This year’s Antoinette Perry “Tony” Awards was a fast-paced, no-nonsense affair, almost to the point of being a bit mercenary. With acceptance speeches kept to a minimum, a number of awards given offstage and the show’s weight put on those snappy musical scenes, it was a polished but emotionally dry postcard from Broadway.
Glenn Close took over hostess duties ably enough, but gave the show very little pizzazz until the end, when she tearily picked up a best actress award for her work in Ariel Dorfman’s “Death and the Maiden.”
“I accept this award for my daughter, Annie Maude … I hope she grows up someday in a world community where cruelty and abuse doesn’t exist anymore,” Close told the crowd, referring to themes within Dorfman’s drama.
More than any Tony program in recent memory, this year’s show was Hollywood’s turn on Broadway, as Close handed off duties to Michael Douglas to award the best play, who then intro’d his dad, Kirk Douglas, to award best musical honors. Star power ranged from Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin in the audience to Sigourney Weaver, Richard Dreyfuss and Gene Hackman all handing out awards onstage.
“I’m so glad to see so many of my friends from Hollywood on stage this year because I know how much they had to fight their agents and producers to get here ,” Kirk Douglas told the audience.
The star power and the splashy musical numbers certainly gave the show television appeal, as the awards program rocketed along at a breakneck pace, only slowing for a moment to give the big winners a chance to give their thanks.
“I have a lot of people to thank … and I’m sorry Joe Cates, when you get your first Tony you just have to … ,” noted Faith Prince, upon picking up her award for lead actress in “Guys and Dolls.”
What it came down to was taskmaster Cates’ attempts to nip and tuck whenever possible, all in the interest of getting the Tonys in on time. Last year the scenes from dramas were cut; this year, backstage awards such as costume and scenic design were awarded backstage, with winners only given a moment to walk onstage.
The end result was a show that concerned itself more with the entertainment factor than the awards, but since it was a televised event, it likely appealed to a broader audience.
By the end of the first hour, scenes from all five shows nominated for best musical were already done, with musical revivals then put on in the last hour. Dramas, often considered dead time on awards shows, were again a no-show. But there were the appropriate amount of mentions to AIDS awareness, the National Endowment for the Arts and Amnesty International.
All in all, it still rates as the best awards show of the year, although there have been more memorable shows in the recent past that allowed for such things as warmth, spontaneity and tears.