Sunday, June 11, 2006

A bit of a live blog: The Tonys, I

Now this is what I call an Empire State View. Sixty-four stories above Manhattan, in the Tonys media room, the Empire State herself on one side, the Hudson and Central Park on the other. It’s a pretty good set-up here, with lots of food and drink and a spot with internet access for every journalist, but I’d still prefer, obviously, to be across the road in Radio City Music Hall, where they’re rattling through the ceremony at a brisk pace. Faith Healer was the first winner of the evening, with Ian McDiarmid (below) getting the award for Best Featured Actor. He gave a brief speech about how the play was one of the most musically perfect pieces for stage in the English language…wonder what all the musical people present made of that…and then came back here and talked about Brian Friel for a bit. He seemed genuinely thrilled. This is his Broadway debut, at 61. The History Boys won for Best Director and Best Featured Actress, Nicholas Hytner and Frances de la Tour respectively. He went on a rant about how English theatres got so much money from the government and American theatres should too, and she talked for the zillionth time (it wasn’t her fault, people kept asking the question) on what it was like to be the only woman in a cast of men. What did she draw on? “Sixty years.” How do the young guys in the cast regard her? “They call me J-La”.

Faith Healer lost out in Best Revival of a Play, which went to Awake & Sing. John Doyle, another British director, won for Direction of a Musical, with Sweeney Todd, and The Drowsy Chaperone seems to be winning all the other musical awards (sorry, I just can’t absorb information about musicals. It’s nothing to be proud of, I just don’t take it in.)

Heee, I think the Americans are getting a bit pissed off with all the British directors coming in here and talking about money and ticket prices and the other cold hard economic facts of theatre. John Doyle has just taken a question from a British journalist about ticket prices, and he’s answering pretty passionately (prices are rising in Britain too, becoming almost as ridiculous as Broadway), and you can just feel the boredom in the room. They should count themselves lucky they won’t have to listen to Michael Colgan talking about how he runs the Gate on a fraction of what the Abbey gets…

After the jump, some red carpet observations and pics...

This was my first time covering a red carpet do; I was late for the opening of Faith Healer on Broadway a couple of weeks ago, just getting there in time for the beginning of the play, and missing all the celebrities-and-flashbulbs activity beforehand...I did get to run up the red rug myself though - it was more panting and perspiring than preening and posturing. But that wasn't nearly as big a deal as the Tonys, for which two whole streets of midtown Manhattan were closed for 12 hours, with cops everywhere and something like 600 journalists. It was quite the rite of passage. Dozens of uniformly thin, uniformly blonde, uniformly stern-faced PR women barking us all into queues, into submission, and eventually, into place. "Place" being a tiny, tiny spot behind the barricades. Journalists stood pressed against each other, the ranks at least two deep, cameras banging into each other's heads and notebooks getting into each other's shots. Remarkably, tempers remained calm - but then, I had been placed on, special interest (read: not really important to the PR people) end of the line, it seemed. Beside me were reporters from couple of LGBT publications from California, an insane woman from a Midwest newspaper, and a very young looking girl from NYU radio who, for some unknown reason, was dressed in full evening regalia and had a camerawoman with her. For radio, sweetheart. Weren't you overspending the budget somewhat? Anyway. I didn't care. These people were more fun, I'll bet, than the sharks from Entertainment Weekly and Access Hollywood, who got the premium spots at the other end of the carpet.

Lots of jostling for position and craning of necks to see if anybody important had arrived yet; for a good half hour, nothing. Thousands of fans gathered on the other side of the road, behind another set of barricades; their view was terrible, because the journalists stood between them and the red carpet. Still, they stood and cheered every tinted-glass limo and SUV that pulled up. And the limos were starting to come, and the screams of the crowd suggested that someone had arrived. Not that we could see anything. Except a seven year old girl who was chillingly skilled at the art of preening, walking nonchalantly around at our end of the carpet - turned out she was Kate Burton's daughter, waiting for her mother to make her long journey from the other end. And at our end, another odd thing was happening. And at first, it looked very bad indeed. Lots of people in evening dress - the sort of people you'd imagine should be walking the red carpet with all the other eveningfrocked people - were gathering by the door to RCMH, sort of huddling together, and being snubbed by the legions of publicists and photographers stood between them and the journalists. Looked like these people weren't allowed to walk the red rug. Looked like they were kind of forced to play second fiddle to the "real" stars. Looked like they were being sort of humiliated. Looked bad. And oh, did I forget to mention that all of these people were black?

Well, I needn't have worried. Rampant racism was not, after all, stalking the Tonys. (Although *cough* there weren't that many non-white people on the actual red carpet, as opposed to its Edge Of Shame, either. Just saying...) Turns out that the people in question were, rather, paying guests, otherwise known in the business as the lowest of the low. They'd bought their tickets, and they'd paid for their own dresses and tuxedos, and they were standing outside the venue for as long as they could in order to get a gawk at the stars with whom they'd be sharing breathing space for the evening. "You don't want to look at those people," the journalist beside me cautioned, when she saw me looking curiously in their direction. "Those people are nobody."

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