The Sound of Music: The 70th Annual Tony Awards
By: Dustin Bradley and Taylor Gates
The 70th Annual Tony Awards aired this past Sunday. In the wake of tragedy, James Corden and the white ways best and brightest uplifted us and celebrated the diversity, life, and art of the stage.
In the words of James Corden, this is “the Super Bowl for people who don’t know what the Super Bowl is.” Let’s be honest, that is true for most of us. All I know about the Super Bowl is that it’s a football game. But ask me about Broadway and I can tell you EVERYTHING!
The night was filled with performances from the biggest Broadway shows of the season, including Best Musical winner and cultural phenomenon Hamilton. The shows ranged from masterful films-turned-musicals like School of Rock and Waitress to highly original and unique Shuffle Along and Bright Star.
The revivals had no less spectacular performances. The Color Purple gave us just a taste of the reason it won Best Revival of a Musical. She Loves Me showed us that their star power has the ability to make a show soar. Fiddler on the Roof was simple and elegant while the Deaf West production of Spring Awakening (which impressively crowdfunded their performance) made us wish that we had this production back.
We are both huge Broadway geeks, so we thought we would share our thoughts on the performances from tonight’s big show below!
Dustin: James Corden brought down the house with his opening number that celebrates the diversity of theatre and tells all the children out there that the theatre will embrace them no matter what. Let me tell you…Tears.
Taylor: A hilarious, clever mashup of some of Broadway’s most popular show tunes turned into an incredibly inspiring number about dreaming big and achieving your dreams no matter who you are. This was such a timely, moving performance. I had tears in my eyes and goosebumps on my skin through the whole performance. “To the boys and girls, transgenders too, to every Broadway would-be; don’t wonder if this could be you–it absolutely could be.”
School of Rock
Dustin: Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater wrote an enjoyable rock musical. Yes…You read that right. The composer of famous musicals like Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita wrote a musical based on a Jack Black film and it is HILARIOUS! Alex Brightman is a star in the making. And those kids… Not since Matilda (RIP maggots! We sure do miss you.) have that many talented kids graced Broadway!
Taylor: This was a cool performance from a show that hasn’t gotten much publicity! I’m not the biggest fan of the movie, but this number put the stage version more on my radar and definitely piqued my interest.
Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Dustin: QUEEN AUDRA! A pregnant Audra [McDonald] at that, who still got the moves and dance ability to be flawless. This woman is a goddess and the performance was spectacular! Joined by Joshua Henry, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Brandon Victor Dixion, they showed us why they were nominated for Best Musical!
Taylor: Two words: Audra McDonald. Two more: YAS QUEEN. I haven’t been so sad I didn’t stick with tap when I was a child since I saw Sutton Foster at the 2011 Tony’s for Anything Goes.
She Loves Me
Dustin: LAURA BENANTI…SLAY ME PLEASE! I have a deep love for this cast, which includes Jane Krakowski, Zachary Levi and Gavin Creel. This performance was a perfect showcase for all three cast member nominated. The cast album was just released last week.
Taylor: What’s better than Laura Benanti or Jane Krakowski? Laura Benanti and Jane Krakowski together. This was such a classic, graceful, overall beautiful performance. The absolutely breathtaking backdrop made it very clear why this production took home the award for Best Set Design.
Fiddler on the Roof
Dustin: Classic. Beautiful. A performance that showcases why it keeps getting revived!
Taylor: Fantastic and just as I expected. Except now, I have If I Were a Rich Man stuck in my head and probably will for the foreseeable future.
Dustin: This bluegrass musical is a classic in my heart. The story is timeless and the music is so beautifully written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. This was the perfect showcase of their Tony nominee, Carmen Cusack, who is a powerhouse vocalist and actress. I can’t wait to see and hear from more of her in the future!
Taylor: I’ve heard such great things about this show, but admittedly never heard or seen it myself. This performance was gorgeous, though! And seeing Steve Martin was a plus considering he was my favorite as a kid. Cheaper by the Dozen, anyone?
The Color Purple
Dustin: You know a performance is going to be amazing when Oprah is introducing it! And this performance did not disappoint. The cast lead by Tony winner for Best Actress in a Musical, Cynthia Erivo also includes Danielle Brooks (better known as Taystee in “Orange Is The New Black”) and Heather Headley (shade was thrown at Jennifer Hudson [who Headley replaced] when she received resounding applause from the audience the second she was seen) all wowed us with a medley of beautiful songs and powerhouse vocals. Needless to say…tears.
TG- “You get some Kleenex! And you get some Kleenex! EVERYBODY GETS SOME KLEENEX!” That’s how Oprah should have introduced this. Wow. So powerful. I really dug the choreography and Taystee has PIPES.
On Your Feet!
Dustin: Gloria Estefan joined her cast on stage to perform a medley of her greatest hits. With its leading ladies, Anna Villafañe and Andrea Burns, the three wowed the crowd with their conga! Even Josh Segarra got a chance to shine in the performance. Gotta love Gloria!
Taylor: This one made me want to get up and dance. Bonus for bringing the performance to Lin-Manuel, who everybody knows is a huge fan, to the surprise of nobody. It definitely has that Latin energy and In the Heights vibe pulsing through it.
Dustin: The show that launched the careers of Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff is back on Broadway. Well, it was because sadly it closed a little while ago. They only got to perform because fans raised the money to allow them to do so and let’s just say a resounding, “Good job Broadway geeks,” because this performance was amazing. The concept of this revival is to have deaf actors act while non-deaf actors interpret through voice. Directed by Michael Arden and starring his husband, Andy Mientus, Kysta Rodriguez and many more, this performance was inspiring. It makes you want to cry, but you can’t because you are too busy ROCKING OUT!
Taylor: It was amazing to see the combination of singing, dancing and ASL bring this number to life! A classic teen rebellion song with a neat twist. I love the fact that the theatre expands to truly try and include every single person who wants to experience it.
Dustin: HAMILTON! What an underdog…Said no one ever. This performance was the hype of the evening and it delivered. They took the time to spotlight all of their Tony nominees all the while showcasing why it is the phenomenon that it is. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music transcends audiences and leaves them breathless. The other thing to note about this performance is that they did the greatest thing and eliminated the muskets from their performance in the wake of the Orlando massacre. Lin-Manuel honored Orlando earlier in the night when he accepted his speech for Best Score with a beautiful sonnet. Let’s all keep Orlando and the LGBT+ community in our thoughts. #PrayForOrlando
Taylor: Eh, it was all right. KIDDING. It was phenomenal, but like everybody on the planet could have predicted that. I genuinely believe Hamilton deserves every ounce of hype it gets. That fact that it has exposed so many unexpected audiences to the theatre world and got them deeply involved is a great thing. Plus, it’s truly a brilliant show in every way, and the cast and creative team has stayed humble and down-to-earth throughout this crazy ride, which is very admirable.
Dustin: MY OBSESSION! I have listened to this cast album non-stop since it was released on June 3rd. Sara Bareilles wrote a beautiful, funny and heartfelt score that deserves more recognition. This performance began with “Opening Up,” which included Kimiko Glenn, Keala Settle and Christopher Fitzgerald, all of whom are so fantastic in this musical! We then got to see Sara herself perform a split rendition of the song that will be plaguing female auditions for years to come, “She Used to Mine” with Tony nominee (and winner for last year’s Beautiful) Jessie Mueller. Both Sara and Jessie performed with such emotion, but it was Jessie who takes the cake for making me weep with her perfectly acted and sung rendition of the emotional tune. I hope that this musical becomes a classic not only in New York, but in colleges and regional theaters because the story is so heart wrenching and breathtaking that it needs to be seen by everyone who loves Musical Theatre!
Taylor: Jessie Mueller IS NOT REAL. The fact that she can sing AND act so well and at the same time is just insane! I’m ashamed to say I haven’t listened to Waitress in its entirety yet since my iTunes budget is at a whopping $0 at the moment, but this performance inspired me to rob a bank/sell my organs on the black market/do whatever it takes to buy this album and listen to it on repeat for the next 75 years.
Dustin: P.S. I am buying Taylor this cast album!
Dustin: James handed over the closing number to Hamilton where they gave us a rousing rendition of “The Schuyler Sisters,” which was just a perfect way to end the night seeing as how the lyrics, “Look around, look around. How lucky we are to be alive right now? History is happening in Manhattan and we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world,” echoed through the theater. And history was made, seeing as how all major acting musical categories were won by people of color. Go Tony’s!
Well, that’s it for this year’s Tony Awards! I don’t care what shows happen next season because I already CAN’T WAIT! Almost all of these shows have cast albums available now digitally with physical copies being released soon! Until next year, stay strong Broadway babies!