Playbill Poll: Readers React to the Tonys -- Part 1

Tony Awards   Playbill Poll: Readers React to the Tonys -- Part 1 The 1998 Tony Awards have now been handed out. Most things went as predicted, but there were, as always, a few major surprises. Please share your feelings about particular categories, or about the awards as a whole.

The 1998 Tony Awards have now been handed out. Most things went as predicted, but there were, as always, a few major surprises. Please share your feelings about particular categories, or about the awards as a whole.

E-mail your comments to Playbill On-Line Managing Editor Robert Viagas at viagas@playbill.com by June 9. Playbill On-Line thanks all who took the time to write. Here are the results so far:

From P Phatsaphaphone:
Well, I was shocked out of my mind when I heard Nathan Lane say The Lion King instead of Ragtime. This only proves to me that the Tony's are more commercial than people think.
There is no doubt about it that The Lion King is a visual masterpiece but does that mean it deserves Best Musical? I think not. I believe that Ragtime is a far superior show to The Lion King and should have not been given the honor of the Best Musical award Ragtime should have. Yes, Ragtime did win Best Book and Best Score which is great and so rightfully deserves but still it is not the Best Musical. I just hope Ragtime will have the long run it deserves.
I am also a little hurt that Stokes and Marin Mazzie did not win. But I knew that Alan and Natasha would win.
Congrats to Audra McDonald on for third Tony. I was so happy that she won. Three Tony's! What an accomplishment!!!! She is only 27. That is what I cannot get over. What a talent!


From Deb Rieselman:
I was thrilled with the Tonys. "Ragtime," "Beauty Queen of Leenane" and "A View from the Bridge" deserved everything they got. "Lion King" did, too, with the exception of Best Musical, which I think should have gone to "Ragtime." The cast of "Beauty Queen" should be quite proud. Every single member was nominated, and the only one who lost did so because he and his colleague had been nominated in the same category and only one could win. The play and cast were incredible and earned the accolades. And anyone who objects to Alan Cumming's Best Actor in a Musical award did not see "Cabaret." This is not an old "Cabaret," and anyone who envisions its predecessor is missing the heart of the show. Cumming was magnificent. I also saw fine performances by both Peter Friedman and Brain Stokes Mitchell in "Ragtime," but Cumming was indeed superior to anything on Broadway last season. On a final note, I might argue over who should have received the Best Actress in a Musical award. Maybe it was Natasha Richardson of "Cabaret," I'm not convinced. Perhaps being on stage with Cumming made her shine less brightly because he was so brilliant.


From Patrick Elkins:
I want to agree with most of the people that I believe Ragtime to be the better show and that I didn't know that best lights, scenery and costumes made a musical the best show. I do want to say that though a fan of Rosie O'Donnell, I thought that once again she was not the best host. It seemed a two hour version of her show. I thought the most unprofessional moment of the night was her calling The Lion King the most spectacular she's every seen. And this was not after it won best musical, but in the middle of Tony's. The Tony's is not about Rosie or her opinions, even though America seems to think different. Thank you.
"I reject the world's complacency!"
Younger brother
"I'm only a sham,
Well, that's my appeal,
The people need sham,
'cause the world's too real."
-Harry Houdini


From Stretch Baker:
The real crime is NOT that "Art" was awarded Best Play after winning no other award, the real crime is that Alan Alda and Victor Garber were overlooked. There should be a category for "Ensemble Performance" (like the SAG Awards recognize). Also, there should be a Best Song category... which Shadowlands would have won this year! Bravo to Audra McDonald! She is one of our most exciting young performers, and deserves all the attention and acclaim she receives. Finally, bravo to Julie Taymor for revitalizing the Broadway musical -- and to the theatre community for embracing rather than fearing her contributions. Ms. Taymor has opened up new possibilities for the future of the American Theatre -- which looks brighter than ever before!


From Kim Gessner:
I don't live in New York, so I don't get to see many shows. Judging by everything I've seen and heard however, I think this year's Tonys were very similar to the 1988 Tonys in that the bigger, splashier show (i.e. PHANTOM OF THE OPERA = THE LION KING) won the Best Musical award while a more substantial show (INTO THE WOODS = RAGTIME) won the Best Book and Best Score awards. I'm really disappointed that Brian Stokes Mitchell lost to Alan Cumming; I think CABARET's Emcee role is more of a supporting role.
Both the PBS and CBS broadcasts were well done, but Rosie's jokes got more offensive as the evening wore on; did she really have to make jokes about Carol Channing's divorce or equate RAGTIME with Tampax?


From Snopjo:
Congrats to The Lion King. Unlike other nominated musicals, I think this one won because of its universal appeal. It appeals to the whole family and will keep the imagination of children well fed during the whole breathtaking and wondrous first and second acts. I am really disappointed that Tsidii Le Loka did not win for Best Featured Actress, Audra McDonald has won twice already and while she is very talented it is time to let the prize go to someone else, namely Tsidii. You won't find a more talented actress on Broadway. Cheers to the directors too! I liked the opening scene but Betty Buckley sounded like she needed to be put to sleep. Oh and what was with that dress of Rosie O'Donnell's??? For someone who always complains about her weight, she didn't do anything to improve her arguments by wearing that boat of a dress.


From PTDNY:
It's good being able to see more scenes from the nominated shows, but the ceremony is getting like the Oscars, which isn't an improvement as far as I'm concerned--I think I prefer the "old days" of Tony telecasts when, if my memory serves me, presenters didn't seem to be trying to be "witty"- Rosie O. is in a class by herself with that sort of thing, but most of the other actors came across as very unfunny. And did anyone else besides me wonder what planet Nell Carter came from last night? She deserved the award for Most Obnoxious Presenter!


From JGillis918:
Lion King should NOT have taken best musical. However technically proficient it might have been it is not all that wonderful. Ragtime was cheated out of an award it very rightly deserved.


From Mark Malachesky:
I'm sure I'm not the first to say it and I'm sure I will not be the last but here goes:...
Best Score, Best Book ... if that does not constitute the Best Musical of the season what does? Obviously it is spectacle over content as was proven 10 years ago with the "Phantom"/"Into the Woods" showdown. And "Art" over "Beauty Queen"? Huh? When will the Tonys get it right? (But then again we must remember that this is the same organization that overlooked Julie Andrews in "My Fair Lady" and Ethel Merman in "Gypsy" and gave "The Music Man" top honors over "West Side Story" and "La Cage Aux Folles" honors over "Sunday in the Park.."... Go figure.)
I realize I am in the minority here, but the fact that Alan Cumming was honored for his Try-Too-Hard-Look-At-Me-Aren't-I Shocking performance turns my stomach. And how embarrassing for Natasha Richardson to have to accept her award after Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley's roof-raising performance. Did anyone else find it curious that our winner for Best Actress in Musical couldn't even bring herself to sing on national TV?
Other than that, Bravo to all winners! What a rich, wonderful season and thanks for letting me vent.
PS-- Must give special mention to Julie Taymor. What a talented, graceful, articulate, beautiful, passionate and humble woman this is! Here's to hoping we see a lot more from this genius!


From Lindsey Rose:
Someone explain it to me again:
It DOESN'T have best score
It DOESN'T have best book
but it's best MUSICAL? I'm somewhat confused.

From DavidG:
Tony night is always exciting, and this year was no exception. For the first time in recent years, there were some very close races. I was thrilled that Natasha Richardson and Alan Cumming won for best actress and actor, respectively. Cabaret is the most spectacular show I saw all season; every single moment was theatrical. I was surprised that Beauty Queen of Leenane did not win best play, it won best director and 3 acting awards, yet it's not the best play. And Audra MacDonald, come on, can't someone else win an award? Tsidii Le Loka was amazing compared with Audra's Sarah in Ragtime. And Ms. Le Loka did play a baboon who had no spoken dialogue in English. Anyway, Lion King or Ragtime? They were both great and while Ragtime is a really tight show, The Lion King was unlike anything Broadway had ever seen. Congrats to all the winners! It was a great show.


From Lisa Miller:
Just read all the other comments regarding the Tony's, and how dreadful it was that Ragtime didn't win Best Musical. Well, too bad! The Lion King may be the more commercial of the two, but let's see which show is here in ten years. Reminds me of Into the Woods and Phantom- Phantom is still here, right? So stop complaining and be grateful that Disney has come to Broadway!


From Conchatab:
I am positively sick at heart to see as tremendous a performance as the one Brian Stokes Mitchell gives as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. in "Ragtime" overlooked in favor of Alan Cumming In "Cabaret." To take nothing away from Mr. Cumming, he is performing what is and has always been a supporting role. I have seen "Ragtime" four times, two of them with Mr. Mitchell as Coalhouse. There is no doubt that the demands of the role are truly those of "The Lead". The Emcee in "Cabaret" merely comments on the action, he does not drive it. To be quite frank, it is very easy to be arch, naughty, sleazy and androgynous on stage. To color a role with the sensitivity with Mr. Mitchell imbues Coalhouse requires an actor, not a performer, which is all that The Emcee in "Cabaret" is asked to be.
As a professional stage director, I am shocked and disappointed to see as basic a piece as "Cabaret" being given so much attention and regard at this juncture. I was (unfortunately) forced to suffer through Eric Shaeffer's rip- off production of Sam Mendes' Donmar Warehouse "Cabaret" when it was mounted at Washington, DC's Signature Theatre two years ago. Then, as now, the critics behaved as if it were the second coming. Anyone can do tawdry, bare- bones, low-budget theatre in a warehouse! It takes craft, intellect, skill and appreciation of the art of telling a story to put together a musical as rich as "Ragtime." So much of its artistry was pushed aside tonight, but most disappointing of all was Mr. Mitchell's loss to someone who is doing what almost anyone can do, "camping it up."


From bbjp:
May I ask how a show can get best score and best book and not be the best musical? I was just wondering - The Lion King is one of the best shows on Broadway and is remarkably done, from a visual standpoint, however Ragtime, is show an era of our nations history and the part that Brian Stokes Mitchell plays is also an incredible part MUCH deserving of a Tony, well....what is done is done and Brian- keep up the OUTSTANDING work- Make them hear you!


From T.W. on L.I.:
I thought the broadcast was well done although I didn't care for many of the jokes Rosie told. The musical numbers were terrific but I do have one complaint. Why was the Scarlet Pimpernel totally ignored? While we kept hearing, "Stay tuned for a musical number from the Lion King....stay tuned for Cabaret..", etc. , no mention at all of SP, as though nobody cared. I was beginning to wonder if there would even be a musical number at all. I have seen this show 4 times and it's been one of the best times I've had in the theater. I've also seen Ragtime and Lion King and don't get me wrong, I never expected SP to win best musical but the show is struggling right now and it needed some attention paid to it, especially on the Tonys. The PBS hour wasn't any better in this respect. I just hope ticket sales pick up because it's a great show and deserves to be seen.


From Frank Ciccia, Buffalo, NY:
I was quite entertained by last evenings Tony's ceremony, however I was disappointed that Ragtime did not receive more awards, especially for Best Musical and lead actor - Brian Stokes Mitchell. I had the honor of seeing the production in both Toronto and NYC. It is probably one of the best musical productions I have seen in years, and it is a shame that it will not get the full attention it deserves.


From Phxaxntom:
I think that everybody complaining that RAGTIME lost out to THE LION KING needs to think for a minute. . . which show offered a greater artistic contribution to Broadway? I think it was THE LION KING. . .everything about it was stunning. I think that RAGTIME is a good work, but one that also relies upon glitz. . .I think that ALL of the shows up for the award rely upon that. . .I also think that Douglas Sills was unfairly passed over for the best actor category. . .I expected Brian Stokes Mitchell to win. . .deservingly. . .but nobody even MENTIONED Douglas Sills. . .he was absolutely phenomenal on the show. .. I do think it it unfortunate that the large majority of the awards went to non-Americans. . .is that saying something about the level of talent here or about a bias in the judges? Just a thought.


From Ina:
I felt the Tony awards lacked the spontaneity of previous years. Not enough scenes of the audience were shown. In addition, Rosie O'Donnell, who has single-handedly raised the awareness of the public about Broadway, should get new writers. It was painfully apparent that her "jokes" just were not working, and they were tasteless as well. Maybe she should also get a new dress designer, too; it was just awful.
I thought Brian Stokes Mitchell was robbed of a well-deserved Tony. His character had depth, nuances and changed drastically during the course of Ragtime. One could see and even feel the tension and anger building up in his Coalhouse portrayal. On the other hand, Alan Cumming was smarmy throughout and had no growth of his character during Cabaret.
Ragtime was the more-integrated show and deserved the best musical award. The sweeping story, the soaring music and the sets served to emotionally involve the theater-goer into the story.
After the very creative and awe-producing opening number, what else did Lion King have? A weak book, music added to that of the movie which was not too well-integrated to the whole and a great let-down from the opening. Lion King could not decide if it wanted to be an African musical or to follow the story in the movie. I found the show quite disjointed after the opening number and certainly NOT the best musical of 1998.
Thanks for providing an opportunity to give opinions.


From Janet Levitt:
I agree with many others online that Ragtime was the better musical. Marin Mazie outshone Natasha Richardson by far. The book/music combination was a total creation. Bravo RAGTIME!!


From RENTGuy:
To begin, the awards show was very well done this year and very pleasing on the whole.....until....the category for Best Musical. The Lion King, however visually astounding and from a zoo's perspective breathtaking, Ragtime should have been the recipient of the award this year. The shows weaves a rich, intelligent quilt of this century's history and grasps the emotions and passion of American culture that has been so greatly overlooked on Broadway this season. E. L. Doctorow has created a skillful storyline of love, pain, hope, and fervor which should be appreciated by all theater goers as well as Tony-voters alike. To keep this concise, I will close my letter of aggravation with a thank you to the voters, as strange as that may sound. Thank you for not choosing RAGTIME as the Best Musical for 1998, because you have given the chance for many lucky people to obtain tickets much easier, whereas Lion King will be sold out until 2007. Thank you, and as upset as I and many other theater-goers are, we simply can never go "back to before. . .


Liz David (nyrus@sympatico.ca):
God Bless the creators, cast and crew of Ragtime. They are ALL winners to me. They have portrayed their roles with love, truth and integrity. Not once did they have to rely on glitz and novelty to convey their message. They will always keep their special place in my heart. Whether it may be the Broadway cast or the National Touring Company, I would like to tell them that they are all very special people to me, and I wish them all the very best in life. @>-->----


From KMont1016:
I thought that Audra Ann McDonald was wonderful in "Ragtime" but does she NEED to win another Tony so soon? She should take herself out of the running like Candace Bergen did at the Emmy's!!!


From Rick Hawkins:
Excellent !!!! Except Rose O'Donnell. I felt that she was not sophisticated enough, and her dress horrible and her joke about Rag-Time totally inappropriate. I generally like her, I watch her show, but she blew it !!


From Buzz156:
The Tonys are a strange and curious beast (no "Lion King" pun intended). It's clear this year they wanted to spread the awards around. Important awards, like score and book, are given to "Ragtime", but the big award is given to the commercial hit "The Lion King". It reminds me of the "Crazy For You"/"Falsettos" and "Phantom Of The Opera"/"Into The Woods" Tony years. I feel the same happened this year with the "straight" plays. "Beauty Queen...." was given the acting and directing award to insure a healthy run, while the potential tour hit "Art" is helped by securing the important label of "Best Play". I cannot say I was happy with the Best Musical Award. I feel the "The Lion King" is a series of wonderful moments that never quite add up to a whole, where "Ragtime" is, by far, the better constructed show.... it starts with a brush stroke and by the end you see the whole picture. I also feel without the Best Musical Award, "Ragtime" will have a healthy but not the long run it deserves. Oh well, one does not always get what one wishes.
The Tonys show this year was terrific. PBS was classy as always (Julie Taymor's directing acceptance speech was great). On CBS, Rosie was more relaxed this year and it was nice to see the director succeeded in letting her personality and humor shine through instead of being the "traffic cop" he detested last year. Rosie was hilarious with her jokes. One can only hope she will be back for many years of hosting.... but Rosie, in my opinion, the dress?!?! I don't think so. The winners took Rosie's advice by making their speeches heartfelt. How nice to see winners truly happy and grateful for their Tony. Bravo.
The musical segments were enjoyable, although "The Sound Of Music" and "Ragtime" seemed rushed. Although a show I did not care for when I saw it, "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and Douglas Sills (a brilliant actor who deserves better) succeeded the best. Knowing there was no chance for a Tony, they needed to present their show in the best possible light to increase ticket sales and keep the show running. I truly believe they did this with "Into The Fire". The dialogue lead-in really helped set the mood for the song. Of course, it is one of the better numbers in a rather ho-hum show. As always, this is one person's opinion. I look forward to reading the others. Signing off.... Robert from Lansdale, PA.


From Ed Schnecker:
I felt the Tony Awards were presented in a great manner, I wish they did not have to be rushed in the end, but I guess that's television. Although Lion King is a technically great show, Ragtime was awarded both the best score and best book Tony. If a show has the best music and the best story, why is it not the best musical? I was fortunate enough to attend one of the final performances of Side Show and experienced one of the most touching and heartwarming shows on Broadway this season. The performances of Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner were incredible and I believe deserved the Tony for lead actress, but I was also incredibly impressed by the performance of Mother in Ragtime. I'm sorry that more awards could not be given. I applaud both the winners and the nominees as well as the writers, composers, cast members, stage crews, and all those who've given Broadway a strong competitive season. I look forward to the future of Broadway.


From Jenny Goodwin:
The only awards that I was not too happy about, but also not too surprised with were Best Actress in a Musical and Best Actor in a Musical. Although I have not had the chance to see Cabaret, I really think that the Actress award should have gone to the SIDESHOW twins, who I felt gave an absolutely incredible performance, and that Actor should have gone to Brian Stokes Mitchell. He is definitely THE most talented and powerful performer that I have ever seen in my entire life.


From Lyndee Boyland:
I didn't see the whole show but loved the part that I saw. I actually thought the scene from "Cabaret" was a bit 'racy' for TV---it wasn't yet 10pm and my 8 year old got an eyeful. (school's out here in North Richland Hills, Texas) I loved "The Lion King" scene---spectacular, breath-taking, beautiful, I've never seen anything quite like it, what a treat!!!----does anyone have tickets they'd like to give or sell to a group of Texans???? My children and I need to see this show---everyone needs to see this show!!


From Paul Katz:
Just a couple of observations. Did it seem that CBS tried to make the awards appeal to the non-theater folk? Everyone was introduced with a "they appeared on television" intro, and the stars shown coming out of the limo's at the beginning -- very academy awards. Otherwise, I have to agree w/ the awards for Best Musical, and Best Score. Why isn't there an award for Best Musical Direction? Now that the award for best orchestration is back, maybe we'll see best musical director/conductor revived as well (when was the last time it was awarded? back in the 60's?) The only disappointment was having the biggest award of the night, "best musical" rushed at 10:58 p.m.


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