How the 2018 Tony Awards Let Us Down and Lifted Us Up
I was thoroughly glad when last night’s Tony Awards was over. I’ve religiously watched the Tony Awards for decades and, for me, they have devolved from a classy evening that truly celebrated theatre performers to a commercially driven freight train that lacks nuance and direction. That is not to say that there weren’t some tasteful and touching moments, but in general, I mostly found myself praying for 11 PM to get here.
Here is how the Tony Awards let us down this year:
When I think of the fact that musical theatre relies so heavily on its music but the producers of this awards show travesty decided to give the Tony Award for Best Score to David Yazbek, off-screen. In fact, it I disappointing that the “Creative Arts” Tonys are given so little time. How many budding designers, musicians, and choreographers are there out there who deserve to be inspired by the speeches of Yazbek, Zuber, etc? When did the Tony Awards stop being about the artistry?
Was it me, or did many of the productions not choose musical numbers that showed their show off in its best light? I found myself sitting there wondering at what would inspire me to buy a ticket to these shows because most of the numbers told me NOTHING of what they were about. Only Mean Girls chose wisely. I am not saying that I enjoyed that number, but I DID walk away knowing what the show would be.
On a night that celebrates theatre, where we are already pressed for time, Bruce Springsteen monologuing at a piano in a monotone late in the three-hour ceremony was not something any of us needed. Was that really necessary, and if it absolutely was, why not something a little more dynamic to keep us from wanting to throw ourselves into the orchestra pit?
Chita Rivera and Andrew Lloyd Webber deserved so much more than that mish-mash mash-up of their careers, the focus never landing on any one spectacular moment long enough for audiences to witness the reasons why they were being honored in the first place. If you can’t take the time to do it right, stop handing out additional honors that the clock doesn’t allow for.
Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles tried. I’ll give them that. The evening, however, had no cohesiveness or any kind of structure that worked. It was a haphazard mess that might have been more easily overlooked if a dynamic host were guiding us through the evening.
The sound: Easily 1/3 of the musical numbers performed were marred by the sound. Most of “Mama Will Provide” was unintelligible, but parts of other musical sequences were just as garbled.
What did work:
The “In Memoriam” tribute was really quite wonderful, tasteful, and tear-jerking. The cast of Dear Evan Hansen sounded lovely.
“Seasons of Love” sung by students from Parkland was an emotional dialysis for many of us who don’t want to see any more people the victims of gun violence.
The use of classic showtunes as presenters walked on and off from the stage. It’s so important we keep Broadway’s legacy alive.