The magic of Broadway is far more than the amazing casts’ ability to do it — and do it right — eight times a week.
The magic is the ability to stage something original (or sometimes translate it from film) that speaks to a broad audience. That touches their hearts. And, sometimes, tells a story that is both completely foreign and altogether familiar.
The Jewish-American role in that magic is well-documented and it was on fine display in the 2015 Tony Awards on CBS Sunday night. Just look at the late talents behind this year’s amazing musical revivals, like Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town and Best Revival of a Musical winner, The King and I (Richard Rodgers).
Actress and playwright Lisa Kron, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor — her dad’s parents were killed in Chelmno — took her place in that narrative with two top Tonys, one of them a historic win, for a story that bills itself as a new kind of American musical.
If you’ve not heard of it yet, you have now. It’s this year’s Tony-winning Best Musical called Fun Home.
Its themes couldn’t be more timely in this year of tragic stories of the struggles of gay and transgender youth and the triumphant coming out of actor Joel Grey as a gay man, and Olympic champion Bruce Jenner as a trans woman, Caitlyn.
Fun Home is based on the autobiographical graphic novel (essentially, a book told with comic book panels) by Alison Bechdel. Its her story of growing up lesbian with a closeted, suicidal homosexual father.
Kron, 55, gave the stage life to Bechdel’s work. She won the Tony for Best Book for Fun Home. She also wrote the lyrics and, with composer Jeanine Tesori, won Best Score. It was a historic win; never before has a female team won the category.
“For many, many years I have had a recurring dream, and I don’t mean a metaphorical dream or a Martin Luther King dream. I mean an actual while-I’m-sleeping dream that I suddenly discover: that the apartment I live in has a whole bunch of rooms I didn’t know were there. And I’m like, ‘How could I not know about all of these rooms?’” Kron said in accepting her honor. “I’ve been thinking about that dream as I’ve been thinking about this amazing Broadway season. Because we all live in this big house and we’ve all been sitting in the same one or two rooms thinking that this was the whole house, and this season some lights got turned on in some other rooms and we’re all like, ‘Oh my god, this house is so much bigger than I thought.’” By the way, the musical won Best Director for Sam Gold, who is married to another huge Jewish-American talent, playwright Amy Herzog. Michael Cerveris won Best Actor for his role as Bechdel’s dad, and carried his tie on stage.
Speaking of 83-year-old Joel Grey (Cabaret Oscar winner), he and daughter Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing), 55, showed up arm-in-arm and did a comic bit on his personal story of coming out as gay earlier year to introduce a performance from the Fun House.
Feigning that no one knew his story the Jewish dad and daughter talk in a almost code about how Bechdel’s story about having a secretly gay dad may resonate.
They introduced show-stopping number by young actress, 11-year-old Sydney Lucas, who plays the youngest version of Bechdel. It’s a sexual-awakening piece called “Ring of Keys.”
And it’s amazing.
You know who also was amazing? Larry David and Jason Alexander.
And it was also Fun Home-related and tongue-in-cheek: They announced the winner in the category but not without a side-splitting intro that descended into true David schtick, complete with a reference to Bell’s Palsy (if you’re a Seinfeld fan, you get it).
Alexander talks about how he is replacing David the brilliant but Tony-snubbed “Fish in the Dark,” which the Seinfeld co-creator wrote.
“I don’t know about replacing,” David, 67, chortles. “You’re stepping in.”
“Uh, that’s what it’s called,” Alexander (a/k/a George Costanza) shoots back, reminding him of his multiple nominations, seven for Seinfeld alone.
It becomes a dogfight of insults with David mocking Alexander for never winning and Alexander, 55, mocking David for being snubbed by Tony in the musical and acting categories. ‘ A flustered David then pats himself on the back for agreeing to hand out the best musical statue.
And then bam. Anti-semitism, he yells. He’s the victim. So was producer Harvey Weinstein, whose Finding Neverland, which is doing big box office, got nothing from Tony. Zero.
Larry David, you’re the greatest.
Weinstein was laughing throughout the David-Alexander bit. All the way to the bank, we suspect. It’s made more than a million dollars and the seats are still packed.
Weinstein,63, may have gotten snubbed but he got camera time several times in Sunday’s broadcast. And a big old commercial.
Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer performed “Stronger” from the Peter Pan prequel and, like David and Weinstein, did so despite the snubs. No statue, but the air time? Priceless.