By MICHAEL RIEDEL
It's time to overhaul the Tony Awards.
Tonight's telecast, to be broadcast on CBS at 8, will look like, well, last year's telecast. And like the one the year before.
Neil Patrick Harris, hosting for the fourth time, will appear in his tuxedo. He'll be adorable, and he'll sing speciality material that pokes lighthearted fun at Broadway and its traditions.
He'll make a few jokes, not too insider-y, but enough to get appreciative laughter from the Broadway insiders at Radio City Music Hall. And there will be lots of musical numbers from the nominated shows.
But after a while they'll all start to look alike. You won't be able to tell the difference between the little girls from "Annie" and the little girls from "Matilda."
Once the classiest of the awards shows, the Tony telecast has become bloated and bland. It's a commercial for Broadway, and, as such, it still delivers the goods: The shows that win - or put on a distinctive musical number - get a lift at the box office. But rarely does the excitement of live theater, that chill you get down the back of your neck when a great performer sings a great song, come across on a TV screen.
It all just whizzes by - one big Broadway-promoting blur. And for viewers who haven't seen any of the shows, much of it will be puzzling. What will Middle America make of the drag queen in "Kinky Boots"? Or the drag queen in "Matilda"? Or the drag queen in "Pippin" (otherwise known as Andrea Martin)?
At least "Motown" has songs people know. But "A Christmas Story"? What is a musical about Christmas doing on an awards show in June?
This year, everybody's concerned about the opening number. It's crucial because that's when the Tonys reach the most viewers. The ratings tend to fall off as the evening wears on - and on. In an attempt to be all-inclusive, the Tonys will feature characters and songs from every musical, old and new, currently on Broadway.
Here comes Miss Hannigan! Here comes Elphaba! Here comes Simba!
This is a recipe for a hodge-podge. A director of a nominated musical complained to me recently that his show was going to get "lost in the shuffle." A top producer said: "I'm not sure anybody will have any idea what's going on."
If I were the producer of the Tony Awards, I'd stick to that old showbiz adage: Less is more. For my money, the greatest Tony Award turn of all time was Jennifer Holliday, as Effie in "Dreamgirls," singing "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going'" in 1982.
After a quick little set up indicating that Effie is being cut out of the act, Holliday takes the stage, alone, and belts out that show-stopping song. Even the set, which is nothing more than a simple table, slides away, leaving only a great performer at the height of her powers.
Equally as memorable is Dorothy Loudon, as Miss Hannigan in "Annie," from the 1977 telecast. Flanked by Rooster and Lily St. Regis, Loudon bumps and grinds her way through "Easy Street." A larger-than-life performer, a swinging song and a pair of hips that never stop swiveling - musical comedy heaven!
These days, producers like to put on a medley of songs from their shows, using as many cast members as possible. Lots of people onstage indicates a "big" show, and audiences supposedly like "big" shows.
Believe me, there isn't a chorus line big enough to blow away Dorothy Loudon or Jennifer Holliday.
That's all well and good, producers will say, but how many performers like those two stage animals are working today?
Fine. So why not invite a performer from another branch of showbiz to put on the number? Why not have Lady Gaga sing a song from "Matilda" surrounded by the kids in the show? What if Hugh Jackman were to appear in a pair of kinky boots?
I'd love to hear Adele's rendition of "Tomorrow."
Big Star. Big Song. Big Ratings.
And as good a host as Neil Patrick Harris has been, it's time to send him on his way. His shtick is too familiar.
For next year's host, think outside the box, Tony people.
And if you don't wait too long to get in touch with my people, I'll be sure to clear my schedule!
2013 ToNY AWArDS
8p.m. Sunday, CBS
Originally published by and MICHAEL RIEDEL.
(c) 2013 The New York Post. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.
Most Popular Stories
- Apple, HP, Intel May Take a Hit from Slowdown in Smartphone Sales Growth
- FDIC Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Banks Allegedly Hurt by Libor Scandal
- Some California Cities Seeking Water Independence
- Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx Marries Model Courtney Bingham
- Chinese e-Commerce Giant Alibaba Gears for IPO in U.S.
- Will Missing Malaysian Jet Prompt Aviation System Change?