Last night, MTV held its annual MTV Music Video Awards. And last night, Kanye West bum-rushed the stage while Taylor Swift was accepting her award for Best Female Video to express his opinion, which was different than that of the people who voted for the category. Watch it here. So what does this have to do with Broadway? (Well, first off, if you invite Kanye to the Tony's keep him away from the stage except when he raps.)
Awards ceremonies are big fanfests, and on MTV, the voters are the fans. MTV knows that it is cannot survive without engaging its viewers. So they have built two major awards shows around their fans. To make the fans watch the shows, they invite major stars from cross disciplines and give them awards. (Even ESPN has an awards show based on viewers/fan votes.) So what can The Tony Awards learn from MTV? Mainly that it is all about the fans and access to the stars.
The Tony Awards are trying to be more relevant and mainstream. In recent years, they have changed the format of the show as well as brought in TV and Film stars to host the program. In my opinion they need to go further and make the show more about the theatergoers. To that end, here are a few suggestions:
- Allow the critics to vote for the Tony's again. Dropping them is just plain stupid. They are the ones who actually see every performance, as opposed to many Broadway League members who live out of town are unable to attend many of the shows. As I have reported in a previous blog, as much as 40% of the voters for the Tony awards do not pick up their Tony voter tickets to see the shows. (This may seem to contradict my previous notion that it doesn't matter to the viewing audience who votes. However, I think the backlash from the critics and the notion that they will not promote the awards show in their columns in protest is a good reason to think again about the issue. Even though print media is becoming irrelevant in many cases, it is not dead yet.)
- Add a new set of awards in the major categories called 'Fan Favorite' (or something better). During the season there would be ads in the Playbill's telling theatergoers where to vote for their favorite shows and performances. Then the winners could be announced live during the show.
- Drop Radio City Music Hall and hold the awards ceremony somewhere more intimate and relevant to Broadway. A Broadway house would be nice, however there would be a lot of logistical problems involved. The problem with Radio City Music Hall is that the stage is too large and the performances look out of place within that space. Therefore the shows are not able to showcase their production numbers in the best possible way. As far as accommodating all the people who would want to attend the awards ceremony, I think many people would be happy not to attend the awards show and would rather attend the parties after the show is over instead.
- Steal some of the ideas that the Grammys have imposed on their show in the past few years. Specifically, I would like to see the Tony Awards mix-and-match stars singing songs together that they normally would not have an opportunity to sing. (Like this highly unlikely pairing!) They should also stop trying to do opening medley's of the nominated shows. The results are muddled and do not show off the shows in their best light.
- Quality control: How the production numbers are presented and filmed is crucial. The television program is a big advertisement for Broadway. And as such there should be some quality control in place to make sure Broadway looks exciting, engaging and fun. The TV show director has a tremendously difficult job in presenting the various performances on the stage. Unfortunately, I am mostly disappointed with how those numbers are filmed. I feel that The Tony Awards should help the shows put their best foot forward. As it stands now, the shows have to pay, for musicals upwards of $200,000, to be on the program. The limits of the stage, finances and schedule make it hard to create numbers that shine on TV, especially when these same numbers are conceived for the stage. So when those same numbers are filmed poorly, it doesn't help matters. Some more thought needs to go into the filming of the production numbers. And I think a smaller theater would help.
- How about the League initiates a month of fan events prior to the Tony Awards. Currently they are hosting Back2Broadway. Why not something similar leading up to the awards?