The Playgoer: Tony Afterthoughts

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tony Afterthoughts

Addendums, Corrections, and Reflections on Sunday night.

-Within the diminished expectations of the show in Television terms, the broadcast itself did surprisingly well--considering it was up against the final game of the NBA finals! Bad enough when it had to compete against the finale of The Sopranos a few years back. I guess that's what inevitably happens when you have to schedule the date so far in advance.

-Reckless of me on the blogcast to assume the big opening number ("It's Not Just for Gays Any More") was commissioned from Shaiman & Wittman. It was actually by Adam Schlesinger and David Javerbaum (the former of Fountains of Wayne, the latter of The Daily Show, and together, of the short-lived Cry-Baby musical.) I thought it was fab myself to "out," as it were all the nasty thoughts most Americans think about the legit stage. But I gather it rustled some feathers, too. Always a thin line between mocking stereotypes and reinforcing them, I guess. Irony is in the eye of the beholder, after all.

-As for the closing number, the specially composed up-to-the-minute rap was written by Lin Manuel (In the Heights) Miranda. According to Playbill: "While Harris was hosting throughout the night, Miranda watched the ceremony from the basement of the Beacon with In the Heights‘ director Thomas Kail to create the recap and film the experience."

-Yes, Mark Rylance's acceptance speech was once again an unexplained recitation of verse from the same contemporary Minnesota poet  he quoted at his last Tony speech in '08.  One of the most surprising things about this already very weird genius actor is that he was actually raised in Wisconsin for most of his childhood between being born and returning to the UK.

-No word yet on whose box office boosted best post-telecast. But we do know Book of Mormon will be raking in even more bucks than they have since they took the opportunity of their victory to raise the ticket prices! Top orchestra tix are now $155. A first, I think for non-"premium" (and non-holiday spiking) pricing.

-About the broadcast itself: I may be no TV director, but looking at some of the production numbers again, I had to wonder if the CBS team covering this had ever done a live concert-performance before. The cutting was all over the place, tons of important bits were out of frame, dancers' feet were often cut off... Maybe they're from the MTV-style school of camerawork, but they sure could use some lessons from, say, the PBS folks who do ballet, or the master-videographers for NT Live.

-And finally: I've said it before, I'll say it again.  The Tonys are now not really a broadcast of the American Theatre Wing's Antoinette Perry awards for that season's achievements. They are a three-hour infomercial for the Broadway brand. (The bailiwick of ATW's co-producers, the Broadway League.) The most irritating sign of this was the increased marginalization (if that was even possible) of several important award categories by not only not putting them on CBS tv, but not airing them on another station (like NY1) or not even bothering to stream the video to their own website. Maybe it's a contractual/exclusivity issue with CBS, I don't know. But for god's sake, if you can't spare time on a program about theatre excellence to let Athol Fugard get his due, then what good is it. (Not to mention all the designers and the Regional winner, Lookingglass Theatre Company.).... As the Times' Dave Itzikoff live-blogged in response to pointless numbers by Memphis, Company and Spider-Man: " I truly can't understand why they had to shunt half the awards out of the broadcast, yet seem to be scrambling to fill airtime with any musical number they can think up."

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