OK, Count – I know this isn’t the kind of thing that usually appears here – but part of my mission, on behalf of any closeted “Gleeks” amongst us, is to counterbalance the sports just a teensy bit. So, here is my take on….
Ten Reasons the Tony Awards Have It All Over Any Other
Entertainment Awards Show
(1) It’s Broadway. Before recording or film or television were born, all the world was a stage. Other entertainment awards all refer back here. Films are made about people with theatre ambitions, sometimes achieved by putting on a show in the barn. Record labels release cast albums. As for television – hello, Glee? Broadway is the hub of the entertainment wheel: everything else is a spoke.
(2) It’s a live event celebrating live events. Stage performers don’t get second and fifth and 23rd takes. It’s now or never. They don’t get things “fixed in Post.” They don’t get equalization filters and audio sweetening on their recordings. On stage it’s all there as it comes, and it has a level of reality and immediacy that other media, and other awards programs, can’t match.
(3) Real production numbers. Nobody knows how to mount a memorable performance like a Broadway stage does. How many of those lame medleys from Oscar or Emmy broadcasts linger in your memory in the same way as the rumble between the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story, or the dream ballet in Oklahoma, or the pre-intermission finale of Les Mis, or the “Circle of Life” number in The Lion King? No, those other awards programs are to the Tonys as karaoke is to, well, Broadway.
(4) Less politicking. I’ve worked on the tech side of the film industry. I know about the lobbying campaigns; the self-congratulatory ads that everyone is obliged to place in The Hollywood Reporter and Variety and Film Journal; the well-catered open screenings of obscure documentaries and the multiple "For Your Consideration" freebie DVDs sent to the voting members. The Tonys wear all that on their sleeves, not in their swag bags. Yes, they tout their nominations, but they don’t run it like bitter election rivals intent on out-bribing each other. There’s an artistic integrity that is unique to the Tonys that makes all the other awards shows look just a little cheap and tawdry and greed-driven by comparison.
(5) Serious drama. The Best Picture award at the Oscars, for instance, is just a popularity contest compared to the Best Play award at the Tonys. Oscar voters are thinking box-office return as much as they are anything else. Tony voters are looking at substance, at staying power, at lasting value. There’s a reason this year’s award went to Red, an in-depth exploration, through the personae of artist Mark Rothko and his young assistant, of the power of art to sustain the human psyche. That may not pack them into the Cineplex on a June weekend, but it does resonate with the theatre-minded Tony type.
(6) People who do their own stuff. You can fake it in film or TV. Just ask Marni Nixon. Ever hear of her? She was the singing voice for Gertrude Lawrence in The King and I, Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, AND for Peggy Wood (the Mother Abbess) in The Sound of Music…where, thankfully, she also had a rare on-screen role as one of the nuns. Milli Vanilli didn’t invent this kind of sham performing. And how many guest artists on Saturday Night Live (note the prominence of the word "Live" in that show's own title...) have you seen lip-syncing? Or at any other awards program? Not the Tonys. It’s real. Heck, the microphone glitches prove it.
(7) Real valuing/honoring of long-term reputation. Yes, at the awards programs that depend on a lens, you can see the obligatory standing ovations. But there’s a hesitance. A wince. A restless sense of “who cares about this boring oldster any more? Bring on the Jonah Hill.” Not at the Tonys. Angela Lansbury isn’t seen or received as a reluctantly-acknowledged dinosaur, but as a national treasure, and an elder with wisdom to impart. The Tonys have a sense of tradition that greener awards shows can’t hope to equal. They value their elder statesmen/women in a more genuine way.
(8) No dependence on a Host from Without. Look who’s hosted Oscar in most of our recent lifetimes: comedians with little film connection. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not, but still on the whole not from deep roots in the community. Emmy hosts have fared rather better, at least coming from within their own industry. But, still, really. In 2008, Emmy hosting was shared amongst Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, Jeff Probst, and Ryan Seacrest. How BOTB – Bottom Of The Barrel – is that? Ahhh, but the Tonys! Hugh Jackman. Bernadette Peters. Gregory Hines. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Anthony Hopkins and Liza Minnelli, for crying out loud! Which starting lineup would you prefer? Tony wins it, hands-down.
(9) Genuine glamour. Oh, yeah, talk all you like about the red carpet at the Oscars or Emmys or Grammys, and dish on who-wore-what. You won’t find the likes of the cast of High School Musical or other manufactured celebrities on the runway at the Tonys. Notoriety alone isn't a ticket to the front of the line; and, when it means you get the likes of Helen Mirren rather than Justin Bieber? That's a good thing.
(10) Real entertainment value. Yes, you might get a few laughs from the hosts of those other shows….but probably not more than you would get from them on any given night on Comedy Central. And you might ooh and ahh at a contrived production number…and then forget it three minutes later. But what you see at the Tonys stays with you. Look….I wasn’t impressed by Fela! I found it contrived, didn’t see it as a sustainable concept for an entire theatrical evening, and couldn’t imagine sitting in a theatre through a night like that. But what I saw from them last night? Is still on replay inside my head. It made an impact.
At the end of the day, Banned and Dangerous aficionados, I have to proclaim that nothing is as entertaining as live theatre or as an awards program that honors live theatre. In a word – That’s Entertainment!
We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.