Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tony, Tony, Tony....

The 65th Annual Tony Awards was held on Sunday. As usual, it continues to be the most amusing and best-written award show that the television viewing public is subjected to.

Like the Super Bowl, almost everyone watches the Oscars, even people who do not care for movies and haven't seen any of the Best Picture nominees.  People have parties to watch the Oscars.  I myself was at an Oscar party once where the snacks seemed the most interesting part of the evening for some of the party-goers. (I am pleased to say that I won the award for picking the most winners, including such categories as set design.  Anyone can pick Best Actress; it takes a real obsessive, or somebody seriously lucky, as I was, to win Best Set Design.  My prize was a DVD of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. I was called on to make a speech, which began with "first of all, I would like to thank all the good people at IMdB.....")

The Grammys and Emmys are not as popular as the Oscars, but people still talk about them some. The Golden Globes are rapidly becoming increasingly popular if for no other reason than to see how sober the stars are.

The Tonys, though, might seem to be of interest to only a small segment of the American population. Broadway shows are not seen by all that many people, and even regional and touring theater has much less an audience base than movie or television. Even for those of us in areas where Broadway shows tour, the shows are either on their way to Broadway or are certainly not in their first year there. So at the time that shows are awarded Tonys, they have been seen by a relatively few people compared to other media.  Not to mention how exorbitantly expensive tickets are: in the song "Great Big Stuff" from the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels a few years ago, a character, in addition to wanting "a mansion with a moat," exclaims "I can finally afford to see a Broadway show!"

But the American Theater Wing puts on the best awards show.  A lot of it is the musical numbers:  these are people who can really sing and dance.  At the same time.  And because they are prepared for a production other than an awards show, they have a coherence that the dance numbers at the Oscars totally lack. And the winners, from the writers and composers to the actors, give much more interesting acceptance speeches.   And the hosts, be it this year's Neil Patrick Harris or former host Hugh Jackman, are very funny, no doubt as a result an amazing writing staff.

So, herewith, are my probably uninteresting observations on a very pleasant evening watching show folks pat themselves on the back:
Oh. My. God. Neil Patrick Harris's opening number may be the most I've laughed while watching television in years.
Hey, Daniel Radcliffe can sing! Or, if recordings are to be trusted, at least as well as Robert Morse, who originated the role.  Glad to see he's making a career for himself after Harry Potter.  I think doing live theater was a smart choice -- he has the acting chops to carry it off.
The "How many Spiderman jokes can I fit into thirty seconds" was perfect.  The show is just too easy a target. It would have gotten dreary if that had been the main object of comedy through the night.  (True to his word, NPH didn't say one more Spidey joke the whole evening, although Robin Williams did.) This bit would be lost on casual viewers who do not follow pop culture news, which would have made an evening of Spiderman jokes all the drearier.

Catch Me If You Can looks good.  Even if it is a moviecal.  (Sorry, my feelings about musicals based on (nonmusical) movies is best saved for another day.) If the rest of the musical is like the number they perform, the music is pretty good, if nothing to write home about.  
 I am amused by how they got around the censorship issues for The MotherF***er with the HatThe Mother with the Hat just doesn't have the same zing, though.
I am rooting for the Book of Mormon for the same reason I wanted Trent Reznor to win that Oscar: the phrase "Tony award winners Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of South Park..." has such a delicious ring to it.
I take that back.  I want The Scottsboro Boys to win -- it's the last Kander & Ebb show.  (Fred Ebb died in 2004.)   Although I have to stretch to see how the topic can be made the subject of a musical, if anyone can do it, they can.  I do confess I find the number a bit jarring -- it is a really upbeat, sunshiney song.  Although I can conceptually see where that might fit into the story they are telling, knowing the entirety of the dark episode in American history they wrote about makes it unsettling, which may be its purpose.
Maybe I don't take it back.  I have got to see the Book of Mormon when it makes its way to my neck of the woods.
The dueling hosts number was great.  It was fun to see how many musical references were in there. Of course, if you don't know anything about the history of musicals, maybe it wouldn't make much sense.
The Spiderman number was most emphatically not. If that boring, trite ballad is representative of the songs in this show, no wonder the critics savaged it.
What the heck is Frances McDormand wearing? It looks like a formal gown with a denim jacket over it.  Lady, this is not the night to let your freak flag fly.  Or, maybe it is.
Whoo hoo! A number from Company! I'm going to see it in two days.  Of course, it is only the film of the performance, but it's better than nothing.  
Sutton Foster is the cutest thing imaginable.  Her acceptance speech thanking her dresser was darling.
Okaaaaayyyyy.... what was Mark Rylance's acceptance speech about again?  Performance art, I guess.  I cannot imagine an Oscar winner spending his time onstage talking about walking through walls.  Was this a metaphor?
War Horse for Best Play, The Book Of Mormon for Best Musical.   Both predicted victories by many people. Although, had it not been a revival, The Normal Heart might have gotten it.  I think it is interesting the way that shows can be revived, and made fresh again, while most remakes of movies are disasters. One advantage to the medium, I guess.

And wow, that closing rap was terrific. Kudos to some talented writers.
I can hardly wait until next year, even if I have not been to the theater.  And I want the Oscar people to take note:  fire your staff, and hire the Tony writers and NPH for next year.


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