In which Juan Peron performs "Pinball Wizard," an Oscar winner dresses down, and Tracie Bennett carries a flag.
TONY AWARDS? Been there, done that several times. Drama Desk Awards? Done that twice now. More intimate, but it still feels a little like a crazed public event.
But if you ever want to feel like a true theater insider, get yourself invited to the Theater World Awards.*
These people have been handing out trophies to actors and actresses making their New York theater debuts since 1944. Past winners come back to present or perform. In the orchestra of the Belasco Theater on a Tuesday afternoon in June, I had never felt more like a real part of the theater community. (Which critics/reporters/editors/bloggers really aren't. We know. But we all have our illusions.) Here are some of the things we truly loved.
(*Editor's Note: theatergossip.com follows New York Times style, and the style rules include spelling the building in which plays, musicals, movies and other entertainments are performed "theater," not "theatre." No matter how the owners of said theater or theater-related institution choose to spell it.)
Which winner quoted from "The Wizard of Oz"? And is there ever a good reason for that?
1. Brian Stokes Mitchell, a past winner for "Ragtime," singing "I Was Here." In that casual, crisp white shirt hanging loose over jeans (or they may have been khakis), as if he'd just wandered into a rehearsal. In the dream-ballet version of life.
2. Michael Cerveris recreating a great moment from "The Who's Tommy," accompanying himself on the guitar as he rocked "Pinball Wizard." Cerveris was Tony-nominated this year for his role as Juan Peron in "Evita," but he's even better in rock mode.
Quien es mas macho? A turn-of-the-century newsboy, an aging salesman's aimless son or a disciple who betrayed Our Lord?
Did they choose the male winners this year for performing or for being young and devastatingly good-looking? Just to choose three at random:
3. Jeremy Jordan (the star of "Newsies," but being honored for his turn as Clyde Barrow in "Bonnie and Clyde").
4. Finn Wittrock (he was Happy in "Death of a Salesman").
5. Josh Young (Judas Iscariot in "Jesus Christ Superstar").
The last time I saw this kind of aggregation of male beauty in one place, I was in Ireland on the set of "The Tudors." But then, with apologies to JFK's comment about Thomas Jefferson, I have never been around when George Clooney dined alone.
6. Tracie Bennett, who was a shoe-in for her performance as Judy Garland in "End of the Rainbow," came onstage waving a tiny Union Jack. A loyal Briton, she didn't want Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee celebration, going on in London, to be ignored.
7. Josh Young again, for his practical view of religion. "Despite my Judaism, I'd like to thank Jesus Christ."
8. Jeremy Jordan again, for his self-deprecating explanation of why he became an actor. "I just knew I didn't want to be myself."
9. Russell Harvard's very gracious acceptance speech, which he both spoke and signed. Harvard, who is hearing-impaired, received his award for his portrayal of a deaf young man in "Tribes."
10. Leslie Uggams's claim that David Merrick had fallen asleep during her audition for "Hallelujah, Baby!"
11. David Alan Grier admitting with a comic gleam in his eye that seeing how good Phillip Boykin was as Crown in "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" brought out his envious side.
12. Wesley Taylor saying pretty much the same thing about Jeremy Jordan. "All I could think to myself" the first time I saw him, Taylor recalled in his introduction, "was 'What an asshole!' "
13. Isabel Keating's clever introduction in which she managed to relate Hettienne Park's college days as a double major in economics and religion with her win for appearing in Tony Kushner's "Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism & Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures." (Park also won for "Seminar," making her Off Broadway and Broadway debuts in the same season.)
14. John Cullum. Just because he's John Cullum. (His Theater World Award was for the 1966 production of "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.")
Who were those cute little girls handing out the awards?
THE SETTING!15. "End of the Rainbow" is playing at the Belasco, and the set remained in place during the awards presentation. Since it's supposed to be a suite at the Ritz Hotel in London, that worked just fine. And it gave Bennett a chance to say, "There's no place like home."
16. Jennifer Lim, a winner for "Chinglish," looked fabulous in a soft black jacket, black top, black and white new-silhouette short skirt and sparkly black shoes. She was also the first recipient to bend down and make eye contact with the little girl (one of two from the forthcoming "Annie" working the show) who brought her award onstage.
17. Short red dresses were big, but Crystal A. Dickinson, who won for "Clybourne Park," was a vision of summer in a light blue jacket, white pants and dreads.
18. Philip Seymour Hoffman turned up looking as if he had run out to pick up something at the hardware store,
19. Victor Garber, who appeared tieless, thanked Hoffman for dressing that way.
20. Tony Sheldon's lavender tie matched his file folder.
Why hasn't theatergossip.com posted about the Tonys yet?
2012 THEATER WORLD AWARD WINNERS
Tracie Bennett, "End of the Rainbow"
Phillip Boykin, "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess"
Crystal A. Dickinson, "Clybourne Park"
Russell Harvard, "Tribes"
Jeremy Jordan, "Bonnie and Clyde"
Joaquina Kalukango, "Hurt Village"
Jennifer Lim, "Chinglish"
Jessie Mueller, "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever"
Hettienne Park, "Seminar" and "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism & Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures"
Chris Perfetti, "Sons of the Prophet"
Finn Wittrock, "Death of a Salesman"
Josh Young, "Jesus Christ Superstar"
DOROTHY LOUDON AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
Susan Pourfar, "Tribes"
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