It might seem somewhat counter-intuitive to open the Tony broadcast with a number from a show called Something Rotten! But this Best Musical nominee is a goofy, high-energy love letter to the theater and this big Act 1 number, called “A Musical,” tips its many hats to pretty much every musical ever written. The characters from the show — which is set in the late 16th century and is a fantasy about the creation of the first musical as a way of competing with big-shot Bill Shakespeare — are regular folks in near-rags. They serve as a reminder that this highly glammed-up crowd loves to boast of its roots among the groundlings.
Brian d’Arcy James as the desperate playwright and Brad Oscar as Nostradamus (but not that Nostradamus) were in total command of the comic material as writer and soothsayer come up with the absurd idea of a new kid of show where actors suddenly stop speaking to sing and dance. They’re soon backed by a chorus line (!) of hoofers as they evoke every show from Les Miserables to Annie to A Chorus Line. Musical numbers on the Tonys are a very mixed bag, but this was a great choice to open the show — looking a lot like pure fun.