Monday, June 06, 2005
TONY AWARDS NEED A REBOOT
Unfortunately, the format that is used for film awards just does not work at all for the Tonys. (For those who don't watch and don't care and don't know, the Tonys are the awards for Broadway theater. The show was broadcast live on CBS tonight.)
People simply do not know enough about the performers or the plays to be interested in the people who are getting the awards. (And most people will never, ever even have the opportunity to actually see any of the shows, ever.) The musical numbers from the shows do not work all that well on television. The voice from the sky announcing the presenters is boring. The show is generally too predictable and uninteresting.
Theater is great, and visceral, though it is more verbal than visual, and the musical numbers are heavily dependent on the context of the show. Moreover, Broadway shows are expensive, located in Manhattan, and can be shown to only one theatre full of people at a time. So the problem for the creator of the Tony show is to convey the excitement of theater in a different medium to an audience that does not know the performers or the content. (Gossip magazines may be gossip magazines, but they serve the purpose of making the performers in movies -- whom millions of people have seen -- even more human, accessible and interesting to the people watching the awards shows.)
The solution, it seems to me, is to create a real TV show about theater to celebrate the Tonys. It could combine backstage documentary material with interviews, and with adaptations (not excerpts) of scenes from shows. There are few enough shows in competition that you could make an interesting two hour show about all the nominees that would really engage a TV audience. Then, if the actual awards were presented in an efficient manner (without thank-yous that are meaningless to the audience) it could be a meaningful and engaging climax to the show.