Monday, June 14, 2010

Broadway's biggest night came ... and went - thank goodness.

The Tony Awards were last night and I, like most, watched from the comfort of my living room.

Where do I begin? Oh yea ...

Last night's telecast was a train-wreck.

Don't get me wrong, Sean Hayes rock it out as host - his timing and ability for physically manifesting his humor are beyond compare. Truly, he should be commended (as should his side-kick Kristin Chenoweth) because there's only so much you can do when someone hands you a pile of hot summer dog poo.

What sucked rocks about last night was the actual production, shall we say 'technical aspects' of the show, which made it incredible - incredibly - difficult to watch. Some of the issues seemed like technical difficulties, while others looked like blatant directorial stupidity.

For example, in many of the musical performances, mics were not on when they needed to be which left us watching people's mouths move without hearing what was coming out. But, when the mics were on, they were, on the whole, unbalanced between performers - a personal pet peeve of mine. Then, there was the lighting - it was just bad. At one point, it was so bad that Paula Abdul was left in the dark as she began announcing an award. Additionally, there didn't seem to be any care given to planning the length of musical numbers. Poor Christiane Noll barely got 16 bars of "Back to before..." out before she was cut off, yet the musical number from Fela seemed to last longer than War and Peace.

And why, pray tell, was Green Day given the opportunity to do two numbers back to back in the opening? I understand they are the brains behind American Idiot, but I felt like it was an obligatory performance in order to try to accomplish some sort of PR task - the specifics of which completely elude me. Even in the midst of the American Idiot cast, the Green Day numbers just didn't fit... it left me with that feeling of "uhm... ok... moving on."

Technical and directorial stupidity aside, let me break it down for you - as if I wasn't already - there was a whole-lot-of attention going to the Hollywood Elite last night when many of them have no business singing or acting on Broadway. What they do on film is incredible, for the most part. But stage and film are completely different.

I know, that's incredibly judgmental for me to say and I'll probably catch all different colors of hell for saying it - but, listen ... we've got a three pronged problem here.

First, the stage critics were stripped of their Tony voting rights this year, which made for some incredibly jaded critics. Where you have jaded critics, you have terrible reviews. Where you have terrible reviews, you have empty seats. Not to mention the fact the absence of objective input in the voting process.

Second, this year's season line up was kind of a dud (at least it was in the eye of the critics). The line up left many of us saying, "That's coming back ... again?" Or "Wait ... what's that show called, again?" Or worse, "There's nothing I really want to see right now." Cue: crappy ticket sales. In order to get butts in the seats, producers are forced to bring in Hollywood Elite to attract the tourists.

This brings me to my third point.

The Broadway boards were chalked full of Hollywood Elite this season, and it is incredibly obvious to me that the Hollywood Elite are starring on Broadway because they've nothing better to do. The economy is a mess. Studios aren't making pictures at the rate that they were a couple of years ago - which leaves many in Hollywood out of work. Because of this huge influx of screen actors who are here out of boredom, as well as to attract tourists, many actors and singers who are poised on the brink of doing something truly spectacular on Broadway were thrown out with yesterday's NY Times.

What does that get us? Broadway boards full of Hollywood Elite Debutants and droves of out-of-work stage actors who truly belong on the Broadway stage. I believe that this fundamentally effects the quality of the productions and that was never more evident that it was last night on the Tonys.

Might I add this - when did it become ok for an actor to be cast in a musical when they clearly can't sing worth a tinkers-damn?

I'm just asking.

Anyway, the good news is that the pendulum will swing back the other way. The economy will continue to recover, studios will go back to making their movies and the Hollywood Elite will go back to starring in them. That will leave the Broadway stages to those who know what they're doing and actually have a passion for the stage.

Speaking of a passion for the stage - let me leave you with this: How do you think it looks to the general population of Americans watching from their living rooms when a night celebrating Broadway, a place where productions are staged 8 times a week, looks like an unrehearsed, terribly produced and hastily thought-out dog and pony show? Yea... I'm thinking: not so good.

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