After a bickering backstage setup, the sequence kicks into gear at the three-minute mark; playing a woman in a spiral of personal and professional rejection, Holliday grabs her aria by the throat and squeezes every breath of wailing pathos from it. Astonishingly, she was just 21 years old at the time.
A master of dynamic stagecraft, director Michael Bennett opts for aching slowness here. Holliday's movement grounds her in implacable abjection, right up to the number's startling penultimate image: After a giant gasp, her face a Kabuki mask of pain, the singer moans out a final note and reaches a desperate arm out for rescue as she sinks behind the golden waves of a falling curtain. Has there ever been so pure a distillation of drunken joy as Michael Jeter's performance in this ebullient number from Grand Hotel?
As a terminally ill accountant bent on living the good life while he can—encouraged by a shady baron a sturdy Brent Barrett —the liquid-limbed Jeter seems to lose his bones completely. He leaps, flails, twists and kicks with a breathtaking mix of control and release; in Tommy Tune's witty staging the bar is a barre , he flashes out in gorgeously messy relief from the tight chorus doing Charlestonish steps behind him.
This number is widely credited with reviving Grand Hotel 's financial fortunes, and Jeter received a well-deserved Tony for Best Featured Actor—ending his acceptance speech, ironically, with a moving testimonial to hard-won sobriety. The strange thing about performing in the vast Radio City Music Hall, where the Tonys have been held nearly every year since , is that solos or relatively small scenes—which can be captured closely on camera—tend to fare better there than larger-scale production numbers, which often seem a little lost in the space.
The best-case scenario, of course, is a solo by a performer with a presence and talent big enough to fill the hall as well as the camera. The song itself may seem encouraging and hopeful, but in the context of show it's more like a threat: the denial spasm of a woman who will not let reality get in her way. In LuPone's epic performance, sung with extraordinary power, this smother-mother's raw fury takes center stage—watch her rip that letter!
Michael Bennett's backstage musical, A Chorus Line , had generated so much excitement, and its win for Best Musical at the Tony Awards was so widely expected, that Tony producers gave the show both the first and last spots on the telecast that year.
The former was a version of A Chorus Line 's own celebrated opening number: an audition sequence that portrays aspiring Broadway dancers being put through rigorous paces before stepping forward to disappear behind their headshots. The concept is sharp and the deconstructed dance is quick and thrilling, but the sequence is also notable for the way in which it was photographed reportedly under Bennett's supervision ; it has a noticeably more cinematic sensibility than other performances from the period.
But what a number! In a bright red dress at the center of the party, making head movements that give new meaning to the term rubbernecking , is Bennett's longtime muse, Donna McKechnie, one of the great show dancers of all time. And as the music morphs into Elton John's familiar tune from the soundtrack, Taymor produces a fantastical menagerie of puppet beasts—flocks of birds, herds of antelopes, jungle cats, giraffes, an elephant and a rhino lumbering up the aisles of Radio City Music Hall.
Just before she clears the decks to make way for a nifty nautical tap-dance number, Patti LuPone turns and gives the crowd a lingering wink—both a come-on and a playful hint that the show is all in fun.
Refurbished for its return to Broadway after half a century, Cole Porter's frisky lark was unapologetically old-fashioned, and Michael Smuin's dances perfectly channel the vintage vibe—especially in the title tune, performed by crewmen in white and gals in barely anything. LuPone, perhaps the last of the great Broadway broads, anchors the tune with a lustiness that says, "Hey, sailor! A French pop opera that had been translated and expanded into a London hit, Les Miz took New York by storm in , sweeping audiences into a saga of love, greed, revolution and redemption.
Absent its high-tech turntable set, the ensemble's rousing Tony performance of "One Day More"—an Act I finale that introduced the show's major characters and musical motifs, with close-ups and smart sound mixing to help sort things out—made a strong impression with just a few back-and-forth steps and a waving red flag.
The British invasion of Broadway was officially on the march. Hamilton really is everything: a drama, a comedy, a character study, a spectacle, a lesson, a romance, a war story, a historiographical critique. No single number can convey that breadth, but this medley, drawn from the hip-hop half of the score—and perhaps chosen because the cast had already performed Hamilton 's opening number on the Grammys—conveys a thrilling sense of the show's electric energy and historic impact.
Not every Tony nominee gets an introduction by Barack and Michelle Obama. Performing his own material center stage, Lin-Manuel Miranda pushes Broadway forward into vigorous contemporary relevance.
Eliot, performed on an oversize trash heap by a chorus dressed in yak fur and Kiss-y makeup. For a lesson in the gap between an original and a reproduction, first watch the perfectly respectable performance of "Sing, Sing, Sing" by the cast of the dance revue Fosse on the Tony Awards. Then watch the Tony performance of the number it was re-creating, from Bob Fosse's show Dancin'. The moves are the same, and the tempo of the music is identical, yet the two performances seem radically different. Danced in costume by a cast that includes a young Ann Reinking, the version that Fosse supervised plays faster and looser.
Every second of the number is suffused with the jazzed-up spirit of a swinging party; it bursts with flesh, flash and abandon. But under the heavy-lidded eye of director-choreographer Bob Fosse, this invitation takes on a slightly sinister cast. At first, we see only an eerie arrangement of hands; and when the heavily made-up ensemble emerges from the dark, led by a sinuous Ben Vereen, its players are oozily eroticized—knowing, used and intent.
It's almost impossible to watch Hairspray 's relentlessly peppy finale without eventually giving in to the urge to bop along. The number's lather-rinse-repeat structure—in which the show's five major character groups get a verse apiece, with energetic refrains after each—is built to wiggle its way into your brain.
It's also hard to forget the sight of Harvey Fierstein in his parade-float fuchsia dress. And Jerry Mitchell's zippy choreography doesn't give you a moment to catch your breath, especially as performed by a pre- Glee Matthew Morrison, leaping for joy in a gleaming white suit. Sometimes the smallest number can bring down the house. The limpid young Sydney Lucas plays to the camera instead of to the house, and the result has a time-stopping intimacy.
The extravagant Ziegfeld-revue format of this extravaganza allowed its creators to go all-out in mixing cowboy kitsch and Broadway glitz.
The spectacular high point, created by Tommy Tune and associate choreographer Jeff Calhoun, places Keith Carradine in the middle of a row of beautiful women—cleverly decked out in red, white and blue, with powder-puff bosoms and tambourine hats—for a Rockettes-worthy explosion of precision dancing, made all the more impressive by the fact that the chorus is seated the entire time.
It's a heightened moment of conversation; she barely moves from her seat, and he doesn't sing at all. As the camera glides in to capture these moments, the whole world seems to swoon. But for the Tonys, the show chose Harold Prince's brilliant staging of its Act I closer, in which an aquiline, predatory LuPone knocks out huge notes that help explain Eva's role in the political rise of her populist-strongman husband: When this lady belts, people listen. As the ensemble around him morphs into a joyful jazz orchestra of movement, Hines holds your attention with captivating ease and virtuosity.
As a Washington Heights bodega owner with dreams of winning the lottery, the supremely charming Lin-Manuel Miranda turned the stage of Radio City Music Hall into a block party in this vivacious medley from his Best Musical winner. The seeds that Miranda planted here would bloom, nearly a decade later, into Hamilton. Alice Ripley is like steel wool: a cleansing mess, at once cloudlike and tough.
Her raggedness is perfectly attuned to the mental distress of her character, a psychotic suburban mother, in the Pulitzer Prize—winning Next to Normal. In this powerful sequence, torn between a loving husband and an idealized son, Ripley is terrified and terrifying.
She all but dares you to go to the ledge with her and jump. One of the first rock musicals to sound like contemporary rock music, Spring Awakening throbbed with new blood—a quality accentuated by an attractive young cast fronted by Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele. By offering a medley instead of a single number, the show smartly emphasizes newness, speed and change.
And when the cast explodes into the last song, whose unsafe-for-TV language the actors preemptively struck, the nothing-to-lose wildness of Bill T. Ben Platt gave an astonishing performance as the awkward title teenager in Dear Evan Hansen , and this song conveys a sense of the high-wire emotionality and gorgeously smooth and expressive voice he brought to the role. Platt makes this flawed character highly sympathetic. Choreographer Christopher Chadman, a longtime associate of Bob Fosse's, came up with a staging that is pure musical-comedy elation.
This Tony number has it all: Slot machines! Hand claps! Fake jazz trumpeters in tight green shirts! A showgirl on a flying cutout of a horse! A dead ringer for Chris Kattan's Mango! Future Gilmore Girls granny Carole Bishop working a long white boa! And, as a button, a final shout-out of the title of the show, in case you might have missed it: "Golden Rainbow!!!
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