Playbill Poll: Readers React to the Tonys -- Part 9

Tony Awards   Playbill Poll: Readers React to the Tonys -- Part 9
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.

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 ninth 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 Bill in Boston:
I had the pleasure of attending the Tony Awards and consider it to be one of the most thrilling moments of my life.
Some observations I had through the evening-
Highest moments (due to the fact that there were so many high moments)-
"Diva" opening medley, especially Jennifer Holliday (what an unusually gifted performer); Julie Taymor (she is a genius and has done a great thing for the American musical theater); the scene from "Ragtime" (wonderful staging viewed from the 3rd mezzanine, and what incredible ensemble singing); the scene from "The Lion King" (the crowd went berserk!); Angela Lansbury; Rosie O'Donnell (thanks for the exposure given to a great art form).
Low points-
Rushing at the end of the ceremonies due to CBS's 2-hour broadcast limit (maybe they should have cut a few commercials-yeah right!); the "acting" scenes from 3 of the 4 plays; the scene from "Cabaret" (a bit lackluster due to following too closely to "The Lion King", and intended for a much smaller space); the scene from "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (too late in the program and a "Les Mis" clone); too many presenters unsuccessfully trying to be witty.
I, too, was very disappointed that "Ragtime" did not win Best Musical, but not disappointed that "The Lion King" did win. They are both great. But, the difference between the two; "The Lion King" is a great show, "Ragtime" is a great musical. Nevertheless, it does not diminish the fact that "Ragtime" is an important, incredible musical with wonderful performances. Congratulations!

From Michael Anthony:
I think the American Theatre Wing should be applauded. Lion King not only won the Tony, I think it deserved the Tony for Best Musical. One writer asked how a musical that won Best Book and Best Score didn't win Best Musical... I think it takes more than a book and a score to win that award. Ragtime is a beautiful show, an epic among musicals. But it is not forward-thinking theatre.
I think in giving the award to Lion King - as in giving the award to Rent 2 years ago you will see a lot more innovation in the theatre. When I go see a broadway musical - I don't want everything to be like the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals of yesteryear. If I want to see those shows, I will go see them - but the theatre is more than that. I want to see something different and that is why I think we should embrace shows like Rent and the Lion King.
Ragtime is beautiful - but in essence it's a tribute to the way things were. I applaud Disney and all the other forward thinking corporations, including Livent, who are helping to make theatre in America so viable again.

While I admire much about The Lion King, Ragtime was the more deserving of the Best Musical award. By the way, wasn't it great to hear Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley again? Now there was an overlooked musical. To me that was the highlight of the evening! Bravo, Alice and Emily! I'm glad I got the opportunity to see Side Show.

From Henry Saito:
Was it just me or did I see a mugging during the Tony awards??? I feel Ragtime was robbed of the Best Musical award. Though Lion King was visually stunning, and a GOOD musical, I do not feel that it can even be compared with Ragtime. How could a musical win Best Book, Best Score / Lyrics, and not win Best Musical??? I MIGHT understand the decision if the cast to Lion King is special, but how many actors / actresses in the Lion King were even nominated for a Tony award? To me, Lion King is just an overglamorized puppet show. The book and music to Lion King is nothing special, whereas the story to Ragtime does more than just entertain us. It tells the story of America and its culture. Ragtime is a musical which is worthy of being mentioned along side the GREAT musicals such as Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, whereas Lion King should not even be mentioned anywhere near those great musicals. Ultimately I believe politics played into the decision and who could be more powerful than Disney?

From LagunaRN:
You win best musical score, best book, but not best musical...something is wrong here...I was extremely disappointed that RAGTIME did not win. But that's ok its the best musical in by book and I will see it another 4 times....

From James Simon:
So let me get this straight. Alan Cumming, Natasha Richardson and Ron Rifkin all win Tonys. And I've been spending how much on voice lessons???

From Matthew Wolf:
1. How come all the nominated plays EXCEPT for the eventual winner performed scenes?
2. Couldn't the producers of "1776" find a more appealing number from that great score than "Sit Down, John"?
3. Is the Best Musical Award given for Best Production or Best Substance? The Lion King will never have a life outside of this production (and related tours) because of the expense, while "Ragtime" will be produced for years in community theatres, colleges, high schools.
4. Jennifer Holliday - You go, girl! She was better than I remember her in the original Dreamgirls, and looked fabulous! I can't say the same about the other so called divas.
5. If I sang like Rosie, I'd be booed off the stage! Someone get her some lessons or shut her up!

From Joe Crump & Denise Mulllen:
I, like most theater-lovers, watched the Tony's. I will not complain that Ragtime did not win best musical. I know this will not be a popular opinion, but I saw Ragtime and it was not one of my favorite shows. It appeals to many and for that I hope it enjoys a long and successful run. It was just not my cup of tea and I realize that this is simply my opinion.
Both Ragtime and Lion King are certainly commercial successes and have enjoyed stunning reviews. What I am curious about is how a show whose writer is hailed as the next Eugene O'Neill, that has received universal acclaim, which won best director and every acting category for which it was nominated, loses to a show with at best mixed reviews. If this does not demonstrate the politics of award shows, nothing does. Mr. McDonagh (sp) has been labeled "cocky and arrogant" by the press. I cannot help but feel that this is nothing more than an attempt to say to him that he may need an attitude adjustment if he plans to stay in the theatre community. However, I missed the rule that only kind and gentle people are allowed to be talented and that awards are not only to reward good work, but may be withheld as a punishment.
I saw Beauty Queen and it is extraordinary - my opinion. I also thought Rosie's dress was fine - it is about time we had a role model for little girls that isn't a size 3, and I thought she was funny, not offensive.

From VParksie:
As an awards show I think it was pretty good. The "Scarlet Pimpernel" had the best production number. Surprises for me were many: Skinner & Ripley didn't win, Ragtime, a complete musical not a visual innovation did not win, Alan Cumming (in what is really a supporting role) won. I expected Brian Stokes Mitchell to win or (long shot) Douglas Sills. Either would have been a better choice, because Cumming was in a supporting role.

From Jljcc:
Well, I really have to say that I was disappointed this year. Ragtime really did deserve the honor of Best Musical over The Lion King, which, although visually spectacular, has none of the depth and brilliance in book or music. All around, Ragtime is just a better show. Two other big disappointments were Natasha Richardson's win over Marin Mazzie and Alice and Emily and Art's win over Beauty Queen. Even though Natasha was great, her performance as a musical actress does not even begin to equal Marin and the Side Show women. I'm not sure what happened with Beauty Queen, but I really felt it was a better play than Art (even though Victor and Alan were both overlooked for nominations). I was also really upset over the offensiveness of some of Rosie's jokes, many of which were very inappropriate in such a setting. All in all, just as big of a disappointment as Sunday in the Park losing to La Cage au Folles - another case of quantity over quality.

From Oddeyes:
I was slightly surprised that the Lion King won for best musical. Ragtime and Lion King both deserved to win, in my opinion. Ragtime is a great musical that reminds us of the past. It's based on a book about a part of our history, and the score is more traditional; it is one of the last musicals of that kind. Lion King represents Broadway's commercial future. It's upbeat and appeals to audiences of all ages. The lighting, costumes, and scenery make this musical memorable. How can you choose between tradition and a new future? Well, they did.

From Jonathan A. Rybka:
I feel that although some of Rosie's jokes were a bit off-color but she was funny. I admit I did laugh!Now to the other things....Hooray for what Ragtime did win but I feel it should have been Best Musical. And what's up with the Beauty Queen thing? Hello! Congrats on Audra! And Congrats to Alan Cumming-- he makes the Emcee look slimy, erotic and great all at the same time (Joel who?)Finally -- I wish someone would have toned the music down when Alice and Emily sang but boy did they give me chills! ( They SHOULD have won)Oh yeah, I forgot...... Somebody should give Jennifer Holiday a show to do on Broadway... She is much missed and her performance on the Tony Awards this year was GREAT!

From Newsbuff16:
I was disappointed that "Ragtime"did not win as Best Musical. I find it hard to believe that you can have the best book and the best score and not win the top award. Clearly, voters were swayed by the stunning imagery of the"Lion King." Brian Stokes Mitchell deserved to win for his role of Coalhouse. He gave a dynamic and thrilling performance - he has tremendous stage presence. I look forward to many more memorable performances from this wonderful performer.

From Jim Menke (
Juries in murder cases are polled after trials, why can't the Tony voters be polled to find out who "killed" RAGTIME, Brian Stokes Mitchell and or Douglas Sills.

From Ramon Tejada:
Ok, so I have sat down and read so many people complain about how Rosie was awful, How Ragtime was robbed, how Brian Stokes Mitchell was robed, how Alan Cumming was disgusting and copying Joel Grey, how Natasha Richardson cannot sing, how Marin Mazzie was robed etc, etc, etc...
OK, I don't live and NY and can't go to see shows there like lots of you, but this is ridiculous. Unless you are from another planet you appreciate the Rosie Jokes, at least is not the crappy Tony telecasts from three years ago, where everything was recorded and chopped. From the numbers presented, I have to say that Ragtime was a bit boring and felt like the typical American musical. I have heard the CD and the music and lyrics are wonderful, but overall it sounded like a big blockbuster musical where you could hear Garth Drabinsky in the background. (Please remember that this is not some small musical. Garth Drabinsky is as much of show as Disney is) The Lion King number was breathless, and frankly left me wanting to break into the theatre to see it. It is original, great, and Julie Taymor has given the American theatre something else to look at that is not the traditional Western theatre that we think is the only thing in the world worthwhile. JULIE TAYMOR IS INCREDIBLE. The Lion King is not unoriginal. After all almost every American Musical is not original its all taken from other sources. Heck Ragtime is based on a novel, not on somebody's idea!
The Cabaret number was great, and people need to stop whining about the crassness. If you disagreed with what you saw, then I hope you don't watch soap operas because you see tha t plus more at 3 in the afternoon. The number is exciting and frankly its the only show that is getting my money this summer. Alan Cumming was just to interesting and frankly seemed to be having fun.
The Natasha Richardson Tony, we all knew that she was going to win. If you can take a role and redefined it, you deserve all the credit. Maybe she has never done a musical before, but then are we going to shun good actors who haven't. I mean I saw Judy Dench in London do A Little Night Music and she is not a singer, but God could she act. When she sung Send in the Clowns, the whole place was stunned!
Art is the best play, just read both Beauty Queen and Art, and you will see why. The writing in Art is much superior, and a few feck jokes are funny all right!

From BHealy1418:
Prior to last evening's awards, I was among the majority in believing that RAGTIME would and deserved to win Best Musical. It had been quite a long time since I was so moved during a show, and haunted by it since. Besides, the Lion King scared me....yet another corporate giant calling "style without substance" Broadway theatre. Yet after watching the cast perform "Circle of Life", I realized that THE LION KING is what great theatre should be....inventive, imaginative, artistic, daring and most of all, different. I only wish both shows could share the award, as they are both great examples of the american musical. May they both run forever!!!!!
P.S. As far as the four wins for CABARET..........I told you so!!! Congrats Alan, you deserve it.

From SFNinerFan:
I have not yet been to NYC to see the shows but will be in a few weeks (and have my tickets for all the contenders). Many who have written have compared the Lion King/Ragtime competition to Phantom/Into the Woods. I too agree that the wrong musical won in that year - but I am also an ardent Sondheim/Woods fan. Only one show can win - and the motivations for those wins will never be determined.
The fact is that the technical excellence of Lion King seemed to be so overwhelming that it overcame the excellence of the Ragtime material. I will judge this when I see the shows in NYC. It is just too bad that people seem to think the only way for a show to succeed is to sweep the Tony awards. 6 for Lion King - 4 for Ragtime - 4 for Leenane and 3 for Cabaret and 2 for View from a Bridge seems to spread it around nicely. It is only too bad that Art only took home one prize - but the plum Best Play ain't hay. And I do agree - there should be a best ensemble award for the entire cast. As for the show itself - the PBS/CBS partnership is incredible. I actually prefer the PBS show for its insight into the creative processes. And regarding Rosie - I was quite surprised at the "material" written for her. It was much more "Cabaret" raunch than "Lion King" and "Ragtime" sentimentality - and quite a put off from her daytime persona. Where I was not at all offended by her material - I did think it was somewhat out of place and am sure she lost some of her more conservative following.

From Anne-Marie Fagen:
I think the Lion King should have been in a category all its own. Like "Best Exotic Musical" or some such. I really thought Ragtime would be the winner. As for Rosie O'Donnell, I think we can do without her next year. Her jokes were hurtful. She has no poise. And she is not a theater personality, even counting Grease!

From Jeffrey N. Joyner:
I was really disappointed that Brian Stokes Mitchell didn't win. Perhaps he and Peter Friedman canceled each other out, but Friedman should not have been in the lead actor category in the first place. Even more upsetting was Ragtime's loss. The Tony voters send a very disturbing message to the theatre-going public when they give the Best Musical award to the show that has the best sets, costumes and lighting, but not the best music and book. The same thing happened with Into the Woods and Phantom in 1988.

From Mirit : ):
I never liked the Lion King that much, and when I found out it was going to be on Broadway I thought, " This has got to be the most stupid idea yet. A bunch of animatronic animals on stage. How tasteless." The only reason why I even became mildly interested in TLK was because of actor Max Casella. (Who I though deserved a nomination.) Going into the awards I truly hoped that TLK would win best costume, but figures the Ragtime would win Best Musical. (Which was appealing to me a bit more than TLK.) As I watched on PBS different scenes from TLK I became a little more interested, but this did not prepare me for TLK's number. I never liked The Circle of Life, but what I saw last night took my breath away. Now I have a deep desire to see TLK, not only because of Mr. Casella, but because of the visual beauty of the show.
I do, though, think it strange that TLK didn't win any music (excluding choreography) or acting awards, but won Best Musical. Go figure. I loved the look behind the scenes on PBS, but must agree with others that someone like Nathan Lane had 30 seconds to quickly read off Best Musical was a waste for him. Especially since he provided the voice for the original Timon. Also I thought Brian Stokes Mitchell was a shoe in for Best Actor ,or if not, Douglas Sills. Both, in what I saw of them, were amazing. Also, on a final note, the little I saw of the not much publicized 1776 was much better than Cabaret. I appreciate what was done with Cabaret, but I think 1776 presented itself as a better musical. (Plus, was that joke about long running musicals and Capeman really necessary? Talk about pouring salt into the wound. Ouch!)

From Meredith, NYC:
In reading many of the comments that have come across the wire thus far, I have to say that I was pleased with just about every recipient! In response to what Jenny Goodwin wrote, I say:
Jenny, I'm sorry....did you see Cabaret? If you did, I can't imagine how you would ever put Brian Stokes Mitchell above Alan Cumming. And to suggest that Mitchell is better, only leads me to believe you did NOT see Cabaret. The two were fabulous in their roles, but the MC certainly had a tougher role. Alan Cumming was brilliant, and deserved what came to him. I am not saying that Brian Stokes Mitchell wasn't great, merely that Alan Cumming did something spectacular! Now, if you did not see Cabaret....why comment?
Lastly, I had a great time at the Tony's. Having had the opportunity to see every show or play nominated, I must admit that while the Lion King lacks emotional/ political is by far the most innovative show of our time. Its creativity astounds me. My personal favorite was Side Show, but I still feel that the Tony for Best Musical went to the right show. The Lion King set new a standard in theatre, and I anxiously await the new season. Thanks.

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