For those inside Radio City Music Hall, the starry and fast-paced 68th Annual Tony Awards were a blur of inside jokes, high-fashion dresses and gigantic stars elbowing past you in the packed lobby.
As with most years, there were some things that came across better at Radio City, and some things that came across better watching at home.
The hour-long off-camera pre-show, hosted by Billy Porter and Karen Ziemba, handed special Tony Awards for Lifetime Achievement and other unique achievements to recipients as varied as designer Jane Greenwood (veteran of 125 Broadway shows), and former Tony host Rosie O’Donnell, who referred chummily to Idina Menzel and Patti LuPone as “those other bitches,” and countered the audience reaction by saying, “This award [acceptance speech] will never be on TV so I can say whatever I want.” She said her main question about getting the Isabelle Stevenson Award for her humanitarian activities relating to Rosie’s Broadway Kids was “did it look like a real Tony?” It did.
Some awards in technical categories were given during the pre-show; some during commercials throughout the evening.
Steve Canyon Kennedy, in a reference to the fact that Lady Day, despite having 16 songs, was deemed a “play with music” not a musical, won the Tony for Best Sound Design of a Play. He dryly commented, “I didn’t even know it was a play when I was asked to do it.”
As widely predicted, Jason Robert Brown won two Tony Awards, for Best Score and Best Orchestrations, for The Bridges of Madison County, which was not nominated as Best Musical and is now closed. The orchestrations acceptance speech came first, and fans tensed up for a JRB-brand biting of his host’s hand. But instead, we were treated to a gracious speech about how Bridges was, for him, “the most special experience in the world.” Ah, but when he won for Best Score he slipped this knife in, saying that his play-on music was “the only music from Bridges you’ll get to hear tonight.” His show did not do a segment on the Tonys.
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