Caring about the Tony Awards

June 12, 2008
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The Tony Awards , the annual celebration of the Broadway season, are being handed out this Sunday night.

Did I hear a yawn? You aren’t alone.

A notorious ratings loser, the show each year seems to squander the opportunity to excite. It should make those of us with limited access to New York theater incredibly jealous. It should send us running to the Web to order tickets for our next trip.

But year after year, it traffics in show business clichés, foolishly limits its presentations to the nominated musicals and crams them into tight timeslots, and condescends to those of us out here in the rest of the world. (Did you know that many famous TV stars once did Broadway shows? Gosh. Wow.)

Unlike the Oscars (for film) and the Emmys (for TV), the Tonys awards are awarded before most of us get to see the work—or, in many cases, even hear of it. That should be a virtue: The Tonys should be an exciting opportunity to see what we don’t usually get to see.

Still, I’ll join the rest of the theater-geek world in watching. And I encourage you to check it out even if you aren’t that hard core. Because there should be some interesting battles (I know that arts shouldn’t be about competition—that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it).

Some notes:

* The most interesting category is usually Best New Musical. A few seasons back, the battle was between “Wicked” and “Avenue Q” (Both part of this year’s Broadway series lineup here in Indy.) The underdog winner was “Q,” showing that the most popular show doesn’t always win. This year, the prime contenders are “In the Heights” and “Passing Strange.” Chances are you haven’t heard of either, but I strongly recommend visiting here and here for samples. Or, better yet, order the outstanding CDs for both shows from Sh-k-boom/Ghostlight Records. (More on this outstanding keeper-of-the-flame for cast recordings and cabaret music in a future blog.)

* The two other contenders in the category, "Cry-baby” and “Xanadu,” have significantly lower chances—although they could be the musical highlights of the awards show.

* In the Musical Revival category, it’s “South Pacific” vs. “Gypsy”—two beloved shows in two raved-about productions.

* The snubbed shows include Mel Brooks' “Young Frankenstein” and Disney's “The Little Mermaid.” It will be interesting to see how these shows are/aren’t acknowledged.

* If you want to play a drinking game, do a shot every time Chicago is mentioned—not the show “Chicago,” but the city. It’s where the odds-on Best Play winner “August: Osage County” was created and it’s the home of the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, winner of this year’s Best Regional Theatre.

* Want to keep score? Download a Tony ballot here.

Your thoughts?
  • I don't have TV so I won't be watching, and I don't think I ever watched the Tony Awards show when I did have TV. I agree with you that the people in charge of that show usually miss a golden opportunity.

    However, I appreciate reading your comments about this year's contests. I will probably check the results on the Internet that night.

    And by the way, thanks for recommending the documentary Show Business a few days back. I borrowed it on DVD from my public library and found the stories of those four Tony contenders fascinating.

    Hope Baugh
  • A Borders customer recently came in and bought the CD of In The Heights, saying he had seen it in New York and predicted it would win Best New Musical. He also pointed out that he had (correctly) made the same prediction after seeing Jersey Boys. So, I guess we'll know Sunday if he was right. And if you're really a theater-geek, be sure to look at the Cubby Bernstien clips on youtube. The Xanadu folks may not win a Tony, but they sure can make some funny promotional videos!!
  • I saw Grease on Broadway Saturday. Also, we caught Spamalot and Mamma Mia. I hadn't been in NYC for 30 years, so it was great. It's hard to believe how safe I felt walking there.
  • I go to NYC in 2 weeks and have tickets to see November, The Country Girl, and Spring Awakening (my second time, having seen the original cast the last time). I have one more possible window when I could see another show and am seriously thinking about In the Heights.

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