So, as pure luck would have it, I am friend with someone who had two tickets she couldn’t use to the 2013 Tony Awards dress rehearsal. When she asked me if I wanted them, I pretty much said “OH MY GOODNESS, YES” and then I asked my theater buddy, Antoinette, if she wanted the other ticket. She said yes… and then somehow magically got two ridiculously cheap tickets to Murder Ballad (an Off-Broadway musical we were jonesing to see). So, Sunday June 9th was a day of ALL THE THEATER.
And it was magical.
Going to the Tony Awards is on my actual Bucket List. I would still like to attend the ceremony itself one day, but going to the dress rehearsal definitely fulfilled a life-long dream to be at the Tonys.
The dress rehearsal was the entire show, full-out. Neil Patrick Harris was there, in wardrobe, and did the opening number with all the ensembles/casts from the nominated musicals and other musicals that are still running on Broadway. We heard all his jokes, saw him do his shtick (including the BRILLIANT and funny music number with Andrew Rannells, Laura Benanti, and Megan Hilty), and watched him be the professional performer that we know him to be.
It was thrilling, to say the least, to be able to watch the music numbers of all the shows. For as many shows as I see on Broadway, I only saw two of the nominees for Best Musical. So, while it was great to see the ensembles from Kinky Boots and Matilda perform again, I was delighted to see snippets of the shows I missed, those I won’t see, or those I want to see. I still can’t really tell you what Pippin is about, but I do know that seeing all those acrobats in person was something I’m not likely to forget. (And can we talk about Patina Miller?! Holy smokes.)
I have never seen The Phantom of the Opera, nor do I plan on seeing it any time soon, but it was really amazing to see the Phantom and Christine singing among the clouds of dried ice on that boat thing. I wasn’t planning on seeing Annie, but it was a treat to see Jane Lynch come out and sing a piece of “Little Girls.” I was sad to have missed Bring It On: The Musical while it was on Broadway, but I was overjoyed to watch the cast perform my favorite song from the show – “It’s All Happening.”
Mostly I was over the moon to see the casts from Matilda and Kinky Boots perform again. I saw Kinky Boots in previews (more specifically, I saw its fifth preview, where the cast was pretty much begging people at the stage door to tell our friends about the show) and thought it was the most fun show I’ve ever had at a Broadway show. I would love to see it again, but even getting the chance to see them perform “Everybody Say Yeah” yesterday was enough to make my smiles hurt. Kinky Boots is the show that I keep telling people to see, and I knew it had to walk away with multiple awards last night. (I was so pleased when Cyndi Lauper won for her score, Billy Porter won for Best Actor in a Musical, and it took Best Musical. The show is FLAWLESS and amazing.)
It was great to see Matilda’s performance as well. “Revolting Children” is my favorite song from the show, and I love that I can pick out Taylor Trensch and Ryan Steele from the ensemble. It’s fun watching people you’ve met or seen a few times getting the chance to perform at the Tonys. I know I’m “lucky” in that I live in NYC now and have more of an opportunity to see a lot of these performers on an oddly regular basis, but it’s still a thrill to see actors you admire getting to show the world just how good at their jobs that they are.
I saw someone’s post online earlier today saying that they love the Tonys because it’s one of the few awards shows where the people nominated get to share their skills with everyone else. Like the Grammys, the Tonys are a venue for the performers to perform for their peers and the home audience. It’s a way to actively show what they do for a living and show that they love what they do. I mean, I love the Oscars, Golden Globes and Emmys, but those often come across as pageants for pretty people who get paid a lot and wear fancy clothes and get free swag. The Tonys (and Grammys) showcase why these people are put on pedestals by the fans, and why the people in the Broadway (and music) community embrace said community. It’s neat to see a large group of people encouraging each other for the sake of their art. Creative expression is a beautiful thing, and to watch people use every fiber of their being to tell stories is special – especially when you get the chance to see something performed live in person.
Another fun thing about the dress rehearsal was seeing if the presenters were actually there when their names were announced. Some of them were not, but a lot of them were! We got to see Zachary Quinto, Jesse Eisenberg, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jane Krakowski, Anna Kendrick, Sally Fields, Patti LuPone and Bernadette Peters!
If being able to sit through the dress rehearsal of the Tony Awards wasn’t enough theatrical excitement for the day, seeing Murder Ballad definitely was icing on the theater-going cake.
All I knew about Murder Ballad was that it had Will Swenson and Cassie Levy, got Meh reviews from the lady I saw talking about it on New York 1, and takes place in and around a bar. From the snippets I saw on TV, the show takes place on a “stage,” but said stage is set up like a bar, and there are tables and chairs next to the bar and pool table. There are rows of seats surrounding three sides of the stage area (the fourth side holds the band) and then there are audience members sitting at the tables and chairs next to the bar.
We had tickets for the center table directly next to the bar.
As soon as we were seated, we were told by someone in the crew that where we were sitting, especially the aisle in between our table and the bar, was going to be used by the actors during the show. As such, we were not allowed to have any personal items on the table, we were not allowed to have anything in the aisle, and we weren’t allowed to leave during the performance. (Or, rather, if you left, you couldn’t get back to your seat.)
We had about ten minutes before the show started so we looked around from our seats near the bar. A stranger who was separated from his own party ended up at the table with us. We made small talk, but then it was time for the show to start.
Murder Ballad is performed by four cast members (two female, two male) completely through song. I did not know any of the songs heading into the show, but it wasn’t too hard to figure out their general gist. A girl was hooking up with a bartender, but then their relationship went sour. She then ended up with this scholarly guy and they got married and had a kid. Several (ten?) years down the road, the girl runs into the bartender and they hook up. She feels bad and wants to end it because she has a family, but the bartender guy gets a bit crazy and tells her she is his. There is a big confrontation between the three people and you think someone is going to get clubbed to death with a baseball bat. The fourth cast member is the narrator who provokes the other characters as she provides exposition. The whole musical is a cautionary tale, though most people would likely never find themselves in this situation.
I was excited to see this show because of Will Swenson. Having never seen him in anything before, I was very much looking forward to seeing him perform. He is a great actor with unfairly good looks (like, he looks like Jon Hamm, but with even better hair…) and his voice is equally gorgeous. There was something oddly electric and wholly terrifying to be sitting that close to the action as he chased Cassie Levy’s character about the stage, or simulated having sex with her on the bar mere feet away from me. It was a completely new theatrical experience to be sitting in the middle of the choreographed chaos around me… I wouldn’t say I loved it, but it definitely added something to the viewing experience and perhaps made me like the show more than I would have if I just was watching it from a “regular” seat.
After the show, we hung around the stage door and were able to get autographs and pictures with some of the cast. It was a great way to end our amazingly fun day of theater-going.
As I walked home, exhausted from the long day of seeing all the things, I realized that in that moment and for that day, I was wholly glad to be myself. This is not a daily occurrence (for example, as I’m typing this, I wish I was anyone but myself, having just sat through something I wish I didn’t have to see/feel), but yesterday I was just blissfully happy to be me because if I wasn’t me, I never would have gotten a chance to see what I saw and just be surrounded by theater.
Someday I hope to be financially stable enough to see a show anytime I wanted to. For now, though, I shall be forever grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, the shows I’ve gotten to see, and the friends I’ve seen shows with.