The 1998 Tony Awards have now been handed out. Most things went as predicted, but there were, as always, a few major surprises. We asked readers to share their feelings about particular categories, or about the awards as a whole.
Playbill On-Line thanks all who took the time to write. Owing to the huge volume of responses, we have created this tenth file of posts. All previous responses remain available in the Tony News section of Playbill On-Line. Playbill thanks all those who took the time to write.
From Arnie VandeBrake:
I agree with what everyone has said about Ragtime over Lion King. The entire evening, I said "Ragtime better win Best Musical." When it didn't, I was in tears. All of my thoughts on the subject have been expressed by other letters. To bring up another subject, I felt HORRIBLE for John Leguizamo. The problem with the microphone and then his non-win...I just wanted to hug him. I don't know if he deserved to win or not, I haven't seen any of the nominated plays, but I thought it was unfortunate and embarrassing nonetheless.
From Scott Wintner:
I was very satisfied... actually thrilled... with the Tony's this year. ART, which is in my opinion the most brilliant straight play of all time, got what was rightfully there. Also, I was pleased that CABARET won all the awards that it did. It was a truly amazing rendition and I send the cast and production staff kudos. In response to what some other people have said, I do feel that technical elements of a show are just as important as any other, and on that matter I must disagree that the LION KING shouldn't have won Best Musical. I have not yet seen either RAGTIME or THE LION KING, however based solely on the cast recording and the performance on Tony night I am not all that impressed. After I see these two hopefully I will be able to make an educated opinion. Rosie was fabulous.. as always. What a great year in American Theater it has been. Congrats to all winners, especially my babies CABARET and ART!
I feel it necessary to register my vote for THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL. I saw the show in December 97 and LOVED it. I thought the whole experience was outstanding. No, I'm not a regular Broadway theatre goer, but I do know the Douglas Sills is a man of extraordinary talents! And I think he more than proved it to everyone watching the Tonys Sunday night.
I just read about the trouble THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL is having staying open. I cannot believe it! I don't understand why more people don't go see it. I can say that as a regular Rosie viewer I do know that she did absolutely nothing to help it along, other than letting them perform on the show. I remember one day that she was upset that they had used her name in advertising. And I know that she was the producer of the CBS portion of the Tony Award Show, so it shouldn't surprise me that THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL was virtually ignored during the broadcast. I find it appalling that all the shows did not get equal attention! I was pleased to see that I am not alone in my love of THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and Douglas Sills. I hope the comments in the poll regarding the show and its star will encourage more people to go see it and talk about it. I don't want to see the show close so soon.
I have mixed emotions regarding the awards. While I was thrilled about "Beauty Queen"'s acting sweep, "Art"'s victory for Best Play, and Audra MacDonald, I can't understand how the Tony committee chose "The Lion King" over "Ragtime". "Lion King" is visually stunning-but is nothing more than eye candy compared to the emotional, stirring story and music of "Ragtime", which overall was a much more solid show. Many critics compared "Lion King" to "Phantom of the Opera"; well, then I guess you could compare "Ragtime" to "Into the Woods".
"Cabaret" deserved every award it received-I was thrilled to see Ron Rifkin get noticed. And as for Rosie, she did a fine job as hostess, although her rather risque humor as the night went on was rather inappropriate for the image she was attempting to carve for herself, and for the "G" rated telecast.
My honest reaction is total shock and disappointment! Rosie continues to disappoint me with her crude remarks; I think a touch of class would be more than appreciated by most of us in the audience.
But....that was not the worst of it, as far as I was concerned. Tasteless performances continued to be rewarded. Alan Cumming over Brian Stokes Mitchell for Best Actor in a Musical? Yes, the world has truly gone mad!
Lion King, while no doubt more worthwhile than some, and visually stunning, can in no way compare to Ragtime. Ragtime encompasses EVERYTHING that great theater should--magnificent performances, quality voices, superb acting, great scenery and a heart-stopping score. Not just puppet wizardry. I am sorry I am so harsh, but these are the facts as I see them.
A great many injustices were delivered on Sunday night, but the most aching of all was Stokes not winning. He did not "Lose"--that word is incomprehensible given the quality of the performance he continues to deliver night after night. But I am not shedding tears for him or Ragtime, because they are the TRUE winners in the hearts of most of the theater-going public. Ragtime will be around forever--and dare I say, so will Brian Stokes Mitchell! Both will continue to deliver breathtaking performances---long after Tony Awards '98 is a hazy memory at best. Here's to you, Ragtime and STOKES!!
True that this year's Tony results were similar to the one a decade ago... though... I think that it's somehow flip-flopped... for example... "Phantom" should have also won Best Book and Best Score that year...
This year.... "Ragtime" TRULY deserve the recognition it had been given for its phenomenal storyline and score... yet.. somehow it was decided that the "Lion King" should win Best Musical.... somehow it was a big mistake... but the Lion King is also an artistic and creative musical to come to broadway and it also somehow deserves the award... so congrats!
I am really disappointed that an actress who WOULDN'T perform on national television was acknowledged as the Best.... Alice/Emily TRULY deserves the award for Best Actress.... especially after the two outstanding performances they made in the Rosie show AND the Tonys.
Play Revival: I was unhappy that they didn't mention "The Diary of Anne Frank" (including supporting actress Linda Lavin) as the winner.... it is truly a heartbreaking phenomenon!!!!
Plus... I was disappointed that "The Scarlet Pimpernel" was totally ignored... It is one of the greatest shows to hit the theatres and It needs a little sympathy... I least you could have given the Best Actor award to Douglas Sills... he was a great actor, a great singer, and a hilarious comedian!!!!! the others..... satisfying enough... CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNERS!!!
From T. Stever:
First, I am going to disagree with about everyone. I really think that "Lion King" deserved Best Musical. It is so amazing I don't think anything can compare to it. But "Ragtime" is amazing too. They are just so different either one could have won hands down.
Now on to what is really bothering me. Natasha Richardson's Tony. Has anyone ever heard the girl sing. She CAN"T! How could she possibly accept her award after the most incredible, moving performance by Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner? I would have given them my Tony if I had been in Natasha's shoes.
Special Congrats to Audra MacDonald and Julie Taymor. They are both brilliant women and I hope to follow in their shoes.
All I can say is "I am glad I am not a betting man"...I would have lost the farm!
Two years ago I said to myself that Audra MacDonald would win a third Tony after hearing the first Ragtime album. In November I said that no performers from The Lion King would win a Tony. Then I second guessed myself and picked Le Loka?!?!
Ron Rifkin was the second other surprise of the night. And so was Art winning after Beauty Queen won four out of four categories.
We know that Lion King, Cabaret and Art do not necessarily need the B.O. boost a Tony will bring, so the big winners of the night might be Scarlet Pimpernel and Sound of Music...both presentations were very savvy and would definitely make people want to go see the shows. Douglas Sills was breathtaking, and so was the addition of the female voices to that number, and his final note on the guillotine was epic!
One sour note...although it is thrilling that two women won as directors for the very first time...the producer's might have thought of the record books when telecasting the order of the directing awards...even though both women are first in their categories, Garry Hynes will forever be the FIRST woman to win a directing Tony (by an unfortunate 2 minutes)...an Honor that truly could, and should have been Julie Taymor's and America's!!!
There also seemed to be an element of "Sympathy Applause" to the evening...the huge ovations given Michael Mayer, the" Sidegals" , Douglas Sills, and John Leguizamo might have led one to believe they were winners...but perhaps that was the fans in the theater, and not necessarily the voters!
On a fashion note, almost every one looked terrific, the women especially were gorgeous...from Bebe's hair (thank God those ridiculous bangs were gone!), to Audra's dress, to Christine Lahti's bustline. Angela looked dowdy for the first time at an award show (in black lace) and Rosie was a disaster...Small Hair makes a Big Face...and the dress gave her no shoulders, a concave bust, and a huge belly and hips. And the Titanic reference is pretty dated...there is quite a backlash against the Movie, and the Musical was last year's news.
As Host...they seem to not want Rosie to move, she appears to be legless, speaks and disappears...no walking, no interacting with presenters or winners...she almost could have been doing a remote! And it is obvious that the hilarious and bawdy comments she made last year in the commercial breaks were directed to come DURING the broadcast this year...however, the Paul Simon cracks, and the Tampax joke were just wrong!
My final thought..."And I Am Telling You.....Jennifer looked and sang like the star she is!"
From Tony Beacco:
First of all, Ragtime is probably the best broadway musical that Broadway has seen in 20 years. Lion King is visually stunning and on the cutting edge, Ragtime time is epic and our history - far superior to the story and message of the Lion King. However, with the exception of Best Musical, Lion King deserved every award it got. I was also disappointed like several others that Mitchell did not receive Best Actor in a Musical and also Marin Mazzie (sp?). I saw Ragtime in Toronto and I am coming to NYC to see it in August - I simply cannot wait - it is the best show!!!! By the way - Rosie Rules - her jokes were great. Also - someone needs to tell Betty Buckley to listen!!! She is getting flat in her later years!!!! And what the hell was Jennifer Holliday chewing on?
First let me say congrats to all the winners, whomever they may be. My only complaint of the evening was that RAGTIME didn't get Best Musical. I understand that The Lion King is a visual wonder, and that Ms. Taymor should be put on a pedestal for her work on it, but I don't think that it deserved BEST MUSICAL. Like someone has already said, if book+music = musical, then how come 'Best Book'+'Best Score'(and 'Best Orchestrations') doesn't = 'Best Musical'?? Anyway, I am a bit miffed by this, but happy for "Lion" all the same. And one more thing: how the heck did SIDE SHOW manage to close? I have heard the two stars sing on Rosie and last night on the Tony's, and the music was beautiful. I know I would have loved to have seen it. Lets pray for either a re-opening or a revival...
My reaction is on an issue that hasn't been brought up. Why didn't the awards show allow time for the recipients of the LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT awards have time to speak. I thought it was a disgrace. They only did video photos of them. As a young theatre artist, I would like to know what contribution these men and women have given us for the betterment of the theatre. I know the awards are under a time constraint. I won't ask CBS for any favors so, one possible remedy is to have PBS start their show at 7:30pm. I hope we can remember where we are and where we are to go by remembering where we came from.
From Brian Cunningham:
Overall, I give the 1998 Tony awards to very enthusiastic thumbs DOWN! I was certainly pleased to see Julie Taymor and her beautiful (to look at) brainchild "The Lion King" take the technical awards. I plead no contest there.
However, I seem to agree with the masses about the very disappointing overlooking of "Ragtime" in the best musical category. However, the same thing happened in the best play category: the Tony went to the two most poorly written shows currently on Broadway. McNally's book of "Ragtime" was brilliant (and I am thrilled that he was recognized for it), but "Beauty Queen" was sadly overlooked as well.
It seems though, that my worst fears are steadily being realized: the Tony Awards continue to become more and more commercial (God forbid...do we see politics beginning to rare its ugly head?), and Broadway becomes more and more of a spectacle. We should all be pleased that this year was such a turnaround, audience- and money wise. However, I would gladly accept the fact that Broadway just isn't for young audiences than be forced to be spoonfed "dancing kitties", hydraulic chandeliers, and puppets. "The Lion King" was beautiful and I sat perplexed through the entire "event", but I left the New Amsterdam wondering what I had just "experienced." It certainly wasn't what I consider theatre.
Julie Taymor and the rest of her staff did a brilliant job of remastering the cartoon. I feel that Alan Cumming and Natasha Richardson won merely because they re-created two extremely defined roles (by Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli). This is certainly a tough feat to accomplish, but Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, and Skinner/Ripley (yes, even Betty Buckley...my vote would be with her if she were nominated for featured actress) CREATED brilliant roles, and it is sad that they were too left in the dust. The opening number was nice...but whatever happened to "How To Be A Diva"? I thought that that was what it was going to be.
From Doug Ross:
I believe "Ragtime" won the right awards in the right categories. It doesn't, in my opinion, has the lasting power of blockbusters such as "Les Miz" or "Phantom" or even "Miss Saigon." The book was extremely well written, but that's about the only thing I believe is superior to "The Lion King," which will go on for years and which won the Tony, deservedly so. And I feel most of the songs in "Ragtime" - though they advance the story lyrically - are mediocre. Rosie was perfect - her humor is outrageous, and I guess mine is, too; she cracked me up. What floored me was that, after winning awards in so many categories, including direction, lead and supporting performances, etc., "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" lost out to "Art" for best play. Great show, though.
Okay.......could Natasha Richardson have been any more self-aggrandizing with her "gee-how-did-a-non musical-bumpkin-like-me-beat-out-all-of-these-musical- pros" gaff ? I don't think so. (Maybe Ralph could remind her about the meaning of "class" as opposed to "crass".....) And as for the controversy between Best Book/Best Score RAGTIME and Best Musical THE LION KING.......all three awards were well-deserved and appropriate because what set THE LION KING apart as Best Musical was INNOVATION !!!!!! Brava, Julie Taymor ! And finally......regarding all of the excitement about CABARET.......yawn.......touching your privates takes no imagination at all........we all figure that one out sooner or later........
From Trystan Toole:
I was reading over all these posts. They was one particular comment that bugged me, and it was: "Mr. Mitchell imbues Coalhouse requires an actor, not a performer, which is all that The Emcee in "Cabaret" is asked to be."
Let me just say that this is completely NOT true. The Emcee is the most important character in the piece, because he's the "structure", not just a mere performer. I'm still disappointed that Stokes lost to Cumming, especially since Stokes probably enforced more passion into his role. I loved THE LION KING, and I'm glad to have seen it win, for it will continue a river of artistic development in our theatre. RAGTIME, while it is WONDERFUL! WONDERFUL! Will not have so much influence on the future of theatre. I was disappointed with Ron Rifkin's win. I was also disappointed that after that well done play sequence, ART won without having a sequence itself. It struck me as rather odd.
Well I for one was happy that "The Lion King" won Best Musical. I had almost resigned myself to the fact that "Ragtime" would win. However, judging from the cheers "The Lion King" presentation had versus the "Ragtime" presentation, I think it was clear which musical they favored.
I don't think "The Lion King" is any more commercial than "Ragtime". "The Lion King" was produced by Disney, but "Ragtime" was produced by Livent, though maybe not as powerful as Disney, but a corporation nonetheless.
I'll agree that "Ragtime" has the superior book and score, and deservedly won Tonys for it. But "The Lion King", though it has problems with the book, still has a pretty wonderful score... it just wasn't the conventional music that we're used to.
Julie Taymor and crew showed us that a musical theatre experience is not just about book and score (that's what cast recordings are for). The masks and puppets, the dance, the african chants, the scenery, combined with the vocals and acting made "The Lion King" an incredibly exhilarating theatrical experience unlike any other "conventional" musical like "Ragtime".
And for those who say that "Ragtime" has more depth and a more relevant message, I would like to point out that the story of "The Lion King" is a metaphor of the african colonization (and perhaps American slavery) and says a whole lot more than the "conventional" message given by "Ragtime". The genius of "The Lion King" is that it conveys the message in a much simpler storyline.
All in all, the Tony's were enjoyable. I enjoyed the PBS segment more because it had the nominees talking about their craft... but still enjoyed the presentations from each show in the CBS segment. Though the "technical difficulties", I thought, were unforgivable... as well as rushing the end the show... and the flub with John Leguizamo's mike.