Most of the people I’ve spoken to at work about Sunday night’s Tony Awards said they loved then. Clearly, I was watching a different telecast.
I thought Sunday night’s awards show was the worst Tonys I’d ever seen. The production values of the telecast itself were positively abhorrent. I understand that a static shot of a performance on a stage as massive as the one in Radio City Music Hall doesn’t make for exciting television; but if you’re going to change camera angles, how about sticking those angles on things you actually want to see (like the people who are singing and dancing) instead of things we could do without (the ensemble dancers standing frozen in place). The camera work may have simply been the result of some poor choices, but the sound issues were inexcusable and just flat-out embarrassing. Eight times a week, these people can be heard loud and clear on Broadway. What was so hard about getting your levels right for one night? As exciting as the backstage goings-on may be, we don’t need to hear them during a performance. And as for the fact that no one’s microphones worked properly during a single performance in the first ninety minutes of the telecast, I sincerely hope someone lost their job over that.
Not that there was much worth hearing or seeing. The opening number was a bloated, largely unintelligible megamix of virtually every Broadway musical that played this year, whether for four performances or 400. I thought the performance from Rock of Ages was ludicrous. Is that one chubby guy supposed to be the gay Jack Black or something? His cutesy flirting act with Liza in the front row was gag-inducing. Rock of Ages also has the distinction of being the thing that officially killed Journey for me. I never want to hear “Don’t Stop Believing” again. Ever. So, thanks, Rock of Ages.
Still, this wasn’t as bad as the performance of “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” from the soon-to-be-closed revival of Guys & Dolls. This was easily the worst performance of that song I’ve ever seen, and may be one of the worst musical performances I have ever seen period. Words can’t describe the depths of its awfulness. Titus Burgess had a bug-eyed expression of panic on his face the entire time (you’re mic didn’t work and they gave you a hand-held; get over it). His costume fit him like a left-over from Eddie Murphy’s The Nutty Professor. The choreography was bland and sedate, and the entire thing was performed with such little passion it appeared as if this was the first time they were running through it. I’ve got a special place in my heart for Guys & Dolls, and man, you people fucked it up royally. This isn’t Ibsen, people. It’s not hard. It might be time to reconsider your career path.
This year we were also treated to performances by touring companies of Broadway shows. Oh, goodie! Having touring companies perform on the Tonys, at the Tonys, makes absolutely no sense. This would be the equivalent of taking a break during the fourth inning of a World Series game to bring out some AA players for a while. Look, if you want to advertise your touring company, why not have a live feed to the place where they are currently in residence? That way we can see the performance and you can advertise your local theater. What a notion! These performances were painful. Also, Mamma Mia is still on Broadway (Jesus Fucking Christ); we don’t need to see the touring company that is currently terrorizing Wichita and its surrounding environs when it is still alive and well and making double-wide tourists and their fanny-packs happy right over at the Winter Garden Theater.
With all these performances, the show was naturally bloated past its run-time. This left Tony host Neil Patrick Harris, who did quite well, with very little to do. Beyond an excellent monologue and a few good and-we’re-back gags, he was reduced to running up and down the aisles, taking the show to commercial, like some entrenched CNN correspondent making his way through the feyest battleground on Earth. I didn’t see his closing number, but it sounds like it was something out of the Billy Crystal Oscar playbook.
Some presenters also got screwed over. By the end of the telecast, they had to race through their scripted witticisms, as well as the list of nominees, thus destroying any suspense that may have existed for the big prizes. Other presenters who came earlier and didn’t face this challenge were still terrible, though. I thought Susan Sarandon, whom I greatly admire, was going to fall asleep standing up before she got around to opening up the envelope.
Truth be told, I couldn’t bring myself to watch the telecast in its entirety. Maybe I missed all the good stuff. Who knows? I doubt it, though. Below, I’ve embedded the only performance–nay, the only four minutes of the telecast worth seeing: the company of Best Musical Revival Hair performing the title song. I could have done without the dance break, but it was the least of all the other evils.