‘Don’t you love farts?*’: The 2010 Tony Awards stink it up

Catherine Zeta Jones channels Norma Desmond in her crazed Tony performance of 'Send in the Clowns'

I’ve saved one of my more tasteful blog headlines to discuss the mess that was last night’s 2010 Tony Awards broadcast — starting with Catherine Zeta Jones’ inelegant, mannered, and lip-sweaty performance of “Send in the Clowns.” If that is what she does 8x a week at the Walter Kerr, then I’m completely baffled. And the fact that she got awarded for it with a Best Actress in a Musical Tony? Wow.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Sean Hayes was our host, and actually fared the best of all last night. He started out charming, calm and in control. However, the moment his co-host Kristin Chenoweth (I’m only assuming she was sharing hosting duties, as she was onstage as much as he was) came on the screen with her mugging, winking and pratfalls, the running theme of the evening came into focus: desperation.

There was such an over-eagerness about the proceedings, with everyone pushing too hard and making bitter jokes about not being nominated, it was almost embarrassing to watch.

And when Lea Michele stomped down the aisle to inform us, in her overworked pop-belt, no one was gonna rain on her parade, it was like the definition of desperation marching out before the baffled Radio City audience. I guess there was one good thing about that utterly charmless performance: it guaranteed that no director with a brain would consider her for the 2012 revival of Funny Girl.

As for the Tony performances, which are always the highlight of the show, not a single one captured my attention or interest. (And I’m someone who loves theatre!) The hard part about these segments is you have four minutes to bring us into your world and perform a number in some sort of context. Yet none of them really succeed at doing that — they tried to accomplish too much. Fela and Memphis oversold it — it was just chaos to me. And did no one tell Rob Ashford that cameras actually have to film the Tony production numbers, so maybe choosing a segment from Promises, Promises that involves the cast running around in a circle while twirling around on office chairs isn’t the best choice for selling your show to a TV audience? It was just dizzy making.

(Strangely enough, Christiane Noll, who I hear was wonderful as Mother in Ragtime, had the opposite problem from the rest of the spazzy performances: she undersold her song. Oh, she sounded great, but that was one of the most snoozy performances of “Back to Before” I’ve ever heard.)

I’m not even going to discuss Green Day having TWO songs in the opening production number.

Fortunately, Angela Lansbury, looking smashing in red, came out to talk about the Theatre Wing while radiating class and grace — but even her too-brief appearance couldn’t counter-balance all that unfocused energy.

Also, as was the case with last year’s telecast, technical issues were a-plenty, with dead microphones and camera snafus. (In fact, some common themes seem to emerge when reading my thoughts on last year’s Tonys.)

Comon Tonys: get it together.

*For those three of you who don’t know, this is my lame joke on that Sondheim lyric from his brilliant “Send in the Clowns,” which CZJ crapped all over last night:

Don’t you love farce?
My fault I fear.
I thought that you’d want what I want.
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don’t bother, they’re here.

14 thoughts on “‘Don’t you love farts?*’: The 2010 Tony Awards stink it up

  1. I totally agree with you, Bob, it was kind of a distaster. I thought the same thing about Catherine Z-J, but later she said she was losing her voice so maybe she’s not always so awful? I found her very hard to watch.

    I could see no reason at all for Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison’s interlude, it was just bizarre. I agree with you also that the new shows are underwhelming, at least based on those performances. Oy. I wasn’t very interested in any of them.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Kristen. While I can understand a raspy voice (and, let’s face it, “Send in the Clowns” doesn’t exactly require a belter), it was her strange, twitchy overacting CZJ did that dumbfounded and distrubed me.

  2. Completely agree, Bob.

    To jump in on your last point, CBS is really terrible at producing this show. From Paula Abdul about to present the Choreography award in no light, to the weird cutting in on the producers of Memphis accepting their big award, the thing was a train wreck – and this isn’t the first year. I get that Broadway isn’t the hottest property on earth and that CBS likely won the gig by being the lowest bidder, but geez… just awkward moment after awkward moment.

    (Also, I’m not going to lie – After being torn about which to watch, I left the Tonys for an hour to watch the season premiere of “True Blood.” When I returned to the Tonys, all I got to see were the pretentious number from American Idiot, two non-sensical dance pieces from Come Fly Away and Promises, Promises, and that strange final performance from Memphis. I think taking an hour to watch vampires was a win on my part.)

    And was Lea Michele auditioning for “Scary Girl?” That was the most overwrought thing I’ve ever seen. Matthew Morrison, however, remains charming.

    1. Apparently people are pointing the finger at the production company, White Cherry Entertainment (http://www.imdb.com/company/co0148735/), for the consistent suckiness of the show’s technical elements.

      Lea Michele tries too hard, and it’s so transparent. Even the way she poses on the red carpet screams “NOTICE ME!!”

  3. Just can’t get behind u with the lea michele comments. Would u rather have a performance of great vocals and an over the top rendition that at least gave u something (similar to pretty much all of patti’s…) Or something like christiane noll that was vocally average and boring as fuck…

  4. So true on all points.

    When Catherine Z-J won after that performance my first thought is “Am I insane? As someone who prefers straight plays to musical theater have I lost all concept of quality because that seemed like total shite.”

    And Angela L. Was amazing. I was actually disappointed when she left the stage so soon, but as they say “leave them wanting more.” An amazing lady.

    The highlights for me were the awards for Fences. A close friend worked on the show, so I was very excited and happy for him. Other than that, blegh. I should’ve gone to bed early.

    1. Oh, I hope this year’s Tonys don’t actually turn people OFF to musical theatre! That would be sad.

      Thanks for commenting, Kim Z!

  5. I only caught a little teeny bit of the show, but what I saw of Memphis left me snoring. The music was so boring! Tuneless. Blah..

    I did enjoy The Best of Times. The camera work was weird, but Albin was so sweetly quiet and subtle. I kind of dug it.

    And that’s all I saw pretty much. The descriptions of Red were enticing. And Chris Noth came off as a little constipated and bitter, even before the technical glitch.

  6. Classic line “Catherine Zeta Jones channels Norma Desmond”. I knew I was distracted by her constant head shifting, but you have put my discomfort it in total focus. Could that really be the way she does all her stage performances, or was she trying to hard for the cameras?

    1. I haven’t seen CZJ in the role, but theatre discussion boards say her performance has become camp over her run, and the Tony perf wasn’t too far off-base from what she does nightly now.

  7. Hey, Bob,

    I enjoyed your dissection of the Tonys’ broadcast. Truth be told, this theatre girl was so bored by the nominees, and indeed, by the Broadway season in toto this year, that I thought we should have just called the whole thing off for a season. And so for the first time since I moved to New York to make my little way in the theatre all those years ago, I utterly skipped the Tonys last night. One friend posted this morning that the Tonys make it so clear why ‘everyone wants to move to NY,’ and I thought, ‘This year, they make me want to leave.’ Ah, well.

    Thanks for your post.

    1. And thanks for your comment, Kate!

      I think Broadway is alive and well, but the Tony Awards telecast needs an overhaul. Maybe a change of venue will shake things up a bit? I hear Radio City is booked next June, so they are looking for a new place to host the 2011 Tonys.

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