My roommates told me I’d be expected to write up a post on the Tonys, so I thought I’d do just that. As ever, I had a great time watching them: I went to my friend Vanessa’s house and enjoyed lovely snacks, chitchat and commentary throughout. Between the two of us, Vanessa and I had seen nearly all the nominees, so we had lots of opinions. “I’m having so much fun!” was basically my mantra all evening.
Then as I was biking home, I started thinking. What a strange event the Tonys is! It’s all about the supportive, creative, wonderful Broadway community, but it’s also a three hour commercial for an enormous corporate moneymaking enterprise. All the huge production numbers just reminded me of how much I can’t afford to see. I know that with rush and discount and TDF, it isn’t impossible to get affordable tickets. But it isn’t easy, either, not when you have a 9-5 job. I never thought of myself as someone who would have expensive tastes, but last night I was reminded that theatergoing is really the rich man’s entertainment. Well, at least the Tonys themselves are free.
My own personal Tony awards are as follows:
… Most awkward host: True confession: I’ve never really warmed to Hugh Jackman the way most people have. I don’t really like his singing voice. I didn’t like him all that much in Les Miz. Anyway, the word that comes to me when I think of his work last night? Cheesy. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that he’s a committed, balls-out performer. He’s definitely impressive at hopping endurance (WHY was he hopping?) But his audience interaction feels forced, doesn’t it? And his jokes certainly aren’t very funny. (The Bridges of Ashley Madison County, har har. I was just as confused as Kelli O’Hara.) Neil Patrick Harris, please come back next year.
… Most bizarro moment: The LL Cool J Music Man rap. My first thought was that “I can’t believe there’s rap on Broadway and Lin-Manuel Miranda isn’t involved! GET HIM ONSTAGE!” Vanessa, meanwhile, said “What are they even DOING?” I didn’t mind it, exactly, but it was just one of those moments in which I felt like the Tonys were trying to appeal to people who are simply never going to be interested. For my part, I’d have much preferred a Bridges performance.
… Most irritating omission: The best book and best score Tonys weren’t even televised! This is absolutely insane. I wanted Robert L. Freedman and Jason Robert Brown to have their moments. Honestly. These people would exclude Rodgers and Hammerstein from their telecasts because they aren’t movie stars.
… Second most irritating omission: We didn’t get to see Audra McDonald as Billie Holliday.
… Most endearing nominee: I’ve said before that I absolutely loved Kelli O’Hara in Bridges of Madison County and have been speechifying for weeks about how much I hoped she would win. That all changed in an instant, when Jessie Mueller (of Beautiful) started dancing with Hugh Jackman. And all the sudden I was completely won over and forgot everything about every other nominee. And I was absolutely delighted when she won, of course. Later on I decided I’m still a bit disappointed that Ms. O’Hara didn’t win after that phenomenal performance, but that doesn’t take away from how adorable Jessie Mueller is.
… Best musical number: I’ve said before that I have a soft spot for Gentleman’s Guide, and I’m elated that it won. Well deserved! They also get my award for best performance of the evening with their performance of “I’ve Decided to Marry You”. Here’s the thing. Tony numbers are rarely as good as they are in the theater. Most of the time, that’s because the producers don’t trust the show and try to do too much (there are several obvious examples from last night: Rocky, Violet, After Midnight). For Gentleman’s Guide, we had a delightful single scene, staged beautifully. I’d love to see more of this kind of thing. I understand the producers want to give everyone the chance to perform on the Tonys, but trying to do too much usually backfires. Another great number: “T’aint nobody’s business” from Bullets Over Broadway. It’s the best song from the show, and it looked great. Trust me, it’s even better in the theater.
… Best awards show: I don’t watch the Oscars, or the Emmys, or the Golden Globes, or any other stupid awards show. That’s because they’re almost always bloated, ridiculous spectacles. I suppose the Tony show is the same. But anyway even at its worst, it is so much more entertaining than those other shows. Fantastic and talented live performers; wonderful acceptance speeches; a celebration of my favorite art form. This show fails a lot, of course. That’s usually when it’s trying to do something that doesn’t reflect theater’s best attributes. (Don’t try to be the Oscars, Tonys! The Oscars are terrible.)
This morning, my roommate John asked me if I watched the Tony awards every year. I was a bit stunned: I haven’t missed Broadway’s biggest night since 1994. Even when I lived in Ireland! (Who would ask such a question! Does he even KNOW me?) I got to attend the Tonys once, when I worked at the offices of Jujamcyn Theaters. We all got tickets as a perk. It was a thrill, but I honestly prefer to watch from home. I have a date with the sofa every Second Sunday in June for the rest of my life. Here’s to a spectacular 2014-2015 season: I can’t wait to see the battle between Fun Home and Honeymoon in Vegas. And all the other shows I don’t even know about yet. And all the exciting Off-Broadway shows we’ll be getting, like Hamilton and who knows what else. Bring it on!