Highs And Lows: The 2014 Tony Awards

As we discovered last year, even hardcore theater lovers have to admit that not every Tony Awards moment can be the best. The 2014 awards were no exception. There were some great moments, some so-so ones, and that weird period where Hugh Jackman hopped around tracked by a steadicam. Whether you watched as a theater nerd or as a confused CBS viewer who just wanted The Good Wife, I think you’ll agree that the awards were a mixed bag. On to the highs and lows!

Low, like literally vacillating between 0 and 5 inches off the ground: Hugh Jackman, hopping for the entire opening sequence

At first I thought this was a reference to something … theatre-y, or Australian, or pop cultural that I didn’t know about. But according to Twitter, if there was a reference, nobody got it. Is hopping something that’s happening? The new parkour?

Middle, like a food that is neither sweet nor sour nor delicious nor necessarily awful (eg, Musical Soylent): The Les Mis number

Man, we do like Les Mis (I mean, we liveblogged the movie), but this was just dull. I spent the whole of the number contemplating whether to eat this mini Twix bar I found outside earlier today. I didn’t, because while my standards are low enough to bring garbage candy inside from the ground, they are higher than eating candy that, I reasoned, could have been peed on. Like, that life decision was more interesting to me than watching Les Mis.

Lower, like I guess my expectations should have been: Aladdin: The Musical

I love Disney, musicals, and – I’ll admit it – musicals based on Disney films. So why did that Aladdin number do absolutely nothing for me? One of my earliest theater memories is going to Cats with my family and my dad, during intermission, asking with incredulity: “I don’t get it, is this supposed to mean something?” Exactly, dad. Exactly.

[Evidently my dad thought that Cats was so stupid that he assumed that it must have been existing at a deeper level for so many people to like it. Like, We are all Cats. Or something.]

Higher than most people can sustain for a comfortable amount of time, like that high note at the end: Idina Menzel singing Always Starting Over

This lady is always a pro. Also, it feels like a true honor and privilege to hear her singing something –  anything – other than Let It Go.

Seems like it should be super high but actually isn’t, like when you get up close to Cinderella’s Castle at Disney: Rocky: The Musical

Movies can make great musicals, and over-the-top technological feats can spice up a show – part of me is still the 9-year-old who was blown away by the crashing chandelier in Phantom Of The Opera and the helicopter in Miss Saigon. Yet, the high-tech snippet of Rocky left me a little cold.

Way, way up high, like when I was watching this and my heart felt like it was being elevated by the fluttering wings of butterflies: Pinkham Bryce’s performance in A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder

I think I get frustrated with some shows that seem like they’re catering to the least common denominator. That’s why it’s so refreshing when a show is actually clever. And Pinkham Bryce, well … he’s sort of easy on the eyes, isn’t he?

Soaring high, like an eagle: Audra McDonald’s historic Tony win

Who needs to EGOT when you can just collect ALLLL the Tonys instead? Audra McDonald is a true living legend and a class act, and it doesn’t even get old seeing her win. Although, I’m sure there’s a reason this wasn’t classified as a ‘musical’ but I’m not positive of what it is.

Soaring high, like a bird that flies in a more fun way than an eagle does, maybe a pelican or something: The Hedwig And The Angry Inch performance

Okay, while I love smart musicals, there’s something awesome about shows that are just a lot of FUN. The actors and crowd alike were having an absolute blast during this number, and ultimately that’s what theater is all about. I mean it’s also about expressing the human experience, but sometimes the human experience is fun, okay? Also, bonus cameo by NPH’s adorable husband David Burtka.

Just sort of flitting along, like a bird that doesn’t really go up quite that high – perhaps a baby sparrow or a hummingbird: The Commercials

CBS really out-CBS-ed itself. Is it just me or was ad for Old People Medicines, insurance, and cat food?

High, like a person on meth, I guess?: Bryan Cranston’s win

We ragged on Cranston’s sub-par headshot on the Tony website = not exactly “Faces Of Meth” level, but just not trying. But clearly, he didn’t need to try too hard. The Tony was already in the bag.

 Higher than I would have thought, like my cholesterol even though I’m a vegetarian who works out, I mean what the hell: Violet

If the wedding episode of Full House taught us one thing, it’s that incorporating a robed gospel choir can only make things more spectacular. And Sutton Foster – Jo March of my heart – is always a great fit for those “small town girl makes good” roles.

Lower than I would have thought, like the depressed spirits of so many Irishmen: Sting

He looked and sounded completely like someone that my uncles would hang out with at the Ancient Order Of Hibernians. Not sure if he’s playing an Irish character or just, you know, a sad guy.

Mid-range, like the kind of blah clothes that end up in the ‘donate’ pile when you pare down your wardrobe : For Good

The only thing that a 10 year anniversary of Wicked accomplishes is reminding me that 10 years passed in the blink of an eye. I would not have the mental fortitude to sing Elphaba in front of Idina Menzel herself, and frankly, I don’t think the actress last night did, either. The blending was so-so, both vocally and on Galinda’s wig cap, which covered half of her forehead. Does she have a giant, weird hairline? A facial tattoo? WHY?

Low, like the droopy flopped arms of a white person standing around not knowing how to dance: LL Cool J and TI doing that Music Man thing

They rapped about the Music Man. They told the crowd to get on their feet. The crowd obeyed. Then they all stood there, self-consciously unsure of what to do with their arms. I know the feeling.

High, like the pitch of the audible gasp I let out: Carole King’s appearance during the Beautiful performance

I knew King was there, obviously. I knew Beautiful was performing, of course. But it somehow never occurred to me that Carole King would sing with them. If this made Jessie Mueller nervous as hell, as it would for most humans, she didn’t let on.

Low, like the pit deep in my stomach: Bullets Over Broadway and the reawakening of latent Woody Allen feelings

You know, when all this Woody Allen stuff came back up, I thought “man, it would make it easier if someone would just tell me the proper way to react to this.” Then everyone DID tell everyone else the proper way to react. And it didn’t particularly help. Anyway. Catchy song, right?

Low, like something that just draaaags on and on, like maybe something hanging from the fender of a car: Hugh Jackman’s song before the Best Actress In A Musical award

It was 10:50 pm. Yet, an 11 o’clock number, it was not.

Low, like my glasses would be, on the bridge of my nose, in disapproval, like a librarian from yesteryear: Finding Neverland

I liked Finding Neverland The Movie. I already hate Finding Neverland The Musical That Doesn’t Exist Yet But Is Somehow Performing At The Tony’s. The former was charming, the latter involved Jennifer Hudson in a modern, sequined dress wailing about Neverland as small Edwardian boys jump on a bed and a female, Ginnifer Goodwin-y Peter Pan flitted around.

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2014 Tony Award Winner Predictions (Based Solely On Headshots)

The all-powerful headshot can make or break an acting career. You thought it was talent, hard work, and luck? So did I – until I was 12. That was the year that all of my acting friends got the secret memo to wear makeup and flat-iron their hair before updating their photos. They all looked like they walked out of Seventeen magazine, whereas I looked like.. well, like:

Yep, that’s the headshot of someone who’s going to be stuck in child roles for a good while. The only way I would be playing a girl next door is if the main character happens to lives next door to a Victorian orphanage. So trust me, headshots matter. That’s why I’m pretty confident that the key to this year’s Tony wins is in the almighty 5×7. To be as impartial as possible, we are judging this year’s winners solely by the headshots available on the official Tony Awards website.

Best Performance By A Leading Actor In A Play

Samuel Barnett – Twelfth Night

Okay, the dabbled gray background is a little school portrait. But the icy blue, straight on stare says “I can play dramatic roles!” and the slight smirk says “but if the dialog gets a little funny, I’m on top of it!” The bright flash highlights Barnett’s pale complexion, as if to say “I can play British.”

Bryan Cranston – All The Way

The fuck, Cranston? No. NO. You’re like that one kid whose parents didn’t properly understand sending in a baby picture for that one section of your senior yearbook, and sent one from freshman year instead. You are the default silhouette picture from Myspace. Even Tom doesn’t want to be friends with that.

Remember Tom, everyone?

Chris O’Dowd – Of Mice And Men

Well as I live and breathe. Chris O’Dowd has out-Cranstoned Cranston. There are actual people in the actual background, and you know what? Blurring them out by enlarging the “blemish remover” function on iPhoto is just making me notice it more. Good luck winning a Tony with this Photobucket-quality headshot, buddy. Good freaking luck.

On the other hand, maybe this is clever. Maybe it tells us that he is too busy for headshots — busy going to events where he, and blurry others, wear suits.

Mark Rylance – Richard III

White sheet backdrop aside, this is art. ART. The lowered left eyebrow. The tremulous sidelong glance. The windswept locks. His mouth is even ever-so-slightly agape. It is like everything that Jay Manuel and Janice Dickinson told contestants to do on the early seasons of America’s Next Top Model, except for posing with limbs askew and pretending to have been murdered. I think we might have our winner. And that earring? That’s just boss.

Tony Shaloub – Act One

Like, is this photo editing, or does he have a legitimage twinkle in both eyes? Speaking of Tyra Banks: smizing. Notice how you sort of feel like Tony Shaloub has read the story of your soul, and would recommend it to a friend? It’s all in the smize.
The winner, based on headshot alone: Mark Rylance. That headshot has RANGE.

 

Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role In A Play

Tyne Daly – Mothers And Sons

Okay, now we’re cooking with gas. There’s a neutral but varied background. There’s warm, soft lighting. You know what this looks like? This looks like a headshot where the actress is at least TRYING. See the Shaloub-esque half smile?
Also, I think that, as in paintings by Renaissance masters, if you look at this from different points in the room, Daly’s eyes follow you.
Her face is so captivating that I almost didn’t notice that this photo almost reaches a Glamour Shot-caliber boob suggestion. Glamour Shots: Not the boob itself, but the idea of the boob.

LaTanya Richardson Jackson

FINALLY. Now it’s a contest. Look at this. It’s like Headshot Bingo. Or a headshot drinking game. Let’s count:
(1) Flowy wrap sweater
(2) Gently contrasting background
(3) Statement necklace
(4) HAND SHELF.
It’s like every headshot cliche in one photo. Ms Jackson, I salute you. Question, though: what is up with the curled-up, partially visible left hand?

Cherry Jones – The Glass Menagerie

I’m of two minds here. The first: the blurred background is, well… have we learned nothing from O’Dowd? It looks like Jones is in some sort of outdoor patio or porch situation, which is at least pleasant. Contrast that with O’Dowd, who is in some sort of formalwear context that is almost definitely not fun.
The second: Does she have the headshot smile down or what? Happy but not too happy. Warm without a photoshopped eye twinkle (unless that’s how Shaloub’s eyes are naturally, which… maybe, you know? Maybe.)

Audra MacDonald – Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar And Grill

Even if I didn’t know who Audra McDonald was, which I guess I’m trying to do here, I’d know this was the photo of a champion. That is the cozy sweater of someone who can play a mom or a business professional on a day off. Her hair is glorious. The background is neutral but, with the hint of light oak chair, not antiseptic. There’s gentle accessorizing. There’s nail polish. There’s attractive lighting, like in Barbara Walters specials.
Brava, Ms. McDonald.

Estelle Parsons

While I don’t deny that Estelle Parsons is probably a lovely person and a wonderful actress, this is simply not a Tony Award Winning headshot. That is the downward facing chin of a nominee, not the proud, upright chin of a winner!

Besides, it took me about 3 minutes to figure out that was a scarf tucked into her sweater and not some really weird collar or even weirder neck/chin situation. Tony voters don’t have time for that.
The Winner, Based On Headshot Alone: Audra. That’s the headshot of a lady who came to win.

 

Best Performance By A Lead Actor In A Musical

Now, for a little bit of the ‘man behind the curtain’ in the blogging world: my browser is doing something it’s never done before, and making text and photos appear straight on top of each other, and my curser is moving around will-nilly. So let’s just cut straight to the winner, shall we?
Winner, based on headshot alone:

Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig And The Angry Inch

 

This was a process of elimination win. Ramin Karimloo looked a little too ‘intentionally disheveled hot guy.’ Andy Karl was posed in front of some sort of industrial piping, which, like, you’re in Rocky. We know. Jefferson Mays looked like he was going to turn me into ice with his crystalline blue stare. Between Bryce Pinkham and Neil Patrick Harris, Harris’s headshot was a little edgier. Pinkham’s, shot in soft light with a white background, seemed to say “I’m here for the art, not to win.”

Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role In A Musical

 

Can we discuss these award category names? They are all roughly twice as long as they need to be, right?
The winner, based on headshot alone:

Sutton Foster – Violet

This was another process of elimination. Idina Menzel, bless her talented heart, almost tries TOO hard in her headshot. I’m talking about a wind machine. Jessie Mueller manages to look most like someone I’d want to hang out with in real life – meaning, unlike some theater people, she doesn’t look absolutely exhausting. But she does have the visible, photoshopped background person going on. Kelli O’Hara has so much blinding white light going on that I think she might be the first person I’m seeing after dying.  Mary Bridget Davies brought her A-Game, but Foster’s got the approachable smile down. She was probably smile-coached along with Cherry Jones.

 

So, was my 12-year-old self right? Can you tell a great actor by headshot alone? Tune in to the Tony’s on Sunday night to find out!

Come On and Sit Side by Side by Susan Blackwell

The 68th annual Tony Awards are this Sunday, which for everyone that isn’t a theater nerd like me, it’s basically our Super Bowl. In fact, I used to attend a Tonys party every year with my friends/co-workers from a theatre and it pretty much was our Super Bowl. I admit, I’m not a super geek like some of my pals, but I’m at a level where I watch videos of Broadway stars online in my spare time (or just, time).

A few years ago along my internet travels, I came across this magic web series called Side by Side by Susan Blackwell. Hosted by – you guessed it – Susan Blackwell, an actress who’s been on TV and film, but most notably in the theater world for her outstanding performance in the musical [title of show]. She recruits her fellow Broadway friends for an interview, but not just any interview, it usually takes place in an odd location and includes some kind of fun activity.

My first introduction to Susan was with this interview with Daniel Radcliffe while he was doing How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 2011, and he is legit cleaning her house. Yes, Potterheads, in this video, you see DanRad cleaning a toilet. Seriously. If that’s not enough to get you to watch this then IDK what is.

Actually I do. Susan is charming, hilarious, affable, and has a way to get her interviewees to talk about stuff that not many others can. Oh and she licks her guests on the face. The DanRad vid was a gateway drug into her other Side by Side interviews, so here now are some other standout videos from her collection.

Zachary Quinto

Where: Dog Park

Activity: Watching dogs in a dog park

Highlight: A rousing game of ‘Name That Dog’ and Susan ‘smashing ZQ like a pancake’ on a picnic table

Where: ZQ’s apartment

Activity: Having a sleepover

Highlight: Prank calling Jesse Tyler Ferguson & Smash star Christian Borle

Sutton Foster/Jonathan Groff/Laura Benanti

Where: In Bed/A Horse-Drawn Carriage/Hooters

Activity: Breakfast/Cuddling/Eating Wings

Highlight: Sutton lying in bed with her Tony gown and actual Tony/JGroff singing Left Behind from Spring Awakening/Susan handling Laura’s boobs

Jonathan Groff #2

Where: His parents’ farm in rural Pennsylvania (lit’rally Amish country)

Activity: Chillin in a hayloft, petting some horses and goats

Highlight: JGroff singing a part of Totally Fucked (from Spring Awakening) while shaking a bucket of corn kernels to get the goats to eat

Laura Benanti #2

Where: Ziva Meditation

Activity: Being zen on a couch

Highlight: Playing iPhone roulette and landing on a pic of her former Go On (RIP) co-star taking a nap in her own bosoms

Steven Pasquale

Where: Steven’s apartment

Activity: Using a Vitamix to make super healthy green juices

Highlight: Steven prank calling Taye Diggs and leaving a voicemail as Jim Carrey

Audra McDonald

Where: Great Jones Spa

Activity: Getting massages, drinking cucumber water

Highlight: Audra singing a fantastic version of the Spongebob Squarepants theme song

Norbert Leo Butz

Where: Strand Bookstore

Activity: Sitting in the parenting section

Highlight: Flipping through the pages of a book called Surgery of the Anus, Rectum and Colon

Andrew Rannells

Where: McKittrick Hotel

Activity: Playing with a Ouija board

Highlight: Imitating the pageant hosts on Toddlers and Tiaras

 

Celebs You didn’t know could sing their asses off

If you are an actor and you want me to fall in love with you, all you have to do is serenade me with your sweet, effortless, and amazing voice. There’s just something about being surprised with someone’s vocal ability that goes straight to my heart. Here are some of my favorite actors who have won me over with their voice, and maybe they’ll have the same effect on you.

Audra McDonald

Ok, this might be obvious to you if you’re a theater nerd, but if you only know Audra from her work on Private Practice, then you really don’t have an idea of just how big of a deal she is in the theater world. The woman has won five Tony Awards. FIVE. She’s tied for the record of winning the most Tonys with Angela Lansbury. Legit. Here’s just one of my favorite performances by her, but there’s oh so many to choose from.

Hunter Parrish

Hunter is not just a pot growing businessman on Weeds, he can also sing you a soothing song – possibly while selling you pot. He made his Broadway debut in Spring Awakening, and most recently played Jesus in the revival of Godspell, which is where this amazing song comes from.

Matt Bomer

Sure, you know he’s got moves and a killer bod from his role in Magic Mike, and of course he looks good in a suit on White Collar. But he can sing a Broadway standard with the best of them. Also, he played Darren Criss’ hot brother on Glee, and that was fantastic too.

Jeremy Renner

I never really thought anything of Jeremy Renner before, and it’s probably because I don’t think I’ve seen him in any of his movies? Anyways, he hosted SNL, and he surprised the shit out of me in his monologue by playing the piano and singing at the same time. Where did this voice come from? Please sing more. Kthx.

Bonus Video: Jeremy Renner and Rosario Dawson singing to Ryan Gosling at the IFC Awards. Really.

Zachary Levi

Like most people, I first saw the Chuck star sing on the Oscars a couple years ago, and was pleasantly surprised. But that didn’t stop me from trying to find videos of him singing on YouTube (that’s probably where most sane people drew the line).

Robert Downey Jr.

For those of you that forgot, Iron Man is a singer. He actually released an album in 2004, that is probably still available for purchase. For me, the moment my crush with RDJ went onto full on obsession was when he sang on Ally McBeal. Swoon City, I tell ya. Of course this was right before he went to rehab for the very last time, so his perfect romance with Ally didn’t get to last too long. At least we got a few songs out of it.

Jensen Ackles

I don’t even watch Supernatural. I did watch Days of Our Lives when he was on it, and I thought he was a smokeshow then. And he kind of has a smokeshow country voice now. Yeehaw.

Anna Kendrick

This is a no-brainer if you’ve seen Pitch Perfect. If you haven’t seen it, Anna has been singing forevssss, and was in one of the best scenes from the movie musical Camp, called Ladies Who Lunch. She’s also slated to star in the movie version of my favorite musical Last Five Years, and I cannot wait. In the meantime, check out Anna singing For Good with legendary Kristin Chenoweth, and try to fight back the tears.

Damian Lewis

I accidentally stumbled across this doing my research for this post, and it was too good not to share. This vid appears to be from the season one Homeland wrap party, and Damian sings a classic rock song and dedicates it to Claire Danes  – who is rocking out in the front row. Ugh Brody and Carrie, you’re so wrong it’s right.