At this past Sunday’s Tony Awards, The Bridges Of Madison County won for best score. But the show and its music were not represented by a production number in the telecast. The reason for this was simple. According to the New York Times, each “Broadway show’s producers have to pay five-and-six figure sums for these numbers to be included in the telecast; those [producers] for “Bridges” lost millions when the musical closed.” And since the show had already closed at a loss there was no money to be on the telecast.
And this got me to thinking, are the Tonys honoring excellence or really simply a major marketing event for Broadway. And the answer, as the less naive of you know, like The Academy Awards, is… envelope please.. it’s both. This means that the big production numbers are actually national advertisements for the individual shows – so why shouldn’t the shows’ producers pay for that exposure. Seems fair.
But on the other side, the Tonys are also about excellence and the Tony telecast does something else. The telecast serves as a historical record of the shows and performers from that season. The Oscar nominated movies from a given year live on, on film or Bluray, but a given year’s Tony nominated performances only live on when they are included in the show. Sure there’s the Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library – but to most of America – Broadway is represented by the Tony telecast.
So it’s sad to me when a musical as beautiful as Bridges of Madison County does not appear on the telecast. I understand why and it makes commercial and business sense. But it is sad for the art. Sure there’s the cast album… but somehow it not quite the same as seeing it.
And maybe there’s the answer.
To see it live on Broadway and have it live in your memory. That’s theatre.