10 June 2011


This Sunday, June 12, is the 2011 Tony Awards ceremony. A lot has been written, especially in the last few years, about what the Tonys mean. The general refrain is that unlike the Grammys, Oscars, or Emmys, which honor art forms to which many Americans have plentiful access, the Tonys honor Broadway, to which most Americans do not have ready and frequent access. Whether you care about Broadway or not, are a fan or not, one night a year is all the chance most people get to see what's happening on the New York stage. This is all very true and very important, especially to those who wait all year for this single glimpse at world-class theater.

But there is something else about these awards that I think is equally unique. The artists nominated (and thousands who were not nominated) create a brand new performance every night. The artistry and, really, athleticism involved in giving a world-class performance eight times a week is simply stunning. There are no second takes, no "We'll fix that in post," no CGI embellishment of a performance. It is only what can be created in that moment (and reproduced nightly) by human beings (and, in the case of sets, lighting and orchestrations, how humans can manipulate technology). I'm not aiming to ask why more people don't appreciate theater over other mediums, or to argue why theater is somehow better. I'm simply explaining why the Tonys are special and the work they honor is truly worthy of celebration.

At this year's awards, on the musicals' side, there are really two exceptional works who should split all of the awards (except those for actresses): Scottsboro Boys and Book of Mormon. You can check out how my picks broke down over at my New York Times Tony ballot, and I would only note that it wasn't a random breakdown between the two; I considered each category individually and in my estimation, the shows truly edge each other out as noted. I'd love to see Scottsboro come back to Broadway, so I'm hoping it gets a Tony boost to be able to do that, but it deserves every award it may receive, completely independent of that agenda. Interestingly, both of these musicals have been considered somewhat risky (though in very different ways) and are occasionally deemed offensive. I appreciate that the shows successfully breaking conventions and trying new things are receiving the recognition they deserve.

Scottsboro Boys' "Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey." (Book of Mormon does not make performance videos available online.)

Other nomination notes:
Finally, I'd be remiss if I failed to mention that my biggest cheers of the night will be reserved for Colman Domingo. Win or lose (although he's going to win), I'm thrilled for what this experience will mean for the bright, bright future of his career.

Join me in watching the Tonys on Sunday, June 12 at 8/7C, and follow me on Twitter @onelauren for live tweets during the show!