June 14, 2011

Final Words on The Tonys—At Least From Me

The preliminary ratings for Sunday night’s Tony broadcast are 6.9 million, just a smidgen down from the 7 million who watched last year.  But it seems there was a 9% increase in viewers in the 18-49 demo that advertisers seem to think are the only people who exist. I can’t figure that increase out.  Maybe the anticipated—and eventual—dominance of The Book of Mormon brought in some “South Park” fans but what happened to the oldsters they replaced?  

Still, the overall numbers (the final tallies will be released later today) suggest just how many Broadway fans there are out there.  Or at least how many will tune in on a night when, as Chris Rock noted as he gave out the Best Musical Award, the best basketball game of the year was playing out on another channel. My always-supportive husband K watched the Tonys with me but then immediately switched to the game, which, thanks to our dual-tuner Tivo, he’d been recording.

Theater geeks and sports fanatics tend to have little in common but there is one thing we definitely share:  a love of Monday morning quarterbacking.  As usual, a lot of the virtual water cooler talk about Sunday night’s Tony Awards ceremony has been thumbs-up-and-thumbs-down reviews about the show (largely positive) the host (really positive) the winners (few surprises) and the fashion (what were Whoopi Goldberg and Frances McDormand thinking?)

But amidst all the chatter (Google News lists close to 3,000 articles on the awards) I came across six things that I thought you, my discerning readers, might enjoy before you your turn attention to the new Broadway season, which begins tonight with the opening of the long-delayed Spider-Man:

1. Lucky and the Mick, the authors of the Craptacular blog (and my sometimes bantering buddies on the Broadwaystars.com weekly podcast) offer a wrap-up that’s both funny and insightful:

2. New York Post critic Elisabeth Vincentelli explains why she—and seemingly lots of other folks—enjoyed the broadcast so much:

3. Martin Denton, the valiant defender of indie theater at nytheatre.com, chimes in with another point of view and laments the way plays—even in this year when a dozen new ones debuted—have become second-class citizens on Broadway:

4. Michael Billington, who writes for the Guardian in London, started off with what I thought was going to be some jingoistic chest-thumping about how so many of Sunday’s winners were British but ended up with a terrific call to arms in defense of the importance of government-subsidized theater everywhere:

5. At least eight musicals got to show-off during the broadcast (a good thing since that helps people decide what they want to see) but there were also some entertaining speeches, including Sutton Foster’s shout-out to her dresser, Norbert Leo Butz’s gracious tribute to all his colleagues at Catch Me If You Can (which needs a box-office boost) and to his sister who was murdered during the show’s tryout in Seattle, an adorable speech by The Book of Mormon’s Nikki M. James who in one of the few surprises of the night beat out Laura Benanti for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical, and yet another perplexing one from Mark Rylance, who once again used his time to quote cryptic lyrics by the Minnesota poet Louis Jenkins.  Backstage has gathered those and others in a collection of video clips from the telecast:

6. Yesterday, I tweeted about the rap that the In the Heights duo Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tommy Kail wrote for Neil Patrick Harris to end the show (click here to see a video clip of them as they compose the lyricsin the basement of the Beacon Theater during the show).  But I’m still not sure what I think of the opening number "Not Just for Gays Anymore,” written by the Cry Baby team David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger.  Was it, as some people suggest, an I-Am-What-I-Am affirmation of the relationship between gay people and theater?  Or, as others fret, was it a thumb-in-the-eye turnoff to middle America?  As luck would have it, Playbill has helpfully printed the lyrics so you can judge for yourself:

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