Where does one start when they’ve exhausted all the superlatives in the thesaurus in describing the experience that is August: Osage County? I went to see the Sunday matinee, which also happened to be the final performance for Deanna Dunagan, Rondi Reed, Frances Guinan, Jeff Perry and Ian Barford. That’s got to be surreal. You play your last show and your juggernaut play goes onto definite Tony glory that evening. Then you go home to Chicago. I couldn’t do that; I would have to stay at least a couple of weeks to bask in the post-Tony energy glow, you know? On the otherhand, can you imagine being those actors replacing them at the first post-Tony show? I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes, for certain.
This time around though, I was more taken with Amy Morton’s Barbara than I was with Deanna’s Vi, though I adore both immensely. It’s not that Dunagan’s performance is anything less – she is a fearless performer who’s character provides incredible challenges for any actress, but it’s the discovery that this is, in essence, Barbara’s story. I also noticed that she also leads the company bow – and I think she has slightly more stage time. Tough call really. Both are superlative.
But, oh boy. See this great American play. By all means. See it. I’m sure that Estelle and the new crew will bring their own distinctive yet successful interpretations to the Weston household. The dialogue is so sharp and incisive, the staging crisp and just the fastest and most rewarding three and half hours I’ve spent at the theatre in my life. It’s so refreshing to witness hinging on every word, their genuine shock at the events of the plot. And might I add, not one complaint about the running time. Oh, did I mention I saw Hayley Mills on line? (To which .Roxie responded “Shut up! I love her!”) I hope she enjoyed the show too. You could tell the repeat contingency from certain members of the audience, whose adulation poured out. The dialogue is extraordinarily rich. That second act dinner sequence is one of the most memorable you’ll see in quite a while. The audience reaction for Morton’s act two curtain line received the same stellar ovation it did on opening night – if you’d walked into the theatre blindly as the lights went out, you would have thought there was a musical showstopper going on with the screams of “Bravo!” ringing out. As per my usual, I started the applause – and clapped so hard my hands hurt. In all my years of theatregoing I have never done that before.
I took a friend with me as an early birthday present. We couldn’t even get into the specifics of it, he was that stunned by what he saw. We parted ways on 44th and I headed uptown to Sarah’s Beekman Place on 90th for Lady Iris’ Annual Moon Lady Extravaganza, aka her Tony party.
First of all, there was a red carpet – lit up I might add. With logo art for all the shows around the banisters. Sarah greeted us at the door all dolled up, with her apartment open and ready for all the bloggers and friends who weren’t fortunate enough to be at the awards (ahem, Noah and Steve on Broadway…) and I gotta tell you, I’ve never enjoyed the Tony awards quite like I did this year. I’m still more fond of the Theatre World awards, because the representation of a non-competitive, accepting arts community is more ideal than pitting actors together in a popularity contest. However, the musical performances were extensive (13! really??!?) and most of the awards a thrill to watch. However, was Best Revival of a Play that unnecessary to the telecast that it was lumped in with the “who cares” categories* of the web-cast hour? And speaking of which, I for one, would have enjoyed seeing the witty and endlessly entertaining Julie White present on the telecast proper, as I feel she should have, especially since she was last year’s winner – not Mary Louise Parker, who it seems, is much more comfortable in character than as herself. (Can you be any less boring reading the teleprompter Milfie?)
* – that is this writer’s assumed opinion of the network powers that be at CBS and not of himself. The aficionado loves him some designers. If there was a God, they would start at 7, or revert back to PBS so we can follow along without having to watch a brief recap in the middle of the ceremony. PS – Thank you for finally recognizing sound design, Tony people! It’s about friggin’ time!
Favorite acceptance speeches included Lin-Manuel Miranda’s off the cuff rap (Look I made a hat, where there never was a hat, and a Latin hat at that”), Anna D. Shapiro (with her anecdote about her nieces and nephews just wanting Little Mermaid tickets), Deanna Dunagan’s graciousness towards costar Amy Morton, and it’s true – they should have shared that award. Mark Rylance’s bizarre non-sequitur of a speech turned out to be a prose poem (“The Back Country” by Louis Jenkins . Unique. And highly amusing – especially the reaction shots from audience members (the most notable being his co-star Mary McCormack). Then there was Laura Benanti “Hi Arthur! You’re standing!” and of course, there was “Patti’s Turn,” my official moniker for her speech in which she seemed to thank everyone involved with her career since she last won “SHUT UP, it’s been 29 years!!” Boy, I would hate to be that conductor. However, was that also the conductor who brought Elaine Stritch’s acceptance speech to an incredibly embarrassing halt six years ago…? Anyone remember that debacle?
Laura Linney looked gorgeous, though the ladies in attendance at the parties cried afoul at her choice of earrings. We all wondered why Faith Prince showed up in costume as Delta Burke – and why she sang like Delta Burke during A Catered Affair’s performance. We gave Patti a standing ovation for “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” – which is how every Tony performance should run. Fuck, they let Hepburn have 15 minutes for her big musical (Coco), now we’re relegated to three minutes of awesome. And ten minutes of commercials on a loop. We also went completely off the wall with her when she won, her win becoming our Tony toast for the evening – there are pictures on Sarah’s blog, of us capturing the pre-win look and the moment she yelled “Shut up!” with our camera phones. Yes, kids, we be a bunch of theatre geeks. I even offered to hand in the hetero card to Roxie. Turns out it was my metrocard, so I kept both. There was great fun to be had with this crowd, I doubt I would have enjoyed it anymore with anyone else. I also had my first – and last – cosmopolitan. I’ll stick to my White Russians, thank you.
The run down – from the ones with the most to the ones with the least:
South Pacific: Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Paulo Szot), Best Direction of a Musical (Bartlett Sher), Best Costume Design (Catherine Zuber), Best Scenic Design (Michael Yeargan), Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Donald Holder), Best Sound Design of a Musical (Scott Lehrer)
August: Osage County: Best Play, Best Actress in a Play (Deanna Dunagan), Best Featured Actress in a Play (Rondi Reed), Best Direction of a Play (Anna D. Shapiro), Best Scenic Design of a Play (Todd Rosenthal)
In the Heights: Best Musical, Best Score (Lin-Manuel Miranda), Best Choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler), Best Orchestrations (Alex Lacamoire & Bill Sherman)
Gypsy: Best Actress in a Musical (Patti LuPone), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Boyd Gaines), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Laura Benanti)
Boeing-Boeing: Best Revival of a Play, Best Actor in a Play (Mark Rylance)
The 39 Steps: Best Lighting Design of a Play (Kevin Adams), Best Sound Design of a Play (Mic Pool)
Passing Strange: Best Book (Stew)
The Seafarer: Best Featured Actor in a Play (Jim Norton)
Les Liaisons Dangereuses: Best Costume Design of a Play (Katrina Lindsay)
A posthumous honorary Tony award was presented to the most iconic of musical theatre orchestrators, Robert Russell Bennett, who has been dead since 1981. (For the outraged, Tunick fans, he comes in at a tie for second with Don Walker). So I could understand his inability to attend. However, what was Sondheim’s excuse?
Our evening ended with Patricia Routledge as Kitty, especially since Roxie and I have decided that she officially won Best Musical – not Best Musical Revival. From whence cometh my title for this post, as it had us leaving Sarah’s apartment on a continuing, champagne-induced high. On the train ride home, I saw my next door neighbor and said hello. I asked if she did anything fun while in NY. Her response: “I was at the Tony awards.” Well, you can guess the topic of conversation for the next hour on the train.
And there you have it kids. ‘Til next year.