It’s the Tiny Awards!
The 2020 Tony Award nominations were announced Thursday, and unlike the usual celebratory spirit of theatrical ingenuity that kicks off a month of ferocious competition in the Theater District, the event was a true downer. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the list of noms was short on shows, kinda sad and slightly cruel.
Only three musicals were nominated out of the four that opened before the cutoff date: “Jagged Little Pill,” “Moulin Rouge!” and “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.” A trio of jukebox shows. Last season, 11 new musicals opened.
The ugly-duckling fourth, “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical,” with an original score, was totally shut out. Sure, the critics tore into it like famished dogs on a steak, but this is a year when the Best Original Score category features five straight plays. A year when the Best Actor in a Musical category has just a single nominee: Aaron Tveit for “Moulin Rouge.” There is no Best Revival of a Musical competition.
The same organization that allowed the deceased poet T.S. Eliot to win for writing “Cats” couldn’t even give “The Lightning Thief” one courtesy nod during a business-trouncing pandemic? Me-ow.
We heard the same three titles — “Moulin Rouge!,” “Jagged Little Pill,” “Tina” — over and over in pretty much every musical category. That mind-numbing repetition led to an overwhelming feeling of “Are we really doing this?”
Yes, it appears we are. But, to quote “Miss Saigon,” “Why, God, Why?”
Before it was decided that the Tony Awards, which still have no airdate, would ultimately go on, there had been speculation of a noncompetitive Broadway TV special; a chance to show the world “I’m still here!” with a few feel-good performances and rousing speeches from the likes of Hugh Jackman and Bernadette Peters. That would have been the right way to go.
As it stands, the 2020 Tony Awards have a shallow field (the play categories are better and more competitive), and the ceremony will not be able to properly showcase the honking jukebox shows — “Jagged Little Pill” is more intimate, but with some big choreography — and their massive production numbers. The diamond dogs of “Moulin Rouge!” can’t really sparkle in a black box. Adrienne Warren’s fabulous Tina Turner in “Tina” is crying out for a bopping medley crawling with dancers.
The productions could, I suppose, put their casts and crew in a bubble to perform from their own theaters on the night, or even pre-taped beforehand. But that cost burden would fall on the shows themselves, which have no money or, for the time being, any tickets to sell.
The list was short on shows, kinda sad and slightly cruel.
Instead, the telecast will likely be yet more Zoomtertainment, or some slight step up from that, which doesn’t inspire theater kids watching at home so much as depress adults.
To be sure, there were many worthy nominees named Thursday, and the likely winners — “Moulin Rouge!”, “Slave Play,” “Betrayal,” Warren — would’ve had a strong shot had the season went on as usual. There is also a mood on Broadway that we should just get this over with and start fresh next fall. Understandable.
But after watching the 2020 VMAs, a person could go listen to brand-new music. When the Emmys were over, they could binge the new season of “Schitt’s Creek,” and, after the Oscars in April next year, folks will stream the new movie “Nomadland.”
And after the Tonys? Months of dark theaters sitting empty. Hard to uplift anybody with that harsh reality.