Yes, this past Sunday was the 2013 Tony Award ceremony. And, as per my usual, I watched despite having seen none of the nominated productions and knowing few of the nominees. This has in part to do with my love of awards shows in general, their glamor and their pageantry and such. I love seeing famous people in fancy dresses. (More on the dresses in a minute.) Plus, there is a undeniable charm and talent of its host. Not only is Neil Patrick Harris adorable, he is undeniably gifted as a master of ceremonies. If you didn’t catch his opening number, it was magnificent. That is how you host an awards show.
But I love the Tonys for more than that. It was watching the Tony Awards when I was in medical school that helped cement my decision to move to New York City. (A certain best friend will always deserve top billing in that regard.) I thought “If I lived in New York, I could actually see these plays and musicals for myself!” Indeed, when I traveled to the City to interview for residencies, I made a point of getting tickets to one of the winners that year, and was treated to an incandescent performance by Audra McDonald in “Ragtime.” Frankly, if anything watching them now makes me wistful and a bit melancholy, having had that access and let it go to move to Maine.
It’s not even that I was lucky enough to attend the ceremony one year.
Let me put it this way — the Oscars are to Madonna as the Tonys are to Cyndi Lauper (who won this week!). I love them both, and would be delighted to meet either. But I could only imagine myself being friends with one of them.
When you watch the Oscars, you’re watching an industry celebrate itself. When you watch the Tonys, you’re watching a community. Over and over and over you hear presenters and winners talk about the warmth and camaraderie of the Broadway community, and I believe them. Both Ms. Lauper and Tom Hanks (a nominee this year), though somewhat faded now, have been superstars in other entertainment industries, and both of them spoke sincerely of the uniquely welcome nature of Broadway. (Which isn’t the same thing as saying everyone loves each other all the time.) These are people who work very hard, few of whom ever get all that famous or particularly rich. They do it because they love performing, and it shows.
You can even see it in the dresses they wear. The woman who won (if memory serves) wore a not-particularly-flattering little black dress that no woman would be caught dead in at the Oscars. Andrea Martin, accepting her award, thanked the designer who gave her a dress to wear, as nobody else would. Designers fall all over themselves lending dresses to any nominated actress for an Academy Award.
And how great is it that Andrea Martin won another Tony? And Judith Light? Women who, in Hollywood, would be hard-pressed to land one of the few roles open to women of their age are doing wonderful, award-winning work on stage. The winners and nominees are far more likely to be older, have more color in their skin and be a lot gayer than their film counterparts. I love that.
Would I be at serious risk of dying for joy if someone offered me tickets to the Oscars? Yes. Yes, I would be. But if I want to watch a show where the people on stage are there because they enjoy the sincere affection and admiration of the people in the audience? It’ll be to Tonys every time.