I'm sure that I don't have to tell you that the Tony Awards were presented on Sunday night. I had a concert that night (see post below), so I had to watch the proceedings on TiVo delay. But truth be told, it really didn't matter to me because this season was so lackluster with respect to new musicals. Sure, there were shows that tried to do new things, particularly Fela, American Idiot, and Come Fly Away. But none of them really succeeded, in my humble estimation. (Click on the links above for my reviews of each production.)
So it really wasn't a surprise when Memphis won Best Musical. I would have preferred that Fela win, simply because it was more ambitious. I thought the first act of Memphis was super slick, but the second act descended into predictability and essentially veered off into Hairspray country. (Click on the link above for my full review.) Why did Memphis win? Simple: the critics were dumped from the voting ranks of the Tonys and the remaining voters went for the relatively safe choice. Memphis won not because it's very good (it isn't) but rather because it's more likely to be successful on the road.
So, Memphis has now joined the ranks of Raisin, Redhead, Hallelujah Baby, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Big River, Sunset Boulevard, Fosse, Applause, and Jerome Robbins' Broadway: Big winners in a down year. Will Memphis virtually disappear from circulation as most of the above-listed shows have? Time will tell.
The Tony Awards broadcast was rather unremarkable, although lots of people seemed to think that Sean Hayes knocked one out of the park as host. I thought he was fine, but he paled in comparison to the charm, ease, and spark that Neil Patrick Harris brought to last year's telecast.
One notable trend this year was Broadway congratulating itself on being able to attract A-list Hollywood stars. Did Scarlett Johansson, Denzel Washington, and Catherine Zeta-Jones genuinely deserve their Tony Awards? I saw neither A View From the Bridge nor Fences, so I'm in no position to judge there. (I concentrated almost exclusively on musicals this season.) But I did see A Little Night Music, and can honestly say no, I don't think she deserved it. (Click on the link for my review.) I would have been happy to see the award go to Kate Baldwin (Finian's Rainbow), Montego Glover (Memphis), or Christiane Noll (Ragtime). I think this is another case of the skewing effect of having producers, presenters, and other business types vote for the awards. Rewarding stars for coming to Broadway means more stars come to Broadway. And in the current environment in which plays and musicals are increasingly reliant on marquee names above the title, that's a very important business proposition.
Of course, it has absolutely nothing to do with merit. Or art.