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June 13, 2011

Having a gay old time at the Tony Awards show

A colleague of mine at the Sun walked into the office the morning after last year’s Tony Awards saying, “Was that the gayest show ever?” He didn't exactly sound pleased, either.

I can’t imagine what the poor guy will think after Sunday’s fabulous ceremony, which started with that fabulous Broadway's-not-just-for-gays-anymore production number and went on to be peppered with many a gay reference or resonance. (I've attached a clip of that curtain-raiser below -- I hope YouTube doesn't pull it.)

Me, I thought it was terrific. Mind you, I don’t usually watch awards shows. Too many boring spots, too many commercials. But those three hours Sunday night, at least on TV, seemed to fly by and with far fewer hitches than “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” has had. And, yes, it was awfully gay. That’s what gave it such a kick.

Neil Patrick Harris is too good to be true -- cute, funny, a very competent singer and dancer, and a host who actually makes you believe he is welcoming everybody into his world. From the way he nailed the hilarious opening song (I can’t remember any Academy Awards show starting with something so witty, succinct and just plain fun) to the way he delivered the rushing rap at the close, Harris demonstrated a remarkable cool factor. (That not-for-gays-anymore song was written by David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger, creators of “Cry Baby.”)

As for the actual awards, there didn’t seem to be too many surprises or strange choices. It was a glorious night for those of the Mormon persuasion -- nine Tonys for "The Book of Mormon" and some great references to a religion that is bound to come in for even more attention as the presidential race heats up.

I especially loved Trey Parker’s acceptance remarks, reminding folks who like the show that they will have to atone for it one day, and thanking “our co-writer who passed away, Joseph Smith.”

The “I Believe” number from the “The Book of Mormon” was ...

a great choice for the awards broadcast, letting everybody at home know what the fuss is all about. Ticket sales probably had an uptick during last night’s TV performance. (If my editors knew what was good for me -- I mean good for them -- they’d send me to New York on a Broadway round-up story so I could report back to my faithful readers on “The Book of Mormon” and all the other must-sees.)

It was, well, heartening, to see Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart” receive a Tony for best revival of a play, 30 years after the world started keeping toll of deaths from a disease that seemed to be targeting gay men. Kramer’s acceptance speech must have driven some folks crazy, with its description of gays as “a special people” (I wondered if he added that as a riff on all the Mormon talk).

On a lighter note, there was cute little Daniel Radcliffe hoofing it up mightily in “The Brotherhood of Man” from “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” (you gotta admire the guy for continuing to break out of his movie persona).

And we all got to hear a number from the cursed “Spider-Man,” the show that will finally open next week after, what, three years of previews? The song didn’t make me want to rush out and get a ticket, but it was nice to get a taste of what could still end up being one of Broadway’s monumental crashes.

The Tony show had an off-moment or two. Chris Rock was as needlessly vulgar as ever (couldn’t he learn by now that you don’t have to bend over a microphone to be heard?).

There were glitches, too, of course, including some professional actors who couldn’t read cue cards; the inevitably teary, over-the-top speeches (I’m still trying to understand Nikki M. James and the bumble bees -- she's pictured above in a Reuters photo); and some fashion oddities, including those from Whoopi Goldberg, wearing what looked like a cross between an 18th-century tricornered hat and a small building, and best actress winner Frances McDormand, who looked like she had just gotten out of bed and grabbed her previous day’s clothes off a chair before rushing to the Beacon Theatre.

In the end, though, I still say it was a great ceremony, celebrating the variety and considerable quality of this year’s theater scene. And, yes, it was the gayest show ever.

Fabulously so.

Posted by Tim Smith at 7:03 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Drama Queens


I agree. It was a great show and Neil Patrick Harris is so awesome, it's hard to believe he was once Doogie Howser.

The clip was great, and I never thought I'd say this about an award show: I'm sorry I missed it. DVD, please?

Hey, I never thought I'd get all the way through an awards show, but that opener sure hooked me. And I think some of the highlights would make a great DVD souvenir. Maybe someone will take us up on that. Thanks for commenting. TIM

I love the Book of Mormon. I have read the Bible and the Book of Mormon many times and they have given me a special gift - a belief in Jesus Christ, who I know to be the Son of God. This play will soon be forgotten, but the Book of Mormon will live on as Another Testament of Jesus Christ in the hearts of millions. Look to the life of Jesus Christ and you can see the true path to happiness is serving God and serving others - which is what our missionaries, and missionaries of many other religions do.

I think the point about the bumblebee is that by all rights it shouldn't be able to fly, but no one told the bumblebee, so off it goes.

Thanks awfully. I always was a little slow. (I won't even mention the best actor speech and all those walls). TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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