…and I’m not talking about Bennett, Soprano or the Tiger. While it has hardly registered as a blip on the radar screens of most Americans, the big Tony Awards ceremony is this weekend. I’d like to say I’m all a-twitter with excitement and anticipation, but I’m not. It may just be a testament to my increasing lame-itude but the sad sad truth is that, of the dozens of nominations being considered for awards this weekend, I can only comment with any authority on a scant three of them. Probably worst of all, I haven’t seen any of the Best Play or Best Musical nominations. If this was a war movie, this would be the point where the sergeant in charge of theater critics rips the epaulets off my uniform and calls me a disgrace to my profession.
To take it a step further, when I first heard about “The Drowsy Chaperone,” I thought it was a joke. It sounded like the kind of name you come up with when you are trying to think of bad heavy metal band names, like “Sinister Barbie” or “Pain Threshold.” From what I’ve read, however, it’s a great show and if I get to New York again before my children graduate college, I’d love to see it.
I saw “Sweeney Todd” back in February and Michael Cerveris was phenomenal as Sweeney. So he’d be my choice for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, in part because I don’t like Harry Connick, Jr. on principle (I went to a concert of his some 10 years ago and it was awful). Patti LuPone was also good in “Sweeney” but not amazing and if she wins her category it must be because the rest of the slate isn’t that strong.
Any other opinions I have are based on the performers’ other work: I loved Cynthia Nixon in “Sex in the City” (she’s up for a Tony for “Rabbit Hole”) and I’ve had a soft spot for Oliver Platt ever since the movie “Flatliners” (he’s currently in “Shining City.”) And I’ll be pulling for “Awake and Sing!” as Best Revival because I’m a fan of Lauren Ambrose (“Six Feet Under”).
One last thing on this subject: it’s something of a time honored tradition that, after the Tony Awards airs, the papers will talk about how low the ratings were. There seems to be a subconscious slant to these stories that theater is continuing to die a slow death and is becoming culturally irrelevant. This is, of course, totally ridiculous. The reason the Tonys get such low ratings is simple: the overwhelming majority of people outside of New York, Chicago and L.A. have never heard of “The Drowsy Chaperone” not to mention “Rabbit Hole,” “The History Boys,” or “The Lieutenant of Inishmore.”
Whereas it is usually possible (though often difficult in Richmond) for an interested individual to have seen everything nominated for an Oscar or an Emmy every year, only people living a manageable distance from Broadway and with copious amounts of free time AND with large sums of disposable income will have seen all of the productions nominated for Tonys. So the core audience for the Tonys is really about 48 people living on the upper East Side. Is it any wonder the ratings are so puny?
Of course, it’s hard to underestimate the Oprah influence this year. I’m thinking the biggest question of the weekend is whether “The Color Purple” will have the Tonys seeing a little more of the color green.