5 Things I learned from the Academy Awards (and the Tonys could learn too).

It’s been over a week since Seth MacFarlane offended a whole bunch of people (did people expect less?) and Anne Hathaway pi$$ed off a whole bunch of people (did people expect less?) at this year’s Academy Awards.  For the first time in years, I watched the show from beginning to end (admittedly with my computer in front of me googling things like “Charlize Theron in Cider House Rules” and “How old is Barbra Streisand now anyway?).  Since the Oscars are so well viewed, I wanted to see if there were a few takeaways the Tonys could steal to help increase our lagging ratings this coming June.

Here’s what I learned:

1.  The Show Before The Show might be more entertaining than The Show.

Every year the Red Carpet Coverage seems to get bigger and better.  It’s a chance for us to get up close and personal with the stars, see who’s hot, who’s not, and apparently to see how short Kristin Chenoweth is compared to every other human being (I found that pretty entertaining, actually).   I always enjoy hearing who’s nervous.  It shows that people in Hollywood are actually human.

2.  If you’re not in the industry, then a lot of the Awards don’t matter.

I’m gonna say it.  I don’t care about the winner for short animated feature. Just don’t.  And that’s when I went back to the Google machine and starting searching for things like, “How long is this $#(*ing awards show going to be?”  We all want to recognize excellence.  But we have to be careful if it costs us viewers.  Not showing the short animated feature winner’s speech on television doesn’t mean they aren’t getting the award.  It just means people might actually get to go to sleep before the sun comes out tomorrow.

3.  Controversy keeps The Buzz going.

Who would have thought CNN would be talking about the Oscars as of yesterday?  What did it?  Michelle Obama.  I’m not sure anyone thought that the choice to have Mrs. First Lady giving out the big trophy at the end of the night would be such a talking point, but it was definitely a big, bold choice, and it got a lot of folks attention, for better and for worse.  And I thought it gave the industry a lot of authority.  If you can get one of the most powerful women in the country world to show up to your party, even on Skype, you’re throwing one helluva party.

4.  Being Prepared isn’t always Best.

My favorite moment?  Jennifer Lawrence’s sweet blushy face after she fell up those stairs.  It was real, authentic, and all of us out there said, “Mega millionaire stars fall up stairs too, just like me!”  While I’m a big believer that all nominees should have some idea of what they’re going to say should they get to run up those stairs, it’s much more endearing to shoot from your cuff.  Sure, you may trip up the stairs or over your words, but so what . . . save the memorization for when you’re at work.  Use improvisation when you win.

5.   When there are more Musical Numbers, we all Win.

After the show was over, a friend of mine texted me and said, “Weren’t The Tonys fantastic?”  Thanks to Broadway Lovers (and Producers) Neil Meron and Craig Zadan (along with help from Rob Ashford), the show was filled with numbers and music of all types and genres . . . and that’s certainly when I had the most fun, didn’t you?  We’re watching something live . . . so we want to see something live.  And the more of it, the better.

The Oscars took a lot of flack in the press this year, despite the fact that ratings were up about 3%.  What did you think of the show?  What would you like the Tonys to adopt?  Not adopt?  Let the comments begin!

 

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Comments
  • Michael Dale says:

    The huge difference between the Tony Awards and every other nationally broadcast awards show is that viewers of other award shows are far more likely to be familiar with the films/shows/songs/stars than they would with the theatre artists. Other award shows offer a look back at a year’s worth of product that television viewers already liked, while, outside of the theatre community, the Tonys has to convince viewers to spend their money on tickets by offering previews of what they can see. Thus, improving the Tony Awards will always be a matter of pleasing those who attend Broadway regularly vs. luring in potential new customers. Will viewers who don’t attend Broadway reularly be interested in red carpet coverage if the nominees interviewed are theatre stars like Raul Esparza and Chita Rivera? Best Score might be considered a minor category by many, unless Elton John or Dolly Parton are nominated. And the book of a musical, the element that most musical theatre professionals will agree is the most important element leading to the artistic success of a show, is usually thought of as a minor award. I’ve enjoyed the last few Tony Award telecasts far more than the previous ones because they seemed more focused on theatre people, but that risks boring others who don’t get the jokes or care about the nominees because they’re never heard of these people. When Ed Sullivan had theatre people on his program, they were presented as members of the Broadway community and he would educate his television audience on who people like Jerome Robbins and Joshua Logan were, inspiring people to come to New York and see the special artists who work there. Songs from musicals were usually presented with full book scenes included, or at least an introductory summary of how the song fits into the plot. This gave the audience a better sense of the story-telling quality of theatre songs. Maybe modern viewers don’t have the attention span to learn about artists they don’t know, and would rather be comforted with the idea of a Broadway full of familiar faces. That’s sad.

  • ROBERT ANTHONY says:

    FIVE THINGS IVE LEARNED ABOUT OSCARS.
    1- WE ARE NOT THERE TO PUT DOWN ACTORS BUT PRAISE THEM.
    2- THE ONLY NUMBERS THAT WORK ARE CURRENT SONGS OR RETRO – SHIRLEY BASSEY STOLE THE SHOW – HUDSON AND ZETA JONES HAD NO PLACE THERE.
    3- HAVE GUESTS WHO WE DOINT SEE ON EVERY TALK SHOW -EVERY DAY… MORE REUNIONS.
    4. DONT CUT OFF SPEECHES WITH JAWS THEME AND HAVE AN OPENING WITH A TV ACTOR ( SHATNER) THAT LAYS FLAT FOR 15 MINUTES.
    5. BRING BACK OSCAR WINNERS SHARING THOUGHTS OF OSCAR WINNERS ABOUT NOMINEES AND HAVE MORE FILM CLIPS.

  • Kevin says:

    I agree with Mr. Dale. These are two hugely different shows and audiences. I think the Tonys try TOO hard to be like the other awards shows instead of using the uniqueness to their advantage. Sometimes I think the Tonys should leave network TV and go to PBS or BRAVO or someplace else in order to develop an audience. I think it might be fun to have audience voting by call in (potential fundraiser?). SO that there would be Tony Awards given but also some other Audience Favorite award. It could be chaos but it also could get more people involved?

  • Elisa Christina Clayton says:

    Perhaps, if the Regional Theatre Tony Award was more competitive and each nominated theatre had to perform a selection from one of their productions that made them worthy of the nomination then it might be an improvement to the show. At least it would feel more inclusive.

    This year when I attended the Alliance Theatre’s production of “Next To Normal” many, who had seen it on Broadway thought that the Alliance Theatre’s production was better. Plus, I’ve seen plays such as “I Just Stopped By To See The Man” that were so excellent but since they never make it to Broadway they’re never given the attention they actually deserve.

    Of course, expanding in this manner will make the show longer.

  • Honestly, I loved the show. I think having a theme made it more interesting for me, especially a theme that concentrated on a performance aspect. I also thought Seth was a good host. Not great, but entertaining. Some of his jokes didn’t hit but he didn’t really seem to care and I liked that. He just went up there and had fun! And it was fun to hear him sing live, at least for me. I think this is the type of non-traditional host the Tony’s should look at hiring. Or even a partnering like the Golden Globes. But I agree, the entertainment was what made the show. The more musical numbers, the better, especially the tongue-in-cheek numbers!

  • Jay says:

    I have always said that The Tonys should claim who they are- it is a celebration of theatre for the theatre nerds of America (and sometimes the UK).

    I think people want to see what is nominated. And theatre people LOVE nostalgia. Bring out a pair that did a show together 50 years ago and won a Tony- people love that. When Angie and Bea sang their song 20 years later…when George Abbott came onstage at 100 (and then came onstage at 106)- those were golden moments. Give something for theatre students to look at and say, I want to find out more about that person. Celebrate a show that won a Tony 40 years ago. Whatever- it gives a chance for those of us to remember why we fell in love and still love the theatre.

    Celebrate theatre! Celebrate the family- the theatre community!

  • I completely agree that live performances are better–and therefore, it’s easy for me to suggest that instead of watching Catherine Zeta Jones lip synch (poorly, I might add), I would much rather have have enjoyed to see, I don’t know, Christopher Plummer sing Edelweiss.

    I am brought to think about it for the first time, but I do feel a red carpet type affair for the Tony’s could only be a good choice.

  • Good points everyone, if you really want me to tell you how to fix the Tony awards, that will cost you. No seriously, I’m a writer for hire… Call me.
    Kidding aside, The Oscars did feel a lot more musical than in years past, although the theme “music” was well executed thanks to the wonderful producer duo. Seth was “Ehh” for me, as they say on the corner of 86th street… “the kid done good.” He obviously brought something to the table with the 85th Academy Awards having the most viewers since 2004 logging in at 42.40 million according to online accounts. So, don’t think for a minute he was the only draw… Let’s pay respects to the ladies, Barbara, Bassey, Hudson, Adel and Jones… OK, Hathaway included. There’s a woman there for the ladies and the men (Straight Men too). What I missed was the clips from the films. Just as Elisa tactfully added above, there needs to be more show content at the Tony Awards. Give people a reason to watch, see something that might lead them to the theater. Also, as I have been working on my first musical book recently, more information and history of musical theatre has come into the forefront of my life. One thing we see looking back on Broadway’s Glory Days (just pick a decade, we all know there have been ups and downs). The song’s of those times penetrated popular culture and along with them the stars crossed from stage to film (which is happening more now too, Jackman – Hathaway). Playwrights and composers were breakouts, people wanted to see who was next (the up and coming) big hit, including the stars found in the long auditions lines. Example, Can anyone tell me the name of the girl in the recent production of Evita who stole the show? If you didn’t walk out after hearing her voice and say, “she is amazing” you need your hearing checked. Honestly, these two worlds of film and stage have created so many barriers and blocks to the top, they have shot themselves in the foot. Now, producers reach out to the public to figure out what happened. They should know what has happened (No offense Ken, love your posts), the answer is right in front of their faces. Want to know how to fix it? Call me, I got lots more ideas and opinions, if you got the “Dime” and the time.

  • Stacey says:

    I totally agree that the musical numbers were fantastic and it was the best academy awards musically! I thought Seth McFarland was great,funny and entertaining. I loved the opening number and the closing number. Another big plus was Kristen Chenowith on the red carpet. she was fantastic.

  • Josh says:

    The musical numbers at the Oscars were great for one simple reason: The camera crews and director actually watched the numbers as they REHEARSED! This allowed them to plan the best angles to shoot and make these numbers better than anything on the Tony’s in years. Amazing how wonderful a production number is when we can actually SEE THE CHOREOGRAPHY!!! The Tonys have become notorious for shooting the big numbers as if the director in the booth is a 12 year-old with ADD.

  • Carl says:

    Surprisingly bad comedy writing and thumbs down to the choice of Seth MacFarlane as host. William Shatner’s appearance brightened things up for me. With all the talent out there, how could they come up with that bad of a show?

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    Ive always wondered why they don’t drop the awards for short films, docs, etc and even things like sound editing. The average oscarviewer never has an opportunity to see those films and couldnt really tell a well edited movie from a bad one. The Golden Globes is rigged. But its a fast, well paced show.

    • Becca S says:

      I disagree, actually, with Michael’s comment and with Ken’s #2. I think it’s appalling how little screen time is given to the award categories outside of Acting, Directing, and best picture. One of the great things about award show night is that for once, everyone really gets to shine. Designers an technicians are recognized in their rightful place alongside the “big names” and are recognized for the work they do, work that can make or break a film as easily as an actor’s performance can.
      Instead, why not have those people we recognize and trust, producers and directors, tell us about these collaborators? People love knowing they are getting an inside look, so wouldn’t an award such as “best sound editing” mean more to the average viewer if they heard straight from a director just how important sound editing and postproduction is to a movie? As a sound designer myself, I think the fact that the creative tony awards don’t even make the broadcast delegitimizes my art by not publicly affirming its importance to the overall process and product.

  • Clair Sedore says:

    thought the Academy Awards were great because of the amount of musical numbers….was very interested to hear you were one of the investors in Ragtime, which I think one of the all time great musicals…and being from Toronto we got to see it from the initial presentation, and am very proud of Garth Drabinsky for putting Toronto on the theatre map, and now they are trying to take away his Order of Canada…feel he has served his time, and it is impossible to take away the glory that he brought to our city…even watered down versions of Ragtime work well, and we were fortunate enough to get a brilliant recreation at the Shaw Festival….have my fingers and toes crossed for Kinky Boots, and much admiration for you, and LOVE your newsletter

  • Sue says:

    The Oscars are NOT the Tonys, kids! Where were the film clips?!?!?!? I love a production # as well as the next guy but this show had a serious identity crisis. Your personal taste cried out for the music. Mine said “this IS an award celebrating MOVING PICTURES…how about we have some?”

  • Tina says:

    Sorry, Ken, but I have to completely disagree with your point #5. The musical numbers were the worst part of the show. Something about filmed musicals makes my skin crawl. I love musicals on a stage, but film — totally different medium, totally fake, totally cringe-worthy.

  • Peter says:

    First, who’s going to put Seth MacFarlane on broadway…in a show? He’s good!

    Second, people outside of the film industry actually do care about categories like Short Animated Film. I especially care, when more film clips are shown during the awards to show me what is out there. I like to know about the creative work being done outside of the mainstream, outside of the small amount of films that have recieved all of the media attendion leading up to these awards. By the time I watch the awards, I almost don’t care about the main categories anymore. I mean, of course I want to see who wins best actor/director/film. But I also want to see clips from all the documentaries that I need to watch within the next year and short films that I need to find online.

    Third, The Academy Awards are so popular because they are international! Directors, Design artists are from all over the place. The Tony’s should celebrate everything in American Theatre…as well as everything in Theatre. I would love to have a category showing me what’s being done on the West End, what new plays are being produced around the country. We have all of these new play/new works festivals and nobody gets to see what’s out there unless they attended these festivals (relatively few people). If the Tony’s helped to share the art and the work being produced by american theatre’s large and small…they may be able to expand their audience and capture peoples attention.

  • ECP says:

    The Oscars telecast always seems to be a balancing act. It tries to be a variety show, but is it? I think technically/production-wise it excels, improving each year. Visually, I think it excites thanks to dynamic lensing, editing, sound mix, the very things that help make movies movies.
    Too much of the patter between presenters is inane.
    And yeah, you want to “see” choreography, you see it on the Oscars.
    I was enthusiastic about the “movie musicals” theme, at first. The segments? Mostly meh, though I thought Bassey was sterling, nostalgia that can still belt. Don’t want to beat a dead horse, but “Chicago”? Maybe a little self-serving?
    For how many years have winners been walking up steps to accept their trophy? You could add a production number easily if women didn’t put couture first, lumbering up to the stage gowned in disasters-waiting-to-happen. A crane and pulley should be on standby. Dissing exposure accorded short films?? Let’s reduce the performance schedule for off-Broadway shows, why don’t we. You know, they’re not the real deal, the big time. Personally, more times than not I enjoy the usually thoughtful acceptance speeches from winners in the “lesser” categories.
    Most disturbing perhaps, the lack of appreciation shown moviegoing ticket-buyers.

  • KIMOTHY CRUSE says:

    While I thoroughly enjoyed most of the musical numbers presented on the Oscars this year, the theme of the show was MOVIE MUSICALS. It seemed that the producers thought there were NO movie musicals BEFORE CHICAGO? Personally, I would have used some glorious film clips to do a wonderful section on the fuller history of film musicals. How about a film clip of AMERICAN IN PARIS or GIGI cutting to the still beautiful and vibrant Leslie Caron who would introduce a clip of SINGING IN THE RAIN cutting to the fabulous Debbie Reynolds who introduces a film clip of ROYAL WEDDING cutting to the stunning, ageless Jane Powell introducing a film clip of SWEET CHARITY cutting to Shirley MacLaine introducing another Oscar winning Fosse directed musical CABARET cutting to Liza Minelli and all the other ladies intoducing a montage of the GREAT make musical stars who are no longer with us…Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra…and others. THAT would be a celebration of the musical MOVIES!

  • Derek says:

    You are all so kind ! Apart from the ladies : Charlize Theron’s dancing, and the singing Barbra, Bassey, Hudson, Adele and Jones ( and last but not least – the stunning US First Lady, Michelle Obama ) – the rest of them can thank their lucky stars the Oscar show would never have to open on Broadway. I’d take a bet this appallingly amateurish show would close after one day. Guaranteed. If Broadway ( or the Tonys ) can learn anything from the Oscars then it’s this : don’t ever be tempted to imitate this pathetic show. That said, give Michelle Obama a special Oscar for the best delivered presentation speech of the evening. Wolgang Puck’s feast was probably a stunning show – but we weren’t invited.

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