June 15, 2008

Take Me Back to the Tony's



The 62nd Tony Awards were a battle between the traditional classics of the American theater and their pimped-out, modernized contemporaries. The winner - the classics.

An ode to times past, revivals of Gypsy and South Pacific, and a tribute to Rent and The Lion King, stole the show. Gypsy took home three Tony's for best featured actress, actor and best starring actress in a musical. Patti LuPone's acceptance speech was everything that is wonderful about Broadway - oozing drama, slapstick comedy and a diva tude. It has been 29 years since LuPone won her first Tony for Evita (She was also nominated for Anything Goes and Sweeny Todd, but lost), but she is still as fabulous as ever. South Pacific racked up a whopping seven awards, including one for Paul Szot for best leading actor in a musical.


But the most memorable moment came when the original cast of Rent sang "Seasons of Love." My first Broadway show (I have since seen it five times), the ground breaking musical has defined a generation and reshaped the modern musical. My favorite Broadway stars - Anthony Rapp, Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs - gave a heartwarming performance dedicated to the shows creator, Jonathan Larson, whom died before the show opened. Closing in September, Rent paved the way for this year's only real worthwhile new musical, In The Heights.



The other nominees for best musical (Xanadu, Passing Strange and Cry Baby) were sub par. A mix between hip hop and spoken word poetry, In The Heights nabbed the night's top prize. It's creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, wrote the first version of the show when he was only a sophomore in college.

Modern musicals have incited criticism for war, poverty and disease, but the classics help us to escape these devastations. And sometimes sitting in a theater in the middle of Times Square and getting lost in the ornate costumes, upbeat showtunes and elaborate set, is exactly what we need.

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