Tony Award wrap-up: Totally gay (again)

It was an untenable situation for the gay Dallasite: Watch the Tony Awards or game 6 of the Mavs? Thank god I had two DVRs. Best of both worlds.

Of course, the Tony Awards are always the gayest of award shows, and they did nothing to disguise that Sunday night starting with the opening number by the telecast’s gay host, Neil Patrick Harris, “‘[Theater] is not Just for Gays Anymore.” He then did a medley duet with Hugh Jackman that was damn funny. (It got even gayer when Martha Wash performed “It’s Raining Men” with cast of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.)

Then the first award of the evening went to Ellen Barkin for her Broadway debut in Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, giving a shout out to the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic. She was immediately followed by gay actor and Plano native John Benjamin Hickey for his role in The Normal Heart. (He even chastised his family: “You’d better not be watching the Mavericks game.” Sorry, John, I for one kept flipping between them.) The play also won the award for best revival — a controversial choice, since The Normal Heart never opened on Broadway until this year, usually a requirement for a revival nominations (some thought it should be eligible for best play). Kramer accepted the award. “To gay people everywhere whom I love so, The Normal Heart is our history. I could not have written it had not so many of us so needlessly died. Learn from it and carry on the fight.”

The very gay-friendly Book of Mormon from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone won several off-camera awards, including score of a musical (the composers thanking gay producer Scott Rudin), orchestrations, scenic design, lighting design and sound design, before taking their first onscreen trophy for best direction of a musical to Parker and gay director Casey Nicholaw (The Drowsy Chaperone), on its way to winning nine total awards, including best musical, best featured actress (newcomer Nikki M. James, defeating prior winners Laura Benanti, Patti LuPone and Victoria Clark and prior nominee Tammy Blanchard) and book of a musical.

“This is such a waste of time — it’s like taking a hooker to dinner,” said best musical presenter Chris Rock before announcing The Book of Mormon for the night’s last prize, best musical.

Other winners in the musical category include John Larroquette for best featured actor (How to Succeed…, apparently the only straight nominee in his category), choreographer Kathleen Marshall for Anything Goes, which also beat How to Succeed for best revival of a musical and won best actress for Sutton Foster. Norbert Leo Butz was the surprise winner for best actor in a musical for Catch Me If You Can. One more really gay winner: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert took best costumes, natch.

The big winner in the play category (other than The Normal Heart) was the brilliant War Horse, which won 5: best play, direction, lighting design, sound design, scenic design, as well as a special Tony for the puppet designs of the horses.

Other play winners include The Importance of Being Earnest (costumes), Good People (best actress Frances McDormand) and Jerusalem, a surprise winner for best actor Mark Rylance.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Tony nominations (and what’s gay about ‘em)!

Despite a boondoggle of a webcast (at least on my end, three browsers and two computers could never load it), the Tony Award nominations did come out this morning, unlike Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which ended up not being eligible for any because it has not officially opened yet despite previews starting last November.

It’s sometimes harder to quantify snubs and surprises since many shows close before the noms and live performances are organic things, but the lack of noms for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert has to be seen as a poke in the eyeball, as well as overlooked noms for Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, which moved from Off Broadway to Broadway last season.

On the upside, the success across categories of The Book of Mormon, the show from South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, seems like an indication NYC theater is keeping its edge.

Of especially note to the gay community:

The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s Reagan-era play about the AIDS crisis, got its B’way debut, but peculiarly was nominated for best revival of a play. It was also nominated for two gay actors, Joe Mantello (leading) and John Benjamin Hickey (featured), as well as best direction and featured actress Ellen Barkin.

The Book of Mormon, with a lot of gay content, received a record-tying 14 nominations.

Catch Me If You Can, adapted from the Tom Hanks-Leo DiCaprio movie, got four nominations, including one for out producer Hal Luftig. It did not get nominated for its score, the last slot going instead to Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown with Patti LuPone, which closed after a handful of performances. LuPone didn get a nomination, as did her Gypsy co-star Laura Benanti.

• The revival of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, with gay actor Sir Brian Bedford as a cross-dressing Lady Bracknell, got three noms.

The awards will be presented June 12.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones