An Awards Show Where Everyone Won: 72nd Annual Tonys Recap

Here are the best moments from the 72nd Annual Tonys, in my most humble of opinions.  

The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theatre, or Tonys, are the awards granted by the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League. They began in 1947, and the woman they were named after, Antoinette (better known as Tony), passed away in 1946. According to Wikipedia, the first prizes were “a scroll, cigarette lighter and articles of jewelry, such as 14-carat gold compacts and bracelets for the women, and money clips for the men.” It was not until the third awards ceremony in 1949 that the first Tony medallion was given to award winners. Now they’re “awarded by a panel of approximately 868 voters (as of 2014) from various areas of the entertainment industry and press.”

If you follow me here on Talk Nerdy, or maybe you’re a fan of my tweets (@Somm_Bitch), you may be aware that I’m a total Broadway Baby. I grew up in the theater, I desperately wanted to be an actress, and went to school on an acting scholarship, but due to a lot of factors (predominantly my crippling anxiety and depression that I chose to ignore treatment options for…) never realized that dream. So, this is basically my favorite night of the year.

If you don’t know, here’s a quick tutorial on how the Tonys work (oh yeah, by the way, DO NOT use an apostrophe or “Tonies” – EVER – trust me). The Tony Administration committee has reps from each sponsor: The American Theatre Wing has 10 people, the Broadway League has 10, then each group (Dramatists Guild, Actors’ Equity Association, United Scenic Artists and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers) gets one seat at the table. These representatives determine, among other things, the eligibility for the nominations across all categories. Then there are up to 50 people on the nomination committee, a group of people that serve three years and are required to see EVERY show. Lastly, there is a wide variety of ways to become an eligible voter (almost 850 last season) – made up from the governing boards of Broadway groups, critics, etc.

Alright, there are a lot of ins and outs as to the timing of the shows, what kind of theater/show is eligible… what’s the difference between Best Actor, Best Featured Actor, Best Supporting Actor… it’s a little chaotic and I don’t know that it adds all that much to the evening, so I’m going to skip ahead to the commentary – my favorite moments of the evening (literally not in any order).

The opening number! If you’re a regular watcher you know the opening numbers at the Tonys are usually dripping with flash and production value, and I adore them! I honestly didn’t know if Groban and Bareilles were up to the challenge when you consider high energy predecessors like Neil Patrick Harris, Hugh Jackman or James Corden, but they seriously were! They didn’t try to make the show about them, they celebrated the nominees, the theater, the art form and the amazing community that is Broadway with their song, “This One’s For the Losers.” (Also, any idea how Sara Bareilles plays piano in those heels?)–DnSF84

This may seem obvious, but the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Nominating their teacher, Melody Herzfeld, who protected more than 60 of them in a tiny office the day of the shooting, and desperately wanting to thank her on national TV was barely outshone by their moving performance of “Seasons of Love” from Rent. Was it the most polished or perfect song ever? No. Was it so beautiful it moved me to actual tears? YES. And I can’t even start on Kali Clougherty singing that solo – girl, YOU CAN SING! I can’t wait to see you on this stage again in a few years, collecting your own Tony Award.

There were so many great acceptance speeches it’s hard to pick favorites, so I won’t. But many of them spoke to similar themes of inclusion, being yourself, loving who you are and owning your identity. First was Andrew Garfield’s speech for Best Actor in a Play (
Angels in America), “I dedicate this award to the countless LGBTQ people who have fought and died to protect that spirit, to protect that message: For the right to live and love as we are created to.” Then we got Lindsay Mendez for Featured Actress in a Musical, “I was told to change my name from Mendez to Matthews or I wouldn’t work. But I want to say how proud I am to be a part of a community that celebrates diversity.” The diversity of the night, from a black Kristoff, to Once On This Island and The Band’s Visit, as well as Children of a Lesser God with a deaf actress… this is what inclusivity and progress look like and I’m so proud to be a fan(atic). 

#TonyDreaming– Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles had been asking for people to send their photos of their first/early performances on stage and some of them would be featured during the broadcast – a lot like a Baby Shower game but actually fun (I submitted three, none of them featured, but I persevere). They even went so far as to introduce presenters and performers based on their first roles (Melissa Benoist in Cinderella and Patti LuPone as Lucy in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown are two of the standouts).

And now, for your viewing pleasure, here is the #TonyDreaming photo of Colin Donnell as one of the Princes (Cinderella’s I think?) from Into The Woods. (PS, Patti Murin, his amazing wife from Frozen, played her first stage role in Cinderella, so that’s adorable AF).

Predictably, a lot of the featured musicals went with numbers they’d already been showcasing since nominations. Frozen did “For the First Time In Forever” and “Let It Go” (we were SO hoping for “Hygge”); Once On This Island did “Mama Will Provide,” and The Band’s Visit did “Omar Sharif.”

Don’t get me wrong, they were all amazing and brilliant and I loved them, and despite their notoriety, they weren’t any less interesting to watch and share with millions of people at a time on Twitter – especially The Band’s Visit, which I could probably watch every day without getting tired of it. But I genuinely don’t know if I will ever recover from Caissie Levy belting out “Let It Go” and leaving everything on the stage. It’s unbelievable to me that she didn’t garner a nomination for her performance (but I could write a whole separate post on how Frozen was totally robbed in the nomination process).

That Las Vegas commercial during one of the earlier ad breaks – wow. Two women, one trying to convince the other to get married in Vegas despite the seeming spontaneity. Once the girlfriend finally relents she learns her future wife has brought both families into town for the ceremony. Let’s just say this and the 3+ hours of awards show didn’t do much for any upcoming mascara endorsements I may have – and this commercial was the biggest offender. The acting, the story, the production – look, I know it’s a commercial for Vegas, but it was a stunningly told story and when they hit me at the end with “Destiny Happens Here”… I. WAS. DONE. Thank God the entire Twitter community was on my side, we were all seriously emotional and it may have been one of the most cathartic, unifying moments of humanity across the country I’ve ever experienced. And somehow, it was just a seamlessly, perfect moment in a night of amazing feels and love and community and happiness. 

Rachel Bloom, of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fame, was covering the backstage/behind the scenes happenings, wearing a t-shirt of Stephen Sondheim smoking a joint that she had commissioned via Twitter. She also made insane, nonsensical hat changes throughout the evening that were hilarious. I loved every second – especially the tiny hat. She provided humorous commentary, speaking with casts before or after they hit the stage, and acted like every single Broadway lover thrown into the situation of their dreams. I couldn’t have been more envious while being simultaneously happy for her if I actually tried. Also, I made sure to find her song, Nobody Wants To Watch The F*cking Tony Awards With Me and it’s now my anthem. That makes me a Tony winner, right?

All in all, the ceremony honored all that is great and wonderful about the theater community. If I can’t actually be an actress on Broadway, I’ve never felt more okay about it than I did watching how insanely talented and amazing the people who are on Broadway are. The night was full of speeches about inclusivity, tolerance, love, and acceptance.

I still think SpongeBob looks WAY overrated, that Frozen’s stars were totally cheated, and I wish like hell we got more Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban but the performances were fun and exciting, and the awards went to the most deserving shows/people. Overall, it was a wonderful night of Twitter friends and conversations and I loved it.

Now, I just have to come up with approximately $800,000 to catch the newest Tony sweepers (The Band’s Visit and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and cross my fingers their wins suddenly make Dear Evan Hansen and Frozen affordable!

What did you think of this year’s Tonys? Did your picks win? Who did you feel was robbed? What Tonys performances did you most enjoy? And what did you think of Groban and Bareilles? Sound off in the comments below.

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