The best and worst moments of the Tony Awards

Best: Obviously, Jennifer Holliday There were a lot of good numbers in the Tonys first half, and even a few in the second half. But no...


There were a lot of good numbers in the Tonys first half, and even a few in the second half. But no one else did what Holliday did when she stepped into the limelight and blurted out, “And I’m telling you I’m not.” It’s not just that she sings her signature song like no one has ever sung anything. It is because the song is secondary, just the outward expression of something much greater in her. Musical theater at its best delivers the human soul, in joy or agony or confidence or shame, to an audience ready to receive it; it is a communion. For a few minutes, 40 years after knocking us down for the first time, she did it again, in joy, agony, confidence and shame. JESSÉ GREEN

As the red carpets roll on, the Tony Awards are often defined by what it doesn’t: an hour of E! Commentary, haute couture affiliations and months of angst over who which designer will wear. But what it lacks in marketing, it makes up for in the soul, especially this year, Broadway has just reopened after the ravages of pandemic closures. Instead of action heroes in penguin costumes, you get David Byrne in a royal blue outfit, no tie and no white brogues. And wherever golden boy Jeremy O. Harris goes, the rugs shine a little brighter. STELLA BUGBEE

Sonya Tayeh’s striking gothic goddess look on Sunday night’s Tonys – a shiny black tuxedo with a tuxedo belt and no blouse; black hair straight down to the hips on one half of the head, the other half shaved; big shimmering hoops and a lip piercing – would have been enough to place her on any list of the best. But it was his touching acceptance speech for the best choreography, for “Moulin Rouge! The musical, it shook me. Delivered so calmly and thoughtfully, he shifted the energy of the room. Tayeh, 44, said: “As a queer, brunette Arab-American woman, I haven’t always been welcome. It takes gracious hands to lead people like me out the door. His mother is Lebanese; her Palestinian father, who was not part of her education, died when she was young. “It’s been 10 years since a woman won this award,” she continued. “While I am honored to be a part of this legacy, this legacy is too small. ” MAYA SALAM

In an industry that is constantly working on its accessibility level, and scrutinizing it closely, why do they make it harder for the public to watch the vast majority of rewards? All but three of the honors were awarded exclusively on Paramount +, not to mention some of the best performances of the night. I have internet access and the bare minimum of streaming to sign up (and cancel my free trial at the end of the week), but many interested theater fans don’t. Paramount + also doesn’t have the ability to rewind and pause its stream – otherwise how am I supposed to go back to the start of Jennifer Holliday’s mind-blowing performance and watch it ad nauseam? NANCY COLEMAN

Lois Smith did something that no one else who spent nine decades on this planet has achieved: won a Tony Award for his role as an actor. Smith, who won the award for Best Actress in a Play for her role in “The Inheritance,” praised “Howards End,” the book by EM Forster on which the play is based, naming it her favorite novel. And then she quoted the famous two-word message from the novel, a fitting message for the return of live theater: “Connect only”. SARAH BAHR

I saw “Moulin Rouge! The Musical ”- about a thousand years ago, if my math is correct – and I felt a sensory overload at the end of it. Tony’s viewers caught a glimpse of it in the cast’s performance: multiply those vibrant skirts, high kicks and lively pop numbers with a few acts and an intermission, and you’ve got one of the most energetic musicals ever. of recent Broadway history. I enjoyed it at the time, but Sunday’s effort – pre-recorded at the Al Hirschfeld Theater, the show’s home base – felt like the musical had finally found the perfect setting. Watching any theatrical work behind a screen can tone down its intensity, and maybe the initial mood could use a bit of dampening. But what better time to revel in the adrenaline rush and liveliness of going to the theater? Everything about “Moulin Rouge! – or, at least, the upbeat games played on Sunday nights – are full of celebrations. This is exactly the kind of bursting abundance that we have missed so much over the past year and a half. NANCY COLEMAN

The success of the first half of the dual-airing made me believe that the show’s writers and producers had finally seen the error of their past ways. There were no cute introductions, no fake patter, no pyrotechnic chyron frills, just sincerity, warmth and professionalism, modeled by Audra McDonald as the host. Then the second half arrived, going back on the promise of the first. By the time his host, Leslie Odom, Jr., engaged Josh Groban in a run-down comedy – Odom drew the supposedly surprised Groban on stage to pay an ‘impromptu’ tribute to theater educators – you knew the show had turned his back on the intelligence of the theater he was supposed to honor. There was nowhere to go but down. JESSÉ GREEN

The Winter Garden Theater roof was barely attached after Jennifer Holliday’s scorching rendition of “And I Tell You I’m Not Going,” but Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel’s “Wicked” reunion threatened again to detonate it. The actresses, who created the roles of Glinda and Elphaba respectively, sang “For Good,” a duet that – with Chenoweth in a beanbag-pink dress and Menzel in a dark black number – reflected the extremes of the pandemic halt. off Broadway and vibrant, four-hour return. And when they sang the line “I’ve been changed for good”, it was like they were speaking for an entire industry. SARAH BAHR

“Freestyle Love Supreme” has been around for nearly two decades, its run to Broadway in late 2019 was strong enough to earn it a Special Tony Award, and one of the founders of the musical improv troupe is a Broadway darling himself. , Lin-Manuel Miranda. But instead of being a highlight of the night, Tonys’ on-the-fly recap fell victim to its setting. Freestyle Love Supreme generally thrives on contributions from the public. But the broadcast clock was ticking, and instead of interacting with the myriad of stars in front of them – which would not do you want Andrew Lloyd Webber to describe his day for the sake of comedy? – these performers gently reconstructed the moments we had just experienced, and with little improvisation. There was certainly a lot of talent on stage: theater fans like Miranda, Chris Jackson and James Monroe Iglehart; and awesome rising members like Aneesa Folds and Kaila Mullady. It just made the end of the night even more disappointing. NANCY COLEMAN

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