Monday, June 11, 2012

“Re-Imagining” The Tony Awards, 2012

The Tonys are always lovely. We get to see musical numbers, mostly not about Mormons, and scenes from far away shows, yet it always languishes in the ratings. The problem is, obviously, that America hasn’t seen these shows. In most of the country, they generate about as much enthusiasm as would an awards banquet for a high school theater department from another state. The Oscars struggle in the ratings, and America has seen the movies. The Tonys never have a chance.

But I'll keep watching them, if only to see what Angela Lansbury will be wearing, and to see what the Ahmanson and Pantages Theaters in my home town, Los Angeles, will be presenting with different casts and scaled-down sets in two years. (The Pantages has The Addams Family playing right now. Does it star Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth? No. Douglas Sills and Sara Gettelfinger. Oooh. There’s the sort of excitement to coax $60 out of one’s pocket.)

I know that the musical The Book of Mormon is a satirical show from the creators of South Park. I know that many people whose opinions I value and respect praise it to the skies as brilliant. I really do know this. But still, the title and the “Hello, My name is Elder Price” stuff make my skin crawl. (Nothing like seeing a brainless 20 year old calling himself an “elder” for sheer creepiness.) If the show were what I need it to be for me to like it, Mormons would be picketing it, and attacking it in the press as a “libel” on Mormonism, and I’ve seen none of that.

Still, watching a parade of Broadway stars slam their doors in the faces of these creepy Mormon missionaries made me smile. I’ve slammed a few doors into a few Mormon missionaries’ faces myself, though if possible, I’d douse them with a pitcher of ice water first. Setting them on fire is still sadly illegal, even though it is legal for them to campaign against the civil rights of gay people. (My father’s family was Mormon. My dad was born in Salt Lake City and I’m directly descended from HIGHLY prominent early Mormon polygamists. I’ve been putting up with my smug, evil Mormon relatives all my life. I’ve earned the right to douse them with ice water.)

So I just couldn’t fully enjoy the Tony’s opening musical number. I want to like the musical The Book of Mormon, but it’s like trying to like a musical titled The Satanic Bible. If only they’d set a couple of them on fire, saying: “This is for Proposition 8” as they struck the match.

Then out came openly-gay Neil Patrick Harris, dressed like one of these skin-crawly kids who are a big part of making his marriage illegal in California and where ever else their money and evil influence pollutes America. Why didn’t he say: “Get out of here, you mother-F*@king @$$holes”? I know they’re just actors, but what they represent is evil, and spends millions annually to fight NPH’s civil rights. I just don’t find it funny. The audience was applauding (though not, I noticed, Phillip Seymour Hoffman), I was booing at home.

I really don’t get all the love for NPH as a Tony host. He isn’t bad. He’s personable and pleasant. But I would vastly prefer Nathan Lane or a naked Hugh Jackman. (Please don’t confuse them. A naked Nathan Lane would not be appreciated, nor a dressed Hugh Jackman.)

Hugh cleanses his big one.
Jon Voight was there? How did they get him? Did someone tell him it was a Teabagger rally?

My, hasn’t Patti Lupone packed on a few pounds? Glad I wasn’t one of the dancers who had to heft her up into the air, or did they reuse Mary Poppins’s cables?

"Don't [Grunt] Crush me, [Gasp! Pant!], Argentina!"
(Thank Heavens NPH is light in his loafers.)
Neil’s musical number wasn’t particularly clever or well-written, but it was amusingly danced, and Neil only needed a couple more rehearsals to stop tripping over lyrics and jumping cues.

Paul Rudd: "What does that mean: ‘Featured Actress in a Play’?” Oh no. They aren’t going to waste time explaining to us what everyone there and everyone watching already knows are they?

Yes, they are.

Paul darling, you’re adorable, but if you’re going to waste my time explaining the bleeding obvious in tired awards-show banter, please, do it naked or get off the stage.

Paul Rudd wants to show you his Best Featured Performer in a Supporting Role.
Linda Emond was nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Play, Pageant or Piano Recital for playing Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman? That’s a leading role, not a “featured” one.

Judith Light, who won that category, said she felt like she was “the luckiest girl in New York City.” Was this because she no longer has to act with Tony Danza? (“Girl?” Judith is 63!) She then went on to use CBS prime network time to thank the box office personnel and the understudies. She’s had 6 decades to edit this speech down.

Newsies is a new concept for finding a musical; instead of making a stage musical out of a beloved hit movie, this one was based on a forgotten bomb of a movie. Can a stage production of Bugsy Malone be far behind?

We got a really good idea of just whom CBS thinks watches the Tonys when we got the commercial in which respected character actor Ronald Guttman slipped on a rubber glove and asked: “Embarrassed by a prostate exam? Imagine how your doctor feels.” Hey, that doctor CHOSE to be a proctologist. He must have had a reason, though I'd rather not know what it was. I’m sure this was meaningful to every woman in the viewership. Little Dougie tells me his doctor is only embarrassed by how much Dougie enjoys the exam. He keeps telling Dougie: “You don’t need one EVERY time you come to the office.” (And how appropriate to have an actor named “Guttman” doing an ad for prostate exams. Was Dame Edna busy?)

Neil Patrick Harris: “So every year, I like to come out.” Once was enough, Neil. We all got it. You’re gay.

Danny Burstein’s performance of Buddy’s Blues from Follies was terrific. I’d love to see that. When does it close in L.A.? Yesterday? Never mind.

So there’s a musical on Broadway based on Ghost, and it includes the ancient Unchained Melody in its score? Does it contain any original content at all?

Mike Nichols looked awful. I hope he’s okay. The man is a genius. He made me roar with laughter two years ago with Spamalot. (It took it awhile to hit the Ahmanson.) This time he was winning for directing Death of a Salesman, about as far away from Spamalot as you can get. If only he’d never broken up his act with Elaine May, he might have amounted to something.

I still have this album in vinyl, though 40 minutes is hardly "an evening," however brilliantly funny it is. (I love that the album cover says "Original Cast". Was there a road company of An Evening With Mike Nichols and Eliane May, starring Orson Bean and Jayne Meadows?)
They actually had the nerve to play off Mike Nichols? Nothing like seeing a giant drowned out by Lilliputians.

Ok, NPH’s Spider-Man line made me laugh. And there’s something appealingly tone-deaf-to-taste in doing a joke about your “junk” as you introduce 300 year old Angela Lansbury.

"Ya gotta be well-liked, Spidey!"
The guy from Smash! beat out Spider-Man for a Tony? I guess the Broadway community is very forgiving. So he plays Captain Hook disguised as Groucho Marx? I’m confused.

And was Andrew Garfield nominated for Death of a Spider-Man?

Andrew Garfield makes for one buff Biff! But I'm supposed to believe that Phillip Seymour Hoffman fathered this guy? Willy Loman was on the road a good deal with just a shoeshine and a smile (Which would get you arrested in most cites. Also we know he traveled well-stocked with nylons), and the play makes it clear that he cheated on Linda while he was gone. This photo makes me wonder if Linda didn't have a hunky mailman or milkman making "special deliveries" while Willy was out working his willy on the road.
George Gershwin had TWO new musicals on Broadway this year? Not bad for a guy who’s been dead for 75 years. So many long-dead people get so LAZY! My dead grandfathers haven’t lifted a finger in decades, and I’m still waiting for Charles Dickens to get off his ass and finish The Mystery of Edwin Drood. (I have five bucks on the butler having done it.) Just doing the occasional guest spot on Doctor Who doesn’t cut it, Charlie! (Okay, technically Porgy and Bess is not a “new” musical, but “Porgy and Bess Gutted for the Attention-Span-Deprived” is.)

Formerly-cute Matthew Broderick is packing on the pounds also. In fact, he appears to be morphing into Patti Lupone. So much for the myth that singing and dancing in a strenuous musical on Broadway 8 shows a week will keep you in shape. I’m now tossing out my Sarah Jessica Parker voodoo doll. Sarah, he's all yours.

Once does Newsies one better. While Newsies is based on a forgotten turkey of decades back that few saw, Once is based on a movie nobody saw at all. (Yes, I know it won an Oscar, but for “Best Song”. That's the same award they gave to It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp. Very highly-respected category. No one saw the movie; the Music Branch of the Academy just listened to the CD.)

Why was James Marsten presenting? He’s never appeared on Broadway. They had to use a movie credit to introduce him. Has he any stage credits anywhere? High school?

Did Ellen Barkin do her hair in a wind tunnel?

Okay, Peter and the Starcatcher is a “prequel” to Peter Pan, like Psycho IV: The Beginning. (Did no one learn the lessons of Hook?) In that case, why does Peter Pan, who went to Neverland according to James M. Barrie, who should know, as a tiny child, look 30? Shouldn’t he be, oh I don’t know, an INFANT? Oh wait. I see. They "re-imagined" it. Yes, Peter Pan was always so insufficiently imagined.

Hold your horses of a different color! In End of the Rainbow, Judy Garland is played by a WOMAN? That’s awfully outre casting. Traditionally,  Francis Gumm is a cross-dressing role like Edna in Hairspray, reserved solely for drag queens and John Travolta. And then she didn’t win, even though the Tonys were being handed out on Judy’s 90th birthday? (Actually, just from the small bit of it we saw, I wouldn’t have given it to her either. Judy was a lot better than that.)

“Craig Owens,” aka James Corden, is acting on Broadway (apparently playing two roles at once)? Then who is protecting Colchester from the Cybermen, and raising Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All?

James Corden, aka, "Craig Owen," thwarts the Cybermen's evil plans to conquer Colchester.
Is winning the Best Original Score Tony still an honor when it’s presented by Sheryl Crow?

So slashing up Porgy and Bess like Norman Bates slimming down Janet Leigh in the shower, is really “re-imagining” it? Like imagining it as half as long? Why not just call it “Porgy an”? I bet the Gershwins would call it something else, something far-less broadcastable, even on cable. I can hear George and Ira somewhere saying: “If we’d wanted it gutted, and then rewritten by hacks, we would have gutted it ourselves, and then hired hacks to rewrite it.” I’ve seen several different productions of it, and not once have I found myself thinking: “This would be so much better if they just hacked it to pieces.” BTW, the “excerpt” they performed from it on the Tony Show is now the whole thing.

Audra McDonald is so magnificent, she really should consider appearing in Porgy and Bess sometime.

I noticed on a commercial break that Paul Tazewell lost the Costume Design Tony for the revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. (Which has also been somewhat “re-imagined”.) I know why. It was for putting Blair Underwear in tank-tops when he should have been shirtless - and pantsless. (Though I can see the visual pun of putting Stanley No-Longer-Kowalski-Because-It’s-“Re-Imagined” in a "wife-beater", but I’d rather see his pecs, thank you.)

Blair Underwood as he should be costumed.
(Sweet bleeding Williams, he's beautiful! Not that that's news.)
Why was Tyler Perry presenting? The show was running on CBS, not TBS.

How did Death of a Salesman win Best Revival? Sure it’s one of the three greatest plays ever written by an American, but they forgot to “re-imagine” it. It almost seems as though they thought that Arthur Miller had already imagined it sufficiently the first time out. The least they could have done would have been to cut it’s running time by 50% and make it about a travelling pimp.

After listening to the Once musical number I decided that sometimes Once is more than enough. Who knew they had Irish marching bands? It was like a halftime show at a rugby match in Dublin.

Why did I bet so heavily on Spider-Man: Turn Off That God-Damn Dark sweeping the Tonys?

Donyale Werle (there’s a name you don’t see everyday. Well, she does), in her acceptance speech for Best Scenic Design of a Play, said: “This is a show that doesn’t need any scenery at all.” Was she bragging about pulling a fast one on the producers and the Tony voters? What’s next for her? Our Town?

How does Jim Parsons, who is starring in Harvey, do a Broadway show in New York and a sitcom in Los Angeles at the same time? Does he have a grueling daily commute, or is he playing Harvey’s title role? (I've always wanted to see Lembeck: a play about a sweet middle-aged drinker who thinks his best friend is an invisible Harvey Lembeck.)

Get a shave, hippie!
You know, if the Che Guevara had looked anywhere near as hot as Ricky Martin does, I’d have had those 1960s Che posters all over the place. If Che looked exactly like Ricky, I’d have been riding with he and Fidel. Well, with Che. Fidel, not so much. How fortunate Che wasn’t actually hot at all. (And was it just me, or was Ricky looking a bit like Jean Dujardin?)

You don't Che!
Corbin Bleu, who stars in Godspell, is adorable. If only he were starring in a musical I could stand. I want more "spell", much less "god".

Corbin Bleu in black and white with all his hair on his head, and in color with some hair moved from his scalp to his cleavage and crab ladder. I prefer his hairier look. He could cast a spell on me that could make me see God!
Have I ever mentioned how deeply I can not stand Mandy Patinkin? He was on for 30 seconds, and I was irritated enough to change channels, except I was writing this for YOU, my loyal readers whom I know weren't watching this, as no one was. Oh, the grueling sacrifices I make for you dears.

Porgy An won Best Revival of a Musical? Shouldn’t it have won Best Partial Revival of What Once Was an Opera? All through the producer’s acceptance speech, I wanted to slap him. This time I supported playing him off. He doesn’t want the Gershwins to run on too long, but he’s okay with doing it himself, dispensing bullshit about “bringing it into the 21st Century.” Yes, the Gershwins so need your "help".

They took up time to show us bits of a CRUISE SHIP production of Hairspray? Why not a community theater production? Or a production staged by Spanky MacFarland and starring Alfalfa Schweitzer and Darla Hood? How about a cruise ship production of Titanic? The cruise ship excerpt was “live.” How I wish that when we’d cut to the show they would have been trying to perform in the midst of hurricane, with the stage violently rocking, and filling with seawater. And then Somalian pirates could run in and rob and rape the passengers! The Poseidon Hairspray. Oh, and the guy playing Corny Collins was pretty bad. That ship is as close to performing on Broadway as he’ll ever get.

Finally a meaningful, deserved award, namely a special award to Hugh Jackman for being Hugh Jackman. Works for me, except it was presented by that woman who claims to be his wife, or as I think of her, that slut who came between us. Sure, Hugh CLAIMS he loves her, but that's only because he’s afraid of her. Stalkers can be very scary. I know. It said so on that injunction she made Hugh take out against me a few years back, and renew every six months ever since. Hugh, I forgive you, and I have a “Special Award” for you right here, but you have to accept it in person - without HER! (And how great does his now-finished-shooting film of Les Miserables look? I love that show. I relate to it. I myself have often been called by my many lovers "Lay Miserable". And if Hugh was all that attached to the annoying woman, why didn’t he take her along to the shoot? Someone wanted a six month break from her. If only I’d known, I’d have come running, also while walking and even while standing still and/or reclining.)

Hugh Jackman damp. That's Entertainment!
 Candice Bergan looked pretty good, especially since I think she’s only about three hours younger than Angela Lansbury.

Holy Crap! James Cordon beat John Lithgow, Frank Langella (whose new book, Dropped Names, is a fascinating, fun read, highly recommended by moi), Darth Vader, and even Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of the best-written roles of all time! Wow! I mean I like James and all. He is, after all, a personal friend of Doctor Who, but that, my friends, is what you call an upset! Hell, I thought Blair Underwood had a stronger chance of winning, and he wasn’t even nominated. Is this really for his acting, or is it for saving Colchester from the Cybermen?

James and The Doctor. The Doctor had to hide from James the fact that he was going to win a Tony. He knew, of course. He's a time traveller. Here he's "re-imagining" The Daleks.
Back home, Stormageddon: Dark Lord of All is so proud.

Did you see Darth Vader’s face when they said “James Corden”? It looked like he was asking his lady companion: “Who?” If you lip-read his companion, she’s saying: “He’s the fat English guy.”

On the other hand, James said of his girlfriend who gave birth to their kid some months back: “She’s my baby mama and I can’t wait to marry her.” Well, apparently he could.

How nice. The sublime Audra McDonald won a Tony for playing bits of Bess. Think how good she’d be if she played the entire role.

However, Audra was a bit guilty of over-sharing: “To be in love with Norm Lewis every night, to get raped by Phillip Boykin every night, and to snort drugs with David Alan Grier every night.” Hello? With all that going on backstage, how do they ever manage to perform even what little is left of the show? She then mentioned “the man I’m going to marry.” Is she still sure? He may have just changed his mind about 30 seconds before. Then she spoke to her 11 year-old daughter in the audience. Excuse me? Are these the sorts of confessions you make before your pre-pubescent daughter? (Frankly, even taken as jokes, it’s pretty gamy stuff to say in front of your 11 year-old daughter. “Mommy thinks getting raped and snorting narcotics is funny. Watch me make Mommy laugh.” Child Protection Services, clean up on Aisle 2.")

So, with the show already running over time, NPH once again felt the need to do a gratuitous finale number about having no time to do a gratuitous finale number. Neil, all anyone wants at 6 minutes after 11 is to get to the bar. Shut up. Stop showing off and leave the stage. The show has been over ever since they gave Best Musical to that Irish thing you couldn't pay me to sit through, and I'm half-Irish. (The thirsty half.)

Cheers, darlings.

"Let's see Matt Smith get one of these!"
And keep an eye out for Tallyho, Tallulah!, Tallulah's new memoir, coming out later this summer. Watch this space for purchasing information as soon as it becomes available.