My Top 5 Favorite Moments of the 2014 Tony Awards

forkWell, that’s it.  Put a fork in the 2013-14 season, because she is done.  Now that the 2014 Tony Awards have been dished out, it’s time for everyone in the industry to dish out their thoughts on the telecast, the snubs, the speeches and more.

As is customary on this Broadway blog, I’m going to list just five of my top Tony Award telecast moments.  And you know what’s fun?  Ever since I started doing this blog, it’s been getting harder and harder to narrow it down to just a handful.  The telecasts have come a long way, baby, and it is now officially great television.

Here are my Top 5 Moments of the 2014 Tony Awards:

1.  That time it felt like the MTV Music Awards

I could write a 100 page paper with the thesis that Meredith Willson wrote one of the very first raps with his 1957 musical, The Music Man.  But it would never have been as interesting as turning Radio City into a hip-hop show by having LL Cool J and T.I. saddle up next to Hugh to fire some gangsta musical rhymes.

Now look, I’m not going to fool myself and think that LL Cool J fans tuned into the Tonys to see their hero (although his tweet about the “First hip hop performance on the #TonyAwards . . . ” was favorited almost three times more than his usual tweets), having him raise the roof also sent a message to the Producers and Investors and Theater Audiences everywhere.  The next wave of musical stylings to be heard on Broadway is knocking at their door.  I, for one, can’t wait.

2.  That time it felt like the 90s.

Maybe this was one of my favorite moments because I’m now a man of a certain age and have seen many original productions that are now being revived, but there was something special about the performances of Hedwig, Violet, Les Miz and Cabaret.  I’ll go out on a limb and say that it’s because we’re better at revivals now than we ever have been.  Original authors and their estates are more open to reinterpretation and tinkering, technological achievements allow us to do more with less (since revivals have limited shelf lives, their budgets usually have to be smaller than new shows), and the attitudes of audiences have changed so much that we’ve got more liberties with the types of material revived.  In fact, I think it’s important to recognize that not one of the Best Revival Tony Nominees opened prior to 1987.  This was the youngest group of nominees for this award ever.

3.  That time they let the Authors say what their stories were about.

I always imagine that at the Tony Awards post-mortem the first question on the “What We Can Do Better” list is, “What the @%#$ are we gonna do about the plays?”  Well, ladies and gentlemen of the telecast team, I thought you nailed it.  Letting the authors describe their plays got across what the shows were about to the millions of viewers watching, and then you cherry-on-topped it off by giving the shows a Captain Andy few second “sample” just to tease ’em enough.  The short scenes of years past are never enough to fully get what the heck is happening (and I have a feeling that’s where a lot of folks used to reach for the chips), but these 2-3 line exchanges were terrific.

4.  That time history was made.

I predicted Audra McDonald would win because I thought . . .

  1. She deserved it and . . .
  2. All the voters were dying to see what would happen when she waltzed up to that stage and picked up her record-breaking 6th Tony Award.

And we got our wish, and as usual, Audra didn’t disappoint.  The audience leapt to their feet, and Audra McDonald wept like it was her first nomination and she had just been discovered a few months ago at a Friendly’s where she was working as a hostess and hoping to get a promotion to waitress.  The girl’s passion and love and authenticity is just . . . well . . . it’s just why she’s so good, and also why she’s so successful.  She loves it almost as much as she loves her family (“Mommy’s nothing without you, got it?”) and that love comes through in everything she does.  Six.  Can you believe it?  Six!  How hard is that?  Now add to the fact that she’s a woman, and a woman of color and the degree of difficulty just went up about eight times (not like those roles come into town on trucks, you know).  We won’t ever see someone break that record.  Ever.  That’s my prediction.  It’ll stand, and some day, they may even name an award after Audra.

5.  That time they did previews of the upcoming season.

If I was doing a “Top 5 Controversies at This Year’s Tony Awards” Blog,  the preview numbers from upcoming shows would definitely be on it according to the feedback I got during my Tony Awards live tweet last night.  I’ll agree, I’m not sure the numbers came off as well as they hopefully will in future years, but I do like the concept of giving the audience around the world a taste of what we’ve got simmering on the stove.  More of this actually happens than you may realize from just watching at home.  During the commercial breaks, there are mini commercials shown at the telecast on the big screens of upcoming shows (It’s Only A Play had one, actually, even though we couldn’t even announce all of our stars yet).   So this year, that idea was stretched out to the telecast, partially because, well, one of them was performed by monster rock God, Sting.  This is going to be a hard nut to crack because

  1. The shows haven’t been built yet so actors and such may not even be hired and . . .
  2. The lobbying that is going to start happening will be worse than a new health care law (Michael Riedel reported some behind the scenes stuff already for one of this year’s numbers).

I do think this will be a continuing trend, and I’m happy about it.  Now we have to figure out how to deal with it as well as we’ve figured out how to deal with the new plays.

Oh, here’s a bonus Favorite Moment . . .

6.  That time Neil Patrick Harris’s understudy went on . . .

It was great having you back, Hugh.  We missed you.  It’s so obvious you love Broadway and love hosting, and we’re thankful that we get to see you once in awhile.  Just please come back and do a musical.  I know it’s a big commitment.  I know X-Men pays a lot of money.  But you can’t see the smilin’ faces you put on audiences when you’re in a movie.

 

And there you have it!  My Top 5 Favorite Moments from this year’s Tony Awards.  But more importantly, what were yours???  And that was not a rhetorical question.  There are two ways you can tell me what you thought of the show:

  1. Comment your Favorite Moments below for everyone to see.
  2. Fill out our Tony Telecast Satisfaction Survey!

Yep, every year we take a survey to see what you, the diehard theater fans, thought of the show.  Take the survey now by clicking the link below and I’ll announce the results next week!

Take The Tony Telecast Survey Today!

For a complete list of the 2014 Tony Winners, click here.

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)
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Comments
  • and next year, better, more comprehensive, streaming video of the things that don’t make the show. And it was a terrific show!

  • Iris says:

    I thought the way Hugh introduced the Lead Actress categories was brilliant and so fun! Also, as you said, the way the plays were presented was fantastic!
    I think I liked the idea of giving a sneak peak of the upcoming season BUT if they keep this up in the next years it should be shows that will definitely be on Broadway the next season (which is apparently not yet decided for Finding Neverland) and it should actually be exciting performances (unlike Sting, which sadly was a bore) and it shouldn’t “steel” performance spots from other shows such as Bridges of Madison County, who should have been up there last night.
    On another note, that opening number made no sense to me and a lot of other people I talked to. What was the deal with the hopping?

  • Mike Locke says:

    I can’t get behind having ads for future shows when you don’t fully honor this years. Almost no tv time and no streaming for the tech awards is very sad. Broadway actors know the importance of all those that work before and after they get to the theatre, shouldn’t the Tony producers? If you have to you can use the “naked on an empty, dark stage” analogy. My survey will say cut the previews and show all the awards.

    • Todd says:

      I agree — I don’t think spots for future shows is a good idea; people can’t buy tickets now, there is a chance they won’t happen, they aren’t cast,etc. It is especially objectionable if it takes away from showcasing the awards and in the case of Sunday’s show, why no number from BRIDGES?? It won the best score for God’s sake. Would rather have see that than the awful rap or yet another WICKED number. It doesn’t need the help. Also, not telecasting the memorial reel was tacky.

  • J says:

    A “commercial” montage would be great if all the nominated shows get to perform, as well as the in memoriam, lifetime achievement and tech awards get aired.

  • Catherine Downey says:

    I have to say, I was reallyyyy bummed that they skipped over airing some important categories live so that Sting and Gloria Estefan could get free plugs for their upcoming shows. I mean, is best score really a throwaway category that no one cares about? I would’ve loved to see Jason Robert Brown accept that award. They aired it last year–oh wait, Cyndi Lauper is a celebrity, so of COURSE they wouldn’t pass that up.

    Sometimes I feel like the Tony Awards do the same thing the conservative party does in politics. If they can get anyone relatively famous to endorse them, they bend over backwards for them!

    Okay, I’m off my soap box now.

  • Overall, I LOVED the show! However, the most poignant moments for me were Kenny Leon’s acceptance speech because he got to plug “Holler If Ya Hear Me” and “The Music Man” rap featuring LL Cool J, T.I.,and Hugh.

    I’ve written the book for a hip-hop musical and I’m hoping these forerunner moments will open the door for me and so many others to walk thru!

  • S says:

    You didn’t do so well on your predictions, Ken.

  • fran says:

    Loved it. Wanted Hugh to have a longer opening monologue.

  • Susan says:

    The best part to me was having the authors describe their plays. That was terrific. I too, did not understand the hopping.

  • Michele Yohanna says:

    I loved the show. Hugh Jackman is a perfect host since he is so multi talented..but the only thing I didn’t see..and should have is In Memoriam. They should have let people know who was lost this past year. I read that they ran short of time. Cut a number..but don’t leave out people who were a part of the NY Theater that left us.

  • Maeve says:

    Hi Ken, thrilled to see the hip hop element, too, especially because… I’m producing a hip hop theatre version of a famous epic Irish tale, “The Tain”, opening in Limerick, Ireland on 20th July and running for six nights!

  • Janis says:

    As is indicated by the ratings, the producers of the Tonys should watch their time slot. The NBA Finals beat the Tonys with a rating of 10.2, up from last year.
    The Miss USA pageant was up over last year and beat the Tonys in adults 18-49, though The Tonys had a bigger (aging?) total audience
    ABC drew just under 11 million viewers and a 6.6 rating/11 share in households.
    CBS took a second, but beat out NBC’s 5.4 million viewers and 3.4/6. FOX trailed with 2.2 million viewers and a 1.4/2.

    Ratings for the 8 p.m. tony slot:
    ABC: NBA Finals Game 2 6.5/11)
    CBS: 68th Tony Awards (7.6 million, 4.9/8)
    NBC: Miss USA 2014 (4.4 million, 2.8/5)
    FOX: “The Simpsons” rerun (2.3 million, 1.4/3)/”Family Guy” rerun (2.4 million, 1.5/3)
    The leader among adults 18-49: NBA Finals (4.0)

    9 p.m.
    ABC: NBA Finals (13.1 million, 7.8/13)
    CBS: Tony Awards (7 million, 4.4/7)
    NBC: Miss USA 2014 (5.75 million, 3.5/6)
    FOX: “Cosmos” finale (3 million, 1.9/3)
    18-49 leader: NBA Finals (5.3)

    10 p.m.
    ABC: NBA Finals (14.1 million, 8.4/14)
    NBC: Miss USA 2014 (6.5 million, 3.9/7)
    CBS: Tony Awards (6.4 million, 4.1/7)
    18-49 leader: NBA Finals (5.9)

    Ratings include live and same-day DVR viewing.

  • gerry szymski says:

    My favorite moment occured near the end when Hugh announced the female actor in a lead in a musical. His encounter and serande to each deserving nominee was a great new way to present the category. Sutton looked delicious in hot pink, Kelli’s faint routine worked, Jessie’s fervor for the work was genuine…I Loved It!!

  • rosie says:

    Letting the playwrights introduce their plays was brilliant, and the best innovation from this year’s broadcast.
    Favorite moments were Audra’s win and Carole King introducing and then (surprise) singing with the cast of Beautiful.
    Not broadcasting the memorial segment was unforgivable. Cutting the creative awards to a few seconds each is a travesty when you have 3 full hours and then waste time on tired numbers from shows we’ve all seen before, poorly conceived presentations of previews (Neverland in particular) and performances by people with no connection to Broadway or theatre.
    I like looking at Hugh, but NPH is a much better host.

  • Bruce says:

    Agree that Audra McDonald should have won the Tony since her performance was one of the best I’ve ever seen on the stage. But I hope you’re wrong that she won because all the voters were dying to see what would happen when she waltzed up to that stage and picked up her record-breaking 6th Tony Award. That’s no reason to win an award.

    So sorry that they had to devote time to Wicked. So sorry that Clint Eastwood made a “presentation.” Loved the Music Man rap. Who woulda thought? Loved seeing Carole King.

  • Michael Edan says:

    Thought tony’s was good but not great. Favorite moments: 1. Clint Eastwood snubbing Hugh backstage at the beginning opening number. 2. Salute to the rap of ‘Music Man’. 2. Hugh as MC. 3. Authors presenting their plays. 4. Neal Patrick Harris’s performance. 5. ‘Gentleman’s Guide’ performance. 6. Carol King
    Things I didn’t like. 1. Five minutes for musical numbers and ONLY 30 seconds for seeing sections of each play. 2. Not having a In Memoriam [really tacky]. 3. Previews of future shows [if you don’t give appropriate on air time for certain key creative awards, I’m sorry but I think musical score is pretty major] then you should not add stuff. 4. The hopping at the beginning. Excuse me? Hugh is an amazing talent and that idea was just stupid, not funny, and not entertaining. 5. Am I correct in my thinking they did not air the lifetime achievement award? I did switch during commercials to ‘Game of Thrones’ so I might have missed it. If they DIDN’T air it then I think that was a mistake. Yes the speeches for the lifetime achievement awards can be VERY boring, and many times the general public will have NO IDEA of who the heck this person is, but EXCUSE ME it’s honoring a LIFETIME OF ACHIEVEMENT in the field that you are having the awards show for; can we have a little respect please; can we take a reality check please.

  • I hear that although the “In Memoriam” segment for the late David Rogers was not aired on tv, it was still presented at the show. I spoke with his widow today, June Walker Rogers. I met her and David at The Theatre Artists Workshop of Westport. And she said several of her friends had called her and her daughters to TELL them that David had been mentioned, because they were THERE at the show. But the tv audience never saw it.

  • Alex B. says:

    If anyone remembers, many years ago (either the late 80’s or early 90’s), the Tonys presented 3 songs from upcoming musicals including one from Sondheim and one from a musical version of Treasure Island (it might have been the same show). I don’t think any of them ever made it to the stage. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  • David Rigano says:

    I’ll join those who felt that, as lovely as the previews for next season were, they shouldn’t take precedent over this season. I would have loved a performance from the Best Score winner, but more than that I’d like to actually see the awards given at an awards show. Bumping the top creative awards in the musical category so that Wicked (which did not win) could perform is just sad.

  • Cheryl says:

    I was thrilled that Hugh was hosting again,
    but they didn’t fully utilize his talents. The hopping was fun, but got tedious after a bit.
    Did anyone know that was an homage to Bobby Van, a great song and dance man who starred
    on Broadway in No, No, Nanette?

    They should have had a bigger opening number with Hugh doing what he does best, a song and dance. I loved the rap number, which was an
    extension of what Hugh performed in his Back on Broadway show. Every night he did “Rock Island” as a rap song, and it was great to have him do it with actual rappers!

    NPH may be the toast of the town right now, but
    Hugh is the host with the most!

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    A decent show overall, but shameful to cut the Memorial segment!

    Shame on you, Les Moonves!

  • Michael Burnett says:

    I very much liked the idea of authors of straight shows presenting their works with a short summary. However, the slight to the design side of these has gotten worse and adding previews songs of this fall didnt work. Keep thinking Tony Awards Production Staff there must be a way to give more stress to the design people without going to midnight. Also, as all awards shows do, the last award gets shafted because time is running out. A great speech was washed out by the orchestra. Stop being so lenient at the beginning (and dont deny that you arent).

  • Gary says:

    Loved Hugh, but I think if you are going to reference an old film in the opening number, it helps to know what the film is. I think they should have shown the clip of Bobby Van hopping and then morphing into Hugh entering Radio City.
    Loved most of the show, but agree, should have shown “In Memorium”. Also, disappointed with the way some of the numbers were shot- camera was all over the place trying to get closeups, which really weren’t necessary. Would rather see full cast!

  • Jared says:

    Sorry, Ken, but I hated the preview numbers. I think they take the focus away from the season past which the Tonys are supposed to be celebrating. I had 15 people crammed into my Manhattan apartment to watch the telecast and when Sting performed, everyone pulled out their phones and started checking Facebook. Because the songs are from musicals that aren’t even finished yet, I thought the performances were unpolished and actually made me less interesting in the upcoming shows, not more.

    That said, I thought most of the shows from this season gave excellent performances. I particularly liked how “Gentleman’s Guide” solved the problem of presenting their best song AND still highlighting Jefferson Mays’ amazing performance by having him introduce the trio. I also got a little choked up seeing the beyond deserving Audra McDonald’s reaction to making Tony history.

  • Jared says:

    I will also agree that not airing the In Memoriam segment was pretty tacky. If you have time to have Jennifer Hudson (as amazing as she is) sing a song from a musical that isn’t even confirmed to be coming to Broadway, you have time to honor the industry greats who passed on this year.

  • Jeff Wyckoff says:

    Does anyone know if it is possible to see the unaired memorial segment? And, if so, how?

  • Zach says:

    The most unnecessary and egregious inclusion in the telecast was a full performance of “For Good” from Wicked. The show needs no additional publicity, they’re sold out every night, and to showcase that above creative awards and the In Memoriam segment was just poor taste. I didn’t have as much of a problem with the preview performances.

  • Stuart Green says:

    Of the moments that resonated most: Darko Tresjnak’s foreign-tongued speech to his Mother, Mark Rylance’s honoring of another, Jessie Mueller pumping her hands while dancing in the Aisle with Hugh, Jefferson A-Mays-ing character transformations and the Hip Hoppery of Hugh, there were so many moments that made for a great show and wonderful time!

  • Todd says:

    Jeff, you can see the IN MEMORIUM segment at Playbill.com.

  • Todd says:

    One more thing — if the point of putting on the musical numbers is to help ‘sell’ a show, then GENTLEMENS’ GUIDE did a great job. I haven’t seen it yet and the spot really made me want to go. ALADDIN, ROCKY and LES MIZ had the opposite effect. The first two seemed mediocre and the singing for LES MIZ was pretty screechy and and loud. No thanks. And all that close up camera work did Idina Menzel no favors — she came off looking kind of crazy and wild-eyed.

  • Karen McDonald says:

    I stopped reading this article when you said that not one of the revivals was originally on Broadway before 1987. Cabaret was originally on Broadway in the 60’s with such greats as Lotte Lenya and Jack Gilford. Not to mention a young Joel Grey

    • Jared says:

      Except “Cabaret” wasn’t actually nominated in the Best Revival category, meaning Ken’s assertion is still technically correct.

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