Television review: ‘The 2010 Tony Awards’


Oh, Tony Awards, for the 64th time you have come and gone, still the least celebrated but always the most rewarding of the big awards shows — the liveliest, the classiest, the best-dressed, the least prone to embarrassing moments and long dull patches devoted to some Big Idea that doesn’t work at all. (You are not glitch-free, especially when it comes to microphones, but that is quite in the spirit of your real-time art.) To the extent that you are self-congratulatory — you are an award show, after all — you mix praise of the calling with exhortations to learn the craft.

Oh, Broadway, with your dramas and your comedies and musical-comedies and musical dramas, though you are, to no small degree, a theme park operating in the vicinity of Times Square, you are also, in the public mind and in the words of the people who work there, a “community” where Hollywood is an industry, and I feel that through your Tony Awards.

Indeed, it is only through this annual broadcast of the Tony Awards, that some of us will ever know you, but that is part of the service you perform. (Winner Katie Finneran, movingly: “I want to talk to the kids at home watching. I was a kid and I watched this show and it seemed so far away from me…. With the world being so fast, I want to remind you to focus on what you love, because it is the greatest passport, it is the greatest road map to an extraordinarily blissful life.”)

That I have seen none of your Tony-nominated productions does not impede my enjoyment of the television show that celebrates them. Possibly, it makes it more enjoyable, because I can take it as a series of discrete emotional moments, musical numbers and jokes, unfettered by liking or not liking a particular production. I am happy for everyone who wins.

Oh, I enjoy Sean Hayes, Tony host, recently the partial subject of a controversial Newsweek piece that suggested that the problem with your Tony-nominated performance in “Promises, Promises” is that you are gay and everybody knows it (now that you have finally stated it publicly, although eight seasons of “Will & Grace” had pretty much put that idea around). I don’t have a problem with your performance in “Promises, Promises,” not having seen it, but I will say that typecasting can be hard to overcome, and that the brouhaha was smartly addressed by your long lip-lock with costar Kristen Chenoweth.

Anyway, nobody questions the ability of a gay man to host an awards program, now that Neil Patrick Harris, your immediate predecessor, has breathed new life into the job. Those were big shoes to fill, and though you characterized your night as combined host and nominee as combining “a good chance of losing with a good chance of bombing,” I thought you did very well; I’m not sure you needed to dress up as Little Orphan Annie or Billy Elliot or Spider-Man, but I am pretty sure that was not your idea.

Oh, Green Day, you totally filled Radio Music City Hall with your amplified rock, taking over the performance of your “American Idiot” songs from the theater kids who sing it onstage in New York night after night, and gave us the chance to see what audience members such as Michael Douglas and Nathan Lane would look like attending one your shows in their tuxedos, and ended the traditional opening medley of music from nominated musicals at a pitch more suited to a stadium concert’s second encore, demonstrating just how close the anthemic nature of pop-punk is to the anthemic nature of the modern Broadway score.

Oh, CBS, you are a television network, and you took the occasion to remind viewers that you have some other shows they might want to watch, therefore presenter Chris Noth of “The Good Wife” was among the usual parade of “stars of stage, screen and television” you put onstage as presenters to bring in the viewers. The Tonys also remind us that there is an ongoing dialogue between Broadway and TV, lately exemplified by “Glee!,” which got its own half-successful spot on the bill, celebrating the renascent power of the Broadway musical to move young minds.

Angela Lansbury, and Bernadette Peters, would it be the Tonys without you? Happily, we did not have to find that out.