Shaun Baer

actor - singer - writer

Tony, Tony

Captain's Blog - Stardate 61416.7

I need a break from fuming at the lack of gun laws and mourning the dead from the most recent shooting. There’s apparently another one happening right now at a Wal-Mart in Texas, so I’ll be able to get right back to that later this week. There may be some angry snark along the way but I will do my best.

So right now I want to bring it back to the art and talk about the Tony Awards this Sunday night. First and foremost, congratulations to James Corden. When 9/11 took place, it was the Tuesday before the Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony. They postponed the ceremony for seven weeks before the event took place on November 4, 2001. Ellen Degeneres hosted and was brilliant. My favorite moments of hers included quotes like, “What would bug the Taliban more than seeing a gay woman in a suit surrounded by Jews,” or “they can’t take away our creativity, our striving for excellence, our joy…only network executives can do that.”

But James Cordon had a handful of hours to adjust his performance to address this tragedy, being heralded on the news at that time as the worst terror attack on our soil since 9/11, and later being acknowledged as the worst mass shooting on our soil ever.

He did a fantastic job. His authenticity, his sweet nature, and his gentle but clear ribbing of the business, of politicians, and above all his genuine joy made this a fantastic evening to celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of theatre. His opening number (below) made me feel like a kid again and renewed my faith that my goals are still real, valid, and true. As did the winner for best features actress in a play, Jayne Houdyshell, who talked about her 42 year career, only the last five or so being actually good years.

 

As we watched, our group of five gay men with ballots and beverages, this turned out to be the awards ceremony we didn’t know we needed to see. Our dear friend joked that his favorite part about the speeches, and sometimes about theatre people in general (he is an actor himself) is how they talk like they’re curing cancer every night. The fashion was better than usual, thanks to some help from Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who also added over 125,000 roses to the red carpet.

Speaking of the red carpet, we were able to stream the red carpet arrivals through our Apple TV, and one of the greatest things about that to me was seeing the unapologetic gay men and women on that red carpet with their partners, or boyfriends, not throwing their fists in the air and not demanding to be heard, but simply being. They felt free to be themselves and take interviews, flirt, smile, laugh, and dish the dish without pretending to be someone they weren’t. It’s a freedom I hope to see more of on the red carpets for film and television.

It’s hard to talk about these Tony’s without talking about Hamilton. It was pointed out to me that in 1976, A Chorus Line changed the art form and swept the Tony’s. Twenty years later came Rent in 1996. Now we have Hamilton. I’m a bad theatre gay. I have only listened to parts and pieces of this show. I try listening to it on my commute, but there are so many words and they are so meticulously placed and planned, that I need to set aside time to simply listen and absorb the show. Nevertheless, their eleven wins are incredible and I can’t wait to join the party.

Incidentally, Chicago, which originally lost to A Chorus Line in 1976, celebrated it’s 20th Anniversary on Broadway and is now the longest running American musical in Broadway History. Bebe Neuwirth was on hand for the celebration and looked fabulous. Bebe has played all three female leads of that show on Broadway throughout it’s run. Chita Rivera was also in the audience.

Another brilliant visual of the night was the diversity. All four winners in the acting category for musicals were people of color, and the nominees throughout the night were, for the most part, significantly well rounded. Especially compared to the #OscarsSoWhite fiasco earlier this year. Cordon even joked that the room was so diverse that Donald Trump was threatening to build a wall around the theatre.

There would be more time for grieving and anger the following day, but for those few hours we could find strength in the beautiful remarks of Frank Langella and Barbra Streisand, find community in the silver ribbons designed by six-time Tony Award winning costume designer William Ivey Long, and relish in the amazing performances from a talented group of fantastic artists at the top of their game.

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