By Wayne Harada
So the 2013 Tony Awards have come and gone, and the London-imported “Matilda” took a swift kick from homegrown “Kinky Boots” and the reinvented Cirque du Soleil bon bon called “Pippin.”
So from a sofa perch, what were the 10 best moments to remember?
No. 1 — Neil Patrick Harris, the star of CBS’ Monday night “How I Met Your Mother” sitcom, as emcee. His “Bigger” opening number, in the bigger Radio City Music Hall (than the previous upper west side Beacon Theatre), was loaded with agile dancing, pertinent and spot-on lyrics (by Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Hispanic who won Tonys for his “In the Heights” musical, and Tom Kitt) about the awards to come, with insights and ironies galore, and magical in how this one night unites all of the spectacles of the Great White Way.
No. 2 — NPH’s closing number, “Empire State of Mind,” was preceded by his lament that time was running short so the finale had to be scrapped. Not so; this wind-up, which paid homage to Jay-Z’s version that earlier featured Alicia Keys, was a savvy, swift and right-on-the-target recap of the previous three hours, with Audra McDonald doing the vocal honors this time, coupled with Harris’ rap.
No. 3 — Alan Cumming’s comment, about the snub he received with co-presenter Scarlett Johansson, made him truly a good sport; in “Macbeth,” he was all over the map and surely worthy of consideration doing this unconventional Shakespearean turn. Might have been a better Night of the Neglected if Bette Midler was teamed with Cumming, since she also worked her butt off in her solo outing in “I’ll Eat You Last,” where she enacted the life and times of agent Sue Mengers. She probably was invited, but declined to participate — do you blame her? So Cumming wins the atta boy award.
No. 4 — Cicely Tyson, at 88, became the eldest Tony winner ever, for her Carrie Watts role in “A Trip to Bountiful.” Her acceptance speech was stellar; starting out with a bit of controlled nervousness, but concluding with a lot of keen wattage on why she’s the remaining survivor in her family.
No. 5 — It’s a hard-knock life, to be a replacement actor in an ongoing stage hit, but Jane Lynch killed ‘em with her “Little Girls” solo as Miss Hannigan in “Annie.” She towered over the little orphan girls, though with more charm than menace than, say, the frightfully facist but fantastic headmistress Miss Trunchbull in “Matilda,” played by Bertie Carvel, a man in case you didn’t know, who should have received a special Tony for such tank-like grit in the guise of an educator. So “Glee” lives on Broadway while the Fox show is on hiatus.
No. 6 — Who can resist Sandy, the pooch, in “Annie.” But really, NPH got into kind of a smoochest with the Sunday, with wet tongue exchanges in a closeup. NHP muttered that he was in a relationship but that didn’t bother dandy Sandy. Woof!
No. 7 — The comeback of Cyndi Lauper, who no longer can be considered a novelty. Back when she was a pink- or yellow-haired oddity as she made her mark in pop music, now she’s a Tony-winning composer for her score in “Kinky Boots.” This girl still just wants to have fun, but now she has Broadway gold, and she showed her updated “True Colors” when she performed her old hit during that “In Memorium” segment honoring Broadway figures who passed this past year.
No. 8 — Mike Tyson may be out of the ring these days, and less you forget that he did have a brief one-man-show run on Broadway, he was a good sport centerstage as NPH made him prance and dance (neither of which he can do well, but he was willing) in production numbers, and was the butt of ongoing jokes that included a reference to his facial tattoo. Show biz has become Tyson’s latest wrinkle; remember, he was part of the fraternity in original “The Hangover.”
No. 9 — It was a smart move, to employ casts of shows still running on Broadway, to participate in set-ups for nominees. Thus, the gangs from “Newsies,” “Spider-man,” “Mamma Mia,” “Once,” “The Lion King” “Jersey Boys,” “Rock of Ages” and “The Phantom of the Opera” were highly visible, some even performing. But what happened to “The Book of Mormon”?
No. 10 — Broadway has happily and generously recognized the black community of actors. Several picked up Tonys in a sweep of sorts. To wit: Cicely Tyson is playing a role earlier enacted by Geraldine Paige, in “A Trip to Bountiful.” Patina Miller, in “Pippin,” is portraying The Leadying Player, a role previously played by a man (a winner, in fact, in Ben Vereen).
And Billy Porter (in “Kinky Boots”) and Courtney B. Vance (in “Lucky Guy”) solidified the conquests among black performers. Perhaps this development will bring shout-outs from the Hispanic and Asian communities, which didn’t get much leverage this past season.