Monday, June 13, 2011

My Thoughts on the 2011 Tonys (Part I): The Host and the "Extra" Production Numbers

I've had (almost) 24 hours to ruminate on the Tonys, and while I'm not nearly as pessimistic as I was last night, I'm still somewhat disappointed. It wasn't bad at all, but it was predictable and (on occasion) mind-numbingly boring. With few exceptions, this was not from lack of effort. Neil Patrick Harris sang, danced, and hosted his little heart out, and a lot of people, from Hugh Jackman to Bono to Daniel Radcliffe, were incredibly good sports. Perhaps I was expecting too much (this is an ongoing problem with me and the Tonys); I found the entire show serviceable and competent but not terribly exciting.

The Host - As I said, Neil Patrick Harris did a nice job. While some people might disagree, I would much, much rather watch NPH host than Hugh Jackman (or, God forbid, Sean Hayes, Whoopi Goldberg, or Rosie O'Donnell). He was charming and kept the momentum of the show going for the most part. That said, I do think he was trying too hard. The effort he was putting into being his usual lovable self was almost palpable, and I wanted to give him a hug and tell him to chill for a few moments. However, when he was on (such as the opening number, the hysterical glue joke regarding the War Horse, the showdown between him and Jackman, and even the rap, which was much better than I gave it credit for last night), he was good.

The Opening Number - I liked the idea of having an original number for the opening (rather than a mash-up of all the nominated shows). Besides being somewhat coherent (at least in theory), it also incorporated a lot of the shows without trying too hard. It was cute, but the most memorable part of it was Brooke Shields's epic screw-up that seemed to go on way too long. In fact, I couldn't remember much of the opening until I saw it on YouTube. This is not a good sign. However, it does get kudos for me for having the audacity to have NPH sing about how Broadway isn't just for gays while being hoisted aloft by a bunch of sailors who are shaking their butts in time with the music. That's special (in the best way possible).

The "Extra" Numbers from Shows that Were Not Nominated this Year - Many people argue that the Tonys have become one long commercial for shows (mostly musicals), and the number of extra numbers from shows not nominated doesn't help disprove that theory. Although most of these numbers were not as awful as the extra numbers we've gotten in the past (Young Frankenstein and the intolerable Mamma Mia! numbers come to mind), that doesn't mean they were good.
  • Memphis - Dammit, Tony Awards. Stop making me watch this damn number from Memphis. "Steal Your Rock 'n' Roll" was boring last year, and it was even worse this year. The inclusion of the small children dancing in the aisles only made me surlier, since it was obvious applause bait. If Memphis comes back next year, I might even start praying for the return of Jersey Boys, if only because that show has okay music.
  • Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark - The Spider-Man producers went an interesting route for the number they selected for the Tonys. Rather than focusing on the flying and acrobatics, we got a duet between a very bored-sounding Mary Jane and Peter. I can't help but wonder if they opted for this because 1) the issues with bringing the rigging to the theatre or 2) they wanted to appeal to more traditional audience tastes (See! It has a love story! Just like Oklahoma!). Either way, I'm not convinced this was the best choice. Besides downplaying the comic book aspects of the show, it also proved that hearing other people sing the songs of Bono and The Edge isn't that interesting.
  • Company - I wanted to like "Side by Side by Side," and it wasn't awful, but it wasn't great either. It was mostly "meh" and didn't seem nearly as rehearsed or polished as the version taped by the New York Philharmonic. The inclusion of the three girlfriends was understandable (hey, people need to get their Christina Hendricks fix) but clumsy. That said, I'm still excited about seeing the show this week.