Theater people love them. They live for this one night. But the pool that is "theater people" seems to be shrinking, if the Tony Awards ratings on TV, the fact that they've now cut half the awards and don't show them to us on our screens, and all the hoops they're jumping through to try to make the evening work for the film and TV world are any indications. (The way "Smash" has been treated is also evidence that the people at the top of the TV pyramid do not respect Broadway, but that's a discussion for another day.)
a high Q score to an event which sometimes plays as too much of an insider game for Middle America.
Still, with Broadway performers like Christian Borle, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Audra McDonald, Matthew Morrison, Cynthia Nixon, Denis O'Hare, Mary Louise Parker, Sara Ramirez and Vanessa Williams playing high-profile roles on high-profile TV shows, it's not like Broadway isn't already on Middle America's TV sets. (And Sutton Foster, more Broadway royalty, will be joining that group tonight, in her own starring role on TV in ABC Family's "Bunheads." More about "Bunheads" tomorrow...)
Meanwhile, so many TV and film stars have gone the other direction, putting themselves on stage to keep the box office going, that Harry Potter, a kid from "Glee" and a Jonas Brother all played J. Pierrepoint Finch in Broadway's "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" within the space of a month, hitting the film/TV/pop music trifecta.
All of that is my way of saying that Neil Patrick Harris may be charming, but he isn't necessary to bridge the TV/Broadway gap anymore. And what once played as fresh and funny from NPH came off more tired and self-serving for me in this year's Tony broadcast. So the show opened with the fresh-faced Mormon boys from "The Book of Mormon," last year's winner for Best Musical, knocking on stars' doors, only to be followed up by a second opening number with Harris lamenting the fact that life isn't more like a musical. It was okay, but who needs two opening numbers?
Then he had another musical number at the mid-point, and a third to wrap up the show. And he got to hang from the rafters as a scene-stealer while Angela Lansbury and Ted Chapin sped through the American Theatre Wing explanation we hear every year. Angela Lansbury does not need Neil Patrick Harris to steal her focus or spice up her appearance, no matter what she's delivering.
|Amanda Seyfried at the Tonys|
My third problem: They didn't give "Follies," my favorite musical ever, the Best Revival of a Musical award, instead handing it over to what is being called "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," even though it is the least Gershwin (or DuBose and Dorothy Heyward) version of "Porgy and Bess" ever. The orchestrations were changed, the book was diced and spliced, the recitatives were excised in favor of new dialogue from Suzan-Lori Parks, Porgy's goat-cart was taken so he could have a limp and a new, more self-actualized storyline... And no matter whether the Gershwin estate approved it, that's not "Porgy and Bess." Everyone I know who has seen it has said that Audra McDonald, the one-woman Tony machine, was spectacular, and deserved her award for Leading Actress in a Musical. But... That's still not "Porgy and Bess" and it shouldn't be winning awards for being a revival when it's not a revival, it's a whole new show.
Of course there's no way to stop the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League and their voters from giving their awards to whoever they feel like. That's part of the game in any awards show, where disgruntled fans of other shows or other performers swear and throw things at the TV when their faves are bypassed. So you can regard my third problem as my chance to vent about my beloved "Follies" being overlooked again and leave it at that, if you really want to.
My fourth problem: The pieces from nominated shows didn't make me want to hop a plane to Broadway tomorrow. The scenes shown on the Tony Awards show usually get me all fired up to get to New York immediately, before the nominated works close or their stars move on. But the awful, screechy and incomprehensible power trio from "Ghost," the bizarre Matthew Broderick number from "Nice Work If You Can Get It," wherein he looked bloated and uncomfortable as he half-heartedly warbled "Sweet and Lowdown," one of my favorite songs, and flung his hair around with some chorus girls, the muddled bits of "Peter and the Starcatcher," which is from all reports a terrific show but certainly didn't display what's good about it here, the odd choices for numbers from "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Godspell," Ricky Martin and Elena Rogers sounding none-too-good for "Evita," and James Corden, who later won the Best Actor in a Play award for "One Man, Two Guvnors," rolling around on the floor like Mary Lou Retton in the 1984 Olympics... Well, it made me want to stay away, not see those shows.
And you wonder why the Tony Awards get so little coverage.
The big winner of the night, however, was "Once," a small, intimate musical about a street performer and a girl he meets one night in Dublin, based on the movie of the same name. "Once" was named Best Musical and took awards for lead actor Steve Kazee and director John Tiffany, as well as for its book, lights, sound, orchestrations, and the warm Irish pub set designed by the fabulous Bob Crowley.