Tony Awards 2015: 'Fun Home' gets best musical as women break through with wins
Jun 07, 2015 | 8:10 PM
The 69th Tony Awards didn't air live on the West Coast, but we brought you updates and analysis from inside the show. Notable wins included "Curious Incident" with best play, "Fun Home" with best musical, Alex Sharp of "Curious Incident" with lead actor in a play, and Kelli O’Hara of "King and I" with lead actress in a musical.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions
Josh Groban, 100-plus member choir makes Twitter cry
'Fun Home' wins best musical
"Fun Home" wins best musical.
Neil Patrick Harris winks at his Oscars flop
The Tonys fixture, presenting the award for lead actress in a musical, took the opportunity -- his first major awards-show appearance since his rather ignoble performance as Oscars host -- to acknowledge his misstep.
Kelli O'Hara of 'King and I' wins lead actress in a musical
Kelli O'Hara wins actress in a leading role in a musical for her performance in "The King and I."
Phylicia Rashad's 'In Memoriam' intro goes over extremely well
'Fun Home's' Michael Cerveris wins lead actor in a musical
Michael Cerveris wins actor in a leading role in a musical for his performance in "Fun Home."
Backstage with Ruthie Ann Miles: Her advice to her younger self
Here in the press room at the Tony Awards, the same question is being asked of each winner who stops by: What advice would you give your younger self?
The answers tend toward the general: Be brave; slow down and smell the roses; don't expect success to come overnight. Ruthie Ann Miles, though, gave one of the most surprising answers of the night: “Don't be a dentist!” Miles said without hesitation as she stood on stage with the Tony she had just won for her performance in “The King and I.”
Miles' win was for featured actress in a musical, but the stage was not her first calling. Miles said she was actually studying to be a dentist when she made the switch to acting, a move that has served her well. In addition to the Tony, Miles won a Theatre World Award and a Lucille Lortel Award for portraying Imelda Marcos in “Here Lies Love” in 2013 off-Broadway.
Miles became emotional as she discussed her childhood, growing up the daughter of a single mother in Korea and Hawaii.
Like most girls and young women, she said she often was at odds with her mother.
“In hindsight, my mom is my everything,” Miles said, breaking down in tears as she recalled her mother working three jobs to raise her. “She was sacrificing her life so that I could go to college.”
'Neverland' gets more attention than some actual nominees
Of the many shows to earn musical attention during the Tonys telecast, few raised more eyebrows than "Finding Neverland."
The Harvey Weinstein-produced J.M. Barrie tale wasn't nominated for any awards Sunday, but it got plenty of airtime anyway. A cutaway to Weinstein opened the telecast as hosts noted the show's stellar box office, and its fantasy number "Stronger" got a full-blown sequence.
Musicals that are still running tend to get exposure during the telecast, but this wasn't the first time "Neverland" appeared at the Tonys. Last year Jennifer Hudson sang a number as a teaser of sorts for the show's opening.
Weinstein has suggested that the inclusion of a "Neverland" number at last year's Tonys may have worked against him with voters this year.
Where the Oscars seem to have stalled somewhere in the “Mad Men” era when it comes to women, the Tonys showed they have at least moved past the 1970s with wins for women in some generally male-dominated categories.
Jeanine Tesori, right, and Lisa Kron, left, won best original score for “Fun Home.” Paule Constable was honored for play lighting for “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” and Natasha Katz won the trophy for her lighting of a musical, for “An American in Paris,” among other wins for the women.
But it's still far from enough, said Kron, who joked that “it's statistically 10% better” than it used to be for women on Broadway. “It's unacceptably low, but it seems that perhaps we're making some progress,” she said.
Kron said a major problem is that people are reluctant to take chances on unproven women. “I think people take chances on men based on their potential, and they take chances on women based on their accomplishments,” she said. “Hopefully, if this accomplishes anything, it is that people will look at young women and see potential in them.”
One Twitter account is trying to add a burst of color to the Tonys this year. Known as Broadway Black, the account is live-tweeting the show, dropping various bits of historical knowledge about past African American winners.
As for diversity on stage and within the nominees list, don't hold your breath.
This year, the discussion around the Academy Awards was all about the unbearable whiteness of being an acting nominee. The Tony Awards can hardly brag about diversity. It's never a good sign when a revival of 'The King and I' is the multicultural bright spot.
“Something Rotten's” Christian Borle, who won a Tony as featured actor in a musical, made a point in his acceptance speech of thanking Roger Rees for telling him not to “chase every mouse.”
Backstage, Borle explained that was a nod to Rees for urging him to slow down while the two were working together on “Peter and the Starcatcher” on Broadway in 2012. Rees is nearly 30 years older than the 41-year-old Borle.
“He knew I was a little ambitious,” said Borle, recalling that Rees left him a note telling him to tone it down a bit. “It was just a note about restraint, which I wasn't particularly good at that time.”
Borle ended up winning a Tony for his performance in “Peter and the Starcatcher” in 2012, too.
From GIFs about Ruthie Ann Miles reading her acceptance speech to musings about diversity at the Tonys, Twitter erupted with chatter over the actress' win. Miles' alma mater, New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, even gave her a shout-out.
If Richard McCabe didn't win for 'The Audience' ...
Richard McCabe just won a Tony for portraying former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson in “The Audience,” but he might have been clad in very different costumes if he had taken another role that was dangled in front of him: that of Oliver Cromwell in “Wolf Hall,” another Tony contender this year.
McCabe, speaking after picking up his trophy, said that when the chance arose to portray Cromwell, the English military and political leader from the 1600s, he already was involved in his portrayal of Wilson, whose last term as prime minister ended in 1976.
“Our producers told us to stick with 'The Audience' because it'll be coming to Broadway,” said McCabe. Of course, both plays ended up on Broadway, which McCabe conceded would have been awkward.
“I would've been in direct competition with myself,” he joked.
Ruthie Ann Miles of 'King and I' wins featured actress in a musical
Ruthie Ann Miles wins actress in a featured role in a musical for her performance in "The King and I."
Backstage with 'The Audience' winners
Remember when Ashley Tisdale and Vanessa Hudgens were stars of 'High School Musical'?
Before Vanessa Hudgens starred in "Gigi," the actress sang her heart out in Disney's "High School Musical" (one, two and three). Her BFF Ashley Tisdale, who also starred in the Disney musical franchise, introduced Hudgens and others in the "Gigi" cast at this year's Tony Awards.
Does Sam Gold's win for his direction of “Fun Home” bode well for the musical taking home the night's most lucrative prize? Or will this be a case of the show winning all the lead up awards except the one that really counts when it comes to touring prospects? “Fun Home” is in a tight race with “An American in Paris,” but right now it looks like it might have a slight edge. Stay tuned.
I'm standing here on the Radio City Music Hall stage for the worst dancing ever to be on Broadway. [...] Thank you to every friend I've ever had, every teacher I've ever had and everybody I've ever met.
Annaleigh Ashford while accepting the Tony Award for featured actress in a play for her role in "You Can't Take it With You"
Sam Gold wins direction of a musical for his work on “Fun Home.”
Misty Copeland introduces 'On the Town'
So much for the pants
By the way, this happened.
Annaleigh Ashford wins featured actress in a play
Annaleigh Ashford wins actress in a featured role in a play for her performance in "You Can't Take It with You."
Christian Borle wins featured actor in a musical
Christian Borle wins actor in a featured role in a musical for his performance in "Something Rotten!"
Alan Cumming changed into pants
Just in case you're keeping track.
We like 'The King and I' a lot
McCabe's win shows emphasis on quality, not quantity
Natasha Katz, winner for 'An American in Paris,' offers meme-worthy advice
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions
Not that she needs another gig now that she's just won a Tony, but Natasha Katz, who won for lighting for “An American in Paris,” offered a bit of a commencement address as she talked to reporters after receiving her trophy.
Asked what advice she would give others striving to make a name for themselves on Broadway, Katz urged youngsters to “live in the moment.”
“Just constantly take in what you can learn from other people,” said Katz, who has done lighting for nearly 50 Broadway plays and musicals.
Katz said she worked as an intern “for years.” “All I really did was watch other people and learn,” said Katz. “On-the-job training.”
"An American in Paris" was expected to pick up multiple awards tonight and was considered a favorite to win best musical.
This, of course, is a big deal because, as reporter David Ng wrote last week:
"Finding Neverland" came up with a big fat zero when the Tony Award nominations were announced in April, but the blockbuster musical's complete shut-out won't stop producer Harvey Weinstein from making his presence felt on Tony night on Sunday.
Lifetime achievement winner Tommy Tune on how he made his Texas father proud
Andrew Gombert / European Pressphoto Agency
Tommy Tune is known for Broadway productions such as "Nine," "Grand Hotel" and "The Will Rogers Follies." But when the dancer and musical hyphenate took the stage before the Tony Awards to receive a special prize Sunday, he had something else on his mind
"Right now I'm thinking about Texas in the '50s," Tune said as he accepted the lifetime achievement in theater award handed out before the live telecast.
His career helped his father achieve the dream, he said, that is shared by all Texas fathers.
"They wanted us all to leave Texas, go to New York and dance in the chorus of a Broadway show," he quipped, to loud cheers.
Tune has won nine previous Tonys. Though he hasn't done a Broadway show in some time, Tune, at 76, showed few signs that time had slowed him down: He took the stage and promptly did a robust leg kick in his tuxedo.
He ended his speech on a more serious note. The theater, he said, had "a universal mystique, and I'm proud and humbled by our Broadway universe.
"It's vast and inclusive and I believe all of it is an expression of love. What I did for love. What we do for love."
Isn't it unfair that California can't see the Tonys live?
A reader just sent me an email to complain, “Isn't it unfair that California can't see the Tony Awards live?” Yes, but if the telecast were to run live on CBS, fans of “60 Minutes” (a rabble-rousing group, I hear) might storm the network with torches and pitchforks.
It seems that online viewing may be possible here , though you'll need to enlist a millennial to set you up.
Fortunately for this Gen X-er, there's a live feed at the office.
Matthew Morrison on 'living like a saint' after 'Glee'
Matthew Morrison has been performing on Broadway since he was 19, but is probably better known to the masses as the New Directions music instructor from "Glee." He reunited with his cast mate Darren Criss, who played Blaine Anderson, on the red carpet. Both are now on Broadway, a stark difference from TV life.
"There's nothing like [performing] eight shows a week, this muscle is so delicate and it's something that has to be so trained and you get out of your rhythm when you're doing six years on a TV show," Morrison said. "So it's been hard to get back into it and do eight shows a week."
In "Finding Neverland," Morrison sings 14 songs per show and has to keep himself and his voice rested.
"I feel like I'm living in the piazza again, living like a saint, no drinking," he said.
It was a "wonderful," "big surprise" to be nominated this year, said Sting, whose score for “The Last Ship” is up for a Tony.
He said it felt particularly special because the show is about his hometown and community.
"It was a personal, compelling story to tell, and I'm happy we brought it to Broadway," he said on the red carpet. "I came here for the first time last year and it's just a fun party. People [ask], am I nervous? There's nothing to be nervous about!"
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions
Bryan Cranston has a secret: He wants to sing and dance.
“I'm not a song-and-dance man. I want to pretend that I am,” Cranston said as he arrived for tonight's 69th Tony Award ceremony in New York. “At some point, I am going to be on the Broadway stage doing a musical.”
His fantasy presumably is not the result of Cranston's recollection of attending his first Broadway show decades ago. It was a performance of “Hair,” and it included on-stage nudity.
“People are naked on stage!” Cranston remembered thinking, in shock, as the performers stood in the buff.
Amanda Seyfried 'just jumped into the theater world'
Amanda Seyfried, a presenter at this year's Tony Awards, walked the red carpet in a black-and-gold Oscar de la Renta gown just after completing a matinee performance of her off-Broadway play "The Way We Get By."
"I love celebrating this," she said on the red carpet. "I just jumped into the theater world, so this is my first taste of the Tonys as an actual stage actress."
In the Neil LaBute play, the "Mean Girls" alum plays a woman who had a one-night stand at a wedding. Doing a live stage show is like being in "a completely different realm," Seyfried said.
"It's so satisfying exhausting and exhilarating," she said. "We're out there for 85 minutes nonstop. If you're feeling sick or anything, you have to live through it and focus on the story."
Times reporter Steven Zeitchik is on the scene and eavesdropping on the best conversations:
Bryan Cranston, song-and-dance man?
"Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston won a Tony last year for playing President Lyndon B. Johnson in "All the Way," and this year he has returned to the awards show as a presenter.
"I felt like I was in a different world. I had to keep saying that 'I'm at the Tonys and I'm nominated!'" he said, recalling last year.
Darren Criss joked that Cranston is a "bona fide song-and-dance man" and that he's withholding his skills from the stage.
Actually, Cranston replied, he wants to do a musical. "Even though I'm not a song-and-dance man, I want to pretend that I am," he said with a smile. "At some point I'm going to be on the Broadway stage doing a musical."
Josh Groban, who arrived with Kat Dennings, star of the CBS comedy "2 Broke Girls," is scheduled to pull off a huge performance tonight with a cast of more than 175 people. The show has said the performance will make a record by featuring the most performers on stage at a single time in the show's history.
“Fun Home” star Michael Cerveris is a favorite to win the Tony for lead actor in a musical, and the play has racked up 11 other Tony nominations. To hear Cerveris tell it, nobody expected things to turn out this way.
“It's just kind of astounding,” Cerveris, who won a Tony in 2004 for playing John Wilkes Booth in “Assassins,” said on the red carpet.
“We just set out to do this simple little play about a family and all its complications,” Cerveris said of “Fun Home.” “All we focused on was trying to make it human and sincere and do something people could relate to.”
Nigel Lythgoe's refreshing honesty on the red carpet
I'm not one of these people who say, 'I'm happy to be nominated.' I want to win the Tony. I really want to win.
Nigel Lythgoe, producer of "On The Town"
Why Helen Mirren revisited Elizabeth II
Helen Mirren is no stranger to playing Queen Elizabeth II: She has an Oscar for playing the title role in "The Queen" (2006), and she's nominated for a Tony for portraying the monarch in "The Audience."
"I didn't think I had to do it again. I thought the opposite. 'I don't want to do it,'" she told Darren Criss on the red carpet. "The reality was it was a very special play and it was different from the film -- the same writer but a different story.... I go from being 26 to 89, so it's very challenging. I couldn't resist, plus the fact that it had an amazing team of people involved."
"Masters of Sex" actress Annaleigh Ashford, who's up for a Tony for "You Can't Take It With You," is already getting ready for her next Broadway role, the titular dog in A.R. Gurney's comedy "Sylvia."
"I'm preparing to play a dog this summer by going with my dog Grace to a lot of obedience and agility classes," she said on the red carpet, joking that she's trying to figure out the specific motivations that go into being canine and is pulling inspiration from her pup.
"I just really want her to start talking to me now."
The surprising thing Elisabeth Moss said on the red carpet
George Takei meets 'most adorable critic' on the red carpet
Elisabeth Moss in Oscar de la Renta
"Mad Men" star Elisabeth Moss, nominated for lead actress in a play for "The Heidi Chronicles," hit the red carpet in a floral Oscar de la Renta gown. She said she was pleased to be honored along with so many heavyweights in theater.
"I don't come from this world, so I feel very honored to be included," the TV star said. "I've always dreamed about being a part of it, so I'm very excited to be here."
Moss said that though she never formally went to drama school, but she's acted for 26 years and got her education from other actors on set: "That was my school."
Of the 10 nominees in the lead actor and actress categories for drama, five are English.
Britain has long been exporting its top-tier thespians to our shores, yet the current wave of British stars stands apart from previous generations. Although comfortable with classic and contemporary stage work, these performers are equally at home in front of the camera. They might not have the same panache of their illustrious theatrical forebears, but they seem more emotionally supple and are capable of crying real tears.
One can discern the generational difference in this year's Tony nominees. Representing the British old guard are Helen Mirren, the front-runner to nab the lead actress award for once again playing Queen Elizabeth II (this time in Peter Morgan's play "The Audience"), and Bill Nighy, who stars opposite Carey Mulligan in the top-notch revival of David Hare's "Skylight," above.
As one might expect of a show honoring theater, there are a lot of performances slated, including one with Josh Groban and a cast of more than 175 that is being touted by the Tonys as having the most performers on stage at one time in the show's history.
And even though the hit musical "Finding Neverland" was shut out in the nominations, it's still making it into the show, with Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer, above, performing the number "Stronger."
Did I feel awe at the spectacular staging, admiration for the performances, or pleased with the subtle intelligence of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"? Absolutely. But first I was filled with gratitude.
I'm the mother of an autistic teenage boy, Benj, who, like Christopher Boone, the play's protagonist, is a math whiz and a Sherlock Holmes fan. Since the publication of my memoir, I've become an advocate for autistic people. There are aspects of "Curious Incident" that fall back on cliche -- that autistic people lack empathy, for example -- but the play, which is nominated for six Tony Awards, wonderfully brings the autistic perspective to life.
He's on the list of presenters, but this will be the first time since 2010 that Neil Patrick Harris won't be a Tonys nominee or host. (Last year, he didn't host but won actor in a musical for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and also had performed a raucous number from that show.)
It will also be his first major awards-show appearance since his rather ignoble Oscars performance in February. How much will he acknowledge his sputter of an evening? Harris isn't above laughing at himself.
Then again, he also might want to put it as far in the rear-view mirror as possible. The best medicine for a bad memory is forgetting, or a spirited musical number.
Kristin Chenoweth, above, and Kelli O'Hara are running neck and neck. And this contest, which pits supercharged theatrical exuberance against dramatic care, harmony and discretion, has turned out to be an emotional roller coaster.
Chenoweth's spark plug virtuosity is on splendiferous display in "On the Twentieth Century." She plays the glamorously impish Lily Garland, who is being aggressively cajoled by an old paramour, a theater impresario down on his luck, to return to the stage while riding a New York-bound train with her latest boy toy. It's a role Chenoweth was born to play -- and she never lets you forget it.
O'Hara brings a radiant pathos and dignity to her portrayal of Anna Leonowens, the teacher who goes to Bangkok to educate the king's children and ends up channeling his passion for her into compassion for his people and sympathy for democratic fair play. It's a difficult part to make work in the 21st century -- the musical's Orientalism cannot be overlooked -- but O'Hara's gentle soulfulness allows us to appreciate the timeless beauty of this Rodgers and Hammerstein favorite.
In terms of sheer numbers, musicals lead the way. The balletic "An American in Paris" and edgy "Fun Home" each have 12 Tony Award nominations, while "Something Rotten!" has 10. The musical revival "The King and I," pictured above, received nine. Meanwhile, the dramatization of Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" novels was the most nominated play with eight.
Nominations in the acting categories include several names from film and TV such as Elisabeth Moss for "The Heidi Chronicles," Bradley Cooper for "The Elephant Man," Helen Mirren for "The Audience" and Carey Mulligan for "Skylight."
For a complete list of nominees, click "read more," below.
First hint: Not Tony Soprano, Tony Danza or Tony Esposito.
In fact, the Tony Awards are named for Antoinette Perry, who was a founder of the American Theatre Wing. Perry died of a heart attack in 1946 after a career as an actress, stage director and philanthropist.
The first presentation of the Antoinette Perry Awards was April 6, 1947, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.