Last night’s Tonys were first-rate, if a tad predictable. Chris Rock, presenting the award for Best Musical, expressed what everyone in the room was thinking when he read out the inevitable winner, The Book of Mormon, in a sarcastic parody of shock. Everyone got it.
The Tonys often serve as little more than a sad reminder of just how little originality the commercial musical theatre has to offer right now. More often than not, a show wins simply by virtue of not being terrible. In that way, despite the inevitability of Mormon taking home the top prize, it was a considerable comfort to see two excellent musicals (the aforementioned winner and The Scottsboro Boys) alongside the usual generic musicals that fill out the nomination quota (Catch Me If You Can, Sister Act). And Mormon really does have one of the funniest scores on Broadway, certainly the funniest since Avenue Q, which deservedly won the Best Musical Tony at the 2004 ceremony. Some of the lyrics are a tad sloppy, but the concepts of the songs are strong enough that the lyrics don’t have to be impeccable in order for offensively hilarious musical comedy to ensue.
That said, it would have been nice to see the Tony for Best Score go to The Scottsboro Boys, the last collaboration between John Kander and the late Fred Ebb. Alas, it seems that, just as they did with Chicago, Kander & Ebb have produced a work that may only be appreciated with the passage of time. And The Book of Mormon’s score was also a very deserving work, so I’m far from broken up about the final results. Certainly either of those shows were infinitely more deserving than the generic Sister Act or the disappointingly flat Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.
The biggest turkey of the evening, as it turns out, was a number from a show that won’t officially open until Tuesday: Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. Leaving behind the wire-work (probably wisely), the number consisted of a deathly dull romantic duet between the two leads. I suppose the music was interesting enough, but the lyrics were mediocre at best, and at worst something far more heinous. I fear I may have emitted an audible groan when Mary-Jane declared in song that there was “No such thing as time,” which is not true, and if true is not in any way relevant to her relationship with Peter Parker.
Neil Patrick Harris was, as always, a terrific host (though that really goes without saying). Brooke Shields managed to make a complete arse of herself twice in the space of an evening. The ATW threw every award it could find at The Book of Mormon, as if desperately signaling, “Hey, we know a good show when we hear one! See?! See?!!” And all in all everyone got a show that the frequently dull Oscar and Emmy ceremonies could stand to take a lesson from.