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by Michael Portantiere

The 2009 Phony Awards

  • Jeremy Piven in SPEED-THE-PLOW; photo by Brigitte Lacombe

    The 2009 Phony Awards

    Now that the Tonys have been doled out, it's time for the second annual Phony Awards -- a name I've borrowed from my friend and colleague Gerard Alessandrini, with his blessing. Again, I've tried to come up with categories that are tailored quite specifically to the shows and artists of the season, yet I was able to recycle several categories from last year -- e.g., Cutest Onstage Couple, Most Brilliant Comic Performance of the Season -- and simply plug in new winners. Remember that, because these are the Phonys and not the Tonys, Off-Broadway shows and artists are eligible. And allow me to reiterate that these awards are "phony" only in the sense that they don't actually exist and you're not going to see them on TV, which doesn't mean they're undeserved!


    Least Convincing Performance by an Actor:
    To Jeremy Piven. Not for his work in Speed-the-Plow, which was excellent, but for his later attempts to convince people that he abandoned the production because he had become ill from mercury poisoning. What a fish story!

    The Energizer Bunny Award:
    To the fabulous Liza Minnelli

    Most Brilliant Comic Performance of the Season:
    Josh Grisetti in the York Theatre Company's Off-Broadway production of Enter Laughing: The Musical

    Best Performance While Aloft:
    Marc Kudisch, Nine to Five

    Best New Musical Theater Writing Team:
    Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, Next to Normal

    The "Who Knew?" Award to a Show That Sounded Like it was Going to Be Horrendous but Turned Out to be a Blast:
    Rock of Ages

    The "Little Engine That Could" Award:
    [title of show]

    The "Blink and You Missed It" Award for Most Abbreviated Run:
    The Story of My Life

    The Classiest Dame Award:
    To Angela Lansbury, who got through 2007's hideous Deuce with her dignity intact and has now returned to Broadway to delight us in Blithe Spirit

    Cutest Onstage Couple:
    Gavin Creel and Will Swenson, Hair

    Most Disappointing Revival:
    Tie: West Side Story and Guys and Dolls. I suppose we should thank Arthur Laurents and Des McAnuff for proving that execrable direction can't quite kill a classic, but I would have much preferred to see worthy productions of these two great shows.

    Special Award to an Off-Broadway Play That Should Have Been Produced on Broadway and Should Have Won a Tony:
    Ruined, by Lynn Nottage. The play captured the Pulitzer Prize, and the Manhattan Theatre Club's Off-Broadway production garnered reviews far better than any shows the company offered in its Broadway venue, the Friedman.

    Best Performance in a Special Event:
    Jeremy Irons in the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition. He was funny and charming in his wry remarks about the flop Impressionism, in which he starred, and he also indulged in some priceless byplay with the ebullient Jane Fonda.

    The "Hello, Remember Me?" Award for a Fine Performance That Was Passed Over at Awards Time:
    Daniel Radcliffe, Equus

    The "Noises Off" Award for Technical Snafus:
    To whoever was responsible for the sound and camera work at the Tony Awards. All those screw-ups and bad decisions were especially unfortunate, given that the show itself was the best in several years

    Most Underrated Show of the Season:
    Pal Joey

    Most Overrated Show of the Season:
    Billy Elliot. Please don't get me wrong: I love it overall, and given the competition, this show deserved to win the Tony for Best Musical. But BE does have a lot of significant problems, which most of the critics glossed over. Count this as one of those cases where people adore the whole so much, they forgive the fact that some of the parts don't work.

    Published on Tuesday, June 9, 2009

    Michael Portantiere has more than 30 years' experience as an editor and writer for TheaterMania.com, InTHEATER magazine, and BACK STAGE. He has interviewed theater notables for NPR.org, PLAYBILL, STAGEBILL, and OPERA NEWS, and has written notes for several cast albums. Michael is co-author of FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: BEHIND THE MYLAR CURTAIN, published in 2008 by Hal Leonard/Applause. Additionally, he is a professional photographer whose pictures have been published by THE NEW YORK TIMES, the DAILY NEWS, and several major websites. (Visit www.followspotphoto.com for more information.) He can be reached at [email protected]

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