The Observer stood in front of a less-than-generous red carpet on Monday—more of a red doormat, really—flanked by photographers and awaiting the arrival of fashionably late Broadway dancers, choreographers and filmmakers.
We were at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts for the 30th annual Fred and Adele Astaire Awards, which recognizes outstanding achievement in dance on Broadway and film each season—the only award show of its kind, so they advertise.
If you’ve never heard of them that comes as no surprise, considering all past coverage has been done by Backstage, Playbill and the like. The award show evening seemed so nonchalant that even some of the nominees decided it wasn’t worth their while, leaving before the awards show even began—cough cough, the cast of Evita, cough—though they could be forgiven, as several had performances that evening. Some managed to stay long enough to strike a pose on the red carpet, but the cast of Newsies, for example, with six dancers nominated, didn’t make it. (Guess they were on strike.)
The red carpet might have been a complete bust had it not been for Matt Sandy, entrepreneur extraordinaire, and his bottle of Dutch vodka with a programmable LED display stealing the limelight, literally, as the name “Matthew” scrolled around the bottle. Fitting, considering the relative no-name somehow managed to sneak his way into photos with Matthew Broderick (and no, he didn’t bring Sarah Jessica Parker).
During his brief conversation with The Observer, Mr. Broderick was less than candid, letting his Nice Work If You Can Get It co-stars Kelli O’Hara and Robert Hartwell do most of the talking. Instead, Mr. Broderick seemed considerably more interested in the light-up bottle than his nomination for best male dancer. He insisted he’s not very good at it, anyway. Oh, nonsense, The Observer said. Tell us about your moves?
“It’s a pretty long dance we have, where we have to dance around on the furniture and on some chairs and a couch, tango up some stairs, slide down a banister,” Mr. Broderick said.
Sounds dangerous, we noted.
But Mr. Broderick was quick to retort no one had been injured—yet.
And as entertaining as it was learning Mr. Broderick didn’t consider himself a dancer, The Observer was distracted. Liza Minnelli, the woman of the night (she was to receive the Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award), was nowhere to be seen. An impatient socialite yelled, “Where’s Liza Minnelli!” to no avail.
Instead The Observer was stuck waiting near the doormat with hard-to-recognize Broadway stars and a passing glimpse of the ever-impressive Chita Rivera, known as the original Velma Kelly, and Rob Ashford, the choreographer for Evita, who couldn’t stop doting over Ms. Minnelli and how quickly she picked up dance steps, her ability to watch him dance and effortlessly emulate the movement.
As time began to get away from The Observer, it was a relief to see the theater finally open, knowing we were inching closer to seeing Ms. Minnelli. But first we had to sit through a few awards and some better-than-advertised dance numbers.
After over two hours of anticipation and an introduction from Mikhail Baryshnikov and Tony Danza, Ms. Minnelli walked across the stage triumphantly to a deserved standing ovation after a career (still in the works, we might note) that contains four Tony Awards, an Oscar, a special “Legends” Grammy, two Golden Globe Awards, an Emmy, and now, she can add, the Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award. Once the applause subsided momentarily, Ms. Minnelli took the time to graciously smile, bow before her adoring fans and gather herself for a few words.
“I am so surprised,” she said, very unexpected first words from an award recipient who knew in advance she would be receiving the award. “No, really, they told me to show up and I was going to get an award, but I had no idea that everyone that has made my life and who I’ve admired and loved and learned from and have worshiped would be here.”
Upstairs at the VIP reception, where you either had to be on Broadway or own it, The Observer got in a few words with Ms. Minnelli as she finished up her dinner. When asked what her favorite moment of the evening was, she pulled us in close and with a gentle motherly grip, she clasping our hands and retorted inquisitively, “What do you think it was?”
After a tense moment, she smiled and confirmed that it was winning the Lifetime Achievement Award. Because, she insisted (though it was hard to believe), she was clueless that her dearest friends and mentors would be speaking about her contributions to dance. She went on to argue she was a gypsy, more alive onstage than anywhere else.
A gypsy? OK, if she insists. But certainly a gypsy deserving of a lifetime achievement award.