Last year we got an entire circus, this year we got four minutes of kangaroo hops.
For the 68th annual Tony Awards, Hugh Jackman didn’t want to try to top Neil Patrick Harris’ four years of excellence — leading up to last year’s impressively acrobatic opening number in celebration of “Pippin.” Instead, he and the creative team went for a low-key lead-in, featuring Jackman bouncing through the audience and backstage against overtures from the various musicals that are up for awards this year (an obscure homage to Bobby Van’s sequence in 1953’s “Small Town Girl”).
Part of his bit included soft jokes about being Australian, which he somehow did not exhaust last time he hosted the Tonys in 2003. And then there was one joke that, upon hearing Jackman was hosting the awards show this year, NPH reached out with a congratulatory, “Wow, that’s fantastic!” — or, at least, that’s what Jackman assumes he meant by “WTF.”
We also got brief interlude in which Jackman joined the “After Midnight” ensemble in a quick tap number. (“Wolverine in tap shoes — you won’t see that at ComicCon,” he quipped.)
It’s a little disappointing that cutesy jokes and a few song-and-dance asides summed up the hosting gig this year. It’s classy, it’s just not what we’re used to — and it’s not a competition, so why fear falling short? Nothing says “go big or go home” like the Tony Awards.
At the very least, it provided a neutral backdrop for the musical numbers woven throughout the program, including “One Day More” from “Les Miserables,” “Friend Like Me” from “Aladdin” and “Always Starting Over” from “If/Then.”
Awards starting out the night included Mark Rylance (“Twelfth Night”) as the Best Supporting Actor in a Play, following shortly by Lena Hall (“Hedwig”) as the Best Featured Actress in a Musical, as well as Robert L. Freedman (“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”) for Best Book. See how the awards hold up to our Critic’s Picks.
Check back for updates as the night progresses and be sure to follow T. Michelle Murphy on Twitter: @TMichelleMurphy.