Magazine article The Spectator

Antipodean Triumph

Magazine article The Spectator

Antipodean Triumph

Article excerpt

Had the director Michael Blakemore not been kind enough to teach me how to read and do joined-up writing in Australia sometime in the late 1940s, I would not now be able to celebrate his historic victory in this week's Broadway Tony Awards.

Not only did he win two consecutive Tonys for Best Director (of Michael Frayn's Copenhagen, the snob hit of the season, and of a joyous, first-ever revival in New York of the Cole Porter classic Kiss Me Kate), but he also brought home another six for his casts and crews.

My Broadway musical-historian neighbour Mark Steyn will doubtless know of other eight-Tony winners from the golden age of the Great White Way, but I somehow doubt that any of them were seventysomething Australians who, until a decade a go, had virtually never seen, let alone directed, a Broadway musical.

If Sunday was a good night for the Brits on Broadway, it was a great one for the Australians: not only Blakemore but also Barry Humphries, triumphantly hurling Dame Edna's gladioli at a Broadway from where only a decade or so ago he/she was virtually run out of town for his/her deep political incorrectness.

But if Broadway has at last grown up to the great Dame, elsewhere it is still in considerable trouble. An awards night which also brought home to London prizes for Tim Rice and Elton John (neither of whom bothered to show up, so sure must they have been that Aida was not going to make it), the dramatist Michael Frayn, the designer Bob Crowley, the actress Jennifer Ehle (knocking out her own mother Rosemary Harris in the same category), and the actors Roy Dotrice and Stephen Dillane, did not have a great deal to say for the health or even the existence of new American drama.

And, although this is a vintage year for revivals of classic musicals (not only Blakemore's Kiss Me Kate but the Bernadette Peters Annie Get Your Gun and a breathtaking new Music Man from Susan Stroman), the category for new musicals, once the greatest of Broadway strengths, was such a fiasco that the judges ended up having to nominate a couple of all-dance extravaganzas, a curiosity (James Joyce's The Dead) and a catastrophe called The Wild Party.

Admittedly I saw this at a disadvantage, in that the curtain was up, and the two stars (Mandy Patinkin and Toni Collette) were both off, presumably rehearsing to lose their Tonys. …

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