"Monty Python's Spamalot" won not such a jolly lot, but what it got included the top slice of ham. "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" overachieved. And "The Light in the Piazza," this year's Broadway standard-bearer for serious, high-end musical theater, won an appropriately dignified number of awards, including a Tony for the acclaimed actress Victoria Clark, who can stick the statuette next to her Jeff for the same performance.
In short, the Tony Committee spread out the booty at the 59th annual Tony Awards -- all the better, a cynic might say, to sell all the more tickets to all the more needy Broadway shows.
American Theatre Wing nonetheless gave the best director Tony to "Spamalot" director Mike Nichols. And "Spamalot" won the overall top honor for best new musical.
"La Cage aux Folles" (Will it ever go away?) won for best revival of a musical, an especially thin category this year.
Norbert Leo Butz, the emergent star of the 2004-5 season, won for best actor in a musical, keeping "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" on a crowded winner's board.
As few doubted, John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Doubt" won for best play, with David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross" surprisingly snagging best revival over the tipped "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
Not that many people at the Tonys care about non-musicals, as evidenced by the brief and funereal way in which the talkers were presented on Sunday night's run-of-the-mill CBS telecast, hosted by the ever-serviceable, ever-giggling Hugh Jackman.
Even playwright Edward Albee, who got a lifetime achievement award, was reduced to the status of "presented earlier tonight," along with all the designers.
Guettel, a perpetually emerging composer, won his first Tony for the score to "Piazza." He thanked Chicago's Goodman Theatre, which participated in the show's development. Indeed, Chicago already had seen three early versions of the shows prominently featured at this year's Tonys: "Sweet Charity," "Spamalot" and "Piazza." And "Glengarry" is produced by the Chicago-based Jam Theatricals.
Those with a taste for Schadenfreude -- and why else watch this thing? -- had plenty to entertain them. The Tony telecast's staggeringly dull opening montage, anchored by the inevitable Bernadette Peters, overlayed Peters' well-honed pipes on Christina Applegate's tiny voice, yet another humiliation for the pugnacious star of "Sweet Charity," who was rendered weirdly mute. Applegate did get to sing (sort of) later, and, in the funniest bit of the night, twirled around a lamppost and fell off the stage.
Celia Keenan-Bolger -- now part of the cast of "Spelling Bee" -- had to share a scene with the actors from "Piazza," the show from which she was fired just before the Broadway opening.
Chita Rivera, tapped to pay tribute to the recently deceased Cy Coleman and Fred Ebb, woke up the previously somnolent CBS beeper when she cursed after prematurely killing off John Kander, who remains very much alive. And Bill Irwin, winner of the Tony for best actor in a play and an actor known for his movement skills, fell up the stairs walking to the stage.
Irwin's co-star, Kathleen Turner (beaten out by Cherry Jones of "Doubt" in the best actress in a play stakes) redefined the husky presenter, thanks to a voice now so low pitch it belonged 200 feet under the Radio City Music Hall.
In the Dept. of Unnecessary Pronunciation Lessons, we learned that Sara Ramirez (who thanked the manufacturer of her medication in her acceptance speech for best featured actress in a musical) is actually Sa-RARR. And Liev Schriver is -- who knew? -- Lee-ERV.
The best unscheduled appearance of the night was from Al Sharpton -- ever softening his image -- who showed up as guest speller in the "Spelling Bee" segment. He got his word wrong -- but "Spelling Bee," which translates very well to television, will sell a ton of tickets Monday. Ramirez, way over the top when in close-up, did not translate as well. Nor, actually, did "Spamalot" as a whole. The show mostly looked confusing.
For those playing the popular Tony parlor game of timing how long would pass before we saw two men kiss, the first such smack came after 42 minutes.
Several gags referenced the Tony's perennially disastrous ratings. "CBS calls `em CSI-Broadway," said Billy Crystal, whose "I'm in love with Katie Holmes" shtick opened the telecast, perhaps because the network wanted to fool people that they were watching the Oscars.
Dan Fogler, who won for best featered actor in a musical for his entertaining work in "Spelling Bee," suggested a useful new trend when he referred to thanking people "on the Web site." CBS doubtless is praying that it catches on.
Crystal also got in a good hard, well-received kick at John Simon, the famously nasty theater critic recently fired from New York magazine. Simon, Crystal opined, was the forgotten 13th of the play "Twelve Angry Men." It was an apt reminder that on Broadway, power is fickle, ascendancy temporary and revenge perennially sweet.