Omaha’s impact on Tony Show

* The Tony Awards telecast was already eagerly awaited on Sunday morning, especially thanks to two men with Omaha ties, Andy Rannels and Norbert Leo Butz, both nominated for Best Actor in a musical. But I didn't expect to pick up the Denver Post in my mountain driveway and see a chipper Andy, arms outspread in that short-sleeved white shirt, taking up two-thirds of the front page in a Book of Mormon spread that continued with a full page inside and three more photos that included the Creighton Prep grad who got his start with Chanticleer, Dundee Dinner Theater and other Omaha stages. Theater fans know how it turned out. Butz, who came from a big family in St. Louis and performed for the Omaha Community Playhouse in its Nebraska Theatre Caravan, won the Tony. And both Butz and Rannels were big parts of the network show from start to finish. The big number from Catch Me If You Can didn't feature the slick con man played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie, but showcased Butz as the FBI agent (think Tom Hanks) pursuing him. And the big number from Book of Mormon didn't feature Rannels' fellow missionary who was also nominated but showcased Andy singing, "I Believe," where he insists that faith requires not just believing the basics shared by Christians, but all of the Mormon ideas about Israelites sailing to the New World and planets available to believers. If you missed an earlier mention in this column about Rannels and the musical, it's worth repeating that it mixes profane irreverence with respect for spiritual faith. Coming from the creators of the crazy cartoon South Park, you shouldn't have shuddered too much when one of them received the best musical Tony by thanking their deceased co-writer, Mormon founder Joseph Smith. "You did it, Joseph. You got the Tony," he chirped. Apologies to those offended, but I thought of a late Mormon friend, a rebellious one himself, who would have loved it. And that wasn't all. We learned on his acceptance speech that Butz was a family man with three daughters and grateful for "the greatest role of my life." Then the show closed with host Neil Patrick Harris rapping about the entire evening and including a rhyming reference to Rannels. It paired the thought that in singing "I Believe" Andy "landed it" with his becoming Mitt Romney's vice-presidential candidate. Cold Cream looks at theater in the metro area. Email information to coldcream@thereader.com.

posted at 05:51 pm
on Thursday, June 16th, 2011

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