Monday, June 11, 2007

Tonys Overview

Sunday night! Tony Awards, Tony Soprano, or Tony Parker? Get it? To look at all the bullshit about these three "entertainment options," you'd think we actually have a wide range of things to choose from on TV these days. We don't.

But anyway, my dad and his wife and I watched the Tony Awards. Not terrible, and still the best of the awards shows, because it's live theatre people in their element, doing it live. (Which always makes me wonder about the Emmys-it's a live TV show done by TV people, so why is it so bloated?) That's the best thing (usually) about the Tonys-it's the best-looking show on its feet and the most streamlined and least bloated by its own sense of importance. I mean, these awards shows are all big sloppy kisses from the industries to themselves, all orgies of self-congratulations. (I'm at the non-Equity Jeff Awards tonight, the same thing on a teensy-weensy scale.) But the telecast is what's at hand, and it really amounts to very little anymore than a long-form commercial for the nominated musicals. To wit:

How to Suck in Three Easy Steps
Mary Fucking Poppins, I'm looking at you. Easily the most recognizable of the four shows, a worldwide hit movie with built-in nam-brand blah blah blah, and what do they do? Show "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," which everybody in the world knows? Of course not. (To be fair, the pearly-style choreography I've seen for that number looks like the fucking Macarena, so maybe it was just as well. But.) Here's how they screwed it up:

Step One: "Chim-chi-mah-ny/Chim chim cher-ee?" What? Why with the over-diction? I know Dick Van Dyke had the worst Cockney accent in history in the movie version, but making that nonsense word rhyme with "Swanee" is just plain stupid. It's, um, ah, a play on the word "chimney." One of many examples of the Tony's Dilemma--making big stageworthy business look palatable and not overdone on the small screen. Double-compuneded because in addition to the aforementioned challenge, the performers are playing this night to Radio City Music Hall, the biggest room in the country. Still.

Step Two: "Step in Time." More like "Step in Half-Time." Not a tap number in the movie (sorry to keep comparing, but you know that's just what they want), but a busker two-step. So of course they turned it into a MUCH slower tap specialty for the stage show. Again, why? And even if you have to use the ladies of the ensemble to flesh out the dance corps, don't have them sing it in their own voices. I bet there weren't that many girl sweeps back then. Sounded stupid. Watching this part of the presentation is when I decided, out loud, "this show is crap." And then, to confirm my opinion:

Step Three:
"Anything Can Happen." One of the new songs shoehorned in, this one is at the end of the show, and it's a piece of shit. Seriously, "Anything can happen/If you let it"? What the fuck does that mean? That sounds like Bobby Knight's fun justification for rape from a few years back to me. Obviously, the producers of this family-dollar piece of claptrap wanted a feel-good anthem to wind up the evening, and I can understand that, but why do these things always have to be so fucking simpleminded? And the wide-eyed starry-landscape bullshit staging didn't help things, either. What the hell is wrong with "Let's Go Fly a Kite?" That's the message: Mr. Banks has found his sense of fun and spontanaeity again, thanks to Mary. Simple. He's flying a kite with his family, not changing the world through Hallmark cards. For fuck'sake. If I were a parent of young children, I'd take them to see whatever show was playing next door to Mary Poppins.

Spring Awakening was predictably middle-of-the-road, though I liked the energy and the "high-school-aged kids" bouncing around like pinballs at the end. But, again, overdone, carefully-calibrated "rock." Let's show everyone how hard we're working to look cool. Musicals can't, and never will, rock. Unless it's a concert. The enegies and disciplines are too dissimilar, all efforts to the contrary (Hair, Rent, The Who's Tommy) noted and logged. I guess the authors deserve credit for equating the youthful energies of the characters in the Wedekind play to the youthful energies of rock music, but the relative tameness of what I've heard of the score proves my point. As in Rent, the rock isn't rock enough to sustain a theatical, character-driven, narrative viewpoint. Rock music just isn't built to do that, and people who write good rock music don't know, or aren't interested in, doing it either. So, no earth-shaking revolution in the musical theatre, again, but it looks like it could be good anyway.


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