The 2017 Tony Awardz, A Musical Parody
Just as award-show season kicks in, a mock Tony Award ceremony resists the easy knocks (well, most of them) to send up theatre's hallowed night: "The 2017 Tony Awardz, A Musical Parody."
Four years in the future, musicals are still the hottest thing on Broadway, with the grand historical epic "Lee" (as in Harvey Oswald) facing off against a "Fight Club" stage adaptation (more Fosse than fighting) and a Britney Spears jukebox musical mangling Civil War history to fit in "I'm A Slave For You."
A more potent onstage drama involves host George Peters, who is playing his own desperate game: On the verge of losing his toehold in New York, he views the show as his own audition piece and threatens to hold up the proceedings until he gets his next gig lined up, even sabotaging his rival who plays the lead in "Lee" for a chance to strut his stuff. When Peters finds out one of his rivals in the audience could win Best Musical for a musical-mocking show, all bets are off.
The versatile cast, led by Michael Hartney as Peters, applies the right amount of absurd gravitas to the proceedings while displaying considerable vocal ammunition of its own. Hartney exhibits a manic, desperate energy that only increases throughout the show, set against the loopy calmness of Caroline Cotter's Britney and Adam Bozarth's at first befuddled Jefferson Munson, whose confusion turns to horror as his show "I Hate Musicals: The Musical: The Musical" virtually guarantees he will never work on Broadway again.
What's worth sending up about the Tonys' reflects the state of Broadway as a whole: Without the financial guarantee of knowing that Americans will continue to flock to the Great White Way for their entertainment when given the opportunity, the field floats in insecurity, grabbing onto whatever handholds are available.
It's not so much that productions these days don't take chances, but that the highest profile shows can't afford to. Even the warhorse revival of "Glengarry Glen Ross" mounted on Broadway this fall was not immune to pressure, postponing its official opening till a month after it had been running in order to forestall any critical fallout -- and that one offered up Al Pacino!
With such rich material, "The 2017 Tony Awards" co-writers Rocco Ernest Privetera and Stephanie Streisand (who also co-stars) don't even need to use the low-viewership joke -- a Tony standard -- till the finale; maybe the show's writers' room should be taking notes.
"The 2017 Tony Awards: A Parody of Musical Proportions," played on Jan. 9 at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre New York, 307 W. 26th St. For info about future shows, visit facebook.com/the2017TonyAwardz.