Thursday, May 01, 2014

(Other People's) Musings on The Tony Nominations

It's that time of year again. No, not quite time for the Tony Awards ceremony itself--that won't be broadcast until Sunday, June 8th. Rather, it's the time of year where everyone celebrates the Tony nominees, gets their underpants in a bunch over the shows and performers who got the shaft, and opines on what the hell the annual list of nominations says about the state of Broadway in the broader sense.

Full disclosure, which has nothing at all to do with underpants: I have absolutely no idea what the hell the annual list of nominations might say about the state of Broadway in the broader sense. I used to think I did, but then I realized that (a) every time I came to some grand conclusion about the state of Broadway as it relates to the Tonys, I turned out to be totally wrong, and that, ergo, (b) clearly, I'm sort of a dope, at least when it comes to reading the minds of Tony voters.

So while I am quite sure I'll have plenty of opinions about the Tony broadcast itself, I plan to spend the weeks leading up to it seeing as much theater as I can, entering as many Tony pools as I can (none that requires me to bet big money on the outcome, though, because of item b above), and reading up on what other, smarter people think about what the Tony nominations say about Broadway at present.

Luckily, an awful lot of people are weighing in on the distinctive weirdness of this year's list of nominees, which you can link to here.   And some of the writing has been very interesting, informative, and lively.

The New York TimesPatrick Healy provides a good rundown of what makes this particular list so weird: Unlike last year, which was essentially dominated by a tight race between Kinky Boots and Matilda for the best musical award, this year's nominations are all over the map. Smaller, lesser-known musicals like The Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder mopped the floor with comparatively expensive, more highly anticipated musicals like If/Then, The Bridges of Madison County and Rocky. Big stars like Denzel Washington, Daniel Radcliffe, Ian McKellan, and Patrick Stewart lost out to guys who don't have household names, like Samuel Barnett and (the always brilliant) Mark Rylance. Also, at least behind the scenes, last year was a totally awesome year for women; this year, alas, not so much. And finally, apparently, theatergoers groove passionately enough on Shakespeare to (I hope) put at least a temporary end to stupid, lazy comments about how stupid and lazy Broadway audiences have become in recent years.

Healy is always good for straightforward reporting on the theater industry; others, however, have weighed in a little more emotionally about the nominees. In the The Daily News, Joe Dziemianowicz wrote an amusingly grumpy and blunt op-ed titled "What the Tony Voters Got Right and Wrong," which I think you should attempt to read aloud in a "hey, kids, get the hell off my lawn" tone of voice if you link to it.

In The Times, Charles Isherwood, who probably should have taken a long, contemplative walk followed by a nice hot soak before weighing in, instead ranted rather meanly about how the five Best Play nominations all sucked big, hairy, exceptionally boring wang, and how his all-time favorite play, The Realistic Joneses, is brilliant and made entirely of diamonds and candy and orgasms. Which, he continues, the Tony voters en masse all clearly hate and want to banish from the face of the earth--or, at least, from Broadway proper, because they are imbeciles or something.

By far the most informative analysis I've read about the nominations is over at Broadway and Me, a blog I always find compelling. The writeup about the nominations is not nearly as amusingly crabby as Isherwood's or Dziemianowicz's, but it's clear and worthy of your time, and should be read aloud in a perfectly normal voice, if you choose to read it aloud at all.

Now that I'm thinking about what others think about this year's nominations, it occurs to me that maybe the nominations don't ultimately say anything at all, except that Broadway continues to thrive, and entertain, and surprise, and matter a great deal to a lot of people, no matter what kind of year it's been, or what trends are dictating the industry and the aesthetics.

Oh--and also, that Neil Patrick Harris can do no wrong, has no enemies anywhere, and is universally loved by everyone--including, I'm guessing, Charles Isherwood.

1 comment:

jan@broadwayandme said...

Thanks so much for the kind shout-out and for your smart analysis as well.