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2011 Tony Awards Show: Hits and Misses

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Sunday night’s Tony Awards show seems to have been as much an infomercial intended to advertise the Broadway product as it was an occasion to reward the best of the 2011 season. The inclusion of musical numbers from last year’s winning Memphis, the Lincoln Center production of a concert version of Company which will be appearing in theatres across the country, and the disaster-prone, yet-to-officially-open Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark to the exclusion of the actual presentation of what some must have considered the “lesser” awards may have been more entertaining for the TV audience, but they clearly demonstrate someone’s priorities, and those priorities aren’t exactly awards.

That said, the four-hour show had both its highlights and its lesser moments.

First the hits:

The musical number from Kander and Ebb’s The Scottsboro Boys gave viewers an opportunity to get some idea of what this innovative show, which had closed before its time, was like. Presumably it will tour, and perhaps this taste will help it find an audience.

The energetic tap number from the Anything Goes revival was a convincing demonstration of why Sutton Foster was soon to be a Tony winner.

Andrew Rannells’ “I Believe” from The Book of Mormon was a showstopper and only one of a number of highlights associated with the multi-award winning production, including Trey Parker’s shout-out to Joseph Smith and Nikki M. James’ endearing excitement over her award for featured actress.

As far as acceptance speeches go, John Larroquette was nicely ironic and low-key about his featured actor award for How to Suceed…, and Mark Rylance may have mystified some viewers with his acceptance via prose poem recitation. Although it seems he’s done it before, it still feels fresh.

Neil Patrick Harris, from beginning to end, is just about everything anyone could want in a host. Whether entering on the War Horse puppet, reeling off Spiderman jokes against the clock, or doing his end-of-show rap, he is nothing short of a latter-day Bob Hope.

Brooke Shields showed that beneath that ideal beauty beats a real human being.

Frances McDormand’s fashion statement was refreshing if nothing else. It certainly distinguished her, if not from The Edge, at least from the rest of the crowd.

Now for some of the lesser moments:

The dramatic actors’ little introductions to their nominated plays were weak substitutions for a glimpse or two of the productions.

Too often the remarks written for the presenters were so pretentious that you had to admire the presenters’ ability to read them with a straight face.

Actors shouting their thank-yous over the music telling them to get themselves off the stage leave something to be desired. There has to be a way to get them off the stage that is less intrusive—a hook, perhaps.

Of course the most annoying thing about the show for theatre lovers had to be the relegation of so many awards to announcements around the commercial breaks. It is important to entertain the audience, but it is equally important to celebrate the award winners.

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About Jack Goodstein