Sunday, June 15, 2008

It's Tony day!

Ok, the big night is finally here! Tonight, 8 p.m., CBS. At Radio City Music Hall. With Whoppi Goldberg and a cast of thousands. I'm so excited. I've actually seen more of the Tony nominees for Best Play and Best Musical this year than I saw Oscar nominees for Best Picture. While I loved some more than others, I'm glad I saw them all.

For the past month, I've read about and watched and listened to a fair share of the Tony nominees. Of course, I'm rooting for all of them, just some more than others. I saw some truly amazing, immensely entertaining performances this year. Not surprisingly, Passing Strange's Stew had the best line. He told BroadwayWorld TV: "I used to think people were lying when they said its great just to be nominated. But they weren't lying, it is great."

I'll be checking out the Tony Awards Web site at 6 p.m. for coverage of all the celebrity arrivals on the red carpet, followed by the Webcast of the creative arts awards at 7:10 p.m., including the presentation of the Tony for best regional theatre to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (Is Chicago a great theatre city or what? I've got to get there someday). Then, during commercials, I'll check in with Playbill's live blogging of the event. Maybe I'll even offer a few comments of my own after the show. Whew, it's going to be a busy night.

I know there's been a bit of controversy regarding the decision to let shows other than the Best Musical nominees perform, but I say, the more the better. I'm pretty excited about seeing a performance by the cast of The Lion King, which I saw on Broadway last month and loved, and the original cast of Rent. This is all about celebrating everything Broadway has to offer - yes, even the shows I didn't like. I mean, somebody liked them, right? The Lion King has the best opening number ever, and why not give a tip of the top hat to Rent, a landmark musical that wraps up its Broadway run in September?

So of course on a day when we celebrate our love for the stage, leave it to New York Times critic Ben Brantley to strike a discordant note. In a Week in Review article today, Brantley dismisses much of what's new and exciting on the Great White Way this year. The shows that have received the most acclaim, he says, aren't that daring at all. "Even more than Hollywood, Broadway is now in the business of manufacturing — almost exclusively — comfort food, products that soothe and reassure by their familiarity."

Brantley describes Passing Strange and In the Heights as "misty-eyed, animated shrines to the importance of family ties and being faithful to where you come from." Their ethnicities, sexual casualness and electrified music may have seemed daring in the 1950s, he argues, "but the paths their heroes follow to self-discovery, detours included, were well worn even then."

He singles out August: Osage County for particular ire: "this Steppenwolf production allows theatergoers to feel they’ve experienced a Significant Play without being in any way challenged." He also takes a swipe at playwright Tracy Letts, saying that Letts made a "calculated career move" with August, going from "the margins to the mainstream."

Well, I couldn't disagree more but hey, everyone's entitled to their opinion. Brantley, for example, heaped praise on the now-closed Rock 'n' Roll, which I found boring and pretentious. (He also holds up as models The Seafarer and The Homecoming, two plays I missed and which also have closed).

It's Tony day, so no sniping from me. I'm just glad that there's enough on Broadway to excite both of us. And hopefully, someone will be surfing channels tonight, come upon the broadcast, and find something that excites them. That's what it's all about, right Ben?


Emily said...

Oh Tony day, how we've all longed for you. This post makes it sound like you're not a RENT fan...that surprises me. It's my favorite and I'm excited to see the original cast on the show tonight. Enjoy it, I'll be looking forward to your Tony commentary tomorrow.

Esther said...

Wow, I didn't mean to give that impression. I saw Rent for the first time in January, on tour, and I liked it a lot! While it's not my absolute all-time favorite, I do love the music, and the way it's staged, and the stories are so poignant.

I guess I just devoted more space to The Lion King because I saw it more recently, and I saw it on Broadway. But yeah, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing Rent with the original cast!

You enjoy the show, too, Emily, and thanks for reading and commenting. I know you're a big fan of Raul Esparza, so maybe this will be his night, too.