Friday, May 8, 2009

There's no Business like Show Business.

The official end to the awards season was last Thursday, and the Tony nominations are out. The Seagull was horribly overlooked, and for some reason Rock of Ages racked up a bunch of nominations (including Constantine Maroulis nabbing one for acting). Billy Elliot unsurprisingly garnered the most nominations, not only because it's an adorable little story with great production values, but also because it's the only good musical that opened up this year that seems to be steering Broadway more towards "Vegas", a detraction that producers seem to like because it means higher ticket sales. Nevertheless, I give my regards to the three "Billys": Trent, the sweet one I sorta know, the token ethnic one, and the bitchy one. They all got one nomination for Lead Actor, and honestly that tickles me. Like, they're each one third of an actual person. And, well, let's face it, that's being a little generous with children in regards to their humanity. Anyway, continuing, Waiting for Godot and Mary Stuart were recognized, both getting the Best Revival nod, and so on and so forth. Exit the King got little recognition, sadly, and cult favorites like [title of show] were overlooked, but who really cares? The New York Times pointed out that among the nominees were mostly shows that are still running; which, of course, now being honored with these nominations, means that they can continue to run a little longer due to the press they are getting. And, so, the glaring light of commerce can be shone upon the Great White Way. 

Ruined, a fabulous Off-Broadway play by Lynn Nottage, (which I unfortunately missed an opportunity at seeing but have boned up on by reading everything about it) is not among the nominees of the Tony Awards, despite winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. That seems a little strange, no? Well, it's not. The Tony Awards have long been discriminatory, and, in recent years, it has made less and less sense. As of now, with fabulous productions not only Off and Off-off Broadway, but nation-wide, it's perplexing that the Tony Awards, arguably the highest honor in the Theater, still remains limited to about 40 productions. Although, now, it's not hard to see that its prestige is washing away, and the awards seem less like accolades praising great artistic achievements and more like the producers patting themselves on their backs for making a lot of money this season. When did the Tonys become the Grammys?         

It's just a shame a show is discriminated against merely because of its location/producers, and it’s irritating how much credit they get in this industry. Not to devalue them, because certainly no show would exist without good producers, but all they really contribute is money. Of course, this being America, Theater is a business, so a profit is all that matters in the end. Sure, its a double-edged sword, a great show that accumulates no revenue is unsustainable, and a horrible show that's a cash cow can run for years. Nevertheless, Theater is still a very elitist field, and instead of it getting either all fussy and pretentious or mediocre with a universal appeal, they should just take the stick out of their asses and celebrate talented playwrights who want to enlighten as well as entertain; it shouldn't be about the money or drawing in "different crowds" or what have you. And it certainly shouldn't be about glorifying the producers more than the creative team and actors, because that's what we're watching, not checks being signed.  

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