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Sleepy 2023 Tony Awards fail to showcase Broadway at its best

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Against all odds, the show went on.

On Sunday night, the 76th Annual Tony Awards was performed and not using a script because of the continuing writers’ strike and was staged far, distant from its usual Midtown venue of Radio City Music Hall. 

As an alternative, the ceremony honoring Broadway plays and musicals was placed on on the United Palace in Washington Heights way up on 176th Street.

And with no lines professionally written, there have been none of the same old skits or banter that make award shows chug along. Well, almost none.

At one cringeworthy point, host Ariana DeBose ripped off Ellen DeGeneres’ celebrity selfie bit from the Oscars but lost her train of thought.

“I don’t know what these notes stand for,” the “West Side Story” Oscar winner said awkwardly. “Please welcome… whoever walks out onstage next!”

Yikes. Is that this the Tonys or Improv Night on the quad?

“Kimberly Akimbo” won the Tony Award for Best Musical.Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

The true problem, nonetheless, was not the production hiccups. It was the shows themselves.

The 2022-23 Broadway season was encumbered by tiny, area of interest, pretentious fare that no person cares much about and that looked absolutely microscopic within the 3,300-seat theater. The nominees’ performances — the largest showcase these musicals will ever get — were Ambientertainment.

“Kimberly Akimbo,” a slip of a thing by Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire, won Best Musical. It’s the polar opposite of a red-hot “Producers” or “Hamilton” — the struggling “Akimbo” is a few 16-year-old high-school girl who has a fatal disease that makes her age rapidly and look 67.

That plot — not exactly “Guys and Dolls” — is a tricky sell, and the production will proceed to be a tricky sell no matter winning Musical, Actress in a Musical (Victoria Clark), Featured Actress in a Musical (Bonnie Milligan), Book and Rating.

“Who goes to this show?” asked a wag. “I don’t care if it wins the Preakness, the Nobel and the World Series!”

Victoria Clark, who plays the title role in Victoria Clark, who plays the title role in “Kimberly Akimbo,” won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

The musical’s low-key performance of the song “Anagram,” led by Clark, was confusing out of context.

But few of its competitors got here off a lot better on the telecast.

“& Juliet,” a peppy jukebox pixie keep on with songs by Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry and more performed a strangely lethargic rendition of Perry’s “Roar.” It’s so much more fun onstage than it looked on Sunday.

“Recent York, Recent York,” based on the Martin Scorsese movie, performed the famous “Start spreadin’ the news!” title number, but additionally had the whiff of an expensive tourist trap.

And the retro “Some Like It Hot” may have an uphill climb now that it’s lost Best Musical, which it desperately needed to win. Its flashy song-and-dance was nice but generic and old-fashioned, and the show costs a hefty $950,000 every week to run.

“Shucked”‘s musical number on the Tony Awards was big and boisterous. REUTERS

The musicals that got here off best, and will get a box office bump from the published, were the big-cast “Sweeney Todd,” starring Josh Groban, and the Neil Diamond show “A Beautiful Noise.”

That bio-musical had zero nominations and got horrible reviews, but its rendition of “Sweet Caroline” was one in every of the few vigorous moments of a protracted night that felt like “The Ring Cycle.”

The fabulous musical comedy “Shucked,” a lovable down-home show with a “Hee Haw” humorousness, was energetic and full of underdog appeal. It only won a single Tony, though, for Best Featured Actor (Alex Newell).

While the musicals were fighting for trophies in an try and stay alive, a lot of the winning plays have already closed or are about to.

Jodie Comer won Best Actress in a Play for her performance in Jodie Comer won Best Actress in a Play for her performance in “Prima Facie.” Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

“Leopoldstadt,” by the legendary British playwright Tom Stoppard, won Best Play just because it’s set to finish its run on the Longacre Theatre in July. 

Suzan-Lori Parks’ shuttered “Topdog Underdog” won Best Revival of a Play.

Musical Revival went to the limited run of Jason Robert Brown’s “Parade,” starring Ben Platt, concerning the lynching of Leo Frank.

Some big stars were nominated — Jessica Chastain for “A Doll’s House,” Josh Groban for “Sweeney Todd,” Samuel L. Jackson for “The Piano Lesson” — but were snubbed.

Jodie Comer (TV’s “Killing Eve”) won Best Actress for “Prima Facie,” though. Her Tony was well-deserved. The actress’ bravura turn within the one-woman-show a few lawyer whose life is upended is sensational.

Too bad Sean Hayes of “Will and Grace” won Best Actor in a Play for his hamfisted performance within the dreadful dramedy “Good Night, Oscar.” 

Joel Grey (left) and John Kander (right) were both honored with lifetime achievement Tony Awards.Joel Grey (left) and John Kander (right) were each honored with lifetime achievement Tony Awards.Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

What was best concerning the Tony Awards? The honored legends. 

John Kander, 96, who together with Fred Ebb, created “Chicago,” “Cabaret,” “Kiss of the Spider-Woman” and more, was moving as he reflected on his storied profession.

So was Joel Grey, who was introduced by his famous daughter Jennifer Grey, who played Baby within the movie “Dirty Dancing.” The 91-year-old took the stage and began to sing his signature song “Willkommen” from “Cabaret.” 

It was also a treat to see Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick present the award for Best Actor in a Play. In those two huge stars of 2001’s “The Producers,” the audience finally saw something they hadn’t seen all night long.

A success. 

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