They Say The Neon Lights Are Bright

So Sunday night was Tony Night. Generally, I adore the Tonys, because as you may have figured out from me mentioning every month or so, I really love theater. I hadn’t seen much of the nominated work this year, and we were being led by Hugh Jackman instead of Neil Patrick Harris, being that NPH was busy winning a Tony this year.

It’s a slightly different vibe than the past few years and the show kind of suffered for it. Jackman’s past outings hosting were great. The year that he was nominated for The Boy From Oz, was a particular favorite of mine, but this year felt like the host was phoning it in. The show as saved by truly transcendent nominee performances, however. Sutton Foster’s performance for Violet was unbelievable, as was Idina Menzel’s for If/Then. Obviously, I lost my mind as Jessie Muehler sang “I feel The Earth Move” only to be joined by Carole King. (And then when Meuhler won. I mean, seriously.)

I also wish that Rocky would have chosen something other than the final fight to be it’s performance. (One of the duets or either of Rocky’s Act I songs…)

Bryan Cranston won, because this is an award show, so obviously, he had to win something. I’m halfway convinced that he might get an Oscar for Godzilla this year…

But of course this is the Tonys, and the evening will always belong to two people.

And those people are Neil Patrick Harris and Audra McDonald.

For her portrayal of Billie Holiday in the play Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar And Grill, Audra won her 6th Tony. She is now the most decorated Actress in Tony history. She’s amazing. Her speech was emotional and lovely and her tribute to her daughter and step sons were completely wonderful. She cried. She always cries. Also, at the very end, when Hugh called the all the winners up on stage with him, she sprinted up. Because she’s the best. Our First Lady, Audra McDonald just always owns the Tonys.

The there was NPH. Neil is currently performing in Hedwig And The Angry Inch, which is a story about a rocker who went through a botched sex change operation, which leaves her with only an “angry inch” as genitalia. The song that they sang on The Tonys was “Sugar Daddy” and it was incredible. NPH was walking around the audience and gave Sting a lap dance. His acceptance speech was lovely, thanking his husband David, talking to their children, apologizing for his extended absence from their normal routine. It was just lovely.

There’s one more thing that I wanted to touch on that separates the Tonys from other awards shows.

And that’s women.

While yes, seeing that The Gentleman’s Guide To Murder won for Best Musical was fun, I don’t think anyone was even talking about the Best Musical Category. You know what everyone I know was talking about?

Best Performance By An Actress In A Musical.

Jessie Muehler won.

She was up against Idina Menzel, Sutton Foster, Kelly O’Hara and Mary Bridget Davis.

All of these roles were fully realized characters driving forces in their shows. Not a one was “The Love Interest” to a male lead. In the case of Idina and Sutton, they were the reason that shows happened at all. If you look at representation, it’s just no contest that women are better represented on Broadway than in other media, and I’m absurdly proud to be so much a fan of something that for some reason seems ahead of the rest of the things I love in this way.

No one waffles on Broadway that a female star and female driven vehicle will open. Even before Frozen, I doubt anyone hesitated to finance and bring If/Then around.

Violet is an obscure strange musical that used to play black box theaters, but attach Sutton Foster to it and it’s worth opening on Broadway.

Wicked celebrated it’s 10th anniversary this year.  10 years of a show that’s entirely about the friendship between two women is THE HIGHEST GROSSING SHOW IN BROADWAY HISTORY. It’s just a part of the fabric of the culture that I hope the rest of the things I love start paying attention to. We spend money, and spend a lot of it, when we see ourselves represented in some way.

Also diversity! Both of the straight play awards went to Women of Color (but I mean, it’s Audra, Queen of the Tony’s), as was the Best Actor In A Supporting Role In A Musical, and a musical about trans people was a major winner. Queer themes aren’t exactly as breakthrough on Broadway as elsewhere, because, it’s Broadway, but it’s still pretty cool.

I’m just saying that while Broadway isn’t perfect about these things, they’re worlds ahead of other forms of mainstream media and deserve at the very least a pat on the head.


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