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The Tonys Get ‘Kinky’

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It’s just another gay ol’ time at the Tonys.
by Donalevan Maines

Sittin’ on top of the world: openly gay entertainer Neil Patrick Harris, seen here performing at last year’s Tony Awards, hosts again for the third year in a row. He also hosted the show in 2009.
Sittin’ on top of the world: openly gay entertainer Neil Patrick Harris, seen here performing at last year’s Tony Awards, hosts again for the third year in a row. He also hosted the show in 2009.

Broadway is blessed with such an embarrassment of riches this season that an abundance of outstanding work was relegated to the sidelines for the Tony Awards, which will be handed out on Sunday, June 9.

Voters agreed that “sex is in the heel,” nominating the joyous Cyndi Lauper-Harvey Fierstein musical Kinky Boots for thirteen awards (click here for an interview with Cyndi Lauper, and here for a feature on Kinky Boots), topping chief rival Matilda, which they welcomed from London with a dozen nods. They hailed the revival of Clifford Odets’s Golden Boy with a TKO of eight nominations and dealt a winning hand to the late Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy, starring Best Actor in a Play frontrunner Tom Hanks in his Broadway debut.

But Bette Midler as Hollywood super-agent Sue Mengers? Stiffed. Alan Cumming performing MacBeth by himself? Move along. Sigourney Weaver starring in Best Play nominee Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike? Pushed aside in favor of cast-mate Kristine Nielsen. Same fate for Alec Baldwin in Orphans and Vanessa Williams in The Trip to Bountiful.

Jessica Chastain, Katie Holmes, and Scarlett Johansson were snubbed, as were Al Pacino, Jim Parsons, and Paul Rudd. Jekyll & Hyde got shut out, leaving stars Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox on the unemployment line just two weeks later. However, two other shows we saw en route to the Great White Way scored nominations—Bring It On (Best Musical) and Ann (Holland Taylor for Best Leading Actress in a Play).

Who else will vie for Broadway’s top honors at the 67th annual gayest-and-greatest awards fest? To begin with, both favorites for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical look like contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race. In Kinky Boots, Billy Porter plays a sassy drag queen, while Bertie Carvel cross-dresses as Miss Trunchbull, the butch headmistress in Matilda. It’s based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 children’s novel that Danny DeVito Americanized as a 1996 movie with a small role for Paul Reubens as FBI Agent Bob.

The fourth nominee for Best Musical is A Christmas Story, based on the holiday film classic from 1983. (Last year, the Library of Congress picked the movie for preservation in the National Film Registry.) Because of the main character Ralphie’s affection for a Red Ryder BB gun, the other nominees concede the NRA vote to A Christmas Story, which ran for two months but plans to return to Broadway as a seasonal offering.

Other than Ephron, practically everyone else who’s nominated is gay. Even Ephron gets props for penning Cher’s role as a lesbian in Silkwood. Legend has it that when Ephron bowed out of an appearance at the LGBT Community Center in Greenwich Village, she was replaced—fortuitously—by gay activist Larry Kramer, whose speech gave birth to ACT UP.

Kramer, who wrote The Normal Heart, will receive the Isabelle Stevenson Award at the Tony ceremony. The honor recognizes a member of the theater community for volunteering on behalf of humanitarian, social service, or charitable organizations. Past recipients include Phyllis Newman, lesbian Eve Ensler, gay icon Bernadette Peters, and out actor David Hyde Pierce, a popular Tony winner for the musical Curtains and a nominee this year for the comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.
(I like that the news release put out by the American Theatre Wing identifies architect/designer David Webster as Kramer’s lover. They’ve been together since back in the day, and back in the day there was no such term as “partner.”)

Lucky Guy competes for Best Play amid the work of three out authors: Christopher Durang (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike), Richard Greenberg (The Assembled Parties), and Colm Tóibín (The Testament of Mary, a monologue).

Meanwhile, Greenberg’s adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s was snubbed, while Douglas Carter Beane was nominated for penning the book for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella but not his Nathan Lane vehicle, The Nance.

Lane won a nomination for Best Actor in a Play, along with Hanks, Hyde Pierce, August: Osage County playwright Tracy Letts as George in yet another revival of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Tom Sturridge in Orphans.

Finalists for Best Actress in a Play include Nielsen, Taylor and Cicely Tyson in The Trip to Bountiful, Amy Morton as Martha in yet another revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Laurie Metcalf in The Other Place.

Tony voters also recognized the revivals of Pippin, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and The Trip to Bountiful, which was directed by Michael Wilson (who got his start at the Alley Theatre) and designed by former Houstonian Jeff Cowie.

Among nominated new shows are Motown: The Musical and Hands on a Hard Body, snaring a nomination for Keith Carradine in out playwright Doug Hughes’s adaptation of the 1997 film documentary about ten hard-luck Texans who brave days on end to win a brand-new truck by being the last contestant to keep his hand on the truck.

Houston’s own version of the Tonys, the 11th annual Tommy Tune Awards, sponsored by Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) to honor excellence in high school musical theater productions, was held April 16. The two-hour telecast of the ceremony, featuring production numbers from all eight nominees for Best Musical and medleys by finalists for Best Actor and Best Actress in a Leading Role, will be shown noon–2 p.m. Sunday, June 9, on ABC Channel 13.

What: The 67th Annual Tony Awards
When: Sunday, June 9, 7 p.m. (CST)
Where: CBS-TV.

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.

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Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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