A Sunday at Radio City

Last night were the American Theatre Wing’s 63rd Annual Tony Awards, which celebrate the best of Broadway. Unlike other award ceremonies, the Tony’s are actually open to the public, though the tickets will cost you quite a bit more than a Broadway show and you gotta dress up in a tux! For those of us who can’t shell out a few hundred bucks and aren’t connected enough to get in for free, the next best thing is to see the Dress Rehearsal, which I was fortunate enough to attend this year!

Now, you can’t just attend the Dress Rehearsal, you have to know someone. Tickets are also raffled off some times or given as prizes as sweepstakes as well. The best part was that my ticket was absolutely free!
In short, it was AWESOME! The Dress starts at the ungodly hour of 9:00am and lasts till 1:00pm, giving all the performers time for a break before their matinees. It was general seating, but limited to the first mezzanine (there were some more important people in the orchestra).
They spent the first 45 minutes or so working the extensive opening number (Part One and Part Two), which amazingly featured all the talent you may have seen on TV or in those YouTube clips, except for Elton John. Imagine our disappointment when the lights came up and there was an Elton John stand-in. However, the likes of the rock band Poison, Allison Janney (in the cast of 9 to 5), Constantine Maroulis (in the cast of Rock of Ages), as well as Dolly Parton, and yes, Liza Minelli were there!!
Once they made it through the opening number once, they went back and started at the top, running through the entire show in real time, down to the speeches and commercial breaks too!
We were actually able to experience what happened in the theater during the extensively long commercial breaks, which was a combination of some live entertainment by a small jazz group, as well as some very funny videos, including one that was a funny compilation of mock auditions for the musical Shrek.
Obviously, the nominees weren’t there, but most of the presenters sure were! That’s includes Jane Fonda, Carrie Fischer, James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Marcia Gay Harden, Anne Hathaway, Angela Lansbury, Edie Falco, Lucie Arnaz, Kate Burton, John Stamos, Audra McDonald, David Hyde Pierce, Oliver Platt, and Frank Langella. Only some of the big wigs were missing, like Will Ferrel, Susan Sarandon, Kristin Chenoweth, and Harvey Fierstein. They all came out, opened their envelopes, and read a winner, prefaced by “for this rehearsal only.” Then, the music started and and their name was up on the screen.
But with none of the nominees there, who came up for the speech? Well they had about a dozen or so stand-ins, who rotated between nominees and presenters who weren’t there. When the nominees were announced, they were sitting in the respective nominees seats, so that the camera men could get practice as to where they were. Once the practice winner was announced, the respective stand-in came up to give a fake speech, which was kind of brilliant. Some of them were really funny, such as “I’m so grateful to be up here for the 10th time today!” If they gave a short speech, they told them to keep going to fill the alloted time.
Oh, and did I mention that Neil Patrick Harris was the host?
Now, as for the actual Tony broadcast last night. I actually found it to be kind of disappointing, and not just because I had already seen everything except the winners. The winners were all amazingly predictable, and there really weren’t any surprises. Billy Elliot was the well-deserved big winner, as expected, though, admittedly, I was rooting for the underdog, Next to Normal.
Unfortunately, what stood out most in the broadcast were the glaring technical glitches. There were a plethora of glaring audio problems, many of which existed during the Dress Rehearsal too. The most strikingly obvious was Elton John’s mic, which was not working when he sang the very first note of the broadcast. You can hear the mics cut out a few more times in the opening sequence. Also notable was Titus Burgess’ mic not working at the top of “Sit Down Your Rockin’ the Boat” from Guys and Dolls. A stage hand ran onstage to give him a handheld mic.
And of course, the absolute highlight of the night, which everyone is still talking about, was Bret Michaels’ (lead singer of Poison) unfortunate encounter with the set, as he was struck in the head by a screen that was flying in, which knocked him to the ground. Supposedly, he broke his nose and had to get 3 stitches. Maybe it’s punishment from the theatre gods for lip-synching on stage (did you notice that in the video)? You can see a close-up of the accident below.

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