Have you heard the good news? Broadway’s back. If you missed this message, it’s probably because you did not watch all four hours of the Tony Awards last night, which confusingly aired half on Paramount Plus and half on CBS. If there’s one thing theater professionals will do, it’s take something incredibly seriously while also making it hard to watch (looking at you The Inheritance).
While lots of things about “these times” are “unprecedented,” the Tonys did actually have an unprecedented moment. Due to a lack of musicals that opened within the eligibility window, Broadway pretty boy Aaron Tveit was the first-ever sole nominee for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Christian in Moulin Rouge!
On the ballot, instead of selecting their favorite performance of the year, Tonys voters were asked to vote “Yes” or “No” on Aaron Tveit. The tenor needed at least 60 percent “Yes” votes to win his award, all but ensuring he would walk away from the ceremony with the prize.
But hear me out — wouldn’t it have been funny if he didn’t? Imagine if 41 percent of voters banded together to say, “No thanks.” In any other year, I doubt Tveit would have been awarded for forcing audiences to hear him sing “Shut Up and Dance” (of weddings fame) eight times a week. This specific Tony condones a special kind of torture foisted upon Broadway audiences, and it would have been great if the community had taken a stand against it.
Sadly, the theater adults had no sense of humor about this situation and gave Tveit the Tony he should have won 12 years ago for Next to Normal. Tveit got on stage to accept wearing his best Diane Keaton drag, took out a piece of paper with his speech, and then cried.
You might find yourself, like I did, asking, “Why did he need to write down his speech? Wasn’t he the only nominee? Isn’t it his job to memorize lines?” The answer is that he didn’t need to write it down and it was memorized. He took a moment to dramatically put away his little piece of paper and then rattled off a list of names while holding back tears. He ended his speech by saying that what theater artists do “changes people’s lives, changes people’s minds, changes people’s hearts,” and capped it off by saying, “We can change the world with this, let’s not forget that.”
I cannot emphasize enough that Moulin Rouge! features Tveit singing a mashup of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” If anyone deserved to get pranked on Tonys night, it was him.