Monday, June 8, 2009

The Tony Awards: Now 50% less cloying!

By Russ Bickerstaff
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After a weekend devoid of actual theatre, my wife and I sat down to watch the Tony awards with two bowls of chili. The show started promptly with an energetic opening number—a generous mix of performances from the musicals that were nominated. Say what you will about the difficulties of getting a show the size of the Tonys together and making certain everyone from a diverse group of productions could hit their cues and suchlike . . . the big problem in that opening set (and to a certain extent the entire evening) was the sound. Performers couldn’t be heard that well, the volume of the music sometimes overpowered the vocals . . . and this wouldn’t really be that significant if it weren’t for the fact that nearly every time I’ve seen a touring Broadway show, there’s been some kind of problem with the sound at some point. A Bronx Tale may have been the only touring Broadway performance I can remember not having sound issues and that’s probably because they only had one person onstage. One would think they’d do better if they were trying to advertise the idea of going to New York to see a show, they’d do a better job of presenting it for the TV audience that might want to go there . . .

Opening number aside, this year’s Tony Awards were significantly less cloying than last year’s. The focus this year seemed to be on actually presenting the shows rather than trying to desperately drag people to Manhattan. I suppose it could’ve been my frame of mind too . . . or the fact that host Neil Patrick Harris actually seemed to be going for some kind of offbeat humor. He comes across as a comedian who isn't afraid of silence, which strikes me as being kind of rare. 

The awards themselves were . . . probably pretty predictable. Having a musical based on a British indie film win big was kind of a new twist on a current trend, but it was crowded out by nominees largely drawn from Broadway adaptations of Hollywood films. Strictly speaking, the Billy Elliot musical was an import from London’s West End, which maintains the image of Broadway as a place where shows end up . . . not the cutting edge of the art form that it might have been at one point . . . admittedly, Next To Normal won relatively big, but . . . what they’d presented of it on the show sounded pretty awful.

Geoffrey Rush’s acceptance speech for his performance in Exit The King struck me as being the cleverest bit on the evening . . . and with God of Carnage  winning top honors for a drama in New york, there’s only a matter of time before it makes it to an indigenous production in Milwaukee . . . possibly as early as the 2010/2011 season. A cleverly-written drama for four, (2 men, 2 women) could be a nice, affordable option for a production company on a budget with a small space . . .

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