With T-minus mere hours until the danciest Tony Awards ever (!), the Broadway community has been pretty much drowning in statues, plaques and sealed white envelopes for days. Last Sunday evening, for example, marked the 60th annual Drama Desk Awards, which pitted both Broadway and Off-Broadway shows against each other. And the Theatre World Awards, which recognize stellar Broadway debuts, were held the following night in the heart of midtown Manhattan.
Just a little further downtown, another ceremony celebrated the most fantastic contingency of the Great White Way on Monday: The Fred & Adele Astaire Awards! Held at NYU's Skirball Center of the Performing Arts, the Astaire Awards honor Broadway's outstanding male and female dancers, choreographers and lifetime achievers. It was a long evening of great performances and speeches—here were the highlights:
1. Host Christina Bianco's impressions of Kristin Chenoweth, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli and Celine Dion. Six Broadway legends (plus a diva) in one word: Amazeballs. Watch this clip of Bianco performing at 54 Below to get an idea of her magic:
2. Joel Grey's Lifetime Achievement Award presentation. Before a heartfelt speech by his daughter (Dirty Dancing and "Dancing with the Stars" champ Jennifer Grey), there was a short film highlighting just a few of Joel Grey's many contributions to the theater world, including the original emcee in Cabaret, the Wizard of Oz in Wicked, Amos Hart in Chicago's 1996 revival and leading roles in Goodtime Charley, George M!, Anything Goes—even a part in the movie Dancer in the Dark, starring Björk. Take a look at Grey in the role he's most known for (and for which he won an Academy Award), the emcee the 1972 film version of Cabaret:
3. The awards! Each category was filled with intense competition—making it impossible to select just one winner in the Outstanding Male Dancer and Outstanding Choreography sectors: Robert Fairchild (An American in Paris) and Tony Yazbeck (On the Town) tied as Best Dancers, as did choreographers Christopher Wheeldon (An American in Paris) and Joshua Bergasse (On the Town). Leanne Cope (An American in Paris) took the Award for Outstanding Female Dancer.
Did I mention Fairchild (left) also took home a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical on Sunday? (Fairchild and Cope in An American in Paris; photo © Matthew Murphy)
4. The extra awards! Four "bellhops" from On the Twentieth Century won a special award for Outstanding Ensemble Performers after a tap-tastic rendition of "Life is Like a Train," choreographed by Warren Carlyle. This year's Astaire Awards also recognized choreography on screen: Akram Khan received the award for Outstanding Choreography in a Feature Film for his work on Desert Dancer. (Also notable: Aakomon Jones was nominated twice in that category for his choreography in both Get on Up and Pitch Perfect 2.)
On the Twentieth Century's Phillip Attmore, Rick Faugno, Drew King, Richard Riaz Yoder at the Astaire Awards (Photo by Presley Ann/PatrickMcMullan)
5. Studio Bleu Dance Center's closing number, Motown. One of the Astaire Awards' co-sponsors is New York City Dance Alliance, so one might guess there'd be some pretty spectacular kids' performances. And the dancers from Ashburn, VA, totally delivered. Their energy, technique, powerhouse stamina and amazing tapping had the entire audience on their feet—one of only two standing ovations for the entire evening. (The first was for Grey.) Can't wait to see some of these dancers on Broadway in years to come!