Caring about the Tony Awards

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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.

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