My Special Pride/Tony Awards Playlist

Folks, don’t forget The 2018 Tony Awards are tonight on CBS at 8PM ET hosted by Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles.

My fellow LGBT blogger Larry over at The OUTFront asked me to come up with a special “Sounds of Pride” Tony Awards playlist as a guest post, and I figure why not share it here as well?

My goal was to share some magical moments from The Great White Way that also have a connection to the ideas of Pride Month for different reasons.

Let’s begin with the 1979 Tony Awards and “The Aggie Song” from Carol Hall’s The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. My dear friend Thommie Walsh (the original “Bobby” in A Chorus Line) was among the six nominations for the show at the Tony Awards that year, his for Best Choreography with Tommy Tune. While he didn’t win that year, his choreography was honored with Tony Awards twice – for A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine and My One and Only.

A sexy, naughty topic with hunky football players, the performance on the Tony Awards that year had to be edited for the national telecast 😉

In 2001, Thommie directed and choreographed a national tour of the show starring the on-and-only Ann-Margret.

Thommie passed away on June 16, 2007. I miss him every day. What an unbelievable spirit. Watch his work in action below.

Since the title of the post is “Sounds of Pride,” I’m going to go a little out-of-the-box and to include Paul’s monologue from the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Chorus Line.

Originated by Sammy Williams, who won a Tony Award for his performance, standing in a single spotlight for seven minutes, “Paul” shared his journey from bullied gay student to drag queen to aspiring Broadway dancer.

For the record-breaking “longest on Broadway” performance at the Shubert Theater in NYC, genius director/choreographer included past and present cast members in the ultimate celebration of the show.

For this moment, Bennett utilized a Greek chorus of “Pauls” chiming in with Sammy Williams as he re-created his Tony Award winning performance.

As I wrote earlier this year when Sammy passed away at 69, never before had a Broadway audience experienced such a raw, unfiltered version of our experiences in life as gay men. I remember seeing Sammy in the role in NYC and he was heart-stopping.

I wish I had the full monologue by Sammy but this gives you a sense of the incredible power of his performance.

Idina Menzel’s awesome performance of “Defying Gravity” from Wicked at the 2004 Tony Awards might seem like an unlikely choice for a Pride playlist, but her fearless rendition reveals much about the awesome sense of power we discover within ourselves.

Like countless audience members, I’ve enjoyed the show several times. But in this performance, check Idina’s expression at the :23 mark – she’s almost in awe as she realizes her own power.

“Something has changed within me, something is not the same.”

I never saw another “Elphaba” embody that specific thought.

And coupled with the blond, totally mainstream “Glinda” (by a perfect Kristin Chenoweth) who stands in admiration of her friend (check that 3:14 mark), I feel like this is such a metaphor for those who feel “other” and our allies.

“Unlimited – together, we’re unlimited.”

The message, at least to this gay writer, is clear. Our mission every day is to realize our own power. Even in the face of our haters.

“Look at her, she’s wicked. So we’ve got to bring her down.”

And of course, they do not.

From the ground-breaking RENT, the reprise of “I’ll Cover You” delivers in wide-ranging depth the sense of loss felt during the height of the AIDS epidemic.

Early in the show, this song is a flirty, fun moment of discovery between “Collins” and new boyfriend “Angel.” But in the aftermath of Angel’s passing, the same song takes on an entirely new meaning.

I wish I could find a great video of original “Tom Collins” Jesse L. Martin bringing this to life. But my friend Michael McElroy, veteran of 9 Broadway productions and who in 1999 became the founder and director of the Broadway Inspirational Voices definitely has the goodsin this clip from the official live-from-Broadway recorded version of the show.

“Live in my house – I’ll be your shelter. Just pay me back with 1,000 kisses. Be my lover and I’ll cover you.”

And finally, the gayest of the gay – the Tony Award performance by the original Broadway cast of the 1984 smash hit, La Cage Aux Folles.

I mean, seriously. Not only was this the first time Broadway musical audiences were presented with a loving same-sex romance, the indomitable Jerry Herman handed us our own anthem – “I Am What I Am.”

Plus – tap-dancing drag queens! Do I need to elaborate further?

Check out this performance from the 1984 Tony Awards where La Cage won 6 Tonys including “Best Musical as well as acceptance speeches from Jerry Herman, Harvey Fierstein, Arthur Laurents, and George Hearn.

“And now, I beg you – open your eyes…”

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