Comments Whip Up Tempest at Tonys

There was more drama off-camera than on at the 1990 Tony Awards, although “The Grapes of Wrath” was the upset winner for best play over “The Piano Lesson.”

The flap occurred during a commercial break at the televised award show when producer Joseph Cates blasted presenter Ron Silver for his lengthy defense of the embattled National Endowment for the Arts and for his remembrance of the massacre in Beijing one year ago.

“I support the NEA,” Cates explained to the black tie audience at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater, but added: “To take advantage of a live TV show like that does us all incredible harm. This is not the show on which to make those comments.”

Cates’ comments were met with scattered boos and some applause from the audience.


Also, questioned by some were the lack of mention during the telecast of the death of Rex Harrison, the debonair star of “My Fair Lady,” who died at age 82 Saturday, one day before the Tonys show. Also, “A Chorus Line” didn’t rate a footnote even though the final performance of Broadway’s longest running show on April 28 was one of the highlights of the season.

Complete awards story, A6.