Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Think of....the Tony!

It's been a good six years since I've touched this blog but I've recently found that writing is a good outlet for me. And since I'm not teaching right now and I have two very loud children to contest with during the day it's nice to have some quiet moments to reflect. So I'm starting it back up!

But now that we're here, let's be honest. I just have some things I need to get off my chest about the Tony Awards coming up this week so this is essence just gonna be a rant. That said, I'll probably try to not just rant on here but I did call it "Softly John, your voice is hurting my foot" for a reason....

Begin Tony Awards Rant:

First of all, I started watching the Tony’s in 1996. At the time, my adorable middle school self viewed it as a major moment of connection when I felt recognized and not alone in thinking other people liked musicals too. And here were these really amazing performances I got to watch on TV! But it wasn’t just that. From 1997-2002 PBS hosted the first hour of the Tony’s. Technical awards and backstage looks at some of the shows. I loved that. When they went back to being broadcast exclusively on CBS and just not showing many of those awards I wrote impassioned letters to whoever I thought would listen requesting the program be reinstated (these were the things that were important to me my senior year of high school). Cut to 2016 and I became the sole adopter of the #BroadcastBookandScore because I wanted CBS to show those awards so badly! We got one of them, not bad. But ever since no one replied to me emails about bringing back the PBS hour, I knew that the broadcast of the Tony awards was not meant to be an informative program, it’s a big commercial for the tourist industry that is Broadway shows. I get that. I appreciate it. I moved on. I always complain about it when something I really wanted to see gets cut or a particularly unnecessary performance or performer is featured to try to boost ratings but c’est la vie. I’m mostly over it. 

This year there is a similar split up that’s been causing quite the commotion. Paramount+ is doing the first two hours with most of the awards, the CBS is broadcasting a second 2 hour program with the big three awards and lots of performances, “Broadway’s Back” they’re calling it. Great. That fact that I’m still very anxious about live indoor theatre returning anywhere in the country right now (given the almost weekly announcements of cancellations going on in the West End since this summer when they opened up) is my own thing. I’m happy people are working again and I’m hoping everyone stays safe. I’m most likely not going to any indoor theatre events till my kids are fully vaccinated. (A whole other post is how much more theatre I got to see during the pandemic in the comfort of my own home after the kids' bedtime and how I’m genuinely going to miss that part of the pandemic). But great, Broadway’s Back and that’s the part that CBS wants to advertise on the network. Fantastic. The big complaints I’ve seen is that the first part on Paramount+ is behind a paywall, but as a 30 something who hasn’t paid for network television since I moved out of my parents house this argument troubles me less. I actually have Paramount+ because I kept getting streaming CBS free for the month of June to watch the Tony’s and then finally stopped canceling it when I got addicted to watching Colbert every night (p.s. I would like very much for him to host or at least co-host one year please) so while I completely get paywalls as an issue, to me their decision to go halfsies again makes perfect sense. They want people to go see the shows that are just reopening and need an audience, that’s what that part is gonna be about. Fine. Good. Don’t really think of it as the Tony’s, think of it as an advertisement for an industry in need. 

Speaking of industry in need: the rest of the theatre community is in a whole lot of need too and doesn’t get 2 hours on CBS Sunday night. If you’re going out and about (like I’m not quite yet) go see a show in your community. They are already back open and need your support and doing great work. I say this not knowing where you are or what you’re seeing. They just are. 

Back to the Tony Awards broadcast. This year is obviously not a typical year. A great many shows (including all the musical revivals) that would have been eligible did not open before the shut down. It was a tricky and pretty much unprecedented situation, so of course this year is out of the ordinary. I think my biggest complaint is that they went ahead and nominated the few shows that had opened. Of course those performances deserved credit but the arbitrariness of “oh well Six was gonna open the night ALL OF NEW YORK SHUT DOWN I guess it doesn’t get nominated this year” felt weird. Also, no musicals are nominated for best score and Aaron Tveit will win best actor in a musical (because he was the only one nominated) unless enough people just refuse to vote for him (but common he was so perfect in Schmigadoon!) Suffice it to say, this year is gonna be weird. Some awesome stuff for sure. There were some serious plays that had opened and some serious representation that had been missing honored with nominations (let's get Jeremy O. Harris and Adrienne Warren some Tonys at least). But again, still just weird. I mean, we’re not “post-pandemic” but this feels like it’s celebrating moments another world ago, “pre-pandemic” which is very much another world ago, to me at least. 

Anyway, after all that, of course I’m watching. Hoping since we have 2 house with Audra on Paramount+ (which she is already the queen of thanks to The Good Fight) that in the spirit of the old PBS hour we might get to watch all the technical awards and fun things like orchestration! And book! But with so few new musicals that had opened it also already feels like a let down. 

Oh and last but not least, as a west coaster I’m pretty sure we get this first 2 hours on Paramount+ live (4pm PT) but then because the next part is the CBS network part it’s gonna be tape delayed and we’ll have to wait till 9pmPT…..Bahahahaha! But zero people will confirm this for me on Twitter. What a mess. What a year. 


p.s. for a full list of nominees check out the official Tony Awards page