The Tony Awards were this past Sunday. While we tried our best to get this post up in a timely manner, in all honesty, there really wasn’t much to say about them. The performances ranged from boring to bizarre and the hosts were less than entertaining to say the least.
The Band’s Visit and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child won the majority of the nominations they received in the musical and play categories respectively.
Broadway icon Chita Rivera received the Lifetime Achievement Award but the moment wasn’t televised much to our disappointment. While it is notable that a person color was nominated in every single acting category, the same can’t be said about the nominations for the technical categories backstage.
Sprinkled among the nominated shows were revivals of classics such as Carousel, My Fair Lady, and Once on This Island and shows based on popular existing properties like Mean Girls, Spongebob Squarepants, and Frozen.
But what we couldn’t help but think as we were watching the awards ceremony: The theater has lost so much of it’s relevance in the world of entertainment today.
Two years ago, Hamilton won a ton of awards including 11 Tony’s and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It is the most recent Broadway show to achieve cultural relevance because of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant creative decision to not only incorporate hip-hop music into the show’s repertoire, but also his decision to cast black and brown people in the roles of historical figures who are white.
This simple decision single-handedly created a show that not only commented on how black and brown people are frequently reduced to entertainment for mass (read: white) audiences, but also how history is often told through a “white” point of view at the expense of black and brown people.
And at the end of the day, it’s also incredibly entertaining show. But it’s also a show that I haven’t seen. Tickets prices for the Broadway show in New York are astronomically high. The same goes for the shows on its upcoming U.S. tour.
All of this is to say that access to viewing high-quality theater has a barrier to entry that is impossible for many to overcome: the price of a ticket. Not to mention most shows don’t achieve enough popularity on Broadway to go on and tour across the country.
This results in most of the nominated shows being viewed by a small, elite group of people, thus diminishing the relevance of theater as a medium. It’s a sharp difference between television and film, which are so easily accessible from your own living room via Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu etc. that it’s impossible to watch all of it.
I’m sure The Band’s Visit is a great show. The fact that it is a critically and commercially successful musical that focuses on nonwhite protagonists is a step in the right direction. The rest of the shows, are an obvious symptom of the fact that having only 41 venues (most of which are occupied by long running shows that aren’t closing anytime soon) means that relying on properties that have a built-in audience is how you get people to the theater.
When money is on the mind, pushing the culture forward becomes an afterthought. And as a result, shows like Hamilton become rarities in the world of Broadway. At the same time, shows like Spongebob Squarepants and Frozen become the norm, while everything else is sidelined.
We’ll always love the theater, but we had to point out an incredibly disappointing show that reflects an industry that has lost its cultural relevance.
What do you think about the current state of the theatrical world? Has it lost its relevance and can it ever gain it back? Let us know what you think.
And as usual, here’s a link of all the Tony Award winners. Until next time!
Black Chick Media