Monday, June 14, 2010

Theater review: Tony Awards show was as lame as Broadway's season

Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes lock lips
at the Tony Awards on Sunday, in‭ ‬an image
from the Tonys website.‭ (‬Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris‭)

By Hap Erstein

When you consider what a mediocre season it was on Broadway,‭ ‬did anyone really think the Tony Awards show would be any good‭? ‬Sunday night’s ceremony was,‭ ‬as expected,‭ ‬just like the season for musicals‭ ‬– loud,‭ ‬punk and uninspired.

As I previously reported,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬it was a terrific year for plays,‭ ‬but CBS and the people who assemble the Tonys show have no patience for showcasing plays.‭ ‬They would rather stuff the program with filler from the rock band Green Day‭ (‬creators of the score that became the musical‭ ‬American Idiot‭) ‬and pointless solos by Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele‭ (‬former Broadway performers who are now deemed worthy of Tony time because they star on the TV show‭ ‬Glee‭)‬.

In the same way that the misguided revival of‭ ‬Promises,‭ ‬Promises could not attract a bigger star than Sean Hayes,‭ ‬nor could the Tonys attract a more interesting emcee.‭ ‬Hayes started well with a display of his piano virtuosity‭ (‬who knew‭?) ‬that segued into a disheartening jam session from the show‭ ‬Million Dollar Quartet,‭ ‬including a piano duet with Levi Kreis,‭ ‬who plays Jerry Lee Lewis in the musical‭ (‬and won a supporting actor Tony later in the show.‭)

Hayes gamely went along with the comic bits written for him,‭ ‬including dressing up as a well-endowed dancer from‭ ‬Billy Elliot,‭ ‬as Little Orphan Annie and as the biggest no-show of the season,‭ ‬Spider-Man.‭ ‬The elephant in the room,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬was an inane‭ ‬Newsweek article that slammed Hayes’s performance in‭ ‬Promises,‭ ‬Promises as hard to swallow because he is an out gay man.‭ ‬Hayes never referred to the article directly,‭ ‬but he locked lips and exchanged tongues with his painfully thin co-star Kristin Chenoweth in a winking attempt at heterosexuality,‭ ‬a kiss that would make even Al and Tipper Gore envious.

But the good sports award for the evening surely goes to Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth,‭ ‬the‭ (‬justifiably‭) ‬snubbed stars of the dreadful‭ ‬The Addams Family,‭ ‬who were asked to present the awards for‭ (‬gulp‭!) ‬best actor and actress in a musical.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬it was good to see them at the Tonys or,‭ ‬as Lane says it is referred to at his house,‭ “‬Passover.‭”

The Tonys have notoriously low ratings and Sunday night’s numbers should be no better than usual.‭ ‬There is a perennial tug-of-war between those who think the Tonys should be populated by and about theater people and those who think that widening the profile of presenters will increase viewership.‭ ‬I am staunchly in the former camp and get actively annoyed by TV executives who think pulling in New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez or former‭ ‬American Idol judge Paula Abdul to lend their name value will get anyone beyond the small,‭ ‬core audience to tune in.

It will be interesting to see if‭ ‬American Idiot or‭ ‬Million Dollar Quartet‭ ‬--‭ ‬which won a few minor awards‭ ‬--‭ ‬get a boost at the box office from their exposure at the Tonys.‭ ‬They only confirmed my decision not to see them while I was in New York last month.‭ ‬The big winner among musicals was‭ ‬Memphis,‭ ‬which collected statuettes for‭ ‬best‭ ‬musical,‭ ‬book,‭ ‬score and‭ ‬orchestrations.‭ ‬The pre-show guessing was that its win for the top award over‭ ‬Fela‭!‬ would be engineered by the road presenters,‭ ‬who need a sellable hit for their performing arts centers.‭ ‬Too bad,‭ ‬because‭ ‬Fela‭!‬ was the only innovative new musical in the field.

I couldn’t be more pleased that‭ ‬Red,‭ ‬John Logan’s script about abstract artist Mark Rothko and the art of making art won for‭ ‬best‭ ‬play,‭ ‬director,‭ ‬supporting‭ ‬actor‭ (‬Eddie Redmayne‭)‬,‭ ‬scenic‭ ‬design and‭ ‬sound‭ ‬design.‭ ‬A fine play,‭ ‬superbly performed.

I haven’t heard how many visitors to‭ ‬Palm Beach ArtsPaper beat me in my Tony prognostication,‭ ‬but it is a shame that we did not just ask you to guess best play,‭ ‬musical and the eight performance categories.‭ ‬In those I went‭ ‬10‭ ‬for‭ ‬10.‭ (‬Hint:‭ ‬When in doubt,‭ ‬go with the movie stars who will be thanked with a Tony for the sacrifice of doing a play.‭) ‬In all,‭ ‬I got‭ ‬19‭ ‬out of‭ ‬26,‭ ‬well enough to not be embarrassed.

And as they say in baseball,‭ “‬Better luck next season.‭” ‬Maybe a year from now,‭ ‬we’ll be talking about the brilliance of‭ ‬Spider-Man.‭ ‬But I kind of doubt it.

1 comment:

The OS2Guy said...

Well, you're totally off, as usual. Sean Hayes was absolutely fabulous and the couple from Glee were horrible. Katie Holmes and Jaded Pinkett looked horrible. Overall it was a great show and one of the best. Hard to fill the shoes of Doogie but Sean did a fabulous job.