Dear Evan Hansen:

I had no idea who you are, but I learned about you at this year’s Tony Awards this past Sunday. I admit, I’ve checked out of the arts scene a bit due to no longer freelancing (brain vacation!). I’m happy to meet you, though, since you seem like an interesting kid, therefore an interesting musical. Perhaps I’ll check you out when you tour, now that I know who you are.

After my freelancing dismount, I was only peripherally aware it was Tonys time again (I’m thankful Twitter reminded me). Sadly, the telecast did little to entice me to watch the whole show, though it did make me want to see some Broadway shows (note to Groundhog Day: not you, sorry). As each year passes, I’m left with the same question:

Why can’t the Tonys be as awesome as the shows they promote?

Speaking of promotion, the show for the past few years feels more like a cheap commercial. Of course, one of the goals is to get people to come to New York and see a show, or to see one where they live. But the Tonys shouldn’t feel like an infomercial. And p.s., if you feature the Rockettes, skip the singing that took away from their kick line and just let them do their thing, which people love.

Speaking of things people love, I realize Neil Patrick Harris just about ruined hosting for anyone with his awesome performances in 2011 and 2013 especially. Kevin Spacey is a great actor, but anyone shoved into the predictable box of these awards shows, which always seem to look and feel the same, struggles to succeed. Producers complain they struggle to get millennials to watch award shows like this. To that I ask, who in the meeting suggested that Spacey’s, albeit good, impressions of Bill Clinton and Johnny Carson would reel them in? (I believe millennial responses to each suggestion would be who? oh, yeah and whoooooooo?)

Aside from that, I’m increasingly disappointed, year after year, that the show isn’t just awards and performances. Skip the comedy bits and the lengthy explanations of why actors or shows are awesome. The shows sell themselves.

I remember seeing a number from The Life in 1997. Made me want to see the show. Same with Urinetown in 2002 — I went to New York and saw that show. Ditto for Hairspray the following year. And in 2015, after reading about the show, I saw this clip from the musical Fun Home. Guess what’s on my list to see when it comes to Philadelphia? (Do you feel my heart saying hi… Oh, my. Just gut-punch me next time.)

Watch this clip from Miss Saigon. That is some powerful and amazing musical theater. (Of course, I love plays, but they don’t translate to an awards show as easily, I think. Sell the people on the musicals and then we’ll convince them to see the plays!)

Sorry, Evan. Got off on a bit of a tangent there. I just love theater so much and the awards show just doesn’t seem to do it justice, getting worse every year. Right intent, wrong execution, and it’s a shame — because the art you and your friends make is fun, entertaining, moving, powerful. It can change the world.

It consistently changes mine.

Hope we get to meet in Philadelphia soon. Just let me know when you’re going to be in town. I’ll be there.

Sincerely,
Tara, theater-lover, awards-show critic (at least today)

P.S. Congrats on winning Best Musical.


*Putting the video here so I (and you) can watch it over and over: