The revival of Follies wasn’t as loved as I had expected, perhaps just a case of out of sight out of mind, but the remainder of awards was delivered as I had predicted. The original Once was the big winner of the night, not only picking up the Tony for Best Musical but also wins for director John Tiffany, actor Steve Kazee, librettist Enda Walsh, orchestrator Martin Lowe, and sound designer Clive Goodwin (the first nominations and awards for all those men), as well as additional trophies for lighting designer Natasha Katz and set designer Bob Crowley.
Also as I had guessed, previous nominees Michael McGrath and Judy Kaye won nods as featured performers for their nice work in Nice Work, the first win for him, the second for her – both of hers for shows with chandeliers, as she noted. Newsies also picked up Tonys in two categories, one for its choreography by Christopher Gattelli and another for its music by Jack Feldman and Alan Menken, the first wins for all three men.
Gregg Barnes picked up his second career Tony for the costumes in Follies, but contrary to my predictions, Audra McDonald garnered her first leading and her fifth overall award (tying the record held by Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris) and Porgy and Bess was named Best Musical Revival.
Neil Patrick Harris, hosting for the third time, was once again charming and clever, from the opening “What If Life Were More Like Theater” to the closing “There’s No Time” (both by Cry Baby writers David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger), including a virtuosic tongue-twisting medley from some classic musicals. Also clever were the running sight gags of physical humor staged behind Harris and others, particularly during the lead-outs to commercials, though the Spider-Man schtick during Ted Chapin and Angela Lansbury’s appearance seemed a bit overlong and distracting.
Patti LuPone was also quite fun, not only in her opening cameo but also in her impromptu duet with her Evita co-star Mandy Patinkin, which unfortunately only highlighted the lack of incandescence in this year’s Evita co-stars Elena Rogers and Ricky Martin, whose rendition of “The Money Kept Rolling In” was among the evening’s disappointments. Other low points were the bombastic numbers from Ghost, Leap of Faith and Jesus Christ Superstar and the lackluster performances from Godspell and the non-Equity cruise ship production of Hairspray.
Other highlights were the selections presented from Newsies, Nice Work and Porgy and Bess, which should help their box offices, but I think Once was not as well served. “Gold” is one of the standout moments in Once, but the sound requirements of the broadcast flattened Goodwin’s expansive aural design and the visual jump cuts undercut the emotional impact of John Tiffany’s staging. Still, it was a beautifully performed number, and the show’s Tony wins should ensure a healthy life.