“This Show Couldn’t Be Any Gayer”: Our 2009 Tony Awards Recap

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So a confession: One of my guilty pleasures is Broadway musicals. So much so that I will stomach the misery of Times Square and the not-so-cheap TKTS booth to see a show when I can. However, the new year marked a dim start for the Great White Way with more than a dozen plays and musicals closing by the end of January. (Knowing that Harvey is no longer on stage belting “Timeless to Me” as Edna Turnblad is a dark reality I must face every day.) And shows that were opening didn’t seem that promising — American Idol reject Constantine starring in a show based on songs you can play on Guitar Hero? Not exactly Les Mis material.

But there were a couple of shining stars that were able to grab the spotlight and restore some hope to the stage, and tonight was all about celebrating them. This year the 63rd Annual Tony Awards promised to deliver what its audience wanted: more music and dance, and less idle chit chat filler. And deliver they did — when the mics were working. The show started with a medley of performances not only from tonight’s nominees but from some classic Broadway veterans.

It’s not shocking that a night to celebrate the queens of the stage would open with the biggest queen of them all: Sir Elton John. As quickly as the show was able to hit a high note, it quickly hit an instant low. I kid you not, Bret “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” Michaels got off his Rock of Love tour bus of STDs to sing a song for the Rock of Ages portion of the medley (and then he proceeded to smack his head on the moving set background — now that’s the Bret Michaels we know). Thank god the American Theatre was able to restore its dignity by having legends Dolly Parton and Liza Minelli perform as well.

Neil Patrick Harris joked that the opening was the biggest, most expensive in the history of the awards, and that’s why he was selected as the host. He did a great job by keeping his opening monologue short and sweet, while also keeping the show moving along (it only ran three minutes over, which is a bit of a Broadway miracle). Although I’m still not quite sure what that weird scratch ‘n sniff bit was all about…

Some highlights from the evening: • James Gandolfini stating that there’s no relation between Shrek and him. • Neil Patrick Harris jabbing Jeremy Piven for his sushi/mercury poisoning. • Winner Marcia Gay Harden correcting the Tony producers for misidentifying the nominees in her category (it seems they might have started the party a little too early). • One of the Billy Elliots convulsing/dancing on the stage — it’s the best ad for Ritalin I’ve ever seen. • Awkward interactions between the cast of Hair and the crowd, particularly Anne Hathaway. The joke was on them as it won Best Revival of a Musical. • Seeing both Estelle Getty and Bea Arthur making the important people who’ve died reel. • Alice Ripley forcefully screaming that JFK quote during her acceptance speech. • The night ending with Liza’s whooping shout out to her gay, Elton. • Harris’ end of the night recap, in musical form. If you DVR’ed the show, I recommend watching this instead of the two hours that comes before it. I like to think that he went home and wrote about the entire thing in his computer diary as emo keyboard music played in the background.

See a complete list of the night’s winners below:

MUSICAL: Billy Elliot PLAY: God of Carnage REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL: Hair BOOK OF A MUSICAL: Lee Hall, Billy Elliot, The Musical ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE: Next to Normal REVIVAL OF A PLAY: The Norman Conquests SPECIAL THEATRICAL EVENT: Liza’s at The Palace PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY: Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish, Billy Elliot, The Musical PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Alice Ripley, Next to Normal PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY: Roger Robinson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot, The Musical PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Karen Olivo, West Side Story DIRECTION OF A PLAY: Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL: Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot, The Musical CHOREOGRAPHY: Peter Darling, Billy Elliot, The Musical