Theatre is hurting. Arts funding, both at an educational and professional level, is getting harder and harder to come by. Theatre companies all over the country have to make cuts to their cast sizes, seasons, and staff. Theatre salaries for working actors pale in comparison to more lucrative paychecks in film, television, commercials, voiceovers… just about any performing work that isn’t done live on a stage.
Broadway, while being the biggest form of theatre in the US, doesn’t go unscathed. Think piece after think piece examines the state of Broadway’s uncertain state with critically acclaimed shows that close too soon, audiences that skew older, wealthier, and whiter, and the constant onslaught of celebrity vehicles, jukebox musicals, and uninspired revivals. With musical theatre becoming more of a niche art form and straight plays following close behind, it can be all too easy to look at the state of Broadway—and theatre as a whole—with a jaundiced eye.
And then this year’s Tony Awards happened. We at LMezz got to see the Tonys not once, but twice, as Sara won a pair of tickets to their dress rehearsal held earlier that morning.
This year’s show featured Simba, Velma Kelly, Annie, and other beloved characters from current Broadway shows as presenters, showcased awesome original numbers, and had some of the most inspiring acceptance speeches ever. From Broadway legends to Broadway debuts, stage managers to composers, directors to lighting designers, every person at Radio City Music Hall was there because they loved theatre. And that includes the movie star wanting to build their theatre cred. The producer hoping their Tony win increases their box office sales. The diva who wants all eyes on them.
Host Neil Patrick Harris said it (or sung it) best during the opening number (whose lyrics were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda):
“There’s a kid in the middle of nowhere who’s sitting there living for Tony performances…So we might reassure that kid, and do something to spur that kid, ’cause I promise you all of us out there tonight, we were that kid.”
With all the problems Broadway has, there are still creators. There are still productions. And most importantly, there are still audiences who love to enter a theatre and see magic be made.