Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Gimme Great Big Stuff, not Doubt

I'm the only person I know, besides my mother and her theater friends, who dutifully watches the Tony Awards every year. And enjoys them.
Hell, given the shitty ratings it garners, I'm probably the only straight male under 35 outside New York who regularly watches. But since I grew up around musical theater due to my mother's constant involvement, I love me big Broadway shows, at least when they're fun and/or thoughtful, not pretentious and/or sappy and/or cheesy.
That is to say, different music styles, flat out hilarity, and deep levels of meaning are great; kicklines and sappy songs about how you're "gonna make it" or whatever suck. Or to put it another way for those who know about such things, some of my favorite musicals I've seen on Broadway (or Broadway caliber productions elsewhere) are Avenue Q, Ragtime, Rent, and Passion. But I hate shit like Thoroughly Modern Millie and Urinetown and that kind of nonsense.

With that out of the way, I only have a few thoughts on the Tonys. Far and away the best moment was "Great Big Stuff" from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I absolutely love the song: a smart and funny fusion of hip hop bragadaccio and a traditional Broadway tune. It totally makes you understand the character (who many of us already know from the movie, but anyway...) And Norbert Leo Butz was totally fantastic. In just 4 minutes I got him as a schlub with the crassest of dreams but also felt his energy on stage. From what I saw he deserved the Tony he won. And just as producers dream when they get a number on the stage at the Tonys, that song made me want to see the show.

The worst moment was the song from Light in the Piazza. That show took home a score and actress Tony and several tech awards, so maybe it's good. But the song was the worst kind of pretentious drivel with two women unnecesarrily belting out high notes about the beauty of Florence blah blah blah. They essentially said nothing and portrayed no character in the 4 minutes I saw. And the music is just the kind of crap I hate and that makes anyone who's not a music fanatic run like it's the plague.

I also thought the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was fun, although maybe a little too transpartenly going for a hip ironic young people Avenue Q kind of thing. Not that there's anythign wrong with that, it just didn't seem to have a lot of depth in it.

I don't have as much to say on the play front since you can't learn shit about a play in the Tonys and besides, it's pretty socially acceptable for a smart young guy to like plays. But I should note that I saw best play winner Doubt in Pasadena and didn't much like it. I found it very boring in the first two scenes until I figured out what was going on and then felt that it was much more about someTHING than the simplistic someONE's who inhabit it. I also just didn't care much about whether the mystery at the center of the play (did a priest molest a kid?) was true or not, since the script was very carefully balanced in the evidence it presented and only 1 character knew the answer. So what is the point in wondering when there's no answer? And since the kid is not a part of the play, honestly why would I care? But the Tony folks and the Pulitzer commitee and every critic on Earth and even my girlfriend disagree, so I'm probably just plain wrong.

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