Tony, Tony, Tony
8:02: The woman playing Rafiki seems unable to hit most of the notes in the song (you'd think they'd find that out at auditions), so we get off to a rocky start. Not that anyone has ever sounded good croaking, "From the day we arrive on the plaaaaanet..." Also, the sound balance is off, so the guy over in the corner, wearing a headdress with curly ram horns and chanting, is louder than anyone else onstage. Gotta love that big elephant coming down the aisle, though.
8:03: Choreography for the stage is an art that really loses something in the translation to television. The constant cutting from one camera to another, the close-ups without context, the never allowing us to see the whole stage at once -- all those factors do their best to sap whatever impact this number might have if you saw it live. And that jointed wooden baby-Simba puppet doesn't look so great in close-up, TV cameraman. Pull back!
8:04: Why, it's host Whoopi Goldberg, wearing an inappropriate costume! Once so unexpected, and now so comfortingly familiar! Much like Julie Taymor's staging of The Lion King!
8:07: Introducing Laurence Fishburne (now starring in the one-man play Thurgood), Whoopi refers to Thurgood Marshall as "the first African-American Supreme Court Justice -- actually, the only African-American... No, that's not true." Edgy political joke? Or just an indication that Whoopi is trying, unwisely, to get through this without sticking to the prompter? She apologizes, claiming she just "forgot" about you-know-who, and she seems so flustered I'm inclined to believe her. But the audience has chosen to assume the lapse was intentional.
8:08: Having dispensed with all those pesky behind-the-scenes awards, this year we're starting things off with Best Featured Actress in a Play. Wondering where Laurie Metcalf has been keeping herself since Roseanne? Look no further! She was on Broadway! And hey, look, Martha Plimpton... wasn't she in The Goonies? Those are a few of the nominees, but you probably won't recognize this year's winner, Rondi Reed, who came all the way from the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago to win this award (for her hilarious performance in August: Osage County, a play you'll be hearing a lot about tonight). Unfortunately for you, she played her last performance this afternoon, and now she's taking that Tony back to Chicago. But don't worry, prospective ticket-buyers! I'm sure her replacement will be just as good! Or, possibly, less good, but more famous!