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When I was 14, I watched my first every Tonys – only on YouTube mind you, the UK coverage of award show is beyond shocking – and I fell in love. I fell in love with the Something Rotten cast making Shakespeare seem cool, I fell in love with Kristin Chenoweth's comedic timing (and have seen Wicked on tour three times since), and most importantly, I fell in love with how American's pronounce Amanda Seyfried's name (it's See-fred right??). But though this spectacle of joy and dance made my little heart dance with joy, does the American Theatre Wing's night of wonder really still hold a place in modern day?
Every summer since then I have eagerly waited for the release of clips which showed introductions, performances, and Hamilton's 11 Tonys but I can’t help but feel that the magic is fading. Has it become so overdone, so used up, that even celebrating the achievements of our heroes is considered a bore? I haven’t had a falling out with theatre, maybe I’ve just had a falling out with the idea of an award showing how much a show's worth, with the fact that sometimes the shows which deserve it the most are often left out because they're not in the right area - here's looking at you Dear Evan Hansen.
The Tonys make me feel conflicted. Of course, you deserve an award for being the best show, but do these awards really take into account the hours of hard work, of the blood/sweat/tears which go into making 5 minutes of a musical? If you win, yes, but if you don’t? Sometimes it can be like trying to pick which internal organs you like best (and all the rest get left behind).
But don’t get me wrong, I love watching Alan Cumming being incredibly campy on a Broadway stage in a suit with shorts as he announces the evening’s nominees, and maybe that’s what makes the Tonys so special. Maybe, it is this celebration of the arts in all its weird and wonderful forms which makes it so worthy of our attention. Because when we achieve, we want to celebrate that, and when we achieve something as a community – just as a big show does – then we want to celebrate as a community. Perhaps, the Tonys can be considered relevant simply because it brings the spotlight back onto the theatre, a medium for our emotions and our turmoil to fly free. After all, if actors can win awards for being paid millions of pounds in a Star Wars movie, why shouldn’t your friendly neighbourhood Cynthia Erivo or Norbert Leo Butz win something as well?
Perhaps the Tonys are relevant because they celebrate the best of what we are, and the best of what we could be. Each year brings a new message of hope, whether it be “love is love is love is love is love is love is love” or “please recycle”. When we need to find light in a darkness, it is the spotlight of the Tony stage that bring the theatre community together to celebrate what we can do together. And that is why the Tonys are still relevant.