Music Hall, it was ten times better. The (what I assume is) digital backdrop was filled with colors that screamed along with the loudness and excitement of the performance.
The costumes in the two-person scene were matched to the characters, and the extravagant dresses and suits later on matched the number, in which I thought that switch (that is also present in the state of mind-realistic conversation to dream) was well represented and dramatized.
Speaking of costumes, I love a good costume change, and Santino Fontana’s was no joke. Dorothy was beautifully displayed in the extravagance of the sequined red dress, and the tones of the style of the glamour that was the golden age of Hollywood in the ensemble’s costumes were well placed in terms of what dream Michael had for Dorothy’s career.
Another thing I loved about the performance was, of course, the lighting and set design. I have such a weakness for lighting and set design and combining those two with something as powerful as good choreography was something that left me astonished beyond belief.
This little peak of the show let the audience see how absolutely theatrical it is, which is something perfect- if done right- for a show about someone on the path to Broadway success. It feels like a great storyline, and with Santino Fontana in the lead role, It’s bound to be one of the few movies to Broadway hit.
I’m going to speak briefly on this one because I don’t know much about the show and what I do know doesn’t really attract me to it. But, I do want to praise Ali Stroker and other design and production decisions made by the creative team of the revival, because some of the ideas they acted on were absolutely brilliant.
To start off, Ali Stroker. Oh my goodness, to share this woman’s vocals has always been one of my biggest dreams. She is truly a powerhouse (and now a Tony Award Winner!) of an actress and singer, and her abilities baffle me beyond belief. I can’t recall anyone who puts a spell on me as well as she does besides, of course, the cast of Hadestown.
But beyond my love for Ali Stroker, my heart was stolen by the creative and production teams of this revival, because of a few things they showed during this performance. First of all, the audience os on stage. On. Stage.
I absolutely adore the idea of onstage audiences and I love being a part of them even more. Theatre is truly an immersive art. It whisks you away to a time and place that is so much your own that it comforts you or so opposite of your own that it still does the same thing. Placing an audience on stage with the cast members intensifies that experience and makes it a million times better for them to truly enjoy the world you’ve created.
Another idea that is incorporated by the production is the idea of modernization. Not only does the show bring the concepts of a musical from the ’40s about living in 1906 all the way to successful translation in 2019, but they do this without changing a single original word.
This production seems like true western magic, and though it’s not my usual cup of tea, I could definitely see myself enjoying this modern rendition, based on this performance alone.
One of the many things I adore about theatre isn’t just the music and the actors, but everything that happens behind the scenes. Boy does this creative team fascinate me.
From the actors’ entrance to the continuance of the performance on stage, there was not a single dull moment of this performance. Not only did they incorporate their most ambitious set pieces, but the creative team also tweaked the song to account for the audience of the Tony’s!
They changed it to directly talk to the collective attendance, welcoming us behind the fourth wall rather than simply breaking it down, a beautiful perk of live theatre.
Everything from the gorgeous lighting to the astounding digital set kept me on my toes, and the use of different cameras and multiple camera angles left me shocked and amused with each switch. The magic of Alex Brightman and his fellow castmates flows throughout the theatre and echos in every scratch in the walls, something confirmed by the eruption of applause throughout the house.
The costumes were also another level of amazing, each clearly crafted for the characters and carefully filled by the actors. Each actor brought to life their long resting roles and filled the world with the fun about death in the matter of their two-minute performance.
This creative team truly astounded me and I would gladly experience it all again, and again, and again just to experience the brilliance one more time.
Yet again, the digital set is something that I love. Emma’s bedroom is so realistic that I forgot it was real at moments. The lighting wasn’t showcased here, but when the song moved into “It’s Time to Dance” the lighting went CRAZY. The talents of the lighting department were put on full display for all to see, and the set only increased in beauty.
“It’s Time to Dance” is one of my favorite numbers from the show, and the costumes are one of the main reason why. It’s not just the same style (though it is the same length) for every girl in a different color, but each one has distinct meaning to the characters of the ensemble, and so obviously differing the ensemble from each other while still keeping them in a group is something that makes my little heart sing.
Another thing that made me happy about their performance was simply the storyline of the musical. Shows about show people make me happy simply because I’m showing people. Whether they make fun of us or paint us as serious professionals, I adore it, because its who I am. I do prefer the teasing though, the other side of it makes us look like snobs.
This musical is one I’ve followed from the start of production to their beginning on Broadway, and it has its special place in my heart. Seeing them perform at the Tony’s just made that space grow three times bigger.
You guys already know how crazy obsessed I am with this musical. If you don’t, let me tell you.
More than anything, I adore Amber Gray and her overflowing inner fountain of talent. Not to mention that of Eva Noblezada, the ladies of the Fates, Patrick Page, Reeve Carney, and Andre De Shields. The cast and crew work wonders in this show and livens the land of the dead. Only furthering the production, the ensemble completes the beautiful masterpiece of the creative and productive team that picked up the brush.
Because I’m such a superfan, I have watched every single video surrounding this production known to man. So of course, I’ve heard so many times about the swinging lamps. The swinging lamps is a vision that Tony Award Winner, Queen and true visionary herself, Rachel Chavkin saw when production began. They’ve been there since and boy am I glad to see them.
The incorporation of the fog and the backlight only intensify the depths of hell and places the world in this highly lit hole of industrial production. The split of the stage is an additional wow factor that I didn’t know I needed to see until the very moment it began to separate.
All of the actors were on stage for the introduction, and all those vital to the song stayed on stage. Those who said nothing and the who said single words still had a glow of absolute talent around them, a grace that spoke as a blessing for the song to continue on.
The perfected melody of Andre De Shields and the band as a serenade that carries and narrates the story is one that truly brings this production to the soul of every audience member.
It is the only production that I truly dream of seeing live in New York City, a story and song which makes my heart swell with the first note of any number that is so far released on the cast recording.
KISS ME, KATE
This song had such a strong, bouncy Blues sound that I wanted to hop through the screen and dance about how hot it was too. Continuing the pattern of a bright and vibrant set and light design, the creative team took it even further by adding dated detail to emphasize the style of the time period.
The actors and dancers are exquisite in the choreography they’ve trained in, so much so that it reminded me how important the body language of a dancer in any performance is, especially in conditions like these.
Giving a rhythm and not following through with astounding choreography is something that can have a production fall flat on its face, but pairing a bouncy tune with the right moves makes any number stellar, and this is the blessing we were touched with during this performance.
The vibrancy of the red and orange tones of the set and the light bled into the costumes and the actors, filling them with a fiery passion of dance and song that carried well into the name of the song and the show.
The sound of tap with the musical stylings of the ’40s-’60s filled me with a certain joy I hadn’t felt about a show in a while. I think it’s because, though I can’t tap dance, I have a love for the sound of it, and the thought of tap shoes with this music and these costumes felt complete.
From this performance, the bouncy Blues and Jazz sounds capture the era it was written in and for, and truly brings Broadway back to its core of theatrical celebration. Because modern musicals stray from this bounce, it’s refreshing and something that pulls interest from older and younger audiences alike.
THE CHER SHOW
The costumes. The voices, Even the introduction held power and commanded attention immediately, something that Cher is best at. The actresses who play Cher at her different stages in life play the levels of command perfectly, especially with Stephanie J. Block.
Stephanie is the one we hear the most, and her introductions of “Okay, shut up” amuse all and grab their attention, and the start of the song with “Okay bitches, let’s do this” secures it.
The set amplifies the essence of Cher with digital production of colors and special effects that wrap around the stage, even breaking apart for the rest of the cast to waltz through with other costumes of Cher’s on, encapturing a fierce catwalk to emulate her persona.
Audience interaction is another joy of mine, and it is completely encouraged, whether it be by clapping to the beat or inducing laughter and erupting applause from the house.
Overall, this production is something to love, and with a performance like that at the Tony’s, the love can only grow larger.
This year’s Tony Awards was one to remember, and the beautiful shows brought to us this season made Broadway a little bit more magical.
As a drama geek, I ramble on and I gush about this amazing world I’m allowed to be just a tiny bit apart of, so thank you for listening, Thanks for sharing the magic and feeling the bliss. I hope you’ll stay along for many a Broadway-filled post because here at Writer’s Cup Of Tea, Broadway’s what we dream, Broadway’s what we’ll do, and the Tony Awards is where we’ll perform what Broadway will let us have.
Goodnight and Happy After-Tony’s-Week!
Hi guys! Thanks so much for reading my blog post!
Cute babies and my dreamy rambling have brought you this horribly late post! I hope you enjoyed! It was supposed to include all Tony winners and favorite moments, but considering how long I’ve made you read and wait already, I decided to end it here.
But! Frown you not (I say to all of you smiling because it’s over)! I’m posting again tomorrow about the Award categories, nominees, and winners. The Tony’s help us collect the magic, and that magic deserves more words. So that’s exactly what you should expect tomorrow. Words to match the magic.
As usual, like and comment if you please, I’d love to learn about you and your thoughts on my writing or my blog so far! If you have any thoughts on this post or have any suggestions for what you’d like to see from me in the future, please let me know! I’d love to hear from you all!
Thank you all so much, and I’ll be back on tomorrow with the rest of my Tony recap.
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