Who says you have to open an awards show with an extravaganza or a comic attention-grabber? A year after Kevin Spacey hosted the Tony Awards — and more than half a year since he was accused of sexual misconduct — co-hosts Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban put an ultra-palatable face on the show, beginning with a self-ribbing ditty about how most nominees don’t win.
“This is for the people who lose,” they sang to a melody with a definite Bareilles bounce, each at a grand piano. “ ’Cause most of us have been in your shoes.”
Although the recording stars bring an audience beyond theater die-hards, they are indeed legit as recent Tony nominees: Bareilles for writing songs for “Waitress” and Groban for starring in “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.” (Although, as they both sang, “neither one of us has ever won anything.”)
Neither Bareilles nor Groban is a James Corden-type class clown, so it was easy to figure any breakout comic bits would come from somewhere else, especially as the show raced to start handing out awards five minutes in — although the pop stars did sing another brief parody in the first hour about the demands of performing on Broadway.
“Why the hell is this eight times a week?” they crooned beautifully to the tune of Sia’s “Chandelier.”
That initial winner was Andrew Garfield, taking home the award for best actor in a play as Prior Walter in the revival of “Angels in America,” Tony Kushner’s groundbreaking epic of gay rights in Reagan-era America.
“Let’s just bake a cake for everyone who wants a cake to be baked,” Garfield said.
The corporate elephant in the room — all the Hollywood and pop-music spinoffs clogging up Broadway, from “Frozen,” “Mean Girls” and “SpongeBob SquarePants” to musical showcases for Bruce Springsteen, Donna Summer and Jimmy Buffett — was not immediately skewered, although Tina Fey dropped a barb about the four nominated musicals all being based on movies or television.
“Only one of them paid for my boat,” she quipped.
Photos of stars as kids in their first school shows was the gambit to get audiences involved; kids watching across the country were urged to post theirs, and an older photo of each presenter preceded their entrance on stage. But in a year without a breakout musical hit, it’s tricks like these that are maybe the best reason for non-die-hards to stay tuned in — well, that and Springsteen, who was set to perform.