I was among the more than 7.24 million television viewers who tuned in Sunday for the 67th Annual Tony Awards broadcast live on CBS.
Not only were the ratings numbers impressive for the 2013 Tony Awards, up from the 6 million who watched last year, but also the connections and faces from Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana also increased with this year's telecast.
It was hosted for the fourth time by actor Neil Patrick Harris, who now ranks as the hardest working stage emcee of today.
For anyone who caught the broadcast, it's easy to see how fortunate Chicago area and NWI audiences are for having a first chance to see so many of the hit Broadway shows that head to New York, but start out with Windy City audiences as the first step.
Chicago Steppenwolf Theatre was our biggest local winner, taking home the Tony for Best Revival of a play for the company's 50th anniversary production of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," staged from December 2010 through Feburary 2011 in Chicago before the cast and production moved to Broadway for fall 2012. Steppenwolf Artistic Director Martha Levy accepted the award and acknowledged Chicago's strong theater platform.
Other "Woolf" winners were Pam MacKinnon, who won the Tony for Best Director and considers 85-year-old Albee a mentor (he even flew to Chicago to attend some Steppenwolf rehearsals), and the wonderful Tracy Letts won the Tony for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. Sally Field presented Letts with his Tony.
As for musicals, it was "Kinky Books" that kicked the competition. This was the splashy new romp that first played Chicago last fall and it won Cyndi Lauper her first Tony, for Best Score, while the eruption of talent who is Billy Porter took home Lead Actor, and Jerry Mitchell won for Choreography.
While fighter Mike Tyson was only on stage briefly, as a nod to his one-man musical that played Chicago this spring, it was Cicely Tyson, 79, who won her stage round for Best Actress, beating out Chicago Steppenwolf ensemble gals Amy Morton, who played Martha opposite Letts in "Woolf," and Laurie Metcalf, who was nominated for "The Other Place."
Even though it had nominations, our Jean Shepherd Hammond-inspired "A Christmas Story: The Musical" didn't take home home any early Christmas present Tony awards. But a musical number was featured, that starred Ralphie's teacher Miss Shields, although I'm pretty sure it wasn't included in the pre-Broadway run we saw here in Chicago in 2011. "A Christmas Story" was bested by another kid-friendly tale, "Matilda," which won four Tonys.
Another favorite featured musical number was from the 35th Anniversary Broadway production of "Annie," which now has our Dolton claim-to-fame Jane Lynch just added to the show last month playing mean Miss Hannigan. She was top-notch singing "Little Girls," and replaced great actress Katie Finneran, 41, whose parents hail from Calumet City. On Monday, Lynch, 50, told People magazine she is divorcing her wife of just three years, Dr. Lara Embry.