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 fourth file of posts. Playbill thanks all those who took the time to write:
From Robert Girard, San Francisco:
As a former dancer, I went to NYC over Memorial Day weekend with nothing in mind other than to see all I could. I did see both RAGTIME, I got a great seat, and THE LION KING, I waited on line for nearly 4 hours for a Standing Room ticket. I must say that I am disappointed in many people's disapproval of last night's results. I was overjoyed that THE LION KING won the awards it did. Julie Taymor is a wonder. The costumes, masks and direction were all superb. I agree that RAGTIME is a good show; however, it is not great for many of the same reasons that the movie was not great. Much of the thematic meat of Doctorow's novel is revealed in FATHER'S journal entries while on expedition, and there was, apparently, no way to incorporate those epiphanies into the narrative flow. Without those wonderful understandings of life and the human spirit, RAGTIME becomes simply an interesting history-driven narrative full of interesting people but without much heart.
THE LION KING, on the other hand, not only translated what was already a classic animated film to the stage in a far more theatrical way than was done with the very literal retelling of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, but it added some aspects of AFRICAN RHYTHMS and tribal dance and incorporated the sensitivities of Bunraku, Shadow Puppetry, Indonesian Puppetry, Mask Making, Kabuki Theatre and Theatre of NOH into a seamless whole. That is a lot of diverse elements to incorporate into one pastiche. It is also a visual wonder and translates into far more than the sum of it's parts. It is, basically, a coming of age story; however, there is also the inherent understanding of our place in the cycle of life and the balance of nature. All of this as well as a sense of wonder, awe, and magic was created and communicated to an audience that is starving for magic in theatre in much the same way that Cirque du Soleil has delivered it in that venue. Magic in theatre is an elusive and wondrous commodity. It should not be undervalued as it is one of the things adults have somehow learned to live without. And a show such as THE LION KING allows the child in all of us to re-emerge for 2 hours and 40 minutes and be propelled into a world that is both beautiful and enriching. I loved this show in a way I have never loved anything I've seen or been in before in my life. It was WONDROUS. Thanks for listening.
From JOHN DENT:
RAGTIME/LION KING: In a perfect world these two entirely different shows would not even be compared to each other. And, in a perfect world,if they had to be compared to each other; they would end up in a tie. But since this is an imperfect world, it had to be handled this way. As far as I am concerned, it was a tie between the two shows. They were both the best of the season. People stayed away from SIDE SHOW because of the subject matter. After seeing and hearing the two stars perform that wonderful song, perhaps they now feel foolish. SIDE SHOW was wonderful. The awards show was one of the best in recent years and the PLAYBILL Dinner prior to the telecast was a blast too. Wonderful to meet and talk to other theatre lovers.
I don't know which is the bigger "Crime of the Century", RAGTIME losing to THE LION KING or Brian Stokes Mitchell not winning. I don't want to take anything away from Alan Cumming, because his is certainly a tour-de-force performance in a role that seemed would forever belong solely to Joel Grey, but Mr. Mitchell's performance was far superior. His Coalhouse Walker, Jr. will be remembered in theatre history as reverently as any other brilliant performance.
From Cera Plum, 16, Alberta, Canada:
First of all: RAGTIME should have won best musical. I have not had the opportunity to see it, but the cast album is enchanting. I can visualize the play solely through the music. The story is so ingenious. Even though I love THE LION KING, it is merely a spectacle. A very wonderful spectacle, but a spectacle all the same. From seeing the opening number, I'm left with mixed feelings. It is visually amazing. It sounded great. The woman who plays Rafiki is awesome. But the choreography is nothing to get excited over and the overall performances were... well, weak.
Whereas in RAGTIME, everyone was entirely in to it. It gave me shivers to watch them. THE LION KING only impressed me. No shivers. It reminds me too much of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. He relies solely on the visual aspect. Not the talent or the story or the music. A good musical should be able to be performed without costumes and sets and lights etc. The story and the music and how well the performer tells that story and performs that music is what is important. Huge sets and costumes are an added bonus both for the performer and the theatre goer.
As I watched THE LION KING I noticed how un-animal-like the performers were. They did not move like the animal they were portraying. It was only the costume that gave me the idea of the animal. Playing an animal has to be the most fun, because of where you can go with your physicalization of the character. There's no limit. Those performers weren't anywhere near the limit. Example: The lioness' were doing posses and tuck-jumps and jetes like they were in a jazz number. There was no "lion-like" movement added to those technical jumps. I was terribly disappointed. In RAGTIME every single performer knew who they were playing and how to do it; and had they gone on naked I would have been able to differentiate the immigrants from the rich class.
Hooray for CABARET. Everything they received was deserved. Thank goodness THE SOUND OF MUSIC didn't win best revival. That has to be the most overdone musical of all time. And it's not that interesting. I felt that THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL deserved a pat on the back or something, just because they look like the nicest cast/ ensemble. They were truly having fun out there on stage, and isn't that what theatre is about? Having fun and enjoying oneself?
From Zachary S. Shannon:
I just want to give an honorable mention to the Side Show gals, Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley. Sure they didn't win, but they were talented, classy, and proud. They presented an extremely classy performance against the other equally great musical numbers; it would have been easy for them to get lost in the glitz and grandeur of the other performances, but they made a truly remarkable showing! Without elephants, swords, or a plentiful chorus they were able to touch me. Way to go Emily and Alice!
From Thomas B.:
Hello, I was just wondering why Ragtime did not receive, best musical, and The Lion King did? I think Ragtime should have! It is a awesome musical. And what does the cast think of this?
From AnyaMW, New York:
I was thrilled to be inside Radio City for the awards - and I must say, for those of us lucky to hear the "commercial time" comedy of Rosie O'Donnell, it was a night to remember. She was absolutely hysterical, and it's unfortunate that many of her great jokes had to be cut from the television broadcast because of time constraints. I also loved the 3 divas who opened the show with great energy and class - and while the TV broadcast didn't include this, Patti LuPone's pre-show, behind-the-curtain calls ("Look!...it's Betty!", "I'll be a Diva in 2 minutes!", and "Good Luck, Rosie!") added warmth, camaraderie and humor to the opening act. I hope Rosie returns again next year - and maybe CBS will allow for a few minutes overtime, so everyone can enjoy her great humor.
From Don Williams:
I agree with those who've put it best: if a musical wins Best Book and Best Score, why not Best Musical? It makes no sense. I adored Ragtime. Although not flawless by any means, it speaks to America about its own history, its own incredibly diverse culture, and the problems our society has yet to work through -- eighty years after World War I. It is brilliant.
I am also quite distressed that only one of the four Tony-nominated actors won and am particularly upset with the Best Actress category. Although I have not yet seen Cabaret, how can Natasha Richardson (as wonderful as she is) possibly be better than Marin Mazzie? Mother is a complicated role, and Ms. Mazzie's performance is the heart and soul of Ragtime. I already have tickets to see the show again.
I may be in the minority, but I believe that The Scarlet Pimpernel deserved the same recognition as the other nominated shows received. While it may not be the "smash" hit that Ragtime or Lion King are, it WAS NOMINATED, therefore deserving of the same hype - whether on the PBS or CBS telecast. I feel as though the show could have minimally been recognized for BOOK ... realizing that it was a fun interpretation of the script, yet very entertaining for those who have attended the show. Douglas Sills' performance was equally deserving of a win - He brings the Pimpernel to life with unmatched charisma.
From Angela Gonzales:
Congratulations to Audra McDonald for her third consecutive Tony! She's come a long way, and her journey to Broadway form Fresno has no doubt been a successful and deserving one. Also, congrats to first time women director winners Garry Hynes and Julie Taymor for their deserving hard work accomplishments in a woman'-climbing industry!
Response to Reader Poll: opinion on Tony broadcast and wins Just as I began this email, the phone rang. It was a telemarketer for the Met Opera who told me in our chat that last night he and many others worked the phones during the Tony telecast for one of the Broadway ticket services. They got 10,000 orders during the CBS broadcast. I asked which shows benefitted the most. Answer: "Cabaret" (which he said has almost nothing left to sell) and "The Beauty Queen of Leenane."
So continuing on from that bit of news, some thoughts. While I would hardly place "The Lion King" and "Ragtime" among my favorite musicals of all time, I do think Lion King has highly original elements (evident by the thrilling televised opening number) that make its Best Musical win well deserved over the other show. (Naturally, my favorite joke last night was Rosie's Tampax/Ragtime association. For me, there was a lot of extended double meaning in that little gag as well).
I liked it that there were unexpected wins. I mis-predicted six of 21 categories myself. Biggest upsets in my opinion: Tom Murphy, Audra McDonald and Ron Rifkin.
Thought "Beauty Queen" and "Cabaret" really deserved all they got.
But back to the broadcast. Once again, PBS did a class-act. Informative and appropriately dignified. As for CBS, it has to do what it does to stay on the air. But the rush at the end to go off the air at exactly 11pm was unforgivable, particularly for the Best Musical award. (Nathan Lane did not look too happy.) They really have to construct the show to end with a big production number, the kind that can fade into the credits if time becomes a problem (or be cut entirely) in order to give those major awards at the end of the show proper exposure.
My "Best Tony Show Marketing Award" for the night goes to "The Scarlet Pimpernel". That number was perfectly positioned to attract tourists and, in fact, even made a truly awful musical look kind of good. (Maybe I should take another look.)
Glad to see that the raunchiness of "Cabaret" was not compromised too much for national TV. Also that segment was a highlight of the show. The opening diva number was just OK. The "Ragtime" opening number was boring on TV.
I end with a question. Does anyone know if this is the first year ever when a musical that won both score and book failed to take the top prize???
From Abwdrama (Abwdrama@aol.com):
Rosie O'Donnell is a genius. The League of American Theatres and Producers should be embarrassed that what they haven't been able to accomplish in decades - putting Broadway on the map in a way that it never has been before - Rosie O'Donnell has done in under two years. The most incredible thing is all she did is talk about theatre to anyone that will listen.
From Michael Lever:
Kudos to both PBS and CBS for providing us with an entertaining 3 hours. It's so wonderful to see so much great theater get much-needed exposure. Such a noble art form needs to be encouraged at every turn. The awards, in particular, however, were a bit troublesome. Seems that the Tony voters (such a small group, voting on such big concerns) failed to appreciate the dynamic, breath-taking, powerful force that is Brian Stokes Mitchell. And, apparently, the sum of the parts of "Beauty Queen" weren't pretty enough to add up to best play (So many talented people, seemingly working in a vacuum. I'm torn on the Lion/Ragtime issue. I will be seeing "Lion King" in a few weeks, to make my final decision. However, I do know, after seeing Ragtime (2 times, so far) that it's rich, powerful images and musical pulse will be hard to top, and, in the Tony Awards of my mind, might dethrone the "King."
This year's awards show was grand. Rosie did it again. She is superb. Her love for the theatre, shines through, she makes you want to go back over and over again. The Opening Diva act was spectacular, we need to see more of Betty Buckley!!!!
The only disappointing moment was Cabaret, first of all the actors are very good, but they should be in another category, best actor/actress of a revival, Cabaret had it's moment, with Liza and Joel, and I am not saying it does not deserve another run, but is it fair to the others that star in new plays/musicals that did deserve to win and did not. If the Tony's continue this then why was Betty Buckley and Elaine Paige not eligible to win in the years they replaced Glenn Close in Sunset Blvd. or all of the Actors that have played the Phantom, etc... This is very unfair and these awards should be segregated.
I see many plays and I sponsor many bus trips and last nights ceremony has interested me in many new plays and musicals, I can't wait to see The Beauty of Queen Leenane and Ragtime.
Again, thank you for a wonderful evening! I just hope 1999 is just as exciting, but we shall see?
From Scott Ross, Raleigh, NC:
When is the "Best Musical" not the Best Musical?
All justified kudos to Julie Taymor for doing miracle work with "The Lion King", but how in hell can the Best Book and Best Score awards belong to one show, and the Best Musical award to another?
Directors can sometimes salvage weak material, even (as in Taymor's case) make an events of it. But they don't, as a rule, make plays. Writers do.
From Tom Oakley:
Today is the last day of school, we are in the middle of exams. Were it a normal Sunday night, I would have been in bed early. 5:00 a.m. does come early, and my students are especially squirrely this time of year. But yesterday was not a normal Sunday night, the Tony's were on!
Living here in a cow town in the middle of Michigan doesn't afford me a lot of chances to see good quality theater. We have a lot of community theater groups that do their best, and the traveling shows, like Rent and Phantom usually opt for the larger venues of Detroit and Chicago. So what's a Broadway hound like me to do? Watch the Tony's of course, and count the moments 'til summer break when I can go to NYC and see the shows for myself.
Last night's presentation was wonderful. The PBS Pre-show was a work of art, showcasing the geniuses behind the nominated shows. Julie Taymor is a true gift to the American Musical Theater, and very deserving of the honors given her last night. I can't wait to see what she'll do next! The "real show" was also wonderful, Rosie did a great job, her humor, presence, and genuine love of the theater created an atmosphere of admiration and respect.
I have seen two of the three featured "Divas" on stage ( from the opening number ), and many fond memories were brought back by those incredible performances! The poor folks from The Lion King need to be given a chance to talk, they were rushed and hurried off the stage in order to stay in the time limit. Perhaps more time could be allotted next year. What an honor to win, but what a disappointment to not be able to share the joy of winning!
All in all, I give this year's show an A-, can't wait 'til next year!