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Motown musings on the 2014 Tony Awards

This writer shamelessly loved the 2014 Tony Awards broadcast. Every bit of it. The only down side is that it induces an unhealthy sort of covetousness – the wish for the kind of fabulous wealth that would make it possible to just pop over to NYC and see all of the shows. Of course, we know that some of these plays will enjoy national tours and make their way here, thanks to Broadway in Detroit. We can bet that Disney puts “Aladdin” on the road. And certainly "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" and “After Midnight” could make their way to Motown. I have friends who swear by “Bullets Over Broadway,” and that seems like one that could work on tour.

Audra MacDonald receives her sixth Tony Award from first-time winner Neil Patrick Harris.
Photo by Theo Wargo

But for shows that pivot on that ONE amazing person performing an iconic role, I suspect the best bet is to scheme a trip to Broadway. We want to see Audra McDonald play Billie Holiday in "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill.” We want to see first-time Tony winner Jessie Mueller play the title role in "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical." And we want the live-and-in-person experience of seeing Bryan Cranston recreate the late LBJ in "All the Way," which won the Tony for best play and earned “rookie” Cranston his first Tony.

Of all my many favorite Tony moments, too many to recount, the ones I enjoyed most were the many thank-yous that winners sent out not only to the Supreme Being, but to their humblest and earliest supporters, teachers, theatre angels, and local troupes.

Neil Patrick Harris, who won for his title role in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” said, “I would just like to say thank you to the people who inspire us creatively, like teachers... These are teachers in small town New Mexico who when sports was the only option, showed that creativity had a place in the world. Without them I would never be able to do any of this. So thank you so much!"

Audra MacDonald thanked the women who came before her. “I want to thank all the shoulders of the strong and brave and courageous women that I am standing on. I'm standing on Lena Horne, I'm standing on Maya Angelou, Diane Carroll, Ruby Dean, and most of all Billie Holiday. You deserved so much more than you were given when you were on this planet.”

And Kenny Leon, who won as Director of “A Raisn in the Sun” thanked his mother for encouraging him and then said, “I'm looking for the day when every child in America can have a little piece of theatre in their daily educational lives. To all the people at True Colors Theatre in Atlanta who buy tickets and see plays in Atlanta- to the people who buy tickets for the stage and theatres like Seattle Rep and LA Theatre Center. Thank you to all the people who get on buses and planes and trains to come to Broadway to see our work.”

Everybody gets a start someplace. We’ve all seen shows here in the Detroit area with performances that stand up to the best Broadway has to offer. I like to think that one day a show or performer that originates here will make it to the Great White Way. Because our local companies, playwrights and performers have gifts worth sharing with the rest of the world. In the meantime, we can cherish the professional, community and academic theatre gems we have in this area. Creative people need others who believe in their talent. We can be those people.

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