#FlashbackFriday: Show People Host Paul Wontorek Counts Down His 10 Ultimate Tony Performances
May 16th, 2014
by Josh Ferri
BroadwayBox’s Ultimate Top 10 Tony Performances Series continues this week with our second guest blogger, the host of Show People—Broadway's most popular talk show series— and the editor-in-chief of Broadway.com, Paul Wontorek. Below, he counts down the 10 Tony Awards’ performances that made him fall in love with Broadway as a kid. #AllAboutTheThemes.
10. “Starmites”/“It’s Hard to Be a Diva,” Starmites, 1989
Let’s kick off this list with a WTF?! entry, shall we? The sci-fi spoof musical Starmites brought ALL of its craziness to the Tonys for a nutty medley featuring Beautiful mama Liz Larsen in a bad 80s get-up, Sharon McKnight’s scary diva schtick and Gabrielle Barre as a friggin’ LIZARD. But the best part is watching Angela Lansbury describe the plot!
9. “Love Changes Everything,” Aspects of Love, 1990
I skipped the prom and went to the Tonys in 1990, so I saw this one live. I love it because it’s completely original—rather than do a number from the show, the stars performed an original staging of the gorgeous Lloyd Webber ballad that summarizes the show’s many romantic twists and turns in just three minutes. Genius!
8. “I Am What I Am,” La Cage aux Folles, 1981
My late, great friend Al D. Rodriguez introduced me to many great Tony Award performances, including this gem, one of his personal favorites. We would watch it over and over (on VHS!) and he’d always love to point out to me which of the Cagelles were actual women!
7. “Unexpected Song,” Song and Dance, 1986
This is the very first Tony performance I actually remember watching live as a kid in Connecticut. Bernadette Peters is in full Bernadette Peters mode here—her voice has never sounded better, her hair has never looked kinkier...I had no idea why she was singing to a cowboy boot, but I was hooked on her.
6. “T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do,” Black and Blue, 1989
When I was a college freshman, I saw this tap and blues review many times with free student tickets. The dancing was spectacular, but the real event was seeing the real blues icons shimmy their stuff onstage. Here, legends Ruth Brown and Linda Hopkins show us how it’s done.
5. “Rags,” Rags, 1987
Judy Kuhn is brilliant in the title song from the flop Rags (Kuhn was already Cosette in Les Miz by the time she performed this). Her voice is the Broadway standard that everyone must live up to in my head thanks to this clip.
4. “Tomorrow”/“You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile”/”Easy Street,” Annie, 1977
Come on, it’s over ten minutes of the original cast of Annie! Would I love Broadway, “N.Y.C.” or scruffy dogs this much if I’d never seen Annie as a kid? I shudder to think.
3. “Buenos Aires,” Evita, 1981
A year after winning her Tony for playing Eva Peron, Patti LuPone returned to the telecast to seduce the cameras with a sassy and blowsy “Buenos Aires” that is just one of the best things ever.
2. “We’ll Take a Glass Together,” Grand Hotel, 1990
Even without my favorite leading man David Carroll as the Baron (already battling AIDS, he watched from the audience), this clip perfectly captures the beauty and joy of Tommy Tune’s greatest achievement, Grand Hotel. Oh, Michael Jeter, how I loved you so!
1. “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats”/“Memory,” Cats, 1983
Don’t question it. It’s the show that made me love this crazy world in the first place. For sheer theatricality, you can’t beat a jellicle song about jellicle cats or the stirring Betty Buckley as glamour puss Grizabella.
Click here to see each previous bloggers' top picks, and check back next Friday to hear from a three-time Tony nominated diva as she counts down her faves.