Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Getting in on the act

Hmmm, I'm not sure what to think about the poster for the 2008 Tony Awards.

At first glance, I liked it. There's kind of a classic look, with a formally attired male dancer leaping in midair. The colors are bold and the slogan is catchy: "There's a little bit of Broadway in everyone." It also plays into people's preconceived notions of what a Broadway show - i.e. musical - looks and sounds like. Of course, except for A Chorus Line and the "Puttin on the Ritz" number from Young Frankenstein, I don't know what other musicals fit that bill.

I think the poster probably appeals to people who already like traditional Broadway musicals, with a traditional Broadway sound. And I do love them, so for me, it works fine. But I also think that it's a little bit of preaching to the choir. For people who don't like musicals, or want them to have a younger, more contemporary feel, I'm afraid that it'll just remind them of what they don't like. The invitation to "get in on the act" will be met by a firm "No thanks."

And that's too bad, because there really are so many different kinds of stories on Broadway today, so many different kinds of music. Ok, I realize it's a poster and you have to hit people with one, simple, defining image. What conjures up Broadway better than a dancer in top hat and tails? And maybe there isn't a way to attract people who have already made up their minds that they're not interested, so why bother?

Still, I can't help but wonder whether the message is a little too confining. You'd never realize from the poster that you could find salsa and hip-hop and rock 'n' roll and a little bit of gospel and blues and punk in addition to traditional show tunes. And of course, it ignores plays entirely, because after all, who thinks of play when they think of Broadway?

I'm not sure what I'd do differently. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a very visual person. And as much as I'd like to see Deanna Dunagan's angry, twisted expression from August: Osage County screaming out at me, or sweet, smiling Lin-Manuel Miranda from In the Heights, I realize that you can't focus on a particular show that's in competition this year.

I'm not saying that Broadway should run away from its past, or hide the fact that the big, splashy musicals with their big, splashy dance routines, are the lifeblood of the Great White Way. But you know, that poster could have been from 30 years ago. I'd like some sense, in perhaps the most overused phrase ever, that this is not your grandmother's Broadway.

I just wish there could have been a little more of a hat tip to what's new and innovative, some indication that Broadway is not just a place where you can go to be comforted by the familiar, but a place where you can be challenged and excited by the unexpected.


Sarah B. Roberts said...

Gypsy and In the Heights also include classic Broadway dancing. Besides, I'm assuming, the Tony Awards poster is really only in NYC. The Tonys has the lowest viewership of any awards show.

Esther said...

Hey Sarah,
Of course you're right on all counts! I guess I was kind of joking, thinking about the top hats and tails in "A Chorus Line" and "Young Frankenstein." But of course there are other shows with classic dance routines. And you're right, the poster is probably just for New York City. I like the poster, I just wish it better reflected all of the variety on Broadway.

Unknown said...

I am in Chicago looking for where to find (online) a copy of this poster. It is tailor made for me. I have a Tony Awards party every year (15th this year). I have the 50th (and am also looking for a copy of the 60th poster)poster. It is the same color as my living room. I have a theatre performance/production degree. Oh, and for the first time, ever, the show is on my birthday. Does anyone know where I can find this poster? Or do you know where in NYC I can send my brother to get the poster for me? (well, really my sister-in-law, she would remember to get it.) Thanks! KT

Esther said...

Wow, how exciting! It sounds like a great party!

I just looked quickly at, which has an online store,, which sells Broadway souvenirs, and, which sells posters from shows. None of them has the 2008 Tony Awards poster. I even tried the official Tony web site and I couldn't find a place to buy it. But if you go to the Triton Gallery's contact page, there is a phone number and an e-mail address. I would try contacting them. If they don't have it, I'm sure they'd know where you can get it. Triton is located at 9th Avenue and 44th Street.

Happy birthday, and enjoy the show!