The Tonys Put Dancing Out Front but Hide the Choreographer

posted by Wendy Perron on Monday, Jun 10, 2013
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The four Matildas perform at the 2013 Tony Awards.

I get frustrated when dancing is used to pump audiences up, but the actual award in choreography is given off camera. The Tonys began with a big show of dancing last night. After all, that’s what gets people jazzed. But if you wanted to know who won Best Choreography, you only saw it in flashback, along with the other "minor" categories.

 

As I mentioned before, this was a year for preternaturally talented little kids. The opening number brought together the little revolutionaries of Matilda with the orphans of Annie. Their chutzpah and professionalism dazzled everybody.


Jerry Mitchell won Best Choreography for Kinky Boots (which also won for Cyndi Lauper's best Original Score, and Best Musical), a musical bursting with hard-earned exuberance and a message to be yourself no matter how confusing your gender is to other people.


Another Kinky Boots win, Billy Porter, for Best Actor in a Musical, gave the most joyous and moving acceptance speech. He thanked Jerry Mitchell for "giving me a space to soar" and his mother for her courage to accept "what she did not understand" in her son. Click here for his full, infectious, passionate remarks.

 

At right: Porter in Kinky Boots. Photo by Matthew Murphy, Courtesy KB.

 

This was a good year for choreography on Broadway. Matilda, with sharply gestural, brilliant choreography by Peter Darling, was a close runner-up for Best Choreography. As was Andy Blankenbuehler’s giddily high-flying cheer squads for Bring It On. Of course Pippin is a spectacular revival, whose choreography by Chet Walker skillfully blends dance and acrobatics. (Thank goodness, finally after several wins for Pippin, someone mentioned Bob Fosse.) Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams did a great job on Motown. Hands on a Hard Body, about ten gritty, hard-luck characters, had sensitive, ingenious choreography by Sergio Trujillo. And Warren Carlyle made Chaplin, the person and musical, come alive.


Going back to all those amazing children. There are so many of them now on Broadway that one is tempted to think this is just what kids can do these days. But in every case, what those children accomplish onstage—as singers, actors, and dancers with infallible timing—is extraordinary.