Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Real Men DO Enjoy Showtunes!

I made sure to TiVo the Tony awards this week, and I am sure glad I did, because this year, the producers went out of their way to cram in as many musical numbers as possible - most of them from familiar shows, too! In fact, I'm pretty sure they spent more time doing music than they did presenting awards - which were, blessedly, almost an afterthought.

For some reason, it is considered unmanly in some circles to enjoy show tunes - a stereotype that is both untrue and somewhat offensive. Now, it IS true that a large segment of the Male Broadway community is gay - but there is also nothing wrong with that - and in many many ways, Broadway embraces its gayness in a way that I find kind of endearing... but I digress...

In any case, I really enjoyed the Tonys this year, despite numerous audio troubles that were really distracting. It was really tragic that they had to have a stage manager run in a handheld microphone for the singer in "Sit Down, You're Rocking The Boat" from "Guys and Dolls". I love that number, but it was really distracting to watch the poor guy trying to perform for a national TV audience in that way.

Just as I found it fun and comforting to see familiar bits from "Guys and Dolls" and "West Side Story" and "Hair" and "Mamma Mia", I found it equally disappointing to see numbers from new Broadway shows, which certainly don't seem like they are going to be making any revival tours anytime soon. The big winner was "Billy Elliot", a musical that's apparently about a working-class British kid who wants to learn to dance as his family struggles through some sort of union labor dispute - or something... The show won 10 Tonys, including "Best Musical", but the number they did from the show - involving a kid who danced great, but with a Tourettes-like wail, and with a wall of plexiglass behind him - did not exactly endear me to the story or its music. I guess I could do a better job of describing this mess, but if you care to watch, here's a video of the performance...

There was also a performance of the title track of the revival of "Hair". What was presented 40 years ago as revolutionary is presented today - virtually unchanged - as nostalgia. Go figure. All I could think of as I watched the performance was "Those hippies look unclean - and they all need haircuts!". That didn't make me feel nostalgic - it made me feel old!

What I really DID enjoy was watching the show's host, Neil Patrick Harris. Doogie Howser did himself proud as the host of the show. Some of his jokes fell a little flat, but Harris delivered them well, and he hosted with an enthusiasm that I found to be energizing... He was having a good time, and therefore, so was I. And Harris saved the best part of the show for last - performing a closing number that recapped-the entire evening. Watch the video below, then make sure to go and read the backstory in the New York Times!

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