Sunday night featured the annual Tony Awards, celebrating the supposed best of Broadway. Experts predicted awful ratings; the ratings for the Tony Awards have dropped steadily over time, with only 7 million people watching last year. Last night, few were going to tune in, given that no blockbuster musical like The Producers or The Book of Mormon had a shot at the top award, and no major hosts outside Broadway took the stage (the hosts were Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming).
Nonetheless, the press expressed surprise that the Tonies have fallen off the map, given that 13.1 million people attended Broadway shows last year, grossing $1.4 billion. Of course, The New York Times neglected to mention that the top grossing shows are typically family shows or star-studded productions: Aladdin, An American in Paris, Finding Neverland, Fish In The Dark, The Book of Mormon, The Lion King, The King and I, Wicked. The shows that win the awards are typically those favorited by the critics and the disproportionately gay Broadway insider crowd.
Last night was no exception: Fun Home walked away with Best New Musical (it earned some $628,970 the last week of May, despite the Tony talk – by contrast, The Lion King, which led the box office, pulled in well over $2 million). The show is based on graphic novels by Alison Bechdel, and focuses on a young woman living a repressed childhood under her overbearing father, coming out as a lesbian in college, and learning that her father was gay and solicited both men and underage boys. In other words, it’s a real picker-upper with broad-based social appeal.
Michael Cerveris doubled down on the politics of the show after winning Best Actor: “Our show is about home, it’s about finding who you are. I hope the Supreme Court can recognize that too.”
How delightful. No wonder the Tonys ended up in the ratings sewer.
Naturally, the Times characterized the win as an indicator that “Tony voters were in an artistic mood this year, choosing ambitious, sophisticated productions over more convention and commercial fare.” But that’s nearly always the case, these days. Hollywood doesn’t need press relations: Hollywood’s marketing budget is virtually unlimited and so the Oscars can become a referendum on what makes Hollywood leftists feel good. The Tonys have no such luxury, but Tony voters indulge themselves anyway. Thus, the last few years have seen winners about transvestites (2013, Kinky Boots), mocking religion (2011, The Book of Mormon), dancing children (at least one gay) and leftist coalminers (2009, Billy Elliot).
This is not to question the quality of the shows, of course – there can be great shows on any of these topics (although Kinky Boots is not one of those). But it is to point out that if you are attempting to feature your mainstream side for purposes of drawing crowds, you might not start with this line: “My dad and I grew up in the same small Pennsylvania town, and I didn’t know it, but both of us were gay.” A ten-year-old girl then begins singing about her admiration for a delivery woman lesbian. Now there’s a non-niche advertisement for the Great White Way.
But the Tony crowd’s political desires trump their commercial ones. What could be a phenomenal commercial for the magic of Broadway takes a back seat to the politics of those running the industry. So Broadway will continue to rake in the cash from the old-fashioned entertainment people want to watch while using that cash to subsidize the shows that make them feel special on the inside. And no one will watch their only major media moment of the year.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.