mon 24/06/2024

Tony Awards 2012: One Guvnor, two Disneys, Once scores eight | reviews, news & interviews

Tony Awards 2012: One Guvnor, two Disneys, Once scores eight

Tony Awards 2012: One Guvnor, two Disneys, Once scores eight

A good night for James Corden and Audra McDonald but most of all for an unconventional Irish movie musical

Disney's 'Newsies' won two awards including best choreographyDeen Van Meer

James Corden (One Man, Two Guvnors) made it past the finish line, Tracie Bennett (End of the Rainbow) did not, and the art-house musical Once trumped Disney’s latest Broadway entry, Newsies, at the 66th annual Tony Awards in New York last night. The ceremony, honoring the best of the Broadway season just gone, was available in real time to nocturnally minded London theatre folk, who could watch the CBS gala streamed live on the web.

So it was round 3.30 am in Britain when this country’s best hope for a 2012 Tony emerged victorious, Corden nabbing the top prize that had eluded him at the UK’s Olivier Awards in April and sidelining in the process Philip Seymour Hoffman (Death of A Salesman), the English funnyman’s prime competition. The prize marked the only victory out of seven nominations for Guvnors, which has been doing nice but not yet sellout business since hitting New York this spring.

The question now surrounding the show will be what to do when Corden’s contract is up at the end of the summer; his surpassingly gracious acceptance speech reiterated anew that the next thing on his mind is marriage to girlfriend Julia Carey back home in England, which means he will either be recast (as in London) or the play will close.

Elsewhere, the ceremony belonged to the little-musical-that-could, Once (pictured right by Joan Marcus), adapted from the 2006 Irish celluloid sleeper and about as far from conventional definitions of a Broadway blockbuster as one could imagine. Wistful, delicate, and possessed of a not especially happy ending, the stage adaptation cuts against the Broadway grain in practically every way, inviting the audience on to the stage upon arrival for a drink in the curved pub that defines Bob Crowley’s beautiful (and Tony-winning) set. London-based Irishman Crowley was responsible for one of the show’s eight Tonys, as Once fended off the producing behemoth that is Disney and their latest show, Newsies, an elaborate pep rally of a musical that doesn’t particularly need awards to clean up at the box office (as it has done so far).

Newsies did win for choreography and for Alan Menken and Jack Feldman’s score but had been tipped to do rather better in the final tally than was in fact the case. The prevailing affection for the fragility of Once over the in-your-face peppiness of its Disney confrere attests to Broadway’s ability on occasion to see beyond commerce, as was borne out several years back when Avenue Q beat Wicked: a David-vs-Goliath story that was replayed in the American press between this season’s two top musical contenders.  


Other items of note included the surprising lack of love (in trophy terms, anyway) for the broadly acclaimed revival, now closed, of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, a critics’ darling that in the end won a single Tony (for Gregg Barnes’s costumes) and that wasn’t helped by a production number from co-star and nominee Danny Burstein that made next to no sense seen out of context of the show itself. The musical revival award went instead to The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, whose galvanic star Audra McDonald won her fifth Tony Award, albeit her first in a leading role. Only 42 next month, McDonald looks well on track to surpass Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris, with five apiece and both in their eighties, as the performer with the most Tonys ever.

Elsewhere, in an evening featuring fewer Brits than is often the case (Hugh Dancy, for instance, should have got an actor nomination for his part in the wildly overrated two-hander, Venus in Fur), Once director John Tiffany gave a lovely speech that referenced, among others, the Royal Court’s artistic director designate, Vicky Featherstone. Rather more flustered was best play winner Bruce Norris for his already Olivier-lauded Clybourne Park, who composed himself long enough to name check the Court’s current chief, Dominic Cooke, as an important contributor to his biting comedy’s ongoing success.

As for End of the Rainbow’s Judy Garland, English actress Tracie Bennett, the Broadway neophyte doubtless felt a sense of déjà vu, losing best actress in New York to Nina Arianda (Venus in Fur) as she had previously lost the Olivier back home to Nancy Carroll (After the Dance) - and on the day that, as was pointed out multiple times on the red carpet, Garland herself would have been 90. Still, Bennett’s own Cinderella story with that play, from London pub to toast of Broadway, won’t be lost on British actors pondering when their turn at the Tony podium might come. Or as One Man, Two Guvnors’ Oliver Chris tweeted in typically irrepressible fashion during the ceremony: “After much consideration, I have decided that I would like to win a Tony.”

Audra McDonald looks well on track to surpass Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris as the performer with the most Tonys ever

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