Conducting Idina Menzel from the bathroom at Radio City
June 10, 2014 6:54 AM   Subscribe

I gotta say, I missed Neil Patrick Harris as host. He has the best mix of "this is an important event and I'm excited about it" and "but awards shows are really weird things and I can poke fun at that as well". Hugh Jackman was a little too....reverent.

But then again, if Neil had hosted, we wouldn't have gotten to see him do that number from Hedwig and thus wouldn't have seen him lick Samuel L. Jackson and give Sting a lapdance, so....fair trade.

And since this is clearly the TONYS post-show thread - is it me, or did the actress playing Eponine in that Les Miz clip sound awful?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:06 AM on June 10

is it me, or did the actress playing Eponine in that Les Miz clip sound awful?

Not you. I liked Nikki M. James in The Book of Mormon, but I don't think her voice is quite right for Eponine.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:16 AM on June 10

I'm still getting over my shock that Best Score was relegated to the minor awards given out before the actual broadcast.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 7:45 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

still_wears_a_hat, Book and Score were both during the broadcast, during commercials. :/
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:48 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

Thanks, roomthreeseventeen, I missed that. That's a little better, but still.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 8:15 AM on June 10

I was oddly charmed by "Rock Island" being performed with LL Cool J. I've had that number memorized since I was, like, 10 years old or something. I'd oddly never thought of it as a rap song before.

(I will admit to being obsessed enough with the Robert Preston movie version of The Music Man that I watch it pretty much every time it comes on TCM. Which is ridiculously frequently.)
posted by hippybear at 8:22 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

I saw Hedwig on Friday night before the Awards from the very last row in the balcony and wasn't able to see what happened when NPH left the stage. Sunday night was a revelation: "So that's what he does! He dances on Orlando Bloom, Sting and licks Samuel L. Jackson's glasses! But why weren't they listed in my Playbill?"
posted by yeti at 8:24 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

Why did she conduct from the bathroom?

Also, I was under the impression that you don't really "conduct" soloists, but conduct the orchestra off of the soloist. I'm confused about how she could do that when she couldn't even see the orchestra for most of the feed.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:27 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

After great deliberation, I've decided that Hedwig number was a fair trade for NPH hosting, but I expect him back next year or I will write a sternly worded tweet.

I was also pleased with "Rock Island." That worked better than it should have.

Can we all agree that...thing...from Rocky just didn't happen? Collective two-minute-long amnesia?
posted by Stacey at 8:28 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

Can we all agree that...thing...from Rocky just didn't happen?

I'm too busy being amused that "Eye Of The Tiger" is now part of the Broadway Pantheon.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:34 AM on June 10

Also, I was under the impression that you don't really "conduct" soloists, but conduct the orchestra off of the soloist. I'm confused about how she could do that when she couldn't even see the orchestra for most of the feed.

The orchestra wasn't live. I mean, there was an orchestra, but they were not playing any of the pre-recorded pieces. This lady was just conducting Idina Menzel.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:56 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

> Also, I was under the impression that you don't really "conduct" soloists, but conduct the orchestra off of the soloist. I'm confused about how she could do that when she couldn't even see the orchestra for most of the feed.
In the comments on that video, someone says that the orchestra track for that performance was pre-recorded, and presumably conducted by this conductor. Let's assume that's the case...

While Idina Menzel's heard the orchestra play zillions of times, every performance (and therefore, recording) is different. So here, the conductor works to unite the emotional/musical pacing. It may have been as strong a performance without the conducting, but why take chances? (At the Tonys?) Trying to learn by rote the emotional pacing of the track may also have been logistically impossible, not to mention detrimental to the spontaneous quality of a good performance.

Probably the bathroom because she needed to be able to hear the full recording, and hear it well. It probably was also an amply well-lit choice of location, given the need for a decent image to stream.

Two speculative cents from an amateur chorister/theatre sideliner.
posted by undue influence at 8:57 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

This lady was just conducting Idina Menzel.

Okay, then that makes her being in the bathroom even more puzzling. How could Idina see her?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:57 AM on June 10

There's a webcam thingy set up on the monitor she's facing, but as to how Idina Menzel sees her... perhaps there are screens facing the stage that the audience can't see?
posted by undue influence at 9:06 AM on June 10

Yeah, I don't understand either.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:20 AM on June 10

That part is pretty common, isn't it? I think I've seen those monitors at musicals before.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:30 AM on June 10

Guys, I'm not asking how the conductor can see Idina - I'm asking how Idina can see the conductor.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:33 AM on June 10

Guys, I'm not asking how the conductor can see Idina - I'm asking how Idina can see the conductor.

Probably on a monitor that was placed somewhere at Radio City, like the teleprompter.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:34 AM on June 10

Yeah, I'm willing to be the to-the-audience basically invisible modern teleprompter devices have evolved, in this digital age, to be able to show video content and not just words.
posted by hippybear at 9:40 AM on June 10

Fabulous post - thank you.

(I love the tap-dancing mobsters in the Bullets Over Broadway clip from the 2nd link. Sex on a stick!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:43 AM on June 10

...from the bathroom...

What, and leave show business?
posted by The Tensor at 9:53 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]

Given that the Tonys are televised, there's a decent chance that there was a plain old-fashioned TV camera with a teleprompter within her view.

Also, every teleprompter that I've worked with has had a VGA input or similar. They're pure video devices. This is how you can do remote interviews without having your subject take their eyes off of the camera.
posted by schmod at 10:42 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

is it me, or did the actress playing Eponine in that Les Miz clip sound awful?

Not you. I liked Nikki M. James in The Book of Mormon, but I don't think her voice is quite right for Eponine.

Yep, this. Loved her in Book of Mormon, found her shrill and disappointing as Eponine.

Hugh got lousy material this year. I'm sure he had input, but it didn't help. He's done a good hosting job before, and he wasn't any less talented, just ... boring. I hated the opening, even after understanding what it was inspired by. It's the TONYS, for God's sake - there needs to be SINGING in the opening number. I understand that NPH's opening last year is hard to top, but you gotta *try*!

I thought Jennifer Hudson doing Neverland at the end, though well performed, was choosing Hollywood over Broadway, but considering we didn't get to see Best Score, Best Book, or In Memoriam, who's surprised?

I thought the Music Man rap was great. I found myself pleasantly surprised by how good many of the acceptance speeches were, and loved the standing O Audra got, and her "ugly cry" acceptance speech

I missed NPH most at the end, when I realized they weren't really doing a closing number, just a sort of medley of songs with "Broadway" in them.
posted by booksherpa at 10:57 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

Yeah pretty much every teleprompter ever has been able to do video. When they display text it's just a video image of text.
posted by MrBobaFett at 11:01 AM on June 10

MetaFilter: Just a Video Image of Text.
posted by Mister_A at 11:19 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

Whoa -- that Music Man rap was amazing.

But OH MY STARS, the Cabaret number -- something about it seemed really thin and off (or possibly it's just my laptop speakers?), but my God. I'd known about Alan Cummings' interpretation of the emcee, but to see it, see him emerge out of the darkness like some underworld-dwelling sexual god, it's amazing. The feel of the Weimar republic is so completely captured in his costume, and the Kit Kat girls' costumes -- everything is on a precipice, it's ratty and gross and no one quite cares that everything is rotten just yet, but that horrible moment is coming, and he can see it.

In short, I thought NPH's performance was my favourite thing, but I need to lie down after the bit of Cabaret.
posted by kalimac at 11:28 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

I was irked that they wasted broadcast time on what were basically two "Coming Soon" segments (Sting and Jennifer Hudson), but relegated the "In Memorium" segment and the Best Score award to the commercials. I recognize that the Tonys are basically a big ad for Broadway, but they didn't have to be quite so blatant. [Basically, seconding what booksherpa said.]

NPH was excellent (I was apprehensive about how he'd do in that role), but I still don't know why they performed "Sugar Daddy", which is (IMNSHO) the least interesting song from the show. I assume it was so he could molest the audience (which, to be fair, was awesome), but I would have loved to hear him do "Tear Me Down" or "Origin of Love" or "Midnight Radio".
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 12:37 PM on June 10

I was surprised, as someone who seriously loves musicals, how just dull I found a lot of the performances. Including Wicked and Beautiful. But I thought Aladdin and Gentleman’s Guide were fun, and Violet, Cabaret and Hedwig made up for almost everything else.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:21 PM on June 10

Clearly the bathroom in the video is backstage in the dressing area and is not THE bathroom at Radio City. When I took a tour, along with others who'd been in the theater many times, a highlight was when the women were allowed to tour the men's room and vice versa. Trust me, they are VERY nice rest rooms.

And oh, that NPH. How that lad can sell a tune!
posted by kinnakeet at 4:27 PM on June 10

Really enjoying the Hedwig cast recording.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 4:48 PM on June 10

I always wanted the tonies to be in honour of Tony Randall. No reason.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:35 PM on June 10

Livestream of the new Hedwig cast recording is up!
Hedwig and the Angry Inch was first conceived by Trask and Mitchell in 1994 while they were working on another show. Hedwig premiered off-Broadway in 1998 with Mitchell donning the eponymous character’s blonde wig and heels (which he did again in the 2001 movie), and when the time came to record the 1999 cast album, Mitchell knew the material inside and out. He had also grown up loving and wanting to sing the ’70s glam rock that characterizes much of the show’s score, whereas Neil Patrick Harris had not.

So, Trask said, they put together a “cultural immersion” for Harris to study so that he could understand what influenced Hedwig and what would have been a part of her world. It included audio and video of acts like Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, Devo, the Ramones, The Clash, Iggy Pop, and Fugazi, all of whom provided vocal and visual cues for Hedwig. “[Harris] was more than happy [to study],” Trask said. “He’s such a detailed performer: the way he gets inside melodic notes or lyrics or acting cues … every little thing.”
So, basically, NPH is Trask & Mitchell's real life Tommy Gnosis. Life reflecting art reflecting life, or something.
posted by hippybear at 11:26 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]

And dammit, Origin Of Love is going to make me cry yet again, I can tell.
posted by hippybear at 11:29 PM on June 10

Okay, but is anyone else noticing the MONSTROUS BITCHFACE the girl in white applauding at the end of the I've Decided To Marry You video is throwing?

That is world-class Vicious Asshole. I stand in awe.

(The performance itself is also a delight, go watch it if you skipped it for some reason)
posted by pseudonymph at 8:21 PM on June 11

'kay, I got a favor for all y'all theater fans, speaking as a (onetime) theater techie.

The TONY committee is looking to eliminate the award for sound design next year, after only 5 years of even awarding it. Granted, this isn't one of the sexy awards and it's an award that is probably given out during the commercials during the TONY broadcast - but it's just as vital and important a part of a production as the score, lights, costuming and performances.

We techies and designers already kinda feel like the underappreciated bastard stepchildren as it is (they don't even HAVE a TONY for stage managers, which - if you think about it - is kind of nuts), so this is a real slap in the face to a crap-ton of really hardworking and talented designers.

There's a petition urging the TONY committee to reinstate the awards; please put the word out and sign.

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:23 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I think it's impossible not to cry during that song. You're just puttering along, listening to a well-crafted fable along the lines of One Tin Soldier or something, when suddenly the song reaches its rock climax and returns with:
The last time I saw you, we had just split in two
You were looking at me, and I was looking at you...
And far from being a distant fable, it's now an intensely personal tale of loss and yearning.
posted by The Confessor at 4:29 PM on June 17

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