Here are a few of my favorite Tony performances because as I often explain to un-theater people, this shit is my Super Bowl. I’m given one day a year to see it on TV. Let’s do this.
These are not in any particular order because I have enough trouble choosing “favorites” as is…
This Is Not Over Yet/The Old Red Hills of Home from Parade – 1999
Aside from being fantastic in most every way, this performance is introduced by Bea Arthur and Angela Lansbury so it’s automatically golden. Brent Carver and Carolee Carmello (who has possibly the best name in the history of ever) are perfect. (Side note: when I finished viewing this on YouTube, the first thing to show up in my suggested videos was Glenn Close’s Tony performance from 1995. And that’s just silly, we all know there were no Tonys in 1995.)
City Lights from The Act – 1978
This video says it is from the 1975 Tony Awards. Go home video, you are drunk. This is from 1978. There are a couple versions on YouTube and I chose the one that is eleven minutes and thirteen seconds long because I really enjoy that it includes the opening credits, which feature the names of the presenters and nominated musicals flying at your face. BOB HOPE! GENE KELLY! DANCIN’! ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY! Watch it, but duck first. This is followed by roughly eight and a half minutes of Liza Minnelli being the most Liza Minnelli-est she has ever been. If someone came to me and said “Help, I do not know what a Liza Minnelli is!” I would show them this video. (That will never happen, but in the event that it does, I have a plan!) She’s all Halston red sequins, singing a Kander & Ebb song about New York (nope not that one) and the best part is, girl is ON. Check out her microphone catch at 5:29. Think you could catch a microphone if it was thrown at your face? At the Tony Awards? On live national television? Mmhmm.
I think the real highlight here is that the tape then cuts to Ed Asner presenting the award for Leading Actress in a Musical or, more specifically, singing the list of nominees. That’s right, Lou Grant is singing the list of nominees including “Frances Sternhagen” which was probably kind of difficult to sing. I love Liza’s honest reaction to her win. Seated next to her is her BFF Halston, and the guy next to him literally jumping out of his seat is Steve Rubell, owner of Studio 54.
The Revolutionary Costume for Today from Grey Gardens – 2007
Christine Ebersole was flawless in this role, as evidenced by this performance. What you don’t see here is how perfect she was as the elder Edith in the show’s first act. You can witness that brilliance if you click here.
There You Are/Don’t Quit While You’re Ahead from The Mystery of Edwin Drood – 1986
This performance is also introduced by Bea Arthur! The combined greatness of Cleo Laine and Betty Buckley (who shockingly gets no entrance applause… wake up, audience?) more than makes up for the crappy video quality. This is good old-fashioned musical theater at its best, complete with a kick line.
A New Argentina from Evita – 1980
I could write a whole post solely about this performance. That said, I’ll try to keep this short and sweet, but I make no promises. You’ve reached the Patti LuPone portion of this list… consider yourself warned. This is basically perfect and the fact that Bob Gunton rivals Eartha Kitt with his rolled “R”s is just icing on the cake. And that cake’s already pretty iced because, hi, Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin are singing and newsflash, they are not kidding around. Patti’s Eva starts off as sass personified and doesn’t miss a beat the rest of the way through. I’m obsessed with the Look-with-a-capital-L she gives Peron starting at about 3:55, then at 4:05 she turns around like “bitch please.” Eva Peron doesn’t have time for your pensive bullshit, Juan. She’s got an Argentina to run and you’re in the way. (You’re also wearing really, really pink pajamas, like a lady.)
As for the rumors about portions of Patti’s vocals being prerecorded, who the hell cares? It’s not like she COULDN’T sing it, she DID sing it and wouldn’t you want your high Z flat prerecorded for national television, too? Girl is belting her face off. Deal.
Anything Goes – 1988
Here’s Patti continuing to meet her sass quotient, now with bonus tap dancing, as Reno Sweeney. This performance only furthers my theory that every Anything Goes ship looks exactly the same but that’s fine because this shit is classic.
Everything’s Coming Up Roses from Gypsy – 2008
Remember how I said if someone didn’t know what a Liza Minnelli was, I’d show them that video of City Lights? If someone didn’t know what a Patti LuPone was, I would show them this. The best thing about this performance, besides all of it, is the fact that she just opens her mouth and lets go. It’s raw, emotional, and perfect.
Sunday from Sunday in the Park with George – 1984
I triple-dog-dare you to sit through this without starting to cry. Go on. Try it.
So there you go, a few of my favorite Tony performances. Maybe if I get really ambitious tomorrow, I’ll post a few of my un-favorites…