Every year I watch the Tony Awards faithfully. I do this for several different reasons, the primary one being that I like theatre. Secondary to that is something that could only be defined as professional education. Tertiary (how often does one really use that word?) is my opportunity to live vicariously.
Saying “I like theatre” is simplifiying it at best. If I didn’t like it, love it, dream it and believe in its power above all other art forms, I wouldn’t be doing it still. Or, maybe I would. What do I know? I haven’t stopped doing it or caring about it, so I can’t tell the difference. Some time about 20 some…..or…well, many years ago, I decided I wanted to go in to theatre and have yet to change to my mind. We’ve been saying it for years, but every year it seems truer and truer that live performance has to work hard to compete for the entertainment dollars against movies, TV, the internet, etc. But there is nothing that compares to the shared experience with living breathing people. Each performance happens once, and only once.
As someone who works in theatre (as much as I’m possibly allowed in the sandbox) but not in New York City, it’s always good to keep an eye out on what’s happening on Broadway. And who’s happening there. It’s a way to anticipate the trickle down effect, and discover which writers or plays are going to be popping up in this market in productions I might audition for. Or perhaps know which shows might tour, that I am going to want to see. I often have heard or read about or read the shows up for awards each year, and I appreciate getting a glimpse at it.
Last night I was only able to catch the last half or so of the show. (The rest is on my dvr and I’ll get through it tonight.) I was suprisingly disappointed in the musical theatre award winners’ performances. I loved the movie Billy Elliot, and I had (have) high expectations for the stage version. But that number that they performed from it? I didn’t find it inspiring in the least. I didn’t like the choreography at all, and think it may have been a poor choice for a selection. I’d probably still go see it when it comes to town, because it’s a great, moving story. Perhaps in context that number would work better. Similarly, the performance of the title song from Hair left me thinking….”Meh.” They couldn’t do something just a bit more original?
I was glad to see a Neil LaBute play finally be up for a Tony, even if his play didn’t win. He’s not everyone’s cup-of-tea, but I think he’s masterful at finding the nuances and intricacies of characters, particularly those whose seem to contradict themselves. No one is two dimensional in any aspect.
The whole vicarious element is just shallowness and dreams. I’ve never imagined actually moving New York. I’d be lying if I said I never imagined working on Broadway though. In some elements it’s the pinnacle of success in American theatre. But, honestly, only in some, because Broadway isn’t primarily about art – it’s about commercial success. And bottom line is, for me, artistic success is more important than commercial. That said, how friggin’ exciting would it be to be there? So I watch to imagine what that would be like. Or, to spot someone I know, or root for some one, or even root for someone I know.
And while Broadway may be about commercial theatre, the Tony Awards are about artistic merit, as much as any award show can be. So for that, I look forward to seeing the rest of what I missed.