In Gypsy, the redoubtable Rose Hovick explains her philosophy as "Like the good Lord says, you've gotta to take the rough with the smooth, baby." Those words definitely sum up my feelings while watching the 2012 Tony Awards broadcast.
There was certainly more than enough "rough" to go around. Broadway continues to drift away from the kind of integrated, well-crafted musicals I love, churning out an increasingly soulless crop of new shows that mistake sentimentality for true sentiment, and noise for genuine excitement. What else could explain the Tony audience's wild cheers for the feckless gymnastics of Newsies, the half-hearted recycling of Nice Work If You Can Get It, the banality of Ghost, or the dramatic vacuity of Once? The number which the producers of Once chose to represent their show looked like part of a rather dreary pop concert, and had no discernible story to tell. Seeing so many Tony Awards go to this mediocrity, affirming the ongoing decline of the beloved art form whose history I teach, was rough indeed.
Happily, there was a generous amount of "smooth" to help the medicine go down. It was sweet indeed to see the divine Audra McDonald win her fifth Tony, and to see the gifted British actor (and former History Boys star) James Cordern take home his first. No one could fail to be charmed by the obvious affection between Hugh Jackman and his wife (although, if Hugh really loves the lady all that much, wouldn't he hire a gay consultant to help her pick some decent shoes?) And while Neil Patrick Harris could not quite eclipse memories of his hilarious opening number last year, he yet again managed to enliven the proceedings and keep them by far the most entertaining awards show on television.
And for me, there was a special joy in seeing Nic Rouleau, one of my recent students at NYU Steinhardt, who just took over the lead in The Book of Mormon, kick-off the Tony broadcast as he and the male ensemble performed the delightful "Hello!" And another talented alumni of my classroom, Melanie Field, was seen kicking up her heels in the ensemble of Evita.
I tell my students that it is my fervent hope to some day drive my friends to distraction during the Tony telecast by repeatedly saying, "There's one of my kids!" It was a tremendous delight to have this wish come true for the first time, in a double dose -- and even better, to know this is only the first of many times to come.
So, although the Broadway musical may be in a dark time, my students are taking their place in it's present and -- better yet -- its future. Like the good Lord says, you gotta take the rough with the smooth, baby!