Yesterday, I noted that I had to particular quibbles about the Tony Awards broadcast, which otherwise I thought were reasonably entertaining. The first was the paltry, pathetic seven seconds that they gave to lyricist Sheldon Harnick for his Lifetime Achievement Award. (That "seven seconds" was not hyperbolic, but literal.)
The other was the short shrift, to the point of ignoring, the Best Play nominees.
For many years, up until quite recently, the Tonys actually have had brief scenes of plays. Never much, admittedly, but some. For whatever reason, the show's producers have never figured out how to handle plays, assuming that a brief excerpt would be awkward. But audiences, especially today, are so attuned to actors coming on talk shows and presenting a 30-second clip from their latest move that I can't imagine a short segment of a play -- even half a minute -- would be the remotest problem, and might be as interesting to an audience as a movie clip. And if longer, like a whole minute or two, all the better.
Once upon a time, they did these 90-second or so excerpts live, though in more recent years, after cutting way back, they figured out a reasonable way to incorporate them into the broadcast – if not well, at least acceptably. They taped the short (20-30 second) excerpts during a live performance, and then just played it back on the Tonys. It was hardly ideal, but it worked. At least you had a sense of the plays, which would often whet your appetite for more.
This year, though, it was almost literally nothing. No dialogue, just soundless, background images as a presenter talked over it. It was nothing. Just empty montages blending into one another, nothing like decades ago, when they had substantive scenes. But they’ve at least had something, no matter how short.
In fact, in a bit of incredibly whimsical irony, one of the best things they’ve done in regards to plays in recent years, indeed just four years ago, was a spectacularly hilarious live excerpt from a play, One Man, Two Guvnors, that was so funny it made me ache that I didn't see it on stage, and sought out whatever YouTube clips I could find. So funny that it won the actor the Tony Award as Best Actor in a Play.
And why is this such incredibly whimsical irony? Because the actor in the scene was... James Corden!! Who this year, when the broadcast basically cut out presentation of plays, was the host of the Tonys.
Think this didn't help his career...? I would suggest that his Tony Award and this live excerpt introducing him to a national audience on the Tonys did a great deal towards help catapult him to where he is today -- which includes hosting the very same Tonys. I'm not suggesting remotely that this brief except is what did it -- not even close. But it put him on a stage (literally and figuratively) from which all else could follow.
(I also don't cast a single aspersion towards James Corden about there being no excerpts from plays this year. He is just a victim of really odd coincidence that deserves notice.)
As for the clip itself, a short explanation. In the play, Corden plays a man who works as a sort of butler/aide to two men, neither of whom knows he's working for the other which would cause a problem for him, so he's kept it a secret. And keeping this secret plays havoc with his life. As you'll see...
I posted this quite while back, long before even his talk show went on the air, but as I think you'll agree, it bears repeating.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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