Sunday night I watched 2/3s of the Tony Awards.
Now that may not sound like much of an achievement, but for me it was borderline miraculous. You see, the time zone I live in means everything comes on an hour later than in the east coast of the USA, and I generally get bored of award shows and change the channel somewhere in the middle of the first acceptance speech.
Not so with the Tony Awards. It was actual physical exhaustion that drove me to sleep's perfumed bosom, and not boredom with the show itself.
That's pretty impressive.
I don't know much about what's happening on Broadway. I haven't seen any, and heard of only about half of the shows running on the Great White Way, but I watched.
1. EFFORT: The hosts I've seen, like Sunday night's Hugh Jackman, and last year's Neil Patrick Harris, burn a massive amount of calories. Jackman's bouncing dance number made me winded just looking at it. Then they hit the stage and sing, and dance, and tell jokes, and keep the show moving as quickly as they can. Same goes for the presenters, and the performances from the shows up for awards.
There's no sense that anyone is just coasting on the alleged importance of the event in question. It's a show about entertainment, and everyone is busting their back to entertain people.
2. SINCERITY: When Sophie Okonedo won for her role in A Raisin In The Sun, she looked sincerely surprised to win. Same with Audra McDonald who looked truly moved by her record setting win of 6 Tony Awards in all four actress categories. Unlikely, and ironic for a show about the theatre, their onstage thank-yous were not theatrical, but actually real.
With the Oscars everyone takes themselves too seriously, and yes, I will admit, its critics are huge nitpickers, creating a sort of falseness that hang over the whole production.
3. AUDIENCE: The singing, dancing and acting denizens of the former Wickquasgeck Trail appear to have remembered the importance of the audience. They remember that while the show really isn't about giving out prizes, it's supposed to be about promoting New York's live theatre industry.
That means making people want to shell out their money to go to Manhattan, buy tickets, and plant their bums in seats. That means they have to appear as interesting and entertaining as they can possibly be.
Unlike the Oscars and the movie industry most Broadway producers outside of Disney are not cogs in massive media conglomerates. That means that these producers don't have many buffers between them and their investors in what has always been and always will be a feast or famine market. They have to at least attempt to appeal to an audience commensurate to the size of the investment being made in the production.
Unlike the Oscars, the Tonys are not a quasi-genre, and there is no way to produce a play that is guaranteed to get at least a Tony nomination, let alone a win. The roughly 42 member nominating committee changes regularly, and the roughly 700 final voting members covers many facets of the community, and there are no set blocs that can be used to lord over others.
If they make a show for a niche audience, they make a niche audience sized investment, and fully expect that the niche in question has to include people outside the small theatre making community.
The Oscars could learn a lot from the Tonys, but I doubt they will. They're way too important for that.