In the build-up to this year’s Tony Awards, let’s step into our handy time machine (I imagine it looks something like Greased Lightning crossed with the spare tire lift from Cats) and take a look at years past. Our destination today: 1972.
Taking a look at the winners and nominees, one thing is clear: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Two of this year’s best revival of a musical candidates, Follies and Jesus Christ Superstar were fighting it out in many of the musical categories (alongside Grease and surprising Best Musical winner Two Gentleman of Verona). Mike Nichols was the Best Director for Prisoner of Second Avenue (a possible repeat this year for Death of a Salesman). And Bernadette Peters, like this year, was up for…oh, wait. Sore spot for some. At least forty years ago (Was she 10? Holy Moly, how old is Bernadette Peters and where is the aging painting of her), she was nominated for featured actress in On the Town alongside my secret favorite Adrienne Barbeau (Grease) — both losing to Linda Hopkins (Inner City).
And what would you have seen performing on the stage that night? Oh, my friend, wonders. True wonders. Just look up at the stage (via YouTube clips)…
What have we learned about 1972, my friends? We’ve learned that manscaping had not been invented yet. We’ve discovered that the “Temple” scene from the original Jesus Christ Superstar was staged like the opening of The Lion King but, instead of large animal puppets on people’s heads, they wore enormous vegetables like cauliflower. And we’ve discovered that thanks to the absence of body mics, people sang into crocheted umbilical chords.
Shall we explore a bit further? Of course, my time traveling friends. Here’s a performance (musical number doesn’t seem to begin to encompass it) from Best Musical nominee Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death.
Well, well. Did we just see a Broadway musical featuring deeply political monologues, fiery voices from the inner city, the seeds of poetry slam/rap and a violently abused stripper pole. Why yes, we did? No, Toto, I don’t think we’re in Oklahoma anymore.