I had an odd, continuing problem with my cable TV last night, so rather than do what I usually do with awards shows -- which is record them and then fast-forward through -- I had to watch the entire Tony Awards online, no fast-forwarding. So, unlike usually, I have a full perspective of the broadcast.
I thought it was fine. Nothing great, but they're doing a better job than in years past making it an entertainment rather than focusing on obscure awards with unknown nominees, and widening the musical performances, though there's still a lot more they could do in that department.
The opening number was entertaining, with James Corden doing a lot of quick-changes and moving between a lot of different Broadway shows. It wasn't at the level of the best of the openings that Neil Patrick Harris has done in recent years (most especially, "Bigger," which will be hard for anyone to top), but held its own with other good ones.
Corden didn't have a lot of great material to perform through the show, but did a solid job, a little too breathless at times, though that's part of his charm. I'm not quite sure what the sartorial point was with his ever-changing odd jackets, but I don't pay much attention to that so it didn't bother me one way or the other. I did like the brief snippets of songs from classic shows that current casts briefly sang outside the theater ("brief" being the operative word.) Given that the broadcast ran 15 minutes long, though, I'm surprised they didn't cut the "Carpool Karaoke" featurette, given that it had already aired on his TV show, and so it was just a repeat, available to anyone on YouTube. And the chat with his parents in the audience wasn't needed -- especially since it cut into time about one of my two big quibbles.
And that first quibble is that they gave Sheldon Harnick's Lifetime Achievement Award about seven seconds. I'm not exaggerating. They showed a clip of Harnick receiving his award earlier -- they didn't have the whole thing on the live show -- making a quip, along the lines of "I hope I deserve this, otherwise my being here would be really embarrassing." And that's it. James Corden spent a minute joking with his parents in the audience.
I'm biased, of course, as readers of these pages know, since I'm friend with Sheldon Harnick. But I don't hink my bias is out of line. Sheldon Harnick, after all, is the 92-year-old, legendary lyricist of Fiddler on the Roof and She Loves Me (both nominated this year for Best Revival of a Musical), as well as the Tony and Pultizer Prize-winning Fiorello!, along with The Apple Tree (that got revived two years ago) and The Rothschilds, all written with his partner, composer Jerry Bock. And I think that deserves more than seven seconds. He's a true legend of Broadway. And more than for most awards shows, I suspect that viewers of the Tonys are especially interested in and knowledgeable about the history of the subject matter. And as such would have loved to have Sheldon Harnick -- let alone a sharp, witty Sheldon Harnick. A man so legendary that the street in front of the theater where Fiddler on the Roof is now playing was just renamed "Harnick and Bock Way." And he got seven seconds. Ridiculous.
The other quibble is the same as always, but worse this year. And that's the inability of the Tony broadcast to figure out how to present material from the nominated stage plays. They figured it out in the past, often having actors recreating parts of scenes, and even in recent years when they cut back on this, they still were able to show short video clips from plays. This year, they only had silent clips in the background as as presenter spoke about them. Equally ridiculous. And if the TV producers think that home-audiences would be lost by watching only a brief clip from a play...consider that that would be almost no different than when an actor goes on a TV talk show and brings a 30-second film clip from one of their movies.
I can't do anything about the seven seconds of Sheldon Harnick, or the lack of plays. But what I can do is post a very nice five-minute segment done on the PBS Newshour over the weekend about Harnick and Fiddler on the Roof.
As you'll see, Sheldon Harnick at 92 is sharp, thoughtful, self-effacing, witty and charming in the featurette, something that I have a feeling the viewing audience would have loved to have seen. They didn't have a chance. Happily, you here do.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor