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Give Us Back The Spotlight

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Well, the gongs were all handed out, gowns have been returned and the marquees adjusted accordingly. Yes, the Tony Awards 2010 are over, and what a lacklustre year for Broadway, I’m sure they will all be praying the new season will be far better.

Memphis took best musical, in my opinion one of the most undeserving winners since Contact won, Denzel Washington won for Fences, Scarlett  Johansson took home a gong for A View From The Bridge whilst other shows including American Idiot, Promises Promises, Million Dollar Quartet and Fela walked away with some of the smaller gongs.

The UK had a great night at the Tonys however, La Cage Aux Folles took best revival and best actor for Douglas Hodge, Red took best play and best supporting actor etc. and Zeta Jones took best Actress in a musical..... but not everybody was happy, in fact far from it.
The biggest drama of the Tony’s seems to have happened after the Tony Awards and its all thanks to Broadway actor Hunter Foster. Pretty much straight after the awards aired he started making remarks through his facebook that the Tony awards were becoming far too Hollywood and needed to be given back to the Broadway community. Some snide remarks about Zeta Jones were mentioned and then before you could say "Send in the Clowns" he had set up a facebook group asking again for the Tony Awards to be given back to Broadway. 

Now I’m sure at first glance this may seem like a good idea, after all people spend all their lives working in theatre and it’s the one time they can gather together and pat each other on the back and get recognition for their very hard work, however at closer inspection its more than a little flawed.

You see Broadway and Hollywood have always overlapped, the movie stars (Denzel, Scarlett, Walken etc.) go to Broadway and stars like Kirsten Chenoweth, Matthew Morrison etc. from Broadway head to LA. This is not a new thing but the focus seems to be about this year’s Tonys. For some reason people seem to think (including Foster) that it was packed with celebs that had no reason to be there and it takes time away from the Broadway actors.

The celebs I saw were Green Day who performed (nominated for best new musical), Will and Jada Pinkett Smith sat with Jay Z (Producers of nominated Fela), Daniel Radcliffe (Returning to Broadway in How to Succeed), Catherine Zeta Jones (nominated and won for A Little Night Music), Katie Holmes (starred on Broadway in All My Sons) and so on and so on.  And what if a few celebs were there who were not on Broadway, it gives the show some star power, and let’s be honest it needs it.

The Tony’s this year scored just over 7 million people tuning in, in America this is not great, but the most important figure is the demo which is the 18 to 30 demographic which is what keeps shows on the air (that’s who advertisers aim at), shows like Glee, Desperate Housewives etc. can score a 6.0 demo, the Tony’s was around 1.5, horrid for a show so publicised, at this rate the Tony’s are lucky to be on CBS at all. However Mr Foster does not mind if CBS drop the Tonys, according to him it can go to cable channels, at least that way we won’t have to see all those pesky celebs clogging up the awards show.

Slight problem with that one though Mr Foster.

What an earth makes him think a cable channel would want the Tony awards when they are seen as the smallest of award shows that nobody watches? On top of that if the celebs are kept out or to a minimum then cable has no way of getting anyone to watch who’s not a Broadway fan, and in reality is that not what the Tony Awards are all about?
If the Tony Award’s were to go to a cable channel, it means far less people than very small amount of people who tune in now would be able to watch. The Tony awards have always been about celebrating the great white way and GETTING PEOPLE to the great white way. It’s one big advert which screams ‘Come and see a Broadway show’. Without the Tony’s on a major channel, having a few celebs there to give it some press what would happen to those people who would book a show from normally watching the Tony Awards?

I understand Mr Foster’s frustration to a point, giving celebs parts on Broadway means that roles theatre actors could play are unavailable, however when its people like Washington, Jones and Davies etc. who are giving knock out performances and bringing in a whole lot of money to the theatre industry we can’t really complain. Also its a handful of very talented Film Actors who are working in these shows with Broadway actors, in many cases if the shows did not have that powerhouse in then some great productions like Fences would not enjoy the run its had meaning the Broadway casts and crews who work on those shows would be out of a job far earlier or not have one to begin with. It’s not like they have Katie Price in Next to Normal or the cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore featuring in In The Heights, the actors there are fantastic and many times are theatre trained actors.

Too much time on them at this year’s Tony Awards?  I didn’t think so, in fact it probably added up to about 30 mins out of 3 hours when any kind of celeb names were presenting etc., and to be honest I would rather watch them then have to listen to the awful performances by Million Dollar Quartet, Promises Promises and Fela ever again.
If he really wants to complain about something maybe he should start with the dreadful sound on the Tonys that seems to happen every year, microphones too loud or just not working, people talking over mics through performances etc. How about starting a group about the escalating cost of Broadway theatre tickets or that Off Broadway (which had an amazing year with Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Yank etc.) gets some recognition at the Tonys?
Those things are far more important than a few celebs arriving at the Tony Awards and some amazing Hollywood talent playing Broadway.

Broadway is making itself sound very unwelcoming and my heart breaks for the Hollywood actors who are giving incredible performances on Broadway tonight knowing that the community seems to be turning its back on them. I don’t see the Golden Globe and Emmy awards saying too many theatre actors are invading TV and awards shows. And with members of the Glee cast and many others all coming from Broadway, I’m pretty sure they are not being made to feel that unwelcome in to a new industry.

It’s a silly argument which whilst may have good intention is poorly thought through by Mr Foster

On a side note, some silly Broadway stars who should know better were tweeting and facebooking some awful things about Catherine Zeta Jones ‘Buying her Tony Award’ etc. It’s a sad state of affairs when the industry who wants to be praised for all its wonderful accomplishments and have the spotlight on them are doing things like this.

Such a shame that a night of celebration has turned in to this. Ironically one of the big things the press are talking about now is this campaign by Mr Foster, so in turn he’s actually taken the limelight off the awards and put it on to the celebrities.  

- Craig Hepworth


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