Playbill On-Line Readers Respond to the Tony Award Broadcast

News   Playbill On-Line Readers Respond to the Tony Award Broadcast
What did you think of the 2001 Tony Awards ceremony?
Playbill readers say 'Mel Brooks....Shut up.'
Playbill readers say 'Mel Brooks....Shut up.' Photo by Photo by Aubrey Reuben

What did you think of the 2001 Tony Awards ceremony?

In general, you thought the ceremony was brisk and entertaining, you were divided about the play excerpts and you were mad about Mel, but not in a positive way.

Readers of Playbill On-Line who followed up on our invitation to share opinions about the June 3 Tony Award broadcast had a variety of feelings about the winners and losers, the CBS broadcast vs. the PBS broadcast and the success or failure of the ceremony and its stars. Mel Brooks, the night's big winner as writer-composer of The Producers, got the thumbs down for his cocky comments throughout the broadcast (he also thanked Hitler — for being so funny on stage). Co-hosts Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick were embraced by readers, but they wanted to see more of the pair.

Everybody's a critic.

Here's a sampling of your thoughts, drawn from approximately 100 e mails sent to us in the 12 hours following the June 3 Tony Awards. IT'S A HIT: "I love the opening of the show, it was fantastic and Nathan and Matthew were an incredible match as hosts. I haven't laughed so hard at an awards show in so long. By far one of the best telecast in recent years. And also to see history being made, made it that much more exciting. Good job."

TVQ: "Why the heck were there sooooo many TV/movie personalities on that stage.  Save it for the Oscars and the Emmys."

WHITHER CHITA?: "I could have done without some of the presenters' mindless chatter. And talking about presenters, where are all the big Broadway stars? We could have done without Gina [Gershon], Doris [Roberts], Eric [McCormack] and Edie [Falco]... I know they have some Broadway roots and all, but where are big stars like Chita, Liza, Patti LuPone, Jennifer Holliday, Angela, and the dozens of other Broadway royals?"

GOOD TIMES, BUM TIMES: "Who decided that there was not enough time for Polly Bergen to do all of 'I'm Still Here'?  (The Reader's Digest version didn't quite work.) Only the King Hedley II excerpt caught fire."

MAD ABOUT MEL: "Lane and Broderick were fabulous, but Mel Brooks was awfully pompous.  You'd think it'd be an honor to be so successful — not a given."

TURNAROUND SUCCESS: "This year's Tony broadcast was a turn-around success story. First, production values were much improved — this year we had a real opening number from a broadway show (compared to last year's insulting ditty that basically said, 'I'm a big TV star, but I used to do theatre before I moved on to do something that pays better'). Thanks for letting the people who are committed to the theatre have their night!"

RAVE: "One of the better broadcasts.  It was quick without being bloodless. Just the right amount of humor."

HOSTS?: "Nathan and Matthew were suppose to be the hosts??? Didn't see much of them. The show I thought ran smoothly and was quite enjoyable! Loved it!"

TONY, SHE WROTE: "I was glad to see the cuttings of straight shows, which was sorely needed, but the musical revivals got shafted. Even though this Follies is not a great production, Polly Bergen should not have even bothered with that amount of time. The 42nd Street number was a good opening (once they got to the stage), but they need Angela Lansbury back. How many times can we say this?"

SLICK: "I thought that the Tony telecast on CBS was slicker, more polished and faster paced than in previous years.  I was rather impressed with the glitzy, Las Vegas-induced 42nd Street tap number."

PRESENTERS: "What a waste not to have Reba [McEntire] sing a number from Annie Get Your Gun. Bring on the men: Ben Vereen and Treat Williams, currently starring on Broadway, would have brightened the evening. The presenters were dull — why not place Bernadette Peters with Reba together for their entrance?"

MEMO FROM MONTANA: "Living in Montana, the Tony Awards are the highlight of my year...honestly. Some years have disappointed, but this year left me wanting for almost nothing. I am always glad to see excerpts from not only musicals but the plays as well. In the past plays have gotten short-shrift, so it's nice to see them so honored. Nathan and Matthew truly make a great team, and were particularly amusing in the PBS segment of the broadcast."

GEMIGNANI FAN: "I think that the only thing I would like to have seen that was missing was the presentation to [musical director-conductor] Paul Gemignani. He truly is one of the unsung heroes of Broadway, and I, for one, would very much like to have seen him receive his award."

OF SAWYER AND SEUSS: "I thought this was the most boring Tony Awards I had seen in years. I thought '99 and '00 were bad but this was worse! There was no excitement since The Producers won everything there was to win. It became so boring watching them go up for every single award. I don't see why Seussical and Tom Sawyer did not get more nominations. These were my two favorite shows of the season! Plus Marla Schaffel should have won for Best Actress."

GRAND NIGHT: "The organizers of this year's Tony broadcast hit the nail on the head — finally. Instead of, say, an average Oscar telecast, which is bloated with two hours' worth of awards and back-patting in a four-plus hour marathon, what we saw last night was, for the most part, a taut and well-paced evening of Broadway entertainment, insight and wonderfully shameless self-promotion — with an eye on the clock at all times. There really wasn't a wasted second — no montages, no roll calls of the dead, no clip-shows of Broadway seasons past. All in all, it was a very well paced, entertaining evening. A good night for Broadway. Good for them."

TASTE OF BROADWAY: "I really enjoyed the 55th Annual Tony Awards, as I always do. It is a chance for those of us who live no where near NYC, nor can afford to go, to get a taste of live Broadway theatre. I thought it was produced well and the performances were outstanding."

FROM AN EYRE-HEAD: "I still feel that 'Jane Eyre' was really cheated out of their performance time. To be an outstanding musical that is fighting for an audience, I didn't see that it was fair that their time was cut so short. Mind you, I think this musical is outstanding simply from research and from hearing a few songs with which I was thoroughly impressed. The performance was amazing and I'm ready to buy the [cast album]. There are still some of us who really love lush, thick melodies and dramatic orchestrations. I thought it was quite obvious by the thunderous applause that I heard every time Jane Eyre was announced. Maybe, it was a little revenge by the thousands of people who though it was unfair that they didn't get the same time as everyone else."

TAP HAPPY: "I loved the opening number from 42nd Street.  It represents what is great about the American Musical theatre.  I loved that they presented excerpts from the plays in their own context this year.  It was much easier to understand what each play was about and makes me want to take in a play in addition to a musical when I go to New York.  I hope they continue airing plays in this format again."

EXCITED: "I enjoyed the format of the show this year and thought Matthew and Nathan were beautifully understated — all things considered. Having Heather [Headley] and Kristin [Chenoweth] perform in the first hour was a treat! The performances were exciting, particularly the cast of The Full Monty. Viola Davis's speech was moving. Christine Ebersole was very deserving of the Tony!"

THUMBS DOWN: "Only Rosie O'Donnell could've dragged it down even lower. Too bad the Tony's are about TV instead of theatre."

THUMBS UP: "Best Tony telecast in years.  Fast moving, lots of entertainment, minimal mindless banter between presenters. It helped that this was a strong season.  But the producers deserve kudos for keeping the entertainment factor high. Now — let's do even better next year!"

FRESHER THAN BEFORE: "It was fresher, faster, funnier, and fierce-er than the last two years. Would have loved to see more of Nathan and Matthew though. Also thought it was great to have brief excerpts from the musical revivals shown! Way to go!"

BEST OF TIMES: "The production was the best in years for both the PBS and CBS broadcasts. The quick pace and lively clips from ALL of the shows made it difficult to get bored. Cutting off long-winded speeches with the orchestra was definitely a plus. Unfortunately, overrated shows like The Producers too often overshadow other, well-deserving productions like Jane Eyre and The Full Monty."

MEL-AISE: "Mel Brooks became increasingly obnoxious as the evening progressed showing little grace and even less class."

PREDICTABLE: "The Producers sweep was so predictable that it became ridiculous to watch after awhile.  The only surprise of the evening for me was that The Producers didn't tie itself in categories in which it had multiple nominations."

PLAYWRONG: "There has to be a more interesting way to portray the straight play scenes."

ON THE OTHER HAND: "I was glad to see the cuttings of straight shows, which was sorely needed, but the musical revivals got shafted."

AND YET: "Cutting time from the musicals and revivals to showcase the plays was a huge mistake — because the cuttings out of context made absolutely no sense, and frankly, were awfully boring."

HOWEVER: "I also was very glad they included scenes from the nominated plays.  All in all, a good show, though I was disappointed that Andre de Shields didn't take home a Tony."

SUCCESS: "The Tonys were a remarkable success. The representation of plays was delightful as well — noticeably missing from last years broadcast. Thank you Tony producers!"

PRO PBS: "How to save the Tony Awards? Put 'em on PBS — the whole show."

SAMPLER: "Why I love the Tony Awards broadcast: I get a glimpse of things I'll probably never see. Why I hate it: It preaches to the choir. If you didn't love theatre to begin with, you'd be mystified by this show."

ALL THE WAY: "My favorite number was Full Monty because I don't think anyone expected them to go all the way. What a treat."

WENT WIT THE FLOW: "I think the whole flow of the Tonys this year was a lot better then in past. The opening number was very clever. I liked that idea more than what the Tonys have done in the past."

BEAUTIFUL GIRLS: "It's always wonderful to see so many beautiful gowns at the Tony Awards. Unlike the Oscars and the Emmys, the Tony women really do know how to dress with style and class!"

ACCEPTANCE SPEECHES: "The one thing that surprises me about awards shows in general is how people in the entertainment industry fail to give acceptance speeches that are entertaining. But, I think there has been a turn-around among the '01 Tony winners. Gracious, generous, witty and terse speeches were the norm on Sunday night, and we are all grateful for that style."

GOOD WORK: "What a comeback! For the past few seasons the Tony telecast was a tired and very poorly-produced affair. Not since the days of hosting by Angela Lansbury and the skill of Alexander Cohen has there been such an entertaining, witty, fast paced and well done show as was seen last night on PBS & CBS. Time frames were adhered to and the production was well done. Good work guys. Just one complaint. Why is the show which celebrates Broadway and the theatre not staged at a Broadway house? Please bring back the Imperial or Shubert."

MEMO FROM BRAZIL: "I watched the show from here, Brazil, and I loved it for I loved the whole The Producers concept, album, jokes, performers and everything else. So I was on their side most of the time. I just loved the opening number from 42nd Street even though the Tonys itself lacked an opening number. It literally brought tears to my eyes when I saw them getting out of the theatre and going to Radio City. I also realized some of the segments of the plays were taped at their own stages. I liked it!"

GIVE IT TO PBS: "The show was more entertaining than the year Kevin Spacey and all the guys stood around doing lines from their plays.  But I still don't know what it's doing on network TV.  With a playoff game, 'Millionaire' and the premiere of 'Sex and the City' opposite it, who was watching?  And it's a disgrace, an absolute disgrace, that so many big awards are given out on the PBS portion. I say move the whole thing to PBS."

BACK ON TRACK: "This year's award ceremony was absolutely fantastic. It was very organized and the format that they used was brilliant. The awards haven't been this good since 1998. Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane were perfect hosts and the presenters were all wonderful. It is nice to see the Tony Awards back on its feet."

PLAIN JANE: "After all the hub-bub and support in the theatre community for Jane Eyre, I was terribly disappointed at the number they performed. It did nothing to make me want to see the show — the PBS portion on its lighting design did, but after seeing how dreary their performances were, I'm sorry, but no."

MEMO FROM SUNNY CAL: "This is our second [year] watching the Tonys from California.  Two years out from New York and my wife commented, 'Oh, there's so much I want to see!'  We both thought the show had a good pace, but as usual, we enjoyed the PBS hour much better than the CBS portion."

PBS YES: "I actually thought the show was decent this year, especially the PBS portion."

PRE-RECORDED: "It was very disappointing that some plays were shown only on tape."

STAGE STARS: "As always, I couldn't figure out what the heck people like Gwyneth Paltrow were doing on that stage nor why the awards were being held at Radio City Music Hall instead of a legitimate Broadway stage. Space notwithstanding, the show belongs on a Broadway stage. As for the movie starlets, it's already been established that the national audience is either going to watch the show or not — having two or three Hollywood presenters who have no Broadway experience or were replacements for six weeks is not going to help."

AUDRA AWESOME: "Big points for Audra McDonald presenting Best Actor in a Play rather than Kathie Lee Gifford and Susan Lucci."

CLASSY: "One the best Tony Award broadcasts in years. It was exciting, classy, fast paced, and very entertaining."

PLAYS RIGHT: "I especially enjoyed the return of the vignettes from the nominated plays.  Musicals get most of the publicity and the general American public hears and sees little about Broadway plays, unless they arrive in their backyard.  It's a great way to promote all theatre.   PBS does a fine job with the interviews of nominated artists.  Keep it up."

SIMPLE, CLEAN: "The show was one of the better in the past few years...simple, clean direct. Surprisingly, this was one time where the excerpts from the plays worked as well (sometimes even better) than the musical excerpts.  The first hour on PBS was, as always, the classier portion. Always watch the Tony Awards, as I love to visit New York and see live theatre."

YES, PBS: "Hope the Tony Awards will continue to be broadcast on PBS.  Wish the complete show could be on PBS."

LEFT OUT: "The awards show itself was quite excellent. Kudos to [producer] Gary Smith for keeping the show running smoothly and keeping it entertaining. Particularly good was the way the plays were handled. Seeing a bit of each one — either via clips or a couple of live performances — was the best plays have been presented in several years. Although they did seem to shortchange The Search for Signs of Intelligent Live in the Universe, The Best Man and Betrayal by not showing anything from those fine productions. Were they left out because they'd closed? It would've been nice for all the shows to have been presented equally."

ROSIE MISSED: "The production as a whole went rather well, thought I did miss Rosie O'Donnell."

PRO PAUL: I was extremely disappointed that the Lifetime Achievement Award for the stellar Paul Gemingani wasn't broadcast on EITHER PBS or CBS — that was a major disappointment for such a prestigious award."

MEMO TO MEL: "Mel Brooks...Shut Up!"

NOTHING LIKE A DAME: Dame Edna was the best. Livened up an otherwise very dull evening. Richard Easton gave a dignified and meaningful acceptance. Natasha Richardson added class to the roster of presenters."

OH MEL: Mel Brooks almost made me want to turn the broadcast off.  He was very rude and egotistical."

NICE NATHAN: "Nathan Lane dragging Matthew Broderick on stage when with him to accept the Best Actor award was a real highlight. It showed the true ensemble nature of a musical and the class of a very talented triple threat."

MEL'S CLASS ACT: "I guess The Producers deserved what they won, but did they have to do it in such a classless way? Mel Brooks, after all his fame, proved to be a very classless person with his comments about his show."

MISSING ROSIE: "The Tony broadcast was fine, but where was Rosie...she is the best thing ever to happen to Broadway!"

MAD ABOUT MEL: "Mel Brooks almost made me turn off the broadcast on PBS. He was very rude, arrogant, and egotistical. I had never seen or heard anything from The Producers and really didn't care if they won everything but his attitude made me feel sick that the show won anything at all."

— Compiled by Kenneth Jones

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