As we head into 2011 I find myself looking back at the year that was, & being grateful for all that I’ve learnt. I always find myself taking stock at this time of year, so I thought I’d share with you one of my most memorable experiences of 2010. I was thrilled when an invitation to the Tony Awards landed on my desk. I’d danced at a few award shows this past year, but I knew this would be something unique. The ceremony honours the best on Broadway & was to take place at New York’s iconic Radio City Music Hall. I tune in to the awards on Foxtel every year & watch the likes of Liza, Whoopi, Hugh & Oprah, so I was giddy at the thought of being in the auditorium to see it all go down in front of my own eyes.
To make the most of the trip, I arranged to stay on for 3 weeks after the ceremony. This meant I’d arrive just two days ahead of the awards, so you can imagine I was kicking myself when I received a last minute email inviting me to meet with the producers of the ceremony & sit in on their tech rehearsal – which took place a matter of hours before I’d arrive in NYC… damn!!! (Oh well, next year?) At least the show itself would be a total surprise.
My red carpet experience was over in a blink of an eye. It was raining, so I didn’t waste any time rushing into the foyer. At least this gave me some time to relax, have a drink & scope out the awesome venue. We were ushered into the auditorium to take our seats & were instantly in awe of the beautiful set. The pre-show saw several of last year’s winners, including ‘West Side Story’ star Karen Olivo, presenting creative arts, regional theatre, & lifetime achievement honours. As the primetime portion of the night approached, the big names arrived & took their place in the audience. I scanned the room & spotted Beyonce & Jay-Z, Will Smith & Jada Pinkett, Nathan Lane, Scarlett Johansson & Ryan Reynolds, Ricky Martin, Catherine Zeta-Jones & Michael Douglas… pretty impressive!
This year’s ceremony was hosted by Sean Hayes – best known as ‘Jack’ from ‘Will & Grace’. Hayes was starring in the Broadway revival of ‘Promises, Promises’, for which he was also up for Best Actor. He joked that this evening gave him “the unique opportunity to both bomb & lose.” Sean opened the show with an incredible classical piano solo (are there any lengths to this guy’s talent?!) before being joined in succession by Kristin Chenoweth & cast members of all the nominated musicals. The huge medley finished with Green Day literally exploding onto the stage amongst flashes of pyrotechnics. The punk rockers were up for Best Musical with ‘American Idiot’ – a fully-fledged Broadway production based on their album of the same name. “Are you ready to rock New York City?” Billie Joe Armstrong screamed, before they tore the roof off the place – transforming it from a black tie event into a mosh pit!
The first presenters of the night were Katie Holmes & Tom Cruise… no, no wait… that’s Daniel Radcliffe. Catherine Zeta-Jones turned in a melodramatic performance of ‘Send In The Clowns’ from ‘A Little Night Music’, before collecting Best Actress in a Musical. The legendary Angela Lansbury was named the first ever Honourary Chairman of the American Theatre Wing. Then the stars of ‘Glee’ – Matthew Morrison & Lea Michele brought down the house with their performances of ‘All I Need Is The Girl’ & ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’. Cameras crossed to Times Square where massive HD screens were beaming the ceremony for fans at a live site, hosted by Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child. I pictured the live site taking place back home at Darling Harbour for the World Cup & giggled at the differences between their theatre lovers & our sports-crazed fans. (I think we’ve found our people!)
I couldn’t help feeling a little giddy when Paula Abdul walked out to present Best Choreography – it was watching a performance of Paula’s, where she was backed up by a huge group of male dancers that I decided I wanted to try dance class. She introduced the cast of Sinatra tribute, ‘Come Fly With Me’ who performed an incredible Twyla Tharp piece, full of intricate partnering & complex lifts. Right before the final crescendo, the lead male dancer had to put his suit jacket back on, before catching the female lead as she flew through the air towards him. Everything was at such a frantic pace that all it took was for him to struggle for a second getting his arm into one of the sleeves, & in my mind everything turned into slow motion. I saw her running toward him at high speed, then she was mid air – all while his arm was still stuck in the jacket! The entire audience let out a massive gasp, & then like a miracle his hand appeared – literally as her entire body landed horizontally in front of his… phew!
The night’s top honour; Best Musical went to ‘Memphis’ – a soulful show about the dawn of rock n roll, composed by Bon Jovi’s David Bryan. It was a clear favourite with the audience, & I have to admit when the cast performed I may have gotten a little teary eyed. The male dancers were so funky & athletic, & the music was so anthemic, I couldn’t help feeling swept up in the moment!

In my next blog I’ll fill you in on another incredible event I attended whilst in New York – the 20th Annual Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS fundraiser, ‘Broadway Bares’.
Till next time,
JP xx

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