Theatre Awards Shows (Part 3): Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Let’s talk Tony Awards!

My Tony Awards experience was a little different this year. I ended up not being home for the actual broadcast so, while I did find out the winners that night, I decided to have my own alternative viewing party the following (Monday) morning. I found the full broadcast on the CTV website, picked myself up some breakfast at Tim Horton’s and settled in to watch the awards!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love the Tony Awards! I find the whole thing so exciting and this time was no different (even with knowing the winners ahead of time)!

I can’t say I’m surprised that they really embraced the popularity of Hamilton, using it in both the (pre?)opening and closing of the ceremony. I loved both of these performances but I do feel sort of bad for all the other shows that, while having the opportunity to show their stuff during their own performances, didn’t really have much of a chance to get out of Hamilton‘s shadow. At the same time though, I do think Hamilton deserves all of the accolades and recognition it’s getting.

I liked James Corden as the host. One thing I noticed in the Hamilton opening parody was that he looked so happy to be there. You could see it when he was looking around after singing “James Corden” the first time. It was really fun to watch. The opening number was also a lot of fun an great for anyone (like me, and really probably anyone watching the Tonys). The part at the end of the song with the children onstage who were then replaced with the nominees from the musical acting categories was beautiful.

I am happy with (and not surprised by) all the Hamilton wins! I did think it might have been a close race for Leading Actor (aside from the Hamilton nominees)- from what I’ve heard I definitely thought Danny Burstein would be in the running, actually that whole category was full of great actors! But I am happy with Leslie Odom Jr.’s win! It didn’t come as a surprise to me to see Cynthia Erivo take Leading Actress as she’s been getting a lot of hype, and her performance on the Tonys was stunning! And it was kind of nice to Hamilton not win everything. Like the Leading Actor category, the Leading Actress category was also full of excellent performers!

Even before I saw the winners listed I knew Hamilton was going to take home Best Musical. There was no question in my mind that was going to happen. Best Revival on the other hand, I really wasn’t sure which show would take home the prize. From everything I’ve seen and heard though, The Color Purple looks like a beautiful show!

Figuring that Lin-Manuel Miranda would win at least one award I was looking forward to his speech. He had freestyled his In the Heights Tony and his recent Grammy acceptance speeches so I figured he would do something (probably freestyle) this time too. Then when he said he wasn’t going to freestyle but had written a sonnet instead, my reaction was, “of course he did.” And of course it was wonderful.

The performances are always one of my favourite parts of the Tony broadcast, and this year was no exception! All of the Best Musical and Best Revival nominees put on excellent performances. Though that didn’t really come as a surprise as this 2015/2016 Broadway season seems to be exceptionally good with so many talented actors/actresses gracing the stage! Fiddler on the Roof and The Color Purple are two well-known, popular shows with which I myself am not actually very familiar, but watching their performances on the Tonys has given me more incentive to look into them further!

I was really looking forward to the School of Rock performance and it didn’t disappoint! It was really exciting for me since it was a show and cast I had actually seen before they were nominated for a Tony, which is definitely not a common occurrence for me (I think it’s happened once before with Bring It On). I was interested to see which song they would perform and wasn’t surprised that it was “You’re in the Band.” I was also very interested to see which song Hamilton would perform and “Yorktown” hadn’t really crossed my mind as a possibility but I do really like that song and I loved the performance!

I was really happy when Spring Awakening was nominated for Best Revival because a) I wanted them to be nominated and b) I really wanted to see them perform on the Tonys! And their performance was beautiful! I really wish I could have seen that production. I had seen that Andy Mientus had tweeted about them having to change some of the signs in their performance for TV. What I found interesting was that, even knowing that about the signs, I noticed that the lyrics of the song (“The Bitch of Living”) were not censored as they had been when the original company performed on the Tonys. It makes me wonder what they had to change in term of the signs.I do feel bad for Michael Arden since the camera showed Christopher Fitzgerald instead of him during the Director category announcement. It’s one of those situations that’s kind of funny and elicits entertaining social media reactions (including from Michael Arden himself) but I feel like they should have attempted to at least somewhat rectify the situation and show him at some point in the broadcast even if they couldn’t move the cameras around enough right then to show him with his category.

The Waitress performance was wonderful and stunning. “She Used to Be Mine” is one of my favourite, if not my favourite, songs from the cast album. Then there was She Loves MeShuffle Along, and Bright Star (also On Your Feet). They were all so good! And I have since spent time rewatching many of these performances!

I will admit the “In Memoriam” this year did make me cry. When Chita Rivera called it a “final curtain call” and then they played “Seasons of Love.” It’s like they asked, how can we ensure that people will cry? Pull on their theatre heartstrings and play Rent.

Overall I thought it was a good year for the Tony Awards and though my experience watching it was a little different this year, I still got to watch and enjoy it and it’s made me just as excited as ever about Broadway (even though so many shows have already closed or announced their closing)!

My only real complaints about the Tony Awards are the following (and this is more about the Tony Awards in general as opposed to this particular broadcast):

  • There should be a better way or international audiences who do not have cable to watch the Broadcast live. When I was still planning to be home to watch it I was having a very difficult time figuring out how I was going to do so because I do not have cable, the CBS live stream doesn’t work here, and while CTV was showing the awards this year, to access their live stream online, you need to have a TV service provider and you have to log in. If I had a TV service provider I wouldn’t have had the issue in the first place! (I will say that CTV did come through for watching the awards when I did the next day and I am very happy and grateful that they offered an easily accessible, good quality, legitimate option for watching- if only it would have been that easy to watch the live stream!) (Unfortunately I was just looking at the CTV site again and you now have to log in to watch the full awards show, but you can watch clips without logging in.)
  • They need to bring back the Sound Design Tony.
  • I wish they would show more of the creative awards. I want to hear those acceptance speeches as much as those of the directors, actors, etc. who are shown on the main broadcast. The short clips they show aren’t enough. As someone who is very much interested in that side of the theatre I would love to see those winners get the recognition they deserve and see them celebrated like the rest of the winners! And I get there are issues with timing, etc. that limit how much can be shown in the broadcast, but I can still hope.
  • Sound Design.

“It’s the Eye of the Tiger”

I want to take a moment to talk about Rocky. Yes, that Rocky, the musical based on the Sylvester Stallone movie.

I want to start off by stating right off the bat that I LOVED this show! And seeing it was one of the best experiences I’ve had at the theatre! I basically went in to this show blind. I had not yet seen the movie and I hadn’t really heard much about the musical. Why then did I see this particular show you might ask? Well, this was on my second trip to NYC (I was with my mom this time), in the summer of 2014. We weren’t sure what time we would get to the city, but had hoped to make it in time for a show (similar to the BroadwayCon trip this trip was Thursday-Monday). We did make it! So we went to TKTS to see what was available. We first tried for Mamma Mia (which I have yet to see live, but my mom had seen in Toronto) then Rock of Ages (which we had both seen in Toronto) but we didn’t really like the options for either of those. After looking at the board again and talking to one of the employees, we decided to give Rocky a try. It was the best decision of the whole trip (and it was a great trip all around)!

I think it actually worked out well for me not knowing the story going in to it. For instance I didn’t know if Rocky was going to win at the end or not. It was kind of refreshing and exciting to not know. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still exciting to see shows with which I am already familiar, but with this one, I liked not knowing.

The cast of Rocky was incredible. Andy Karl in the title role was amazing. Every part of his performance was excellent- singing, acting, physicality, all of it. Margo Seibert’s Adrian was wonderful and a perfect match for Karl’s Rocky. The fitness level of the entire cast was very impressive; it was very clearly a physically demanding show- the gym and training sequences, wow! It was also quite exciting for me to see Wallace Smith in the show too because I had actually seen him in Godspell on Broadway (Godspell having been my 2nd Broadway show). With Rocky just being my 3rd Broadway show it was my first experience actually seeing someone in two different Broadway musicals, and that was really cool for me! (If you haven’t yet figured it out, it’s little things like that that make me really happy!)

I also love the music in the show! Thank you Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty! My favourite numbers include “My Nose Ain’t Broken,” “Raining,” “Happiness,” and “Keep on Standing.”

Now, what I really want to tell you about from this show is the set! WOW (yes, a genuine, all-caps-deserving WOW!) I’d never seen anything like it before in my life! The whole show was filled with impressive set pieces including the pet shop with glowing fish tanks, the iconic stairs, the meat packing factory, and the use of screens really added to the effect, especially during the training sequences. But what really stood out above all else  was the boxing ring for the final fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed.

I was sitting in the balcony for this show so I was seeing all of this from above. It started with the boxing ring moving out to the front edge of the stage and then a certain section of the audience in the orchestra (I couldn’t see how many rows it was from my seat, and there was too much going on to bother looking too closely) moved up onto the stage to bleachers that had appeared behind the ring. The ring then moved out beyond the stage into/over the recently vacated seats. And suddenly it became theatre in the round! There was even a sort of jumbo-tron above the ring with video feed from the stage/ring. It was incredible! I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat! I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt that excited at the theatre, I was actually shaking with excitement. There was just something special about this show! Then they had the final boxing match. I don’t know exactly how long it was but I think it was quite similar to the movie (which I have since seen). It’s certainly an experience I won’t forget!

I was also really glad when I looked back and saw that Christopher Barreca won the 2014 Tony for Best Scenic Design for a Musical! Totally deserved, in my opinion!

As I mentioned before, I have since seen the move. Actually I’ve seen the first three Rocky movies now, and I do plan on watching the rest of them. As I was watching the movie it struck me how close the musical really was to it. I was quite impressed. It’s always hard when it comes to adaptations, you never really know how close they’ll be to the source material and sometimes the differences matter and sometimes they don’t. But boy was Rocky close!

I don’t know if Rocky will ever come back anywhere, but if it does, I would recommend it, whether or not you are familiar with the movie! I went in blind an it worked out wonderfully for me, and it has made me a fan of the movie too. It’s one of those shows, that has a bit of everything; it brings the spectacle but also brings the story, characters, and the music. For me, the spectacle of it all just added to the experience. I loved it from the beginning, way before the boxing ring moved into the orchestra (which also never even crossed my mind as something that could happen until it did). I think all the parts came together really well for Rocky, the technical and the story and character driven elements and moments. You’re rooting for Rocky and Adrian, and then Adrian gets her moment and stands up to Paulie. It’s great! And then you get the scenes like the training sequences and the boxing match that require a lot of technology but it all felt very much a part of the story. For me, it wasn’t just technology and spectacle for the sake of technology and spectacle. It was very much a part of the whole experience and I for one thought it was very well done.

It was actually closing weekend when we were there and there was a part of me that was tempted to see it a 2nd time that same trip. We didn’t, but if I ever get the chance I would see Rocky again in a heartbeat!