Mistakes happen and people are human but when one of the most important nights of the year becomes one gaffe after the next it is difficult to take anything seriously. Especially when there was a dress rehearsal and those involved in the error are gifted professionals who should know when to ask a question or seek clarifying information.
Two of Broadway’s youngest and brightest talents were victim of being referred to by the wrong name in their nominating category at Sunday evening’s ceremony. Worse yet was that it was their first time at the Tony Awards and now, regardless of how many more honors they’ll receive in the future (and there will be many), that will be the memory of their first time being called at the Tony Awards.
If you didn’t catch it, Santino Fontana (called as “Santana Fontano” by Sally Field) was nominated in the category of Leading Actor in a Musical. The category is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated at the Tonys so you would think that Sally might double-check the pronunciation of Santino’s name during the dress rehearsal held on Sunday morning or ask someone backstage before soiling the moment.
Santino, who was nominated for his portrayal as Prince Topher in Cinderella, forced a quasi-awkward smile and although the camera cut away and he was likely slightly confused by the complete butchering of his name. However, if I know anything about Santino it’s that he’s a guy who takes everything in stride. Instead of being upset or disappointed, he likely laughed it off later and focused on how kind and honored he was to be nominated at all.
Benj Pasek (called as Benji Pasek by Jane Krakowski) was nominated for Best Score with his collaborator Justin Paul for A Christmas Story. And while the 80’s pop superstar Cyndi Lauper won the award for Kinky Boots and made history for being the first woman in history to ever win Best Score independently, being nominated was a big deal for Benj and Justin and they deserved some common courtesy.
But like Santino, Benj took it in stride and tweeted early on Monday that “Jane Krakowski could have called me Bob for all I care” because he had a magical night and wasn’t going to let a mispronunciation of his name get in the way of staying out all night celebrating his accomplishments with Justin, their friends and families. But on top of being a nominee, Benj took his mother as his date and Sunday was also his birthday so it would have been nice if Jane was adequately prepared.
Benj and Santino are part of the future of Broadway. These two immensely talented and incredibly kind men are who young theatregoers are following and buying tickets to support. So here’s to hoping that next time they’re nominated, and I predict it won’t take too long to see them both back at the Tonys, that whoever reads their name (and then hopefully presents their award) is tactful enough to use their proper name. But, even though hearing “Santana Fontino” and “Benji Pasek” is more offensive to my ears than nails on a chalkboard, my hope is whoever has duties as presenter won’t be able to butcher it more than a CBS affiliate Atlanta did while recapping the Tony Awards on the evening news.