Tony Award Winner(s), 1960, The Sound of Music and Fiorello

19 Mar

Well in 1960 there were two Tony awards for Best musical, which is slightly lame because I’m half expecting one year them to say “you’re all winners” and just hand out awards for free.   Anyway, The Sound of Music was the shoo in.  A major hit, and the last Rogers and Hammerstein work, there is something about it that is indelibly classic.   There’s very little I can tell you about it that you don’t already know, except that Mary Martin really works very well in this.  She’s a bit more formal than Andrews, but after all it is the stage, and her voice has a lovely purity that really goes with her character.  All in all it’s the perfect cap to the traditional 3 act musical that R&H perfected, and a glorious swansong.

As for the present (for 1960) we’ve got Fiorello.   This is the sort of Broadway show that could have only have succeeded in 1960, not before and not after.   The optimism here is high even by broadway standards, and it’s simple (and very romanticized) story basically upholds the idea that a hard working everyman can outdo all the grifters and shysters if he just tries hard enough.   The show was a smash, and clearly hit a nerve at the time.   However, it is severely dated  now.  While The Sound of Music is universal, Fiorello is so specific, I can’t imagine it succeeding at any other time, and with any other people.   I don’t have the heart to begrudge this show its Tony though, it’s so exuberant, and while the show is very simplistic, it doesn’t come across as inauthentic.

And for the future, the show that was nominated, and did not win, the indelible Gypsy.  I don’t blame Tony for not giving it best musical, even though it is one of the biggest classics on Broadway.   I love Gypsy, but Ethel Merman’s version is about Ethel Merman more than Mama Rose.   She just about eats it all up–story and all.   For all of Tony’s flaws, I get the sense that they really try hard to give the award (at least at that point) to the best all around show, and avoided giving too many awards to star vehicles.

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