Sunday, June 7, 2009

My Thoughts on the Tonys (part I)

For me, the past few years with the Tonys has been sort of like prom (or graduation or any other "big day" that gets hyped up). I get all excited about it, but the event inevitably lets me down. While I can certainly stand to watch it the entire way through, which is more than I can say for the Oscars, my Tony love has been slipping, and this year's ceremony did little to help revive it:

The host - Oh, Neil Patrick Harris. You are capable of much, much more than the producers, directors, etc. of the show allowed you to do. The closing number (which was very witty, funny, and entertaining) and that shot at Jeremy Piven gave us a glimpse of what the show might have been like if you were allowed more of a part. (For all that is holy, Tony people, you let Whoppi do more last year. And don't get me started on the Tony's seeming obsession with Hugh Jackman).

Anyway, when NPH was on, he was funny, subtle, and cute. He needed to be featured a lot more. According to the live blog at the New York Times, NPH got the biggest press room applause of the night.

The opening number - I admit, I missed the first minute of the opening number because of a washer/ dryer issue, and I ran into my apartment just in time to see a child from Billy Elliot fly into the rafters. That said, watching the opening was very confusing, and I don't think that this can entirely be attributed to my belated start. The pairing of the shows (why juxtapose West Side Story with Guys & Dolls?) didn't make any sense, and the sound issues were out of control. Mikes went in and out, the orchestra overpowered the singers, and at one point, you could hear the people in the audience rather than the people onstage.

What else? We get the craziness of the entire Shrek cast, appearances by Stockard Channing and Dolly Parton, and Bret Micheals of Poison crashing into the set. We also get Liza, looking good but sounding iffy (Anne Hathaway is still excited to see her), and the entire cast of Hair to bring everyone back to sing "Let the Sunshine In." With the ending aside, the rest of the number is just huge and confusing and hard to hear. This is might happen if you gave Cecil B. DeMille Nyquil and then told him to come up with an opening number for the Tonys. NPH says that this is the most expensive opening number in Tonys history. This is a sign that perhaps the show needs to rethink its strategy.

The "Touring Musical" production numbers - Last year, the Tony producers started a dangerous trend by allowing musicals that were not nominated for "Best Musical" or "Best Revival of a Musical" do a number on the show. This year, in order to promote the touring shows (and perhaps to get more people to watch the Tony awards?), someone decided to let shows that are currently touring the U.S. to present a number. And yes, the result was just as boring as it sounds:
  • Mamma Mia! - When they announced that this was going to be the first "Touring Musical" number, I knew that it was going to be a long night. Besides singing the ubiquitous "Dancing Queen," the three women performing did not seem at all excited to be there and sounded rather off-key. On a shallower note, I never realized how hideous some of the costumes for the show are. Since it is a show that has high gay-appeal, you would think they would have better outfits.
  • Legally Blonde the Musical - Like the monster at the end of a horror movie, this is a musical that just won't go away. While Becky Gulsvig, who is starring in the tour as Elle, was pretty good, the number probably didn't make any sense if you weren't familiar with the musical. The funniest part of this number is that, when the camera cuts to Bebe Neuwirth at the end, she is doing the polite smile and clap even though you can tell she isn't all that into it.
  • Jersey Boys - Actually, this is probably the monster at the end of the movie. Why won't this show go away? I've never liked the jukebox musical, so I'm pissed that the Tonys have to devote more time to it. Adding to my anger: the niggling thought that this is the same number they did when Jersey Boys performed because it was nominated for "Best Musical" (it wasn't the same number, but it was so damn similar that I don't think it matters) and the fact that they played off the three boys from Billy Elliot, who were so delightfully flustered but still gave good speeches, so that we could be subjected to this dreck. Dammit Tony Awards, get your act together!