Tag Archives: Sutton Foster

Tony Awards 2011

First of all, I must point out that I’m reviewing the Tony Awards broadcast without having seen any of the plays or musicals that were nominated.   I also have a special interest in The Book of Mormon, because co-director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw was in my theatre group as a teenager.   Living in San Francisco means the broadcast I saw was the taped version.  These are my own impressions, because I haven’t yet read any of the other reviews.

If this year’s Tony Awards broadcast was trying to be a three hour long advertisement for Broadway musicals, it may have succeeded.  If it was supposed to honor the talented folks working both onstage and behind the scenes, it was a disappointing failure.  Most of the broadcast was devoted to showcasing song and dance numbers from not just the nominated new musicals and revivals, but also from Spiderman (long delayed but now supposedly opening this month), Memphis (last year’s winner), Company (don’t know why), and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (seriously don’t know why).   All the technical awards, the two Lifetime Achievement Awards, the award for humanitarian efforts, the Regional Theatre Award, and the Special Award (for the horse puppets in War Horse) were given offscreen.  Little snippets were shown from acceptance speeches when they returned from ad breaks.  This just left the acting, directing, and best play/musical/revival awards.  It was really strange that the best musical score was given offscreen, but the best musical book was given onscreen.   There was no logic to it.  I was especially disappointed that the best choreography award was presented offscreen, even though Casey Nicholaw didn’t win for The Book of Mormon.  It was also puzzling when they presented the awards for best play and best revival of a play before they presented the best actor awards.

Host Neil Patrick Harris was awesome as usual, although I do wonder about  middle America’s reaction to lyrics like “No sodomy required” in the opening number.   Later, Harris had some fun with former host Hugh Jackman, who was heavily featured in audience reaction shots.  My favorite Harris moment was when he rode out on a War Horse puppet.   His end-of-the-show rap was great, but the last half hour of the show was rushed because of too many musical numbers and superfluous “broadway moments.”

The Book of Mormon and War Horse posters

I’m not going to list all the award winners.  It’s enough to say that The Book of Mormon (best musical), War Horse (best play), The Normal Heart (best revival of a play), and Anything Goes (best revival of a musical) were the big winners of the night.   I was thrilled when Casey Nicholaw won his first Tony Award for co-directing Mormon with Trey Parker.  He was so happy, and he thanked ‘everyone he’s ever known’ so I couldn’t help feeling included.  That’s definitely a Tony first for me!   I was also pleased that Sutton Foster won for Anything Goes, because I love her.  I’ve only seen her perform at various Tony Awards, but that’s all it takes for her to win your heart.   It was strange watching John Larroquette win for How to Succeed in Business, because just an hour before the broadcast began, I was watching him on Retro TV in Black Sheep Squadron (circa 1977).

I loved seeing Robert Morse (the original 1961 Finch) and Matthew Broderick (Finch in the 1995 revival)  introduce the nominated musical revival How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.  Morse is looking great at 80!  Both these actors won Tonys for playing Finch, but Daniel Radcliffe wasn’t even nominated.  Radcliffe really is shockingly short, especially standing next to Larroquette, but compared to the rest of the cast as well.   I have to give a shout out to Ellen Harvey, who was easy to spot because she was the only female in the number they performed.  Harvey was another member of San Diego Junior Theatre. and we worked together on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

John Larroquette, Daniel Radcliffe, Ellen Harvey and the How To Succeed cast

John Larroquette, Daniel Radcliffe, Ellen Harvey and the How To Succeed cast

Whoopi Goldberg and Frances McDormand wore the strangest outfits of the evening.  Goldberg had a hat that distracted me from her introduction of Sister Act, and McDormand (best actress for Good People) wore a denim jacket over her formal length dress.  McDormand looked angry leaving the stage, and I wonder if it’s because everyone was under orders to shorten their acceptance speeches.  Mark Rylance (best actor for Jerusalem) gave the quirkiest speech, describing the best kind of walls and fences you can walk through.  (I learned later that he was quoting poet Louis Jenkins.)  He didn’t thank anyone, but by that point, it was kind of refreshing.   Brooke Shields was having a rough night; first she forgot her lyrics in the opening number, and then the first part of her presentation speech was bleeped out for language.  (Sorry, I couldn’t lip read what she said, but I’m sure I’ll read it online later.)  Bono and The Edge were surprisingly funny introducing a ballad from Spiderman, and the most awkward introduction was given by Christie Brinkley.

The In Memoriam tributes made me cry like they always do.  This year we lost Elizabeth Taylor, of course, but there were so many other great people.  I was surprised when one of the faces was so young, so I had to look her up.  Eleven year old Shannon Tavarez from The Lion King died on November 1, 2010, of acute myeloid leukemia.

Overall, I am happy for the Tony Award winners and disappointed in the broadcast.  Last year, I complained that there were too many Hollywood actors and not enough Broadway actors among the presenters, the audience, and the award winners.  I enjoy seeing performers at the Tonys that I’ve never heard of before, because it’s my one chance during the year to discover them and learn about their work.  This year, I tried my best not to categorize the actors as stage or film types, especially since I loved seeing Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory).   He’s just joined the cast of The Normal Heart.  

Update:  I understand that the Tonys were held at the Beacon Theatre this year, which has half the number of seats as the usual venue.  This meant that many folks couldn’t attend, and lots of people associated with nominated shows were seated in the upper levels.  Now it makes a little more sense why so many awards weren’t shown, since the logistics of finding the nominees in the audience with cameras and getting them onstage quickly to accept their awards must have been a real issue.  I feel sorry for all the folks who couldn’t attend, and for the friends and families of nominees watching at home who weren’t shown their loved ones being honored.  I hope that next year, things will be different.  (Didn’t I say that last year?)


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Today’s Tony Award Nominations

Last year I reported my impressions of the Tony Awards, complaining about the overabundance of movie stars when I wanted to see Broadway performers.  I wrote then that hopefully at the next Tony Awards we’d get to see Sutton and Hunter Foster, Christian Hoff and Casey Nicholaw.  Well, today the Tony nominations were announced.  Sutton Foster has been nominated for Anything Goes, and Casey Nicholaw has two nominations, for co-directing The Book of Mormon with Trey Parker, and for his choreography of this new hit musical.  I’m so happy!  I’m happy for them and for myself, because this means we’ll be treated to a better Tony broadcast.  Hopefully.

Casey Nicholaw with The Book of Mormon creators

Casey Nicholaw (second from L) with The Book of Mormon creators

Now, I haven’t seen The Book of Mormon, about two young missionaries sent to Uganda.  I’ve read that it’s a wickedly funny parody of organized religion, and that the characters are not simply caricatures.   It’s written by Matt Stone and Trey Parker (South Park) with Robert Lopez.  Casey Nicholaw, the co-director and choreographer, was a member of San Diego Junior Theatre, and my family started attending his performances when I was in sixth grade.  My father and Casey’s father were work associates, and later I also joined Junior Theatre.  The first show I crewed was How To Succeed in Business Without Trying, and Casey was our Finch.   Casey has been nominated twice before for the Tony Award, for his choreography for Spamalot and for The Drowsy Chaperone.  I’m rooting for him, of course, but to me he’s already a winner.  He’s working on Broadway, along with fellow JT alum Christian Hoff (Jersey Boys), living the dream we all had as kids.  I’m looking forward to seeing him and all my other favorites during the  June 12th Tony Awards broadcast.  Congratulations, Casey!

Casey Nicholaw JT reunion 2008

Casey Nicholaw at the San Diego Junior Theatre reunion, 2008

PS  I love going to The Book of Mormon official website to move my mouse over the doorbell in the logo.  I don’t know why it amuses me so much!

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The Tony Awards 2010

Watching the 64th Annual Tony Awards last night, I felt my usual sense of longing, since I used to dream of accepting my own Tony Award.  One of these days, I need to sit down and write a brilliant play that will take Broadway by storm. In the meantime, here are my impressions of this year’s broadcast. Please note: I avoided reading any other press about the Awards before writing this, so I wouldn’t be influenced by other opinions. I’m really taking this blog thing seriously!

Overall, I found the Tony Awards too Hollywoodized. Just because the broadcast has never had the popularity or the ratings of the Academy Awards, there is an ongoing practice of padding the presenters and audience with “movie stars.” It’s so sad to see all the talented Broadway actors shoved in the back rows so more recognizable movie stars can hog all the reaction shots. Granted, this year saw an especially large number of movie actors appearing in Broadway roles. I was suspicious of the number of movie stars who ended up being nominated for Tonys and then dismayed at how many ended up winning.

I thought Sean Hayes made a good host, and I particularly liked his Billy Elliot costume. His knees in the Annie costume, on the other hand, were downright scary.

I didn’t see Scarlett Johansson in her Broadway debut, but her acceptance speech was pretty terrible. It can’t be easy going first, and she could have learned a valuable lesson from Viola Davis, whose acceptance speech was moving and inspiring. I liked how both Viola Davis and Denzel Washington weren’t afraid to mention God in their speeches.

The weirdest team of presenters was Daniel Radcliffe and Katie Holmes. How tall is that woman?? Radcliffe looked so tiny next to her. ( Imdb.com lists Radcliffe as 5’8″ and Holmes as 5’9″)  I was very surprised to learn that Radcliffe will be playing the lead in the upcoming revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. The role will really be a stretch, since the character of Finch is brash, hyper-confident, charismatic and quintessentially American. Oh, and it’s a musical. I’m not saying Radcliffe can’t pull it off, and I have to admire him for taking risks.

Eddie Redmayne won the Tony for featured actor in a play, for his performance in Red, which went on to win best director and best new play. Redmayne was very sweet accepting his award and also strangely sweaty. His director Michael Grandage gave his speech directly to the award in his hand, barely glancing at the audience. Perhaps he’s shy! Anyway, I was very pleased that women were nominated in both directing categories, for best play and for best musical.

Technical difficulties marred the acceptance speech of Katie Finneran for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, when the caption across the screen named the wrong actress. Eventually they flashed the correct name.

The award for most stunning has to go to Helen Mirren. I thought she looked marvelous. Angela Lansbury was lovely too, and I’m so pleased about her new honorary position with American Theatre Wing. Jada Pinkett Smith gets my award for shiniest skin. She looked positively oiled.

Catherine Zeta-Jones performed Send in the Clowns from Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, and it was distinctly odd. I’m no judge of singing, so I can’t comment on that aspect of the performance. What I found strange was all her snappy head swings during the song. The entire song was delivered sitting on a bed, and I was seriously distracted by her head twisting left and right. Her acceptance speech later, when she won Best Actress in a Musical for the performance, was also odd but kind of endearing, though I can’t help wondering if her “shock” at winning wasn’t also a performance.

The “In Memoriam” section of Awards shows always make me cry, and this time was no exception. I was particularly moved by Lena Horne and the last Ziegfeld Follies girl.

During every single commercial break, for two and a half hours, the announcer promised Glee‘s Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele were coming up next. It was such an obvious ploy to get young viewers to stay tuned in. Then when they finally appeared, it was pointless filler which belonged earlier on in the program.

I live on the west coast, so by the time I watch the Tonys, they’ve been recorded from an earlier broadcast. This would explain, I suppose, how they were able to bleep out the four-letter words in the American Idiot musical number. It was after 10:30pm by then, but I guess they have to protect those young people who make up most of American Idiot‘s target audience. Or maybe it was the old folks they were trying not to offend. Anyway, I was pleased that Memphis won for best musical, even though I haven’t even seen it yet. As the night progressed, it seemed like the obvious popular choice. Of the nominated musicals, I’ve only seen American Idiot, and it wasn’t strong enough to deserve the Tony.

So now I have a new list of plays and musicals to see, and I hold out hope that next year I will see more Broadway faces in the front rows of the Tony Awards, favorites like Sutton Foster and her brother Hunter, Christian Hoff, and Casey Nicholaw.


I woke up to the sad news that Jimmy Dean passed away. As a huge fan of the Daniel Boone TV series, I was deeply affected by Fess Parker’s death only a few months ago, and now we’ve lost another cast member. Jimmy Dean became Boone’s sidekick on the TV show after Ed Ames left to pursue his singing career. In the memorable final episode of the series, Jimmy Dean adopts feisty little Jodie Foster. My condolences to Mr Dean’s family.


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