About midway through CBS‘ live telecast of the 68th Tony Awards on Sunday night, host Hugh Jackman told the audience at Radio City Music Hall that the first show he’d ever been cast in was Meredith Willson’s The Music Man. To prepare, in fact, he’d learned all eight parts to “Rock Island,” the opening number of that signature piece of syncopated Americana, and to prove it, he performed a minute or so, sprecht-singing all eight parts. The first words are: Cash for the merchandise/Cash for the buttonhooks, which sounds like the beginning of an ode to Broadway, 2014. Then he ushered out LL Cool J and TI, and all three of them rapped “Rock Island,” which sounded a lot like Sesame Street, 1995. It was funny and toothless. Much the same can be said for the most breathlessly upbeat Tony broadcast in memory. Almost nothing memorable happened over the course of just over three hours of good cheer.
Jackman looked somewhat raffish and ragged of beard, as though he was coming from an audition for a revival of Sunday In The Park With George. He bunny-hopped bizarrely from the street to the backstage of Radio City Music Hall, high-fiving cast members from shows and stars preparing for their numbers, hopped into the audience and up onto the stage as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Even the edgiest nominee of the evening, Hedwig And The Angry Inch and its star, Neil Patrick Harris, seemed more intent on nuzzling the audience than, perish the thought, shocking it.