When was the last time a major motion picture studio made a musical anyway? Let's face it, there's absolutely nothing like being in the presence of talented people singing and dancing their heart out—even on television. But my point is that CBS transformed a theater presentation into the best of television! When the DGA awards and the Emmys come around next year I know who I'm voting for in the category of awards shows!
Besides giving us James Cordon—who knew he was so talented?—the production took us from the stage, up the aisle, through the lobby (and security!) and out to the marquee where crowds waited, giving us the immediacy and perspective only live TV can do. But as good an effect as that was, the producers and director didn't stop there. By coming back to the stage set just outside the marquee of Broadway's historic Beacon Theater, they constantly connected us (crowds in the street, TV viewers, non ticket-holders, non theater-goers) to the experience inside. Like the best carnival barker ever, they were enticing the millions who haven't been to a theatrical show recently—or maybe ever—into the tent. And they used it on us with every tease and come-back, mercilessly. Short, powerful, musical, sometimes star-studded, promoting the talented casts (of the current dramas as well as musicals) and presenting classic broadway favorites, each one was a concentrated thrill to anyone who has ever been to a stage production of any kind. I can't think of anything better they could have done both for the TV production or to promote american theater. And yes, the electroinc crawl on the marquee was a great touch!
Naturally the dictates of television and a home audience were acknowledged. Many awards—please don't call costume, set design and the others minor awards—were presented as short recaps, "previously presented." I can tell you they are cruel decisions, which ones to relegate as also-rans, but the circulation of the human derriere and a twitchy finger on the remote demand it. Not given short shrift, thank Janus, were the awards for dramatic or non-musical shows. This gave plenty of opportunity to present the big names of american acting including Frank Langella, Jessica Lange, Jeff Daniels and Gabriel Byrne among others, as well as the bulwark of talent we see all the time but don't know by name. Tell me you didn't recognize Reed Birney from a million TV shows and films! Now you know his name! ...and the talented Patina Miller who hasn't been around as long but is almost as ubiquitous!
For those in the entertainment industry, it's no surprise that actors (and directors and set designers, etc) move from screen to stage and back again. But for the american public it's a good thing to see faces like Michael Shannon and Jane Krakowski in a theatrical reference. It's also important to give recognition to talented professionials not yet known outside of the theater. Where do they think the overnight screen sensations come from anyway? Schwabs?
CBS and The Tonys did a great job of rolling out every name possible: even Meg Ryan to remind us of the theatrical connection to "You've Got Mail." Every entertainment name--including Steve Martin, Josh Groban, David Hyde Pierce and many many others seen on the Tony's contribute to the public's understanding that talented people are not limited to the size of the screen—or procenium arch—in which you view them. And who knows, someone may even go see a play because of that. And I'll bet there are a ton of children who now want to be in the school show! How wonderful!