×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: 2018 Tony Awards

This year’s Tony Awards seemed to address the times in which we live with a certain amount of urgency, as all awards shows have done over the course of the Trump era. But give the theater types this: They did their job with a surprising amount of subtlety, with a show that assuaged the wounds of a uniquely divisive time with a whisper, even though we knew they could carry off a belt.

Consider the studiously low-fi opening number, in which hosts Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles dedicated their time to those who wouldn’t win—as, after all, neither of them had ever won a major award themselves. It was a gesture out of step with the general Tony tone; even leaving aside last year’s particularly strange opening, during which host Kevin Spacey elaborately joked about rumors around his sexuality during a big production number, many recent Tony openings (with repeat hosts like Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman) have centered on quite how big theater can be. Elaborate productions cast a spotlight on the breadth of Broadway, bringing together the casts of top shows, including likely winners. This year, the production was framed around less-heralded performers, concluding with unknown members of nominated shows’ ensembles taking the stage.

It was a statement, an indication of the show’s purpose. If recent awards shows have struggled with how to address our moment — as were this year’s Oscar and Grammy ceremonies, whose productions inserted brief bits of political comedy into shows that largely felt focused elsewhere, and perhaps out of step with tensions in their audiences as a result—the Tonys found a way forward. Though there were odd time-saving choices with which anyone could quibble (cutting off the Best Play winner but keeping the whole performance from “Summer,” not even a Best Musical nominee, or the lengthy Bruce Springsteen performance?), the mood struck by the show’s hosts was amiably low-key. Indeed, they bridged the gaps left for them by the production; forced to perform a seemingly hacked-together medley of songs associated with lifetime-achievement award winners Andrew Lloyd Webber and Chita Rivera (an unnatural fit), the pair seemed almost virtuosically sympathetic, making what might have been a snub for both Webber and Rivera into a too-short moment of celebration. Throughout, Groban and Bareilles kept up this happily effervescent, optimistic but never cloying energy — up until the show’s end, when they reprised their opening number as a call to arms for all who work in the theater, or hope to. It was a sweet debut performance by hosts who may well be back at Radio City next June, should the Tonys be so lucky.

The fact that the production chosen to spotlight some presenters with photos of them as young theater kids sparked concerns that a certain kind of hyper-theatrical argot might take over the proceedings. But instead, reminders of why those who love theater do (and for how long they’ve done so) seemed to provide an organizing energy for thoughtful speeches that reached out to viewers as lovingly as did the hosts’ introduction. (Of course, there was some pure vitriol, as in Robert De Niro’s muted outburst about Trump, but most speech viewers heard was more carefully chosen.)

Some speeches resonated for the power of the personal: Nathan Lane, accepting a prize for his role in “Angels in America,” described a conscious choice he’d made eight years prior to take on more complex and challenging roles, with forethought and time that’s too often absent from Oscar and Emmy speeches. But more often, they straddled the worlds of the individual and of politics, as in two speeches early in the night during which winners (“Carousel’s” Lindsay Mendez and “The Band’s Visit’s” Ari’el Stachel) addressed pressures they’d faced in their careers and their lives to keep their ethnicities under wraps, and their pride in their heritage and accomplishments today. And Glenda Jackson, an undisputed legend, struck a blow as only a perfectly composed elder-stateswoman can, thanking New York audiences for their hospitality to attendees of all ethnicities and adding, “America has never needed that more. But then, America is always great.”

Those moments in which politics were most explicitly addressed were done so, still, with a deft touch: A performance by the high-school drama students of Parkland High School, of a standard from “Rent,” was carried across with less cant than sheer joy in performing. That the song choice was sweetly, goofily sentimental was the point — the Tonys were unafraid to be exuberant even as they sought to make their points. (Accepting a prize for best revival of a play, Tony Kushner lived out that duality most clearly, noting the upcoming date of the midterm elections as well as the current date — Judy Garland’s birthday.)

It was a show defined in large part, of course, by its winners, but one whose claims of sympathy with the losers felt genuine, too. Even as the production numbers may have been smaller than in years prior, the show’s heart was big beyond measure.

RELATED CONTENT:

TV Review: 2018 Tony Awards

More TV

  • Bob GreenblattCreating Great Characters: Dick Wolf

    Bob Greenblatt on WarnerMedia Streaming Strategy: 'The Assets are Undeniable'

    CANNES — AT&T is ready for battle in the streaming wars. The new parent company of HBO and Warner Bros. has moved quickly to respond to consumer demand by marshaling its forces behind the launch next spring of HBO Max, WarnerMedia Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt told a crowd of international TV and digital executives here [...]

  • Roberto Gomez Bolanos Mexican actor Roberto

    Chespirito Media Universe in Development from Grupo Chespirito, Thr3 Media Group

    Mexican production companies Grupo Chespirito and Thr3 Media Group have come to terms on a deal to co-produce multi-media content and create the Chespirito Media Universe based on the characters and world of Mexico and Latin America’s most iconic TV creator, director, producer and actor, Chespirito. Thr3 Media Group was launched in January 2018 by [...]

  • Bastian-and-Fabienne_2btube-Office-1

    2btube Adds Lacoproductora to Facebook, YouTube Originals Alliances

    CANNES —  Fast-driving from a huge digital media publishing base into the creation and production of premium content for global platforms and beyond, top Spanish-language digital native media group 2btube has clinched a wide-ranging production partnership with José Miguel Contreras’ Madrid-based Lacoproductora. The deal comes fast on the heels of 2btube’s production alliance with Facebook [...]

  • LA-CHICA-QUE-LIMPIA-PICTURE

    Spain's Fasten Films Nabs Remake Rights to Argentine Series 'The Cleaning Lady' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Barcelona-based company Fasten Films has optioned Spanish and Portuguese adaptation rights to Argentine suspense series “La chica que limpia” (“The Cleaning Lady”). The deal was negotiated with Argentine distributors RM Vistar and GlowStar, who jointly handle the format’s international sales. A Mexican remake of the series is being produced by Turner Latin America, alongside BTF [...]

  • Motiv: Max ConzeFoto: © ProSiebenSat.1/Martin SaumweberDieses

    ProSiebenSat.1 Boss Max Conze Unfazed By the Invasion of the Digital Streaming Giants

    Max Conze, CEO of German broadcast company ProSiebenSat.1 since June last year, appeared relatively relaxed about the prospect of the coming invasion of new subscription streaming players like Disney Plus into his territory when speaking to journalists at TV market and conference Mipcom in Cannes Tuesday. “Disney will not lock away all their content,” he [...]

  • Irmaos Freitas

    Amazon Prime Video takes Turner’s ‘Freitas Brothers’

    CANNES — In yet another – and significant – Latin America distribution deal for the now highly active OTT giant, Amazon Prime Video has acquired Brazilian and pan-Spanish-speaking Latin American SVOD rights to Turner Latin America’s highly anticipated “Freitas Brothers.” The announcement was made late Tuesday by Turner Latin America at Cannes Mipcom TV and [...]

  • Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, Cory Booker,

    Nonsense Ellen DeGeneres Question Derails an Otherwise Substantive Democratic Debate (Column)

    The fourth Democratic debate was dangerously close to being substantive. For almost three (3!) hours, the twelve (12!) candidates onstage tackled questions on foreign policy, reproductive rights, health care, gun control, big tech, and the opioid crisis. While the other debates — and indeed, the entire 2016 presidential campaign — have been marked by meme-able [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content