Monday, June 2, 2014

The Top 10 Best Tony Awards Performances of all Time

The Lion King
The Tony Awards are in just six days! Happy Monday to me! So in anticipation of that, I have counted down my top 10 favorite Tony Awards show performances. That is, this is my personal list- though I'm sure all theatre fans have their own- of my favorite musical numbers performed at the Tony Awards by musicals nominated for Best Musical or Best Musical Revival. That means that I'm leaving out fun extra performances, like opening numbers and tributes. So, spanning 30-something years, here you go!

10. Annie (1977)
Annie won Best Musical in 1977, and for good reason. I love the music from this show, and what I love most about this performance in particular is how the audience responds to the orphans' performance with multiple bursts of applause. It's one of the most supportive audiences I've ever witnessed. This is an unusually long performance, so it includes "Tomorrow," "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile," "Easy Street," and "Tomorrow (reprise)."

9. Jersey Boys (2006)
This performance opens with John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli singing the wonderful, "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You;" then the other stars (Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, J Robert Spencer) and the rest of the company join him with "Who Loves You." From this video alone, it's easy to see why Young won the Tony for Best Actor in a musical and why the show won the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical. Lloyd Young is reprising his role for the movie, which will be released on June 20!

8. Guys and Dolls (1992)
This performance, from the show's fourth revival, features the title song and the show-stopper "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," led by Walter Bobbie. The song was revamped from its original version just enough to give it a fresh spin without going over the top. The show's most recent revival (2009) seemed forced, at least from the Tonys performance, but this one has pure, genuine excitement, which is likely what won it the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical (the only revival of Guys and Dolls to win). The energy of this piece, more so than any other versions of the show, is what gave this performance a place in this count-down.

7. Chorus Line (1976)
This Marvin Hamlisch musical won 10 of the 13 Tony Awards for which it was nominated, including Best Musical, so I'd say it pretty much cleaned up in 1976. In this performance, the cast shows off their showstopping opener, "I Hope I Get It," to open the Tony Awards (back before there was a big opening number performed by a host). That dancing is simply ridiculous, and you can see the audience totally ate it up.

6. Les Miserables (1987)
You had to know this was coming. The cast of Les Mis performed part of "At the End of the Day" followed by none other than "One Day More." So this number features Mr. Les Mis (aka: Colm Wilkinson) as Jean Valjean and Terrence Mann (whose entrance produces wild applause) as Javert, among other stars. The show itself of course is awesome, and the Tonys performance was spot on. All the chills every time!!

5. Miss Saigon (1991)
Miss Saigon unfortunately did not sweep the awards, as it perhaps should have, but lost many awards, including Best Musical, to The Will Rogers Follies. One award it did not lose, however, was Best Actor. To showcase Jonathan Pryce's talents as "The Engineer," the cast performed "The American Dream," which is his 11 o'clock number. Ironically, of course, this means that the main/title character Kim (played by Lea Salonga) was not in the Tonys performance at all. Awkward... Anyway, Pryce should win everything because he's an incredible performer.

4. Next to Normal (2009)
This performance has an almost overwhelming amount of brilliance. It opens with "You Don't Know," showing right off the bat that Alice Ripley more than deserved her Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for portraying Diana Goodman. She is then joined by the talents of J. Robert Spencer and Aaron Tveit in "I am the One." It's a shame that this show competed with Billy Elliot for Best Musical, because- let's face it- not even mental illness can beat 11-year-olds dancing their hearts out for 3 hours, but the two shows did tie for Best Score.

3. Billy Elliot (2009)
Even on my top Tony Awards performances list, Billy Elliot beats Next to Normal. Elton John's musical based on the movie of the same title tied the record, previously set by The Producers for the most Tony nominations by a single show with 15. This performance is mostly wordless, as they perform the musical number "Angry Dance," but it perfectly expresses the ample angst shown throughout the show. Watch Trent Kowalik as Billy tap his feet almost into oblivion in this incredible dance number!

2. Catch Me if You Can (2011)
It's no secret that I adore Norbert Leo Butz, so of course, I had to feature his performance as FBI agent Carl Hanratty in "Don't Break the Rules." Oh yeah, and his co-star Aaron Tveit makes an appearance. Words cannot do this performance justice, but you just have to watch it. His movement vocabulary is a hybrid between dancer and eccentric old man, and I would say this performance is as much a choreography victory for Jerry Mitchell as it is performance for Norbert. As a testimony to Norbert's pure genius, which won him his much-deserved second Tony Award, whenever I see this I think, "Wait, there were ensemble dancers?"

1. The Lion King (1998)
Yep, here it is! No Tonys count-down would be complete without "The Circle of Life," which can only be described as magnificent. It features puppetry designs by a pre-tabooed Julie Taymor, who managed to make costumes that look like neither animal nor human, and somehow don't look cheesy at all (garnering a Tony for her artistry). For good reason, you can hear the audience erupting in applause multiple times during this song. And let's face it: was it really even a competition for Best Musical that night?

WHAT?! What about Wicked?! Watch the performance, and you'll see why it's not included in this list. Idina, unfortunately, was just not great on Tonys night, but she took home a Tony, so it's all good.

So obviously, this list has a little to do with how much I love the show itself, but also how well the cast actually performed on that night. Making a list like this is very hard, but fortunately for me, there are few- if any- Tony Awards performances on YouTube from before 1971, so we're missing about 20 years of Tony Awards, which is a shame, but did help to narrow it down.

Ok, which ones did I leave out or totally misplace?

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

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