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 eleventh 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.
For all of those who are interested, I did a little research on two topics that seem to be generating a great deal of discussion: musicals that have won Tonys for book and score, but failed to win Best Musical; and performers, who are not usually regarded as singers, who have won Tonys for musical roles.
There are only a few musicals that have won Tonys for book and score that have failed to win the Tony for Best Musical. Going backward in time: 1992 -- book and score to FALSETTOS, best musical to CRAZY FOR YOU; 1988 -- book and score to INTO THE WOODS, best musical to PHANTOM; 1981 -- book and score to WOMAN OF THE YEAR, best musical to 42ND STREET; 1978 -- book and score to ON THE 20TH CENTURY, best musical to AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'. There were several occasions when book and score were split, best musical going to one of those two shows and one year when three different shows each took one of the three awards. Check on the Tony Award reference book!
Onto the other topic: performers, not regarded as singers, who have won Tonys for musical roles. Natasha Richardson is not the first! Looking back: Matthew Broderick '95; Tyne Daly '90; Natalia Makarova '83; Lauren Bacall '81 & '70; Christopher Plummer '74; Glynis Johns '73; Bea Arthur '66; Vivien Leigh '63; Richard Burton '61; Rex Harrison '57.
See, these controversies have been going on for ages...Thanks for listening!
From James Hogue:
I was at the Tony Awards last night. Rosie was so entertaining. She came out in between commercials and told us the jokes that she couldn't use or there wasn't time for. She made an extraordinary night, unbelievable!!
I wish Ragtime had won, but the tension of the close competition could be felt everywhere.
From Ron Schwinn:
I have performed on 3 Tony Award telecasts & I must say that the 1998 show was lame. I adore Rosie O'Donnell & hugely appreciate her enthusiasm for,& her boosting of, Broadway productions. Unfortunately, she was neither very funny nor terribly charming on the June 7th telecast. The material written for her was so strained it nearly choked her to deliver it. The production of the show was shoddy, with commercial breaks coming at MOST inappropriate times (for instance, you simply DO NOT pre-empt Sean Connery when he has something to say, as an actor OR a producer). I agree with Ms. O'Donnell that acceptance speeches should be kept terse & to the point. However, there were times that breaks intruded on the flow of the show itself. As an experienced Broadway performer (13 productions) & a rising director/choreographer, I am very aware of the production values (& lack of them) in any show. I strongly suggest that the Tony Award telecasts be given back to Alex Cohen, who knew how to produce a show!
I totally agree with the many, many writers who say that "Ragtime" should have won over "The Lion King." Bravo to those who champion the true look, sound and feel of Broadway.
"The Lion King" is a spectacle. It is a pageant -- a kind of showy circus of light and color. It incorporates puppetry, mime and folk art. I don't know that I'd call it (truly) a Broadway Musical.
Isn't it telling that "Ragtime" won Best Music, Lyrics and Book? These are the three most important elements of a Broadway musical. Plus, Ragtime's star also won a Tony.
The victory of "The Lion King" marks another sad chapter in Broadway's flirtation with commercialized pseudo-musicals. Most of the "stars" of the show hide behind masks. The actors seem inter-changeable. It is a cash-cow designed to run forever. The fact that it was all concocted by the mighty and all-pervasive Disney empire makes it downright scary. How is it that we are not nearly as bothered by Hallmark's sponsorship of "The Sound of Music" as we are by Disney's growing encroachment? Here's the answer: Hallmark is not in our face everywhere we turn. The company knows its niche and has not sold its soul.
I was one of the first to cheer the turnaround on 42nd Street but I fear Disney's greed knows no bounds.
Beware, Broadway! Now, the lion is truly uncaged!
I enjoyed the show (except for the opening "Diva" number) and thought for an awards show it was very entertaining. I though the Scarlet Pimpernel gave the best musical presentation. I thought Ragtime should have won best musical. Lion King is a spectacular production, very inventive and creative but the book is weak and the music is not good. I was also disappointed that Skinner and Ripley didn't win. Even though I did not care for Side Show, thought their performance was worthy of an award.
I was extremely mad when i herd that Lion King was even considered for the Tony, my reaction was even worse when they won. First of all I probably wouldn't be so upset if they keep the style of Lion King the same but yet they made it some cheep paper mache African crap show. All I'm saying is Ragtime is a classic show that stand in the ranks of Phantom, Les Mis., Miss Saigon, and Titanic, and yet it was denied the Tony which it so rightfully deserved by an African paper kiddy show. There is no JUSTICE!
Once again, I thought the Tony Awards out classed all of the other award shows on TV - that is, until Rosie O'Donnell started to tell her 'jokes'. On several occasions I found her to be inappropriate - even tasteless. The Tony Awards need a host/hostess who is an actor/actress - someone who will celebrate the theatre - and the season - rather than herself. There are certainly actors/actresses with national 'name' recognition who would do an excellent job. The opening number with the three 'divas' was outstanding. Someone please find a musical for Jennifer Holliday - it was great seeing her again.
From John Bel:
I am John Bel. I am eighteen years old and I live in New Orleans, Louisiana. I have visited New York twice in the past two years, and on both occasions I was there on a theater tour organized by my high school's play director. This past Christmas I and twelve of my friends made the trip. We saw several shows (myself, I saw eight in five days). I loved every minute there. I love plays, Broadway and New York! Last night I watched the Tony's.
I do concede that I am not an aficionado of all types of theater, in fact I did not even see all of the plays nominated. However, I would like to say that I must disagree, in fact pity those people who are enraged about Ragtime's loss to The Lion King for Best New Musical. They say that winning best direction, and costumes, and choreography doesn't make for the best musical. Well actually it does.
The Best Musical is not the flashiest musical. It isn't the newest, or the most expensive or the longest. I would be sorely disappointed with the American Theater Wing if they followed the lead of Hollywood and awarded the biggest play with the flashiest, glossiest look an award. And for all of those people who say that they love Ragtime so much, " Have you really seen it?" Its plot is fractured to say the least (that is of course with the understanding that you think it does have a plot). Its songs are frivolous and unnecessary. Ragtime does have great potential. It has some great performances, but it isn't the best.
Overall its superficial, stupid, unnecessarily melodramatic, extravagant to the point of nausea and foolishly directed. On the other hand The Lion King was much more artistic, creatively done. Julie Taymor is a genius, a gift to modern theater. The cast is exceptional. For all of you who are upset about The Lion King winning, I suggest you go buy tickets for it, and if you are still not convinced that it is not the best musical then lock yourself in your house or apartment and don't come out- this is very important now- don't come out until you have two things: good taste and a brain.
And as for the category of Best Actress, I can only say that it took a great and possibly insane person to choose the winner. I do believe in Natasha Richardson's talent and her new take on Sally Bowles. However, I was in the audience for one of the last performances of Side Show, and every second of that play is permanently engraved in my heart and mind. I must say that the musical itself had problems, but the performances of Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley were possibly the most energetic, creative, heart- warming, and heart- breaking performances I've ever seen. They had the ability to create this unified personality that could both have you in hilarious laughter, and gut wrenching sadness. They were INCREDIBLE!!!! I just wish they could have been given the recognition they deserved.
Cabaret is phenomenal. Alan Cumming, brilliant. The cast of The Scarlet Pimpernel should be taken to a field and shot just for the stupidity of doing a musical based on that novel. Well I guess that's all for now. Thank you.
What's all the fuss over Rosie's outfit? I mean between that hairdo and outfit, wasn't she auditioning for The Kate Smith Story?
And nobody had anything to say about the Divas??? The singing was fabulous but those wigs were really tacky.
Won't bother to talk about the awards, it's all been said before except to say Douglas Sills and Scarlet Pimpernel were phenomenal and everybody should go see that show. It deserves to continue on B'way.
From Todd Caporizzo:
Being a devout Bdwy fan -- I must say that the Tony's were truly a disappointing event! What's going on here is NOT right or fair.
Rosie O'Donnell has clearly elevated the awareness of Bdwy to the national forefront -- which we all should be totally grateful. Yet, it is not the Rosie O'Donnell Tony Awards. Her position as host and producer should be impartial and celebrate the Year on Broadway. She clearly pulled for THE LION KING -- it was her favorite show. But, as a host, she does not have the RIGHT to voice her comments or opinions. Also, the opening number was about her -- NOT about the Broadway stage. She wants to be a diva -- well she's NOT -- someone should tell her not to sing anymore -- she can't! And that dress, she looked absolutely like a moose in it -- does she not have any friends to say "Rosie, you ARE the Titanic in that horrible shmatta" Stay with your talk show, Ro! Hopefully, she won't be back next year -- it's time for a change!
The musical awards were so weird. When Ron Rifkin won -- I said -- Oh My God! Then, Audra MacDOnald won - I said -- OH MY GOD!. Then, Natasha Richardson won -- and I said -- %^^*^%^#(),OH MY GOD!!! (even she admitted she wasn't a singer...) Then Alan Cumming won and I just wanted to shoot myself.
The worst - absolute worst was -- BEST MUSICAL!. The Lion King is a visually, creative theatrical piece -- you cannot take that away from the show. But, RAGTIME is clearly the BEST MUSICAL since the likes of SWEENEY TODD and SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE.
What are the voters thinking about... I'm really depressed AND not happy right now. Oh until next year's awards!
From Pat Reiber (PReiber525@aol.com):
I enjoyed the Tony's and the performances of the nominees for Best Musical, but I think that whoever made the decisions on just who would get the Tony's did a great injustice to both "Ragtime" and Brian Stokes Mitchell in not presenting them with the awards for Best Musical and Best actor in a Musical. I have seen many Broadway shows and I have never been touched by another show as I have been by "Ragtime" and the performance of Brian Stokes Mitchell.
With all the shows playing on Broadway I never felt as if I would want to go to see a show more then one time, but I already have tickets to see "Ragtime" again and will probably go see it several times more as well. The story line in "Ragtime" is such a strong touching story and presented in such a way that even though there are three stories going on at one time, the audience knows just where they are at all times and can feel all of what is being told to them as if they are a part of it. The music is just beautiful and the entire cast performs the songs and the dancing wonderfully, but the performance of Brian Stokes Mitchell touched me as no other performer in a musical has ever touched me before. He is wonderful as Coalhouse Walker, Jr and his voice is so strong and powerful and very pleasing to hear and his presentation of the songs and the story being told is terrific, so full of emotion and feeling for the character he is playing, and from the time he first steps on to that stage, he is Coalhouse Walker, and he has you so involved with the show that you laugh with him, cry with him, and feel all his happiness, sorrow, and pain. He is a multi talent as well and you see all those talents in "Ragtime", singer, dancer, actor, and piano player, and he does all of them equally well. Brian Stokes Mitchell deserved that Tony as he is the heart and soul of "Ragtime" with his performance and all that he puts into the role of Coalhouse Walker.
There are a lot of great musicals on Broadway and I have seen many of them and as I said, none of them or no actor had sent me from that theater with the feeling that I wanted to go right back in and see the show again, until "Ragtime" and Brian Stokes Mitchell. How they can even compare Cumming with Brian Stokes Mitchell and "Cabaret" with "Ragtime" is beyond me, there is no comparison at all, it is like trying to put a round peg in a square hole, they don't match at all.
"Cabaret" has no story line, no meaning, a raunchy act in a Cabaret!!! How can you compare that with a compassionate, meaningful, true life story that still has meaning to this day and still has a story to tell. "Ragtime" has all of the things "Cabaret" doesn't have and then add to that the magnificent acting and singing of Brian Stokes Mitchell and then you have a winner, and you have missed your chance to really honor a show and person who truly deserve to win the Tony. I think maybe they need to have those who go to see these shows do the voting, perhaps then those truly deserving would be honored.. Brian Stokes Mitchell, well to me you have won the Tony!! You will always ba a winner to those who enjoy good music, acting, and a wonderful entertaining and meaningful performance. Thank you for sharing your talents with all of us.
From Chelsea. Miami, Florida:
I am a 14 year old girl who has fallen in love with musical theater. I had seen "Ragtime", loved it to pieces, and was excited to see the Tony's. Call it optimistic, but I assumed "Ragtime" would win. There was not a doubt in my mind that actor Brian Stokes Mitchell, who I think is not only the most talented actor of the year, but one of the most I have ever seen, would win.
When I found out that "The Lion King" and Alan Cumming won, I was furious. Now, I have not seen "The Lion King", or "Cabaret" which Cumming is in. But I do know what I saw. First of all, "The Lion King" does NOT deserve that Tony no matter which way you look at it. First of all, "Ragtime" won Best Score & Best Book. That's what makes a musical! "The Lion King" got it because it has showy costumes, which pumps money into Broadway. Disney has given an enormous amount of money to fixing Times Square. It's really a business deal. Also, it's just a show!
If you put both "Ragtime" and "The Lion King" in tee-shirts & jeans, "The Lion King" would be stupid, and "Ragtime" would still be a powerful, moving, wonderful musical. A musical is really good if it changes your perspective of the world. "Ragtime" has done that for me. I have not seen "The Lion King" but no fancy costumes could change ones perspective, and the movie certainly could not either. Also, as for Best Actor... it probably isn't right for me to judge Cumming by "Wilkommen" (or however you spell that), but I really did not think he was very good. He was raunchy, freaky, and just plain-out weird. Stokes Mitchell, on the other hand, is beyond moving. I cried so hard in "`Till We Reach That Day" and in his scene in J.P. Moorage's Library. He is a wonderful actor, singer, dancer, and pianist. Cumming is somewhat amusing, if that. Most of all, I would like to show my deep disgust in the committee of the Antoinette Perry Awards. These people are supposed to know what good theater is. Apparently, they either did not or didn't care.
Overall, GREAT show...except for the TECHNICAL/DIRECTING GLITCHES! John Leguizamo's mike, someone's arm in front of the camera at one point, an extended long shot of the Side Show actresses that made them look lost on a huge, empty stage -- and worst of all, running out of time for the last 2 awards -- including not even giving us CLOSE UPS of the best actor in a musical nominees --I didn't see a shot of Brian Stokes Mitchell or Peter Friedman in the audience once during the whole evening -- either on PBS or CBS! If I hadn't seen them in the Ragtime number I would have wondered if they had shown up!!
Why can't the Tonys go over when every other award show on TV does??!!
Rosie was great, hilarious -- the audience seemed to be having a good time too. Wish she had kept the tuxedo suit on though, personally -- pants are more her style, anyway, and I can hear the unkind comments about her "Titanic" outfit already...it just wasn't very flattering...
Which reminds me...why is Helen Hunt wearing the same strapless number, over and over again? Love her but jeez (and someone please tell Rosie not to call her -- or any other female over the age of 18 -- a "girl" -- she's a WOMAN for goodness sakes!)
From Michael Feely:
How is it possibly that the show with the Best Score and the Best Book awards isn't the Best Musical. Have the Tonys been taking lessons from Oscar?
From Paul Batchelder:
I thought that the PBS/CBS coverage was very good and the presentation as well as the choice of the host was excellent. Rosie came through as a true fan of Broadway and her excitement was passed on to all who watched her. The PBS behind the scenes were great and gave everyone an insight into what really happens with lighting, art,scenery and direction. When CBS took over the opening number was wonderful and Rosie came through like a pro.
From Mervin Lass:
I watched the Tonys last weekend. What's the rationale of having a separate category for best musical revival, and then not having separate categories for best male & female performers in a musical revival? In one case the competition is among like status plays and the other instance (with performers)it's not.
From Sally C:
It is not hard to get attention by grabbing your genitals or your rear end. If your willing to use sexually graphic imagery or just plain shocking imagery like a concentration camp then it's not hard to make a shocking impact that many will mistake for high art. I'm sorry, I just don't get "Cabaret" And Cumming and Richardson can't sing! What must it make the other nominees who have studied singing for years and have gorgeous voices to show for it and have built strong, carefully nuanced performances feel like to have people with no musical experience come along and grab the awards largely because they're in a show with big shock value?
From Jim R Mc Cormack:
Has everyone forgotten 1776 already?
Why did Brent Spiner not get nominated?
Why did Pat Hingle not get nominated?
The show is so moving. So what if there is no sex?
Remember the good old days when hype and advertising where not the only thing Tony voters cared about?
Who ever reads this, go see the show! It's the best directed, acted, and under rated show on Broadway!!!
From Lauren P.:
I really feel that Douglas Sills should have won for best actor in a musical!! He performed very well when I went to see "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and performed very well during the Tonys. Hopefully next time he will be more appreciated.
From Laurice Brown:
I am so happy for the cast of Cabaret!!!!! Alan Cumming is better than even Joel Grey in my eyes! As for best musical, I was in a complete state of shock when Nathan Lane said "The Lion King", I still think it should have gone to Ragtime. Rosie O' Donnell was again a hit. She and the other writers outdid themselves this year, Tampax and "ragtime", it was hilarious, and her other jokes about her breasts, I could barely contain myself. Besides Best Musical, I think that all of the awards went out to those who deserved them especially the first female directors with their Tonys! AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
From Lawrence Holoway:
Once again I am stunned to see a musical production that has lost out to its superior competition in the categories of best score, best lyrics, and best book named Best Musical .... apparently all you need to get best musical these days is good lighting, costumes, and lots of puppets ... I remember, fondly, the good old days, when the Tony's were decided on merit ... It's a shock to me that an intelligent, beautifully crafted, exquisitely performed musical like Ragtime is treated so shamefully.