News Column

Revenge at the Tonys! Why 'Matilda' got the 'Boots'

June 10, 2013


By Michael Riedel;

Miss Trunchbull, the evil headmistress in "Matilda," said at last night's Tony Awards: "In this world, children, there are winners and losers."

How ironic, because the evening's biggest loser was . . . "Matilda."

Long-touted as the show to beat this season, the critically acclaimed "Matilda" was stomped all over by "Kinky Boots," which picked up six Tonys, including the crucial (at the box office) Best Musical.

"Matilda" went home with just three relatively minor awards, including Best Featured Actor in a Musical, for Gabriel Ebert.

Broadway rallied around its home team last night. "Kinky Boots" has a score by Cyndi Lauper (born and raised: Queens), a script by Harvey Fierstein (born and raised: Brooklyn) and was directed by Jerry Mitchell, who began 25 years ago dancing in the chorus of Broadway shows.

"Matilda" came from England, where it was produced by the celebrated Royal Shakespeare Co. But the arrogant RSC, thinking it had a winner on its hands, managed to alienate a number of Broadway producers who were vying to do it in New York.

The RSC kept them dangling on the line, and then, at the last minute, screwed them all by going with a New York producer - The Dodgers ("Jersey Boys") - who weren't even in the running for the show.

Last night, those rejected producers, who are also Tony voters, took their revenge.

"Matilda" is doing pretty well at the box office, but it needed the Tony to ensure its future. It could run into trouble at the box office sooner rather than later after last night's loss.

"Kinky Boots," on the other hand, gets all the glory today - and will have a nice surge through the summer. It also picked up Tonys for Lauper's tuneful score and for lead actor Billy Porter.

The biggest upset was in the category of Best Actor in a Play. Tom Hanks, who plays newspaper columnist Mike McAlary in "Lucky Guy," Nora Ephron's last play, was thought to be a shoo-in for the award.

But the Tony went to Tracy Letts (who?) for his fine performance as George in the revival of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Even Letts seemed stunned, though he gave a gracious speech, saying Hanks and the other nominees were in no way "my competition - you are my peers."

Hanks was the second big-name star to be snubbed. Bette Midler gave a terrific performance as an old Hollywood agent in "I'll Eat You Last," but she wasn't even nominated.

Those snubs will rattle a bunch of powerful Hollywood agents, who are trying to place some major movies stars in Broadway plays next season.

A big winner last night was "Pippin," which won Best Revival of a Musical, as well as awards for director Diane Paulus,and the hilarious Andrea Martin, who, at 69, swings upside down on a trapeze and sings a show-stopping number.

The classiest moment of the evening was delivered by Cicely Tyson, who, at 88, picked up the Tony for Best Actress for her performance in "A Trip to Bountiful." Tyson said she had not been on Broadway in 30 years, but hoped she might be given one more chance to "come home."

She got it - and a Tony Award to prove it.

Originally published by Michael Riedel and.

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