Musings and Muses: The 2017 Tony Awards
I'm not ashamed to say it, loud and proud: I am a theatre geek and awards show junkie. Last night was my Super Bowl. While texting and live tweeting, sharing with friends and family, I adore all the drama, camaraderie and joy around award shows like the EGOTs: the Emmys, Grammys, Oscars and last night... The Tony Awards. I love red carpet interviews, fashion trendspotting, and the "for one night, we are truly colleagues and friends" spirit. I've always had a knack for predicting winners based on a combo of instinct and industry buzz/"backstories" - a combo delivered by a muse about who would actually bring home the hardware. Most of all, I love the acceptance speeches - manic moments of gratitude, both scripted and unscripted. They are improvisational and joyful 90-second* shout-outs to mentor, makeup artist, mom and music teacher, and even MFA program (ex. Gavin Creel to U of Michigan).
Last night's Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall had it all, except Neil Patrick Harris. It showcased the best of Broadway, including performances by seasoned divas and veterans (LuPone/Ebersole!) alongside "new to the boards" artists. All echoed and amplified the same message, the very essence of theatre: lessons of inclusion, humanity, humility and storytelling. Whether the story honored veterans or Vietnamese women, classic playwriting or classmates, theatre makes us think, sing, feel, listen, learn and get inspired. It can save us from drowning, give us direction, honor our heritage, and implore us to think out of the box dictated by gender, ethnicity, age, economic status or even political party. As Cynthia Nixon said last night (Best Featured Actress in a Play, "The Little Foxes"):
Art can deliver a smart and sassy muse to our front door. I imagine she looks a lot like Bette Midler in a white sparkly halter dress. She teaches us how to shimmy for attention, move people to tears, tell a bawdy joke or captivating story with grace, and just make art that connects people in a disconnected world, where it is too easy to get lost, and live simply "waving through a window".
So congratulations to all the Tony winners, including my favorite show this year: Dear Evan Hansen, winner of six Tony Awards out of nine noms, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Orchestration and Best Leading Actor in a Musical. Young fan favorite Ben Platt bested Broadway veterans; genius songwriting team Pasek and Paul won, still high off their "La La Land" Oscars this year.
I knew from the moment I first saw Dear Evan Hansen that it would win the big hardware. Everyone leaves DEH saying the same thing: "that was the most powerful thing I've ever seen." It was captivating, important and flawless from start to finish. It is art that makes you FEEL something so strong and powerful and filled with joy that you can't stop thinking about it. It is risky, and tender, and funny, and it took six years to get that crockpot simmering to where it is today, with mostly the same cast. It sends an important message of hope, especially to those in despair: we are not alone, and we can all be found.
Let that also be a lesson to all of us in creative fields: you are not alone, just waving through a window. When the muse appears in your chosen form, welcome her in, give her supper and clean sheets, and let her stay as long as she'd like. Last night's award winners would agree: your personal Muse doesn't do dishes, but she does grant wishes and acknowledges your inner power, as Ben Platt stated emphatically from the podium,
"The things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful."
*Ninety seconds, unless you are Bette Midler, then you can tell the Tony Award show director to "shut that crap off" when the orchestra is "playing you out"... after all, she's the Divine Miss M, and NOBODY plays out a woman whose first Special Tony Award was in 1974 for "adding lustre to the Broadway season" with her bathhouse-esque "Clams on the Half Shell Revue." When Divine Intervention strikes, you keep thanking those who got you there, not clam up because some lousy guy in a monkey suit tells you to... just like Patti LuPone did in 2008: "shut up, it's been 29 years!".