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Mon June 10, 2013

The Tony Awards: Is This The Greatest Awards Show Opening Ever?

Originally published on Mon June 10, 2013 9:57 am

Unless you've seen every awards show since the dawn of time (which would make you The Unluckiest Person In The World), you can't really answer the question of whether last night's opener of the Tony Awards, hosted for the fourth time by Neil Patrick Harris, was the best opening ever.

But if you're talking about awards shows in recent memory, the answer is that not only was it the best opener, but it utterly embarrassed just about everything except maybe Jimmy Fallon's "Born To Run" at the 2010 Emmys. It's funny, energetic, committed, and ultimately deeply and touchingly warm-hearted.

The next time you're tempted to give an Oscar host a pass on the basis that it's an impossible, can't-win job, and that the lazy, easy, corny, toothless humor that passes for patter is a fundamental of the awards format, and that the jokes can't be better and the numbers can't be better and the hosting can't be better and the crowd can't get excited, keep in mind that that's exactly what people who want to keep making lazy awards shows want you to think.

Sure, theater people have an advantage with musical numbers, but if you run the Oscars and can't figure out how to do for and with love of film what the Tonys are doing for and with love of theater, you are terrible at your job and should hand it off to someone else. This wasn't even the only great number — there was also a funny, biting bit from Andrew Rannells, Megan Hilty, and Laura Benanti, all theater people whose TV shows (The New Normal, Smash, and Go On) were recently canceled.

As for the awards themselves, they proved very big for the play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, by Christopher Durang, as well as the offbeat revival of Pippin and the new musical Kinkyboots, which brought a first-ever Tony to its composer — Cyndi Lauper. Pam McKinnon and Diane Paulus were the rare pair of women to take directing honors in the same year for play and musical (for Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and Pippin respectively), and great speeches came from winners including Billy Porter for Kinkyboots, Cicely Tyson for The Trip To Bountiful, and Andrea Martin for Pippin.

Step it up, everybody else. The theater kids are making you look terrible.

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