Mr. wOw’s Take on the Tonys

Reflections on last night’s big Broadway awards bash from Mr. wOw.

Mr. wOw is no theater maven. In fact, this season he only saw the musicals. The rest was too … down and/or kitchen-sinky. Mr. wOw swerves off into depression now and then and who needs to go to the theater to have all your worst feelings about human nature confirmed. Especially when you are surrounded by humans, all crammed into uncomfortable seats, refusing to turn off their damn cell phones? (And often so much taller than Mr. wOw and seated right in front of him.)

My greatest credential for writing about the theater is that I have seen every major production of “Gypsy,” including Merman. Mr. wOw’s aunt took her obviously unusual very, very young nephew to the theater in 1959 to see The Merm. Alas, I don’t recall much except – Ethel was loud, and I loved the strippers.

My favorite Mama Rose? Bernadette Peters, because she was so totally against the grain, persona-wise. But she made it work. Her “Rose’s Turn” had s-e-x, baby! My favorite Gypsy? Natalie Wood in the unfairly disliked Roz Russell movie version. Never seen another Gyps to equal her beauty or vulnerability. Though the most recent, Laura Benanti (in the LuPone revival), came close. But I’d see anybody in “Gypsy.” This show is so great, nothing could kill it. Not even, you know … Madonna as Mama Rose. Or as all three of the aging strippers. (Actually, that might work out.)

Uhhh … Why did I just think of Hamlet’s exasperated mother, “More matter with less art”? I guess because I’m supposed to be writing about Sunday night’s Tony Awards and I’m trying to avoid saying … feh. That’s unfair. For an awards show it was just fine and, personally, I didn’t mind the criticized-in-advance overload of musical numbers.

When you think of Broadway, don’t you immediately think of the musical, that original American art form? I do. 

So they gave us a tsunami of rapturous performing. In the first ten minutes alone! That opening number just slammed you upside the head, topped off with Stockard Channing got up as a cross between Liz Taylor in her prime and Dietrich, Dolly Parton just plain got up, and Liza, giving her all with a bad throat and making you feel you had to will her to get through the number. And, of course, she did. (And won a Tony and did her usual, I’m-here-but-not-really spaced-out bit. Which is simply her public face – the flustered gamine – in case you’re thinking anything else.)

If I’d been blogging live I’d have dished and bitched about clothes and hair and Neil Patrick Harris’ odd manner – we know he’s a butchy gay, but please don’t make jokes about having “done” Jessica Lange. (Nice calm retort from Jessica: “Actually, I’ve never met him.”)

But looking back, I really don’t want to dissect too-low necklines or wigs. (Elton. We adore you!) Or bemoan long, emotional acceptance speeches. I love ‘em myself. Let people carry on. It’s their moment to shine or embarrass themselves, or both. 

I thought Angela Lansbury was such a deluxe act, so classy, so aware that she was being awarded for performance and longevity and sentiment – “I’m sorry, it’s not fair!” she exclaimed to her fellow nominees – that for me the show could have ended there.

It didn’t. As with most things, it did go on too long, but so what? I’ve spent worse three hours, believe me!

Loved Jerry Herman’s long overdue lifetime honor; loved, loved, loved Frank Langella’s witty wondering why his “A Man for All Seasons” hadn’t rated any Tony noms; loved those three adorable “Billy Elliot” kids. Loved all the “Jersey Boys,” and Neil Patrick Harris redeemed himself in his own closing number. 

I just hope he apologized to the divine Miss Lange. 

P.S. And I don’t care. I still pronounce it “Waiting For Godot” (sounds like dough).  

P.P.S. Next time, I’ll blog live, so we can all dish.

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