Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori at the 2015 Tony Awards via CBS
To start off with the good, “Fun Home” snagged the award for Best Musical, a touching show that deals with sexuality, abuse, suicide and dysfunctional family life. Helen Mirren won for once again playing the Queen of England (but on stage this time). John Cameron Mitchell was awarded a special Tony for…being John Cameron Mitchell, I guess. Kristin Chenoweth was at her pixiest hosting, and co-host Alan Cumming strutted the stage in plum shorts.
But one of the reasons the Tony’s might need to be reevaluated (or put out of its misery) is the sheer pomp and circumstance that’s eclipsing honoring the true talent, hard work and perseverance the awards ostensibly celebrate.
The most egregious snub thanks to the CBS broadcast, in my opinion, was the exclusion of Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, the first female team to win the Tony for Best Original Score for “Fun Home”. Obviously, as the last four minutes of the broadcast showed, the American public needed to see a number from “Jersey Boys”, a decade-old jukebox musical, for the 11,00000th time. Yes. That’s surely more important than watching an historic achievement and an incredibly moving speech about working in the arts. The odd thing is, Original Score isn’t really a “minor” award (not that Costume Design or Set Design is, either, but…) so the choice not to air it to make room for another musical number baffles me. Yes, it’s a commercial affair and any attempt to boost ratings is expected, but at the expense of history?
The Tony’s have never been a ratings juggernaut (it had a paltry 7.24 Million in 2013, which was actually its highest in four years); compare that to the 36.6 Million the Oscars received this year (which is also pretty low). As disheartening it is that the general public seems to care less about the theater, it’s not surprising. Broadway is a very narrow slice of the theater world, and considering it’s geographically remote to most Americans and getting more and more expensive, there’s less reason to invest in it, emotionally or otherwise. And because of that, CBS cuts what the ceremony should actually be about to make a dog and pony show in a last-ditch effort. We’re not treated to live performances of the Best Play nominees, or coverage of all the awards. Instead, we watch musical numbers of shows that weren’t even nominated, or long rants by Larry David.
At this point, the Tony’s should probably move to a cable network who’ll produce it better. It’s breaking tradition for what has been a major award show to die a slow death, but if you’re not going to show awards going to the people who craft and create theater, well, what’s the point of an awards show?
Check out the full list of Tony Award winners here.