Sunday, June 12, 2011


Got back to Jersey from The Berkshires in time to use the remote to bounce back and forth between the Tonys and what turned out to be the final NBA championship game for this season.

I haven't been to a Broadway show since the brain surgery over nineteen months ago, so I haven't seen any of the nominated shows. And the Tonys are often not a great TV show. But I like awards shows when they're live for the unexpected, unscripted moments. There were a few of the latter, like Brooke Shields blowing her bit during the opening because of trouble reading the teleprompter (her later bout of foul language being bleeped seemed unscripted too), as well as several presenters having trouble reading the teleprompter as well, and shielding their eyes from the lighting that obviously was giving them trouble.

Meanwhile over on ABC LeBron was still having trouble proving his former boasts and assumption of the title of greatest on the basketball court. Some commenters thought if might be psychological, because he had been used to being loved and admired until his attempt at reality TV with the big decision show where he declared his departure for Miami.

The commenter said the only admirers he had after that were the Miami fans. That commenter was a "white" sports announcer, but I'd heard "black" commenters on public radio say that's not true. That it was mostly the "white" fans who were and still are upset with LeBron's "defection" whereas his "black" fans, even in Cleveland, understood he was making a personal decision based on what he thought would be best for him, his family and his future.

Nonetheless, from my perspective the whole "king" business and assumption of inevitability of the championship came across as a classic case of the ancient Greeks' idea of hubris. So tonight's loss seemed inevitable to me, which I tried to explain to my thirteen-year-old who wanted Miami to win because he doesn't like Dallas, although neither of us are big basketball followers. But the drama of the last few games of tightly contested championships, no matter the sport, always draw me in.

There was little of that at the Tonys. THE BOOK OF MORMON was the expected Tony winner and won, the new Broadway sensation whose first name I just forgot but her last is Sutton, also won, etc. That guy Rylance from JERUSALEM, which all my show biz friends say is the most remarkable performance on Broadway this year won as well, and the Radcliff kid from the HARRY POTTER movies proved his mettle as a trooper in the dancing singing routine from the revival of HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING that probably wouldn't have happened without him in the lead and John Larroquette playing opposite him in his first role, also dancing and singing, on Broadway, for which he too won a Tony tonight.

The trouble with the show as TV persisted though, with the most terrible angles and camera shots anyone could have come up with. Utterly clueless. They were cutting from shots that showed Radcliff kicking musical theater butt to ones of the three dancers on the end of the chorus line, or close ups of Sutton's face as she belted out a song in a number that demanded the audience take in the entire troupe up there dancing and singing, seemingly unaware that close-ups of Broadway stars rarely work because they're performing for a live audience that needs the illusion of some distance to soften the impact of that over-the-top-reach-the-last-balcony-seat style of singing and projecting. Which just leaves the average TV watcher not familiar with live theater thinking how phony it all seems.

But the best bit of theater of the evening was the singing dancing routine in the number from the new musical CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. I was knocked out by the actor, who seemed to be older, thinking first of all how impressive his energy was for his age and then how loosey goosey hip his dancing was, that even included a few stiff Jimmy Cagney as George M. Cohan moves I hadn't seen in a dance routine since, well, since the last time I watched YANKEE DOOLDE DANDY (which I think is the name of that flick).

Later that performer won a Tony himself and I realized when they announced the nominees and did a close up of him in his seat and said his name that he's actually a friend of mine here in our little North Jersey town and not the middle-aged character he was playing. One of his kids goes to school with my youngest. Which amazed me even more that I didn't recognize him during his big number. Now that's creating a character.

I have to admit, watching both these live events made me want to go see a lot of the musicals and plays nominated and showcased on the Tony awards show, and even has me interested in seeing how Miami reacts to their defeat and LeBron to his loss of bragging rights as best player in the game right now. So I guess in that way they both did the job of promoting the businesses they're in.

[PS: Neil Patrick Harris did a superb job as host for the Tonys and the show was cutting edge offensive to lots of perspectives TV usually either caters to or avoids offending (mostly socially conservative perspectives that the number from THE BOOK OF MORMON highlighted but was only one of many instances.]


-K- said...

I rarely watch sports or award shows but I just ran across a clip of the opening to the Tonys. It's very witty.

(I'm sure a more technically savvy person can link the url directly.)

Lally said...

And the closing was even wittier, as it was written during the show as a rap commenting on a lot of what happened during the show and Harris pulled it off close to perfectly.