by Mo Brady
All in all, the 73rd Annual Tony Awards were a great night for the New York Theatre community. Hosted by Broadway vet James Corden at Radio City Music Hall, the concept that theatre is a collaborative artwork was front and center. Also, the idea that we all really do like each other! (Except for that spat between Laura Linney and Audra McDonald, of course.)
While it was an evening of few surprises, there were moments that truly leaped off of of the screen for theaterlovers watching at home. Here are a few of my favorite moments from the 2019 telecast.
The Prom Shines
No show used the Tony Awards better than The Prom, which presented a mash-up of it’s Act I finale “Tonight Belongs to You” with it’s Act II finale “It’s Time To Dance.” While it lost in all seven categories it was nominated for, The Prom gave the the kind of heart-bursting high-octane performance that sells tickets. The ensemble shone from start to finish, from Mary Antonini’s gritty leading of the triangle formation to Wayne Juice Mackins’ touch touch. Everybody looked on fire.
2. It’s a Great Season for Dance
Time and again, we saw killer performances of dance during this year’s Tony Awards. Choir Boy’s showcase of Camille A. Brown''s choreography was a showstopper. The energy of Ain’t Too Proud practically blew the roof off of Radio City Music Hall due to seismic performances by Ephraim Sykes, Saint Aubyn and others in Tony Award winner Sergio Trujillo’s staging. The ensemble of Kiss Me, Kate gave us just a glimpse of their ten-minute tour-de-force “Too Darn Hot” featuring Sam Strasfeld, Darius Crenshaw and Rick Faugno moving through the steps at lightning speed with incredible precision.
3. We Still Don’t Know How to Showcase Best Play Nominees
Every year, the Tony Awards telecast struggles with what to do with the Best Play nominees. They’ve tried seemingly everything to showcase straight plays with the same excitement as their musical counterparts, from live performances of scenes to presentation of the shows on screens. This year’s solution - allowing the playwrights a minute to introduce their shows to audiences - didn’t work either. Keep trying, Tony Awards. Better luck next year!
4. Rachel Chavkin is Not Alone
Hadestown director knocked her acceptance speech out of the park. Her opening lines were about the collaborative nature of theatre: “Life is not a team sport,” she told the audience at Radio City. But her final words were about the the lack of female and POC directors in the Broadway space. Chavkin reminded us “This is not a pipeline issue. It is a failure of imagination by a field whose job is to imagine the way the world could be.”
5. Broadway Swings Stand Center Stage
One of the most unique parts about Tony performances are that they are always individually crafted for the telecast. Whether the productions are creating a medley of songs, or performing something lifted straight from the show, they must adjust for the massive stage at Radio City Music Hall. This fact allows for some expanding of numbers, often including their swings along the performing company. Last night we saw swings from every single musical that has an ensemble included in Tony performances. In addition to making the staging look more robust, these performances are the one time that an entire company gets to perform together.