Theaterlover's Journal for June 2000

The 2000 Tony Awards:

Pandering To No Purpose

Commentary by John Kenrick

For many years, the Tony Awards ceremony was the one time of the year when theatre lovers could shamelessly wallow in their obsession. Created for theatre people by theatre people, it was our party. Now, all the Tony producers seem willing to do is pander to television viewers who could not care less about the theatre. As a result, we get boring Tony ceremonies that wind up satisfying no one, and the ratings keep sinking. And the producers wonder why?

This year's opening number wasn't just bad it was an embarrassment. Rosie O'Donnell (who's inability to sing has long since ceased to be funny) joined a gospel choir to introduce three minor TV stars and explain that they used to be minor Broadway musical stars – to what end? Like this clumsy routine would attract viewers? It probably sent them channel surfing in droves. None of these people has won a Tony – or even an Emmy. It was a desperate attempt to connect the Tonys with current television shows.

Does anyone really need prolonged video montages prefacing the awards for directors and designers? It's as fatuous as having the Superbowl feature mini-documentaries explaining the basic football player positions. Anyone who does not already know what these people do will not suddenly care because of a confusing collection of interview clips. The PBS pre-show devoted almost half its length to such gibberish – but had no time to include actress Eileen Heckhart's lifetime achievement award?

Even the Academy Awards pause each year to pay quick tribute to those who have died the previous year. So how in hell can the Tony's justify not devoting even a moment's mention to the passing of theatre legends like actor John Gielgud and producer David Merrick? And not a word about Alexander Cohen, the producer who brought the Tonys to television and produced the ceremony for decades? These are repulsive oversights to anyone who loves the theatre.

Not that there was much to love this season. When the biggest jokes of the night involve the co-hosts sexualities and Charlton Heston's toupee, you know its been a lifeless season – there was practically no theatrical event to make fun of!

Here is my list of high and low points – followed by a complete list of the nominees and winners.

As to the musical numbers from the various shows:

Final note: Much as I think Rosie is a bore, anyone who reads Fran and Barry Weissler's beads on national television gets points in my book! Guy and Doll indeed! (As their former assistant, I know all too well . . . nuf said.)

Ah well, there's always next year, possums – especially when the line-up includes Angela Lansbury in a new musical by Kander and Ebb – hope lives on!

The 2000 Tony Award Roster

(Winners are marked by an asterisk*)

Best New Musical
James Joyce's The Dead
The Wild Party

Best Revival of a Musical
Kiss Me, Kate*
The Music Man
Jesus Christ Superstar
Tango Argentino

Best Direction Of A Musical
Michael Blakemore, Kiss Me, Kate*
Lynne Taylor Corbett, Swing!
Susan Stroman, The Music Man
Susan Stroman, Contact

Best Book of a Musical
John Weidman, Contact
Richard Nelson, James Joyce's The Dead*
Michael John LaChuisa, Marie Christine
Michael John LaChuisa and George C. Wolfe, The Wild Party

Best Original Score
Elton John, Tim Rice, Aida*
Shaun Davey, Richard Nelson, James Joyce's The Dead
Michael John LaChiusa, Marie Christine
Michael John LaChiusa, The Wild Party

Best Choreography
Kathleen Marshall, Kiss Me, Kate
Susan Stroman, Contact*
Susan Stroman, The Music Man
Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Swing!

Best Orchestrations
Doug Besterman, The Music Man
Don Sebesky, Kiss Me, Kate*
Jonathan Tunick, Marie Christine
Harold Wheeler, Swing!

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Craig Bierko, The Music Man
Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kiss Me, Kate*
George Hearn, Putting It Together
Mandy Patinkin, The Wild Party
Christopher Walken, James Joyce's The Dead

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Toni Collette, The Wild Party
Heather Headley, Aida*
Rebecca Luker, The Music Man
Audra McDonald, Marie Christine
Marin Mazzie, Kiss Me, Kate

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Michael Berresse, Kiss Me, Kate
Boyd Gaines, Contact*
Michael Mulheren, Kiss Me, Kate
Stephen Spinella, James Joyce's The Dead
Lee Wilkof, Kiss Me, Kate

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Laura Benanti, Swing!
Ann Hampton Callaway, Swing!
Eartha Kitt, The Wild Party
Deborah Yates, Contact
Karen Ziemba, Contact*

Best New Play
Copenhagen by Michael Frayn*
Dirty Blonde by Claudia Shear
The Ride Down Mt. Morgan by Arthur Miller
True West by Sam Shepard

Best Revival of a Play
Moon for the Misbegotten
The Real Thing*
The Price

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Gabriel Byrne, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Stephen Dillane, The Real Thing*
Philip Seymour Hoffman, True West
John C. Reilly, True West
David Suchet, Amadeus

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Jane Atkinson, Rainmaker
Jennifer Ehle, The Real Thing*
Rosemary Harris, Waiting in the Wings
Cherry Jones, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Claudia Shear, Dirty Blonde

Best Direction Of A Play
Michael Blakemore, Copenhagen*
Peter Hall, Amadeus
James Lapine, Dirty Blonde
David Leveaux, The Real Thing
Matthew Warchus, True West

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Kevin Chamberlin, Dirty Blonde
Daniel Davis, Wrong Mountain
Roy Dotrice, A Moon for the Misbegotten*
Derek Smith, The Green Bird
Bob Stillman, Dirty Blonde

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Blair Brown, Copenhagen*
Frances Conroy, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan
Amy Ryan, Uncle Vanya
Helen Stenborg, Waiting in the Wings
Sarah Woodward, The Real Thing

Best Scenic Design
Bob Crowley, Aida*
Thomas Lynch, The Music Man
Robin Wagner, Kiss Me, Kate
Tony Walton, Uncle Vanya

Best Costume Design
Bob Crowley, Aida
Constance Hoffman, The Green Bird
William Ivey Long, The Music Man
Martin Pakledinaz, Kiss Me, Kate*

Best Lighting Design
Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, The Wild Party
Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Marie Christine
Peter Kaczorowski, Kiss Me, Kate
Natasha Katz, Aida*

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