Monday, June 13, 2011


"Book of Mormon" was expected to win Best Musical at the Tonys by so many people that even presenter Chris Rock said that the final award felt like "taking a hooker to dinner." The musical, a send-up of Mormon missionaries in Uganda (a country that recently passed a law criminalizing homosexuality, even going as far to place a penalty of death on some offenses), was the brainchild of "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Andrew Rannells gave a rousing rendition of  "I Believe" on the Tony telecast with an earnest charm, which seems to be the warm-heartedness that has impressed so many critics. Parker won in the categories of director, producer, score and book making him one of the most honored men in Tony history (I believe tied with Joshua Logan who won a slew of awards for "South Pacific" in 1949).

Unlike the last couple of years where Hollywood celebs, such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Scarlett Johansson, Marcia Gay Harden, Liev Schreiber, David Hyde Pierce and Geoffrey Rush have walked off with top honors, this year the only film actor to win was Frances McDormand in Abaire's "Good People." The other top winners are widely known within the Broadway community, but virtually unknown outside of that hallowed cityscape. Sutton Foster, Mark Rylance and Norbert Leo Butz all won their second awards, probably to the general consternation of much of the television-watching audience. Butz's win may have been the most necessary of the night, since many pundits had stated that "Catch me if You Can: The Musical" would most likely close without a significant Tony win.

Surprisingly, as consumer confidence numbers are down, the stock market is shaky, and job reports are still largely dispiriting, Broadway has witnessed a strong season with 39 eligible shows for Tonys and strong box-office receipts for shows that would seem to be outside the purview of strong commercial returns. A play about a boy and his horse during World War I walked off with virtually all of the production awards and Best Play, while a tongue-in-cheek treatment of Mormons swept most of the musical awards. A revival of subtle and racially-problematic Cole Porter standard has wowed critics and proven to be profitable (a shock to everyone involved). Now many of these shows will get nationwide tours (even the now closed "Scottsboro Boys," the last collaboration of Kander and Ebb).  I guess if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.

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