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Tuesday, 14 June 2011 07:19

BOOK OF MORMON and WAR HORSE Top Tony Awards Race

Trey Parker Accepts the 2011 Best Musical Tony Award Trey Parker Accepts the 2011 Best Musical Tony Award Photo: Steve Shevett

The 65th Annual Tony Awards, held last night at the Beacon Theatre was perhaps the best Tony broadcast in some time.  Maybe it was the new, more intimate (albeit far more cramped) space of the Beacon Theatre.  Most likely it was the snappy and pithy writing, the chock-a-block musical numbers (not one of which fell flat) and its most important ingredient, Neil Patrick Harris.  If they were smart, the Tony Awards would immediately sign Harris to a multi-year hosting gig.  

Complete List of 2011 Tony Award Winners

Executive Producer Ricky Kirshner and Executive Producer/Director Glenn Weiss pulled off a dazzling and highly entertaining show, all in a compact 3-hours, coming down mere minutes after 11:00pm.  This show was dense with entertainment.  The opening number was brilliant with a title that could soon become the Broadway League’s new slogan, “It’s Not Just for Gays Anymore.”  The high-octane entertainment didn’t stop there but continued for three-plus hours.

The evening had it’s share of emotional acceptance speeches, including Ellen Barkin, whose earth-shaking performance in The Normal Heart won her a Tony for Featured Actress in a Play.  There was also Sutton Foster’s zealously delivered acceptance speech for Best Performance by a Leading Actress for her turn at bat as Reno Sweeney in the winner for Best Revival of a Musical, Anything Goes.  Ms. Foster got bizarrely emotional at the end of her speech as she thanked her dresser of nine years who was leaving her and moving to Cape Cod to become an artist.  

The evening went heavily in favor of The Book of Mormon fairly early on, ultimately taking a total of nine of the 14 for which it was nominated.  Lincoln Center Theatre’s War Horse was next with nine Tonys.  Roundabout Theatre Company’s Anything Goes and The Normal Heart each earned three.  

The musicals were all well represented by the numbers they chose to perform.   “Raise Your Voice” from Sister Act, “I Believe” from The Book of Mormon, “Commencing in Chattanooga” from The Scottsboro Boys and “Breaking All the Rules” from Catch Me if You Can all delivered big time.

The two revivals up for Best Musical Revival, Anything Goes and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, where joyously represented with “Anything Goes” and “Brotherhood of Man” respectively.  Kathleen Marshall won a Tony for Best Choreography for Anything Goes while John Larroquette took Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his wonderfully delivered performance in How to Succeed...

I was so pleased to see that the Tony Awards was forced to build a new set.  This, of course, was necessitated by the reduction in the stage size from Radio City Music Hall.  The new set was beautiful.  

I could have done without another appearance from the cast of Memphis.  I have nothing against the show, and the number presented well, I just think it was a bit of a redux.  

The play intros were a poor representation for the plays.  I wish they would just do a pre-tape at each play and edit it well.  They have been searching for years for a way to do this and no matter what they do it never represents the plays well.  This year they had a cast member standing in front of their respective theatre giving a plot summary.  This mostly fell flat; with the possible exception of the War Horse segment which included one of the life-size horse puppets drinking from the fountain in front of Lincoln Center Theatre.  

With “Somewhere” from West Side Story playing in the background, this year’s “In Memoriam” was simple and tastefully done.  Some of those we lost this past year were Arthur Laurents, Ellen Stewart, Marcia Lewis Bryan, Jill Clayburgh, Betty Garrett, Tom Bosley, Shannon Tavarez, Patricia Neal, Elizabeth Taylor, Jerry Bock, Theoni V. Aldredge, Sada Thompson, Lanford Wilson and Joseph Stein.

War Horse was announced as Best Play and as the evening drew to a hurried close, Chris Rock presented the Tony Award for Best Musical to The Book of Mormon.  It was Rock’s intro that provided one of many of my favorite lines from the evening.  At this point, The Book of Mormon had already won eight Tonys.  “We know what the best musical is. This is such a waste of time, it’s like takin’ a hooker to dinner.”  And of course, The Book of Mormon took Best Musical.  

Neil Patrick Harris closed the show in a “Tony Speed-Through.”  Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star and creator of In the Heights, composed a rhyming wrap-up of the evening’s events which was then given a near-impeccable performance by Harris.  It really is a shame that the Tony Awards are never released on DVD (most likely due to the overwhelming costs associated with doing so.)  It would be wonderful if they were able to capture these moments.  

“The New York Times” is reporting that Neilsen’s estimates for the evening were down from 7.0 million viewers last year to 6.9 million this year.  That’s down from 7.4 million the year before, the last time that Neil Patrick Harris hosted.

Despite a slight dip in the numbers, the evening was a smashing successful for the American Theatre Wing, the Broadway League and all of Broadway.  It buzzed with energy and was perhaps the most funny Tony Awards ever.

Last modified on Tuesday, 21 July 2015 01:10