When I was young, my family routinely watched the Oscar awards on TV. I don’t recall us watching the Tony awards, perhaps they weren’t televised. My family was very involved in Theater. Both parents taught Speech and English in high school and both produced and directed plays in that capacity. Furthermore, we all three were employed in a semi-professional outdoor drama for two summers when I was eight and nine. I went on to act in and produce amateur productions of many plays and even spent three summers in college as a professional gunfighter and guitar player in a western theme park.

I say all that to give a sense of my personal involvement with theater. I have always loved theater and especially musicals. We never made a pilgrimage to Broadway but I followed the flow of new productions from year to year. I loved Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Hair. As time went by though, I lost touch with what was happening on Broadway. I heard news of new shows but I seldom got a chance to see them. I was beginning to think that Broadway was waning.

Then I became aware of Hamilton. What a dynamic show!  What a talented group of people! Maybe there was life in Broadway after all. Then, to top it off, I watched the Tony awards last night. I suppose I was expecting it to be like the Oscars and superficially it was. But I sensed a fundamental difference. There was a solidarity of purpose, a feeling of community, and profound expressions of humanity. These were attributes that I had seldom seen on the Oscar shows.

These people honored their elders and showed deep respect for the victims and families of the tragedy that might have otherwise marred their very special night. When they announced the endowment made by Andrew Lloyd Webber I almost cried. This kind of commitment to the community left me absolutely speechless.

It was an overwhelming evening. It sets a high bar for future Tony award shows. But somehow, I think this community is up to the challenge. I look forward to the Tonys next year and hope that maybe the Oscars will take a page out of their book and be more of a celebration of community and less of just an opportunity to self promote.

It Lives!

I watched the Carpool Karaoke episode on The Late Late Show the night before last. James Cordon had Lin-Manuel Miranda, Audra McDonald, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Jane Krakowski in the car singing songs from Hamilton, Rent and Les Misérables. It was incredible.

I am not a big fan of rap music. In the case of Hamilton though it is absolutely brilliant. Perhaps the things that put me off of rap was the gangsta topics many rap songs focus on. I have no experience of the things they are talking about and I don’t like the glorification of violence that it seems to advocate. Hamilton on the other hand is a literate exploration of the life and times of one of the founding fathers of our country from a perspective rarely seen in main stream history books.

I have long been a fan of Broadway musicals but I felt they were in decline in recent years. Rent and Les Misérables were of course notable exceptions. But I think Hamilton is the tipping point. It has brought relevance back to the musical. Coming from a theatrical family, my parents were both Speech and English teachers that produced high school plays, it warms my heart to see the revival of the live theater experience as an integral part of our American culture.