For the first time in many years the Tony awards, televised live from Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, actually rewarded the irrepressible theater-lovers who watched with excitement and anticipation the unfolding of this spectacular event.

Kudos belong to comedian James Corden, who hosted the proceedings with warmth and energy not seen since the heyday of Billy Crystal, who brought the best opening numbers ever seen to the Academy Awards ceremonies for so many years.

Corden’s opening number had him singing and joining a large group of professional dancers as they moved through the complicated choreography of their dance.  And he didn’t miss a beat!  He also provided a long Danny Kaye-style rundown of some of the people and events that would be part of the evening’s entertainment.

Surprisingly, even though the show ran for three hours, it was never tedious.  It was brisk and tight, with the many presenters entering quickly and ready for business.  They named the nominees in each category, opened the mystery envelope, announced the winner, and left the stage.  There was none of the nonsensical “comedy banter” that always propelled the show

into fidget territory.

It’s been many years since I lived and worked in New York and spent my weekends watching the latest productions Broadway had to offer.  I saw all the best of them, and it was somewhat disheartening now to see them presented again as “revivals” or musicals in place of a rich menu of brand new offerings.

I was also disappointed, once again, to recognize that, having left New York so long ago, I was totally unfamiliar with most of the performers and almost all of the presenters onstage.  The only people I recognized were the celebrities in the audience.  (Who could be indifferent to the smiling face of the gorgeous Warren Beatty?  And who would not be thrilled at seeing Elaine May win a Tony if you’d grown up memorizing the hilarious riffs between her and Mike Nichols!)

As for the Best Actor award, I was torn between Jeff Daniels and Bryan Cranston, both of whom are among my favorite actors.  The buzz favored Daniels for his powerful performance as Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird”.  After all, that role, as a film, had garnered an Oscar for Gregory Peck.

But Bryan Cranston won the Tony playing the role on stage that Peter Finch played in the film version of “Network”.  Peter Finch won the Oscar for his performance as Howard Beale, the crazed newscaster who got all America screaming “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”  Cranston also played Beale on the London stage in 2017 and again, a year later, on Broadway.

As for the production quality of the Tony show, it was terrific. Most of the winners made brief speeches and didn’t have to be assaulted with a blast of music or a red light to get them to stop talking.  And the onstage setups were tasteful and not burdened with unnecessary froufrou. Further, the highlights of the evening, for me,  were the many wonderful dances, the presentation of the scenes and songs from “Oklahoma”, and the remarkable performances of the current Temptations.

And so it’s looking forward to the Oscars next winter and hoping that the Tony show will encourage the Academy to cut short the boring parts of their show and leave it up to the incredibly gifted performers to go about delighting their faithful fans once again.

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