Harvey Weinstein received the Astaire Award last night. “Finding Neverland” choreographer Mia Michaels presented it to him and called Weinstein her “bad ass big brother.” Weinstein pointed out that “Neverland” got no Tony nominations (ridiculous, in my opinion) but continues to make over $1 million a week. He said, of Michaels, “We need new voices on Broadway.” He added: “We need guys like me on Broadway.” There was a lot of applause.
Patty Watt started the Astaire Awards 33 years ago with her father, Douglas Watt, the famed theater critic for the New Yorker and the Daily News. Now the awards, for dance, are given in his memory. Weinstein accepted for the dance movies he’s made– from “Chicago” to the “The Artist” and not to mention the most famous cult dance scene in “Pulp Fiction.”
Broadway legend Joel Grey was also honored for his Lifetime Achievement, presented by daughter Jennifer Grey who made her own name in “Dirty Dancing.” When ballet star Leanne Cope won Best Female Dancer from “An American In Paris,” she actually cited Jennifer as her inspiration. Jennifer Grey could barely read her speech or one sent by Sutton Foster (in bed with bronchitis) because she teared up watching Joel’s amazing clips. Dad thanked all the people he’d ever known, his kids, and his long suffering (now ex) wife.
Other winners included a tie between Robert Fairchild and Tony Yazbeck for Best Male Dancer, and a tie between Christopher Wheeldon and Joshua Bergasse for best Choreographer. They will all face each other Sunday at the Tony Awards at 8pm on CBS. This is the most competitive Tonys in years, folks. It’s hot stuff.
The evening was more or less hosted by a dozen or so famous Broadway stars, impersonated by the brilliant Christina Bianco. Attention Fallon, Kimmel, Corden, Kelly and Michael, Ellen: you are missing the new Marilyn Michaels. Bianco does Bernadette Peters so well, her own family wouldn’t know the difference.
There were also sensational performances restaged at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Astaire Awards from “On the Town,” “Finding Neverland,” and “On the Twentieth Century.” Phenomenal. Presenters (not Christian Bianco but for real) included Richard Thomas, Charlotte d’Amboise, (a very amusing) Tovah Feldshuh, Bebe Neuwirth, David Alan Basche and Alysia Reiner. Fun fact: Richard Thomas’s father was Jennifer Grey’s dance teacher when she was a kid. Also Richard Thomas does not age.
Movie fans: Outstanding Choreography in a film went to Akram Khan for “Desert Dancer.” That movie and another indie, called “Match,” were nominated among a group of better known films. Has anyone heard of these films? They looked very good. Were the released, marketed, reviewed?
Check out Christina Bianco: