Random Thoughts on the Tony Awards
“There’s not a person in this theater that doesn’t know what it is to be a salesman. To be way out there in the blue riding on a smile and a shoe shine,” Mike Nichols said upon accepting the best director award for Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman at the 66th annual Tony Awards on Sunday night.
I know, if you cared about The Tonys you would have watched the show. I’ve shunned the pageantry in the past, and I actually missed quite a bit of the live broadcast this year (uh, hello Mad Men season finale?) Once upon a time, when I watched with unjaded high school eyes from my couch in rural northeastern PA, the broadcast was as close as I could get to the dream world I knew I belonged to more than the redneck reality into which destiny had cruelly dropped me. A couple of decades later, the stars have fallen from my eyes. It’s a hard sell, but I’d really rather be making new theater with like-minded lunatics who chose to live in Scranton, than sell my soul working on derivative musicals based on movies built around sitcom stars and revivals of revivals.
Still, Monday morning I watched clips of what I missed, and then I decided to fill this space with thoughts about it.
* Neil Patrick Harris is the reason why the program is watchable at all. His opening number — If life were more like theater, life wouldn’t suck so much — was the highlight of the telecast and some of the only new material seen all night. His musical mash-up later on was amazing, but technically one long inside joke egotistical theater veterans will use to flaunt their superiority.
* Last year’s broadcast was dominated by commercials for the TV series Smash which was fun to watch mainly because playwright Theresa Rebeck had to be messing with us in a big way. Also it brought legitimate theatre stars — e.g. Christian Borle and Megan Hilty — to the small screen instead of the other way around. When Borle got the Best Supporting Actor award for Peter and the Starcatcher a bunch of normally clueless Americans recognized him from Smash and felt a connection to live theater.
Award shows are more fun to watch with Twitter. And when that’s not enough, there’s always a drinking game.
* Everyone likes Nina Arianda, the 27-year-old talent who beat out a crew of seasoned veterans to receive the Best Actress in a Play award for her performance as Vonda in Venus in Fur. Take a look at her now (youtu.be/QbshA3vFMxI) so you’ll understand the hype to come.
* Never judge a straight (as in non-musical) play by its Tony Awards montage.
* After the creepy Jesus of Oz Superstar number there was also a number from Godspell. God help the American Theater. This is not the way to prove that theater is still relevant.
* Apparently Ghost: the Musical is a real thing. I heard about it once, but assumed it was a bad joke.
* Of the four Best Play nominees Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz (TV’s Brothers & Sisters) was the only non-derivative work. Peter and the Starcatcher is a prequel to Peter Pan with contemporary jokes. Venus in Fur is about staging an adaptation of the Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novella. Clybourne Park, which won the award, is a response to A Raisin in the Sun and features at least one character from Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play.
* Both Peter and the Starcatcher and winning musical Once were developed at New York Theatre Workshop (www.nytw.org) so maybe keep an eye on them. The company’s 2012-13 season offers a refreshing number of women playwrights and directors.
* You will never see a cast of young men in NEPA dance like they did in that segment from Newsies.
* Sheryl Crow is writing the music and lyrics for an adaptation of the Barry Levinson film Diner? If you say so.