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 seventh 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 NAMALOVE (Namalove@aol.com):
I bought the CD of The Scarlet Pimpernel a few months ago. I loved the music, and couldn't wait to see it. I finally got to see it, and walked out feeling great. It was just as I expected, if not better. I do not have "cheap taste", and I am not an "easy critic". I am normally very picky when going to see shows. I do not seem to understand why almost everyone thinks it is a "ho hum" show. I have never heard anyone rave about it on Playbill On-Line. All I know, is that when I saw it, the audience went wild. They clapped for the costumes before the actors even did anything. It was a very long standing ovation. I thought for sure this show would soon be at the top. If people do love it, then why aren't any of them speaking out. I have heard rumors that there is a chance that the show might close. I am very upset, because I feel that this show is such a wonderful show. It is not a "ho hum" production. It has meaning and depth. The music is wonderful, as well as the acting. This is just my opinion. However, if the show is forced to close I want the entire cast and production staff of The Scarlet Pimpernel to know that I truly enjoyed this wonderful show, and that I will never forget it!
From Andy, Columbus, Ohio:
I could have bet a million bucks that Ragtime was gonna win the Best Musical. I t had all the components to make a best musical: it had an absolutely beautiful score and book, and just the story alone was beautifully put together. They portrayed the story very well, and I think it comes very close to the quality of Les Mis. I think that Ragtime totally should have won.
First of all, Lion King was totally unoriginal with the story and the music. Why would you give a best "original" musical award to something that totally ISN'T original. The only thing that was original about the show was the costumes and the set design, but of course it already won those tonys early on. I agree w/those wins, but I see no reason besides those few components on why it would win best musical. In my eyes and many others, Lion King was a total market for Disney. We think that the reason it won best show was not because of the quality, but because of all the endorsements Disney has made to the Tonys and the theatre. Well if it's come down to marketing like it has, what's the point of even having the tonys? The Lion King had loads of money to begin with, and they went through no troubles all throughout their climb to Broadway, but Ragtime on the other hand, had much less money than the King and they still came off with a more beautiful example of what Broadway truly should be!!!! You decide, but I think that the arts have totally been taken over by commerciality.
After reading the various responses to the "What did you think of the Tony Awards?" question, I have to say that I thought it was thoroughly enjoyable. But I do want to say one thing to the other people who wrote into this poll--it's just an awards show. I don't think that the fact that Ragtime didn't win the best musical award is going to cut down on its commercial appeal one bit. And the fact that Brian Stokes Mitchell didn't win a best musical actor Tony doesn't detract from his performance at all. Lighten up, people!
As for the awards show itself, I enjoyed every minute of it. I don't live in New York, so I haven't seen any of the shows themselves, but I thought they were spotlighted very well. As for whether The Lion King deserved best musical over Ragtime, who's even going to remember a year from now that Ragtime did not win? I don't know about the vast majority of theater goers, but I don't make my choices for which shows to see based on whether or not they've won the Tony Award for best musical or best play.
And as for Rosie O'Donnell, I thought she made a wonderful host. That is not an easy job to conduct, and I thought she did a superb job. She was playful, funny--and her love of Broadway shown through at every moment. The opening production number was phenomenal! Patti LuPone and Jennifer Holliday were terrific--but Betty Buckley was divine! She need only open her mouth and one knows there is a God. My only wish is that she could have had the time to sing the entire song. All in all, I found it a fabulous spotlight of Broadway and the theater community.
From Steve Wightman:
Thank you for a truly enjoyable evening from Playbill On-Line. I didn't have a set I could see the proceedings on, but I logged on to your coverage and felt like I was there for the entire proceedings. I particularly enjoyed the background information on past awards that had been given, and I was totally enthralled listening to some of my favorite performers when they joined you at the table afterwards. It was a complete pleasure to hear Angela Lansbury, certainly the reigning Grande Dame of the theatre, give her comments on the evening. Thanks again.
Ok. I haven't seen the whole show Cabaret, but I have seen many scenes and Alan Cumming totally gave me the creeps. He is a spaz and he cannot dance. Of course that could be due to the horrible choreography! AAGH!! Brian Stokes Mitchell deserved to win.
I will wait to pass judgement on Natasha Richardson until I hear the CD, but I cannot imagine that she could sing anywhere near as well as any of the other 3 nominees. My personal favorite is and always will be Betty Buckley, but I think if she COULD have been nominated in the supporting category she would have had a better chance to win. The Sideshow Twins amaze me every time I hear them. I wish I had seen that show! And Marin Mazzie also has a wonderful voice. I just get REALLY irritated when someone who can't really sing, wins an award for a SINGING category! Just a pet peeve (ex. Glenn Close in Sunset Blvd.) Yes, Glenn is an amazing actress, but she CANNOT sing! And if my instincts are correct, I don't think Natasha can either. I mean she has NEVER done a musical before.
I think the TONY voters are becoming too commercial. They always seem to vote for a better known name. As for the Lion King, I loved it! I haven't seen Ragtime, but know the show by heart and know that it is wonderful. Only 1 could win, so I wouldn't have been upset either way. I still can't believe that Alan Cumming won! He is a total FREAK!
I am a big Broadway fan and have seen most of the shows that were up for the Tonys. I thought the show went well, except for a few inappropriate comments by Rosie O'Donnell. I do love how she has helped to bring new interest to the theatre, so I am willing to overlook her comments.
I have followed RAGTIME since being wowed by its concept album and was very happy when I finally saw it. It is an amazing job by everyone involved, from the author, to the composers, to the director, and the incredible actors. And producer Garth Drabinsky deserves a lot of credit for all the work he put into it. Make no mistake, it was his baby. I loved LION KING, but I think that Ragtime was a better musical with a better story. And the music held together, whereas LION KING had great music mixed with kiddie tunes. But I will gladly recommend both shows to anyone---if they can get tickets.
I loved this season. Sideshow was great, Triumph of Love was an overlooked gem, and as a big Frank Wildhorn fan, I looked forward to SCARLET PIMPERNEL making it to Broadway(not great, but Doug Sills performance and several of Wildhorn's songs make it worth seeing).
Bring on 1998-1999. I can't wait.
From Cliff Brautigan:
For some reason I have difficulty accepting "Lion King" as the best musical. It is a wonderful show but like many of your readers I do feel that "Ragtime" was the more deserving show for the Tony Award.
From Andrew Francese Brooklyn, NY:
After reading what most others on-line thought..and now know that I am not alone.
I am a huge fan of "The Lion King" and Disney as a whole, but in my opinion, "Ragtime" was the best musical of the year. "Ragtime" is what theater is supposed to be: large, lavish, and alive !!! All of the performances were wonderful!! Especially that of Brian Stokes Mitchell, who gave the best performance of anyone that I have ever seen on the stage. After Audra McDonald won, I thought that Mr. Mitchell was a lock to win. Having never seen "Cabaret", I can only say that Alan Cumming must have done everything, including pulling a rabbit from a hat to win the award.
I just hope that this does not diminish anyone's desire to see "Ragtime", which in my opinion, is the best show that has ever been performed on a stage !!!
Thank you for your time, and for providing a forum for theater lovers to express their views.
I agree with the overall sentiment of what people are saying about the "Lion King" win. I was surprised by it and Audra MacDonald's and Alan Cumming's win as well. (I think even Ms. MacDonald was surprised by her win.) Yes she is very talented, but it is not a Tony winning performance or role. I am rather surprised that everyone thought Brian Stokes Mitchell was "shut out" by Mr. Cumming. What about David Sills who makes "Scarlet Pimpernel," a ghastly musical, worth watching.
For those who say since when does one musical win Best Score and Book and another win Best Musical....were you around for "Into the Woods" vs. "Phantom"? Same thing. It's a way of splitting what's popular and what's deserving.
One last thing. I agree with many of the Rosie comments, and especially feel that the opening number brought out the worst schmaltz of Broadway. That number is why people who hate Broadway musicals hate Broadway musicals. And although I love Jennifer Holliday, and feel that "And I Am Telling You," and her performance on the "Dreamgirls" recording, is one of the greatest Broadway anthems in existence....What was with her on Tony night? She barked and snarled out the number the way you'd expect from a rabid "Lion King" performer. We love you Ms. Holiday and Ms. O'Donnell, but a little bit of self-ingratiating performance goes a long way!
What were they thinking???? Although the Lion King is visually stunning, when did that decide Best Musical. I guess a great story and amazing music counts for nothing now. Although I haven't seen Lion King, I've heard from many people that it lacks the emotional connection of Ragtime. But it's Disney. I guess you have to kiss up to the big companies.
And what happened to Brian Stokes Mitchell?? I'm not saying that Alan Cumming did not give an excellent performance, but it takes more talent to play a realistic character like Coalhouse. Acting like you have triple the normal amount of testosterone doesn't equal the depth that BSM gave to his character. As for Marin Mazzie, I haven't seen Natasha Richardson. Still, it was a disappointment.
Back on the subject of Best Musical, I did not like how they indicated that Lion King would win throughout the whole show. First, at the beginning of the show, they said that coming up would be Circle of Life which was one of the most spectacular things you've ever seen. Then, Rosie mentions that it was the best thing she has seen. I thought they were supposed to be unbiased??!!
I agree with many others' complaints over the Ragtime's Best Musical loss. The Lion King is the innovative and imaginative piece everyone says it to be, however, it lacks the roots of a great musical. Ragtime proves substantially that it is a brilliant adaptation of Doctorow's novel with music, lyrics, and a libretto that breathe life to the show in ways Lion King cannot. Ragtime holds a strong foundation of literary genius as well as artistic. Lion King, on the other hand, is a rather simple story with sufficient lyrics, but lacks the nuts and bolts to a great show.
What Taymor did with Lion King deserves the attention she was honored with. Frank Galati did just a good of a job with Ragtime, but we must see and accept the incredible feats overcome by Taymor and the elaborate and unique genius she brought to the piece. Ragtime's style is very much like Hal Prince. One could just as easily perceive Galati's vision the same way Prince would.
Kudos to Audra McDonald. There is no reason she should not win. Despite her two tony background, she is , by far, one of the most talented actors of the stage today. She captivates endlessly and never allows you to focus on anything else when appropriate.
The biggest disappointment, i feel, lies in the best actor for a musical category. Alan Cumming is not any old actor, but his performance is far from even tony nomination. His approach to the character is completely off and lackluster. The "new" emcee of Cabaret lacks the precision, and most importantly, CLASS, that Joel Grey brought to the role (which is why the role has become a favorite among actors)........Poor Brain Stokes Mitchell..........i think we all know you deserve the award. Sorry Alan, you just don't cut it for this puppy.
Overall, the 98 tony's were fair and more artistically focused than in years past. Ragtime should have won, but i think they know that, and hopefully Lion King does as well.
First the broadcast. I wish CBS would let their contract expire so that PBS could do the whole ceremony. Even with 10 awards handed out in the PBS segment, CBS could not deliver a program that was not rushed at the end. Also, Sean Connery, one of the biggest stars there -- and a producer of the Tony Award winning best play -- gets cut off? And what was that 3 minute long gap about? That's probably why Nathan Lane was forced to rush at the end.
I don't think Rosie O'Donnell was such a terrific host. Remember when Angela Lansbury used to serve as hostess? Remember when the host or hostess, the presenters and the winners had class? Now the Tony's resemble every assembly I ever went to in High School or worse, every award show produced on MTV. Bring back the good old days...
I know the spin is that Rosie is responsible for the higher ratings. But the overnights seemed to indicate that the ceremony did well in NY and LA, but did not do as well as last year. How can that be with so many great shows? If the rest of America were as interested as Jed Bernstein, Isabelle Stevenson, the League and the Wing would have us believe, wouldn't the ratings reflect that? Middle America tuned out because even though Rosie hosted, she didn't do her talk show schtick and that's what they wanted. If the ratings are dropping despite all of these efforts, let PBS take over the whole thing. They've done such a great job the past two years, completely outshining CBS's efforts over the past 10-15 years.
Now the awards. I find it interesting that people are commenting that "Best Musical was one award that Garth Drabinsky's money couldn't buy. They are right. Disney had more money to spend and that's why LION KING won. LION KING without the money behind it is basically JUAN DARIEN. Remember that show? How many of this year's LION KING supporters derided JUAN DARIEN because it was just a "puppet show?" Don't misunderstand, I loved LION KING. But it did not deserve "Best Musical".
BEAUTY QUEEN wins Best Director and 3 of 4 acting awards, yet doesn't win Best Play? The heck with throwing out the nominating committee, let's get rid of the Tony voters and get some new ones.
Thank god the Tonys are over.
While shows like "Lion King", "Ragtime" and "Cabaret" are excellent productions, it really seems if the producers have enough $$$ to promote the shows, they are also promoted heavily by People "pushing Broadway to the masses" (the Tonys and Rosie). Shows like "The Scarlet Pimpernel", "Triumph of Love" and "Side Show" are left to keep their head afloat by themselves. It is the likes of these later shows that really need support from the Tonys and Rosie if Broadway is going to keep on thriving...Broadway needs all kinds of shows, not just spectaculars.
Just an average Theater goers opinion.
From Sara (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Wow. I have just finished reading the many different comments from everyone about the results of the Tony Awards. I guess that I agree with most of them, especially those who were disappointed that "Ragtime" lost to "The Lion King." I saw both shows, and while "Lion King" was fun to look at and maybe the neatest spectacle I've ever seen on Broadway, "Ragtime" is a show with much more substance and depth. I definitely enjoyed "Ragtime" more overall.
Also, I think the Best Actor in a Musical award should have gone to either Brian Stokes Mitchell or Peter Friedman. They are both incredible performers in equally challenging roles.
The other award I was disappointed in was Best Actress in a Musical. I saw "Side Show," "Ragtime," and "Triumph of Love," and the four ladies nominated for these shows were all phenomenal. I realize that Natasha Richardson must have been really good also to beat the others, but I was really blown away by Betty Buckley, Emily Skinner, Alice Ripley, and Marin Mazzie. I saw "Side Show" on the closing performance, in the front row, which was just incredible. I am not part of the "Side Show cult" or whatever, but we had gotten tickets way in advance which happened to be on that night. Anyway, that made the two ladies' performances especially moving.
Being a Betty Buckley fan, I saw "Triumph of Love" three times and was moved to tears when she sang "Serenity." I don't think that that show got the attention it deserved. Many of those who saw it were surprised that it was so good, because it was such a small show. And Marin Mazzie as Mother in "Ragtime" was very moving also. I think that there should be a category for "Best Song," because "Back to Before" is so heartfelt and true to so many people that I think it deserves an award of its own. Anyway, that's my opinion. I've really enjoyed hearing everyone else's as well. I was pleased with the other awards, largely because most of them were pretty obvious, like "Best Costumes" for "Lion King," etc. I didn't really like Rosie's jokes too much though, and I am a fan of her's. Congratulations to everyone who won a Tony, and if anyone is reading this, GO SEE RAGTIME even though it didn't win Best Musical! You'll be blown away!