Go, Neil, Go
The Tonys are an oddity; an awards show ostensibly honoring Broadway which stars TV and film stars. There is a reason for this. Most Broadway stars (Kelli O’Hara, Sutton Foster, etc.) are well known within the world of theater, but hardly household names outside of it. And the Tonys are All About Eve Ratings. The theater powers that be understand people are more likely to watch an awards show featuring marquis presenters. The more people watch the Tonys, the more likely it is that at least some of those people may actually attend a Broadway performance at a later point. Given that Broadway ticket prices are easily over $100 per show and often hit $250, (not including the exorbitant costs of traveling to and staying in NYC) marketing Broadway is quite a challenge.
In fairness, most of the presenters were stars who have done theater (or starred in a show about theater, or a cappella music – hello Anna Kendrick!) Chief among them is host Neil Patrick Harris, who has had a charmed career. One of the few child actors to successfully transition to adult star (he was Doogie Howser!), he is a major TV star, with legit theater creds. This was his 4th hosting gig for the Tonys, and he just agreed to host the Emmys this Fall. This year the Tonys had the best ratings they’ve had in 4 years, a 20% spike from 2012.
Given that the show features excepts from the nominated musicals, the evening’s caliber depends on their quality. This year the quality was good (particularly Matilda, Kinky Boots and A Christmas Story). The producers had the good sense to spotlight Pippin, which I have raved about elsewhere. Neil did a great job hosting, and killed it with the opening number. Cyndi Lauper stole the show (twice!) with her acceptance speech for Kinky Boots and her performance of True Colors. There was a skit mid-show about Smash-like cancelled NBC shows featuring former Broadway performers. The concept of this skit was funnier than the execution, but it was good the connection between Hollywood and Broadway was acknowledged.
The rest was of the evening was … fine. The producers were reluctant to cue the music to cut the speeches and the evening dragged as a result. But on balance the Tonys were well done – watchable, entertaining and a good snapshot of Broadway’s finest.