Tony Awards: The good, bad and ugly

This marked the 68th annual edition of the Tony Awards and, once again, these kudos proved to be the classiest of them all. 

Hugh Jackman demonstrated his incredible strength as a host once again. From his bouncing opening number, to his occasional jokes through the telecast and even serenading the nominees for both lead actress categories, Jackman not only showed how great a talent he is but also how a ceremony can properly use a host throughout an entire program.

This year’s show had a great flow to it. The returning team of producer Ricky Kirshner and director Glenn Weiss managed to pack an incredible amount of awards presentations and performance numbers into just over three hours and it didn’t feel rushed or stilted. Kudos to them for another well put together show.

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As always, the acceptance speeches were priceless. I don’t know why, but this show always produces the best speeches. Great moments from this year included:

Best Actress (Play) champ Audra McDonald (“Lady Day at Emersons Bar and Grill“) receiving a standing ovation as she won a history making sixth Tony;

surprise Featured Actress (Play) winner Sophie Okonedo (“A Raisin in the Sun“) mentioning being a “Jewish Nigerian Brit” to be trusted with an iconic part;

Best Director (Musical) victor Darko Tresnjak (“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”) speaking to his mother in Serbian;

Best Actor (Musical) champ Neil Patrick Harris (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch“) saying his win was “crazy-pants,” promising to be back home with his kids very soon and thanking his teachers from New Mexico;

Best Featured Actor (Musical) winner James Monroe Iglehart (“Aladdin“)  jumping for joy at the end of his remarks;

Best Featured Actress Musical winner Lena Hall (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) being so nervous but so genuine during her speech;

and producer Joey Parnes who was picking up the Best Musical trophy for “Gentlemans Guide to Love and Murder” refusing to be played off by the orchestra as he gave a tribute to how theater “nourishes the soul.”

The way that plays have been presented on the broadcast has varied from year to year, but this time I think an appropriate level was reached when Kenneth Branaugh introduced the author of each Best Play nominee and had them say what their play was about before a short clip was played. I think the clips could have been longer but the idea of having the playwrights talk about their work was brilliant.

Tony Awards: Complete winners list and report 

I have an issue with shows not nominated for Best Musical or Musical Revival getting a chance to perform on the telecast. I can at least understand performances from “Rocky” and “Bullets Over Broadway” since they were part of the previous season, but why did there need to be a performance from “Wicked,” for its tenth anniversary? It lost the Best Musical to “Avenue Q” but  seems to be doing just fine without having to put it in the telecast. Same goes for the Jennifer Hudson number from “Finding Neverland.” While her performance was amazing, that show hasn’t even opened and there was hardly any context for the number.

I was not a fan of the rapping “Music Man” number. It seemed to work for the crowd at Radio City, but didn’t translate well to me as a television viewer.

I was disappointed in Mark Rylance‘s acceptance speech. When he claimed the evening’s first prize for Featured Actor (Play) for “Twelfth Night,” I was ready to hear another Louis Jenkins poem like he recited when he won in both 2008 and 2011. Instead, he spoke about Sam Wanamaker who helped bring the Globe Theater to London after being blacklisted. It was a very touching tribute, but come on Mark! You’ve established a brand with your acceptance speeches and we were looking forward to seeing more of that brand!

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The orchestra played off Best Actor champs Bryan Cranston (“All the Way“) and Neil Patrick Harris. They’re two of the biggest stars up there and you do NOT play off either of them, much less the one who knocks!

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