Wisely, the producers of this year’s Tony Awards show didn’t try to outdo Neil Patrick Harris’s showstopping intro number from the 2013 Tonys. Host Hugh Jackman was charming as ever, and the 2014 Tonys showed that big production numbers are alive and kicking in new musicals as well as revivals.
But would these numbers, in and of themselves, have made me want to see the shows? Mostly not. My off-the-cuff impressions of the production numbers staged at the Tony Awards ceremony added up to a pretty mediocre level of excitement.
Rocky: The Musical? Good fight, boring number.
Cabaret? Love Alan Cumming, but in small-excerpt form, the show felt aged and tired – been there, done that.
Aladdin? The top-notch all-around-entertainer skills of Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart couldn’t lift this number above the pedestrian.
Violet? Great voices, and I’ll never ask you to turn the volume down on Sutton Foster. But the big gospel-choir number just made me think, “Oh, right, another one of those.”
Speaking of church, who better than RuPaul to introduce Tony winner Neil Patrick Harris in a smashingly over-the-top glam-rock number from the Tony-winning Hedwig and the Angry Inch? But while Hedwig is a powerful show, the songs taken individually, as music, have always seemed to me to drift rather than to build. Much as the Tony broadcast did Sunday night.
Even Idina Menzel, singing her heart out on “Always Starting Over,” wouldn’t have sold me on If/Then. It just isn’t the knockout music that a celestial talent like Menzel needs.
Speaking of people who’ve starred in Wicked, its current leads turned up to sing a number celebrating that show’s 10th anniversary Broadway season. Alas, all they really proved is that Idina Menzel/Kristin Chenoweth casting comes along only once in a lifetime.
As for shows still upcoming, even Jennifer Hudson couldn’t fizz up a flat number from the yet-to-open Finding Neverland.
On the other hand, Sting sold me on The Last Ship when he sang the aching title song from his upcoming musical by that name. The comic motormouths of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder would have sold me on that show too.
But for pure high-powered razzle-dazzle nothing new matched the full-on production number of “One Day More” from the current revival of Les Misérables – whose original Broadway production debuted way back in 1987. The only thing that came close was the show’s opening number, from After Midnight. It seemed to promise a more exciting Tony Awards show than CBS could deliver. Rapping “Music Man” or no rapping “Music Man.”