On Sunday, the day of the Tony Awards in the US, theatre fans from the UK were turning to Twitter to ask if there was anyway they could watch the American awards on TV here.
The answer was no. Which is odd, given that the ceremony – as well as being shown live in the US – is broadcast in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and in South American countries such as Agentina.
Do these countries have more interest than us in seeing the awards? I don’t believe so. Just look at how many of our shows make the journey across the pond – such as Matilda, which this year was up for a whopping 12 awards.
So why, then, do we not get coverage? It’s annoying. But then you have to remember that the Society of London Theatre only this year managed to get the Oliviers some sort of presence on mainstream television – and even this was only a 90-minute highlights programme broadcast at 10.15pm. Are broadcasters, perhaps, resistant to theatre content?
The Oliviers would need a bit of an overhaul of its ceremony to be able to get the sort of coverage and audiences the Tonys do
We should really be looking to increase the coverage of our own awards before we worry too much about what space the Tonys get on UK television – though I do think a channel like Sky Arts would suit the Tonys perfectly.
Perhaps, however, if the Oliviers does want to enjoy increased coverage, it could look a little to the success of the Tonys. For a start, screening the Oliviers live would help. Look at the audience levels the Tonys achieved – 7.2 million viewers for its live three-hour broadcast. Yes, America is bigger – and 1.2 million for our own Oliviers in its 10.15pm wasn’t bad at all. But think what that could be if they were shown live.
Then there’s the Tony Awards’ ceremony itself. Just look at Neil Patrick Harris’ opening number for the awards. It struck a perfect balance between a send-up and a celebration of the shows the awards would be marking. And look at the time, energy and effort that went into making the opening number so unique, so eye-catching – with an original song, dancers galore, a dazzling set, magic tricks, cast members of all the major shows, and even a cameo by Mike Tyson.
By contrast, the Oliviers had Sheridan Smith singing Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend. Nothing wrong with her performance, but it was very safe. Very tame. I personally think the Oliviers would need a bit of an overhaul of its ceremony to be able to get the sort of coverage and audiences the Tonys do. Something a little more fun. And it can start with its opening. It needs something like Neil Patrick Harris’ corker of an act – which, just like the opening of any good show should, set the tone for the rest of the evening and pulled you in.
Neil Patrick Harris himself oozes talent and charm, wit and energy. And humour. I could go on and on. Do we have anyone in the UK who could do what he does? His opening number had the wow factor. And when our own ceremony has that, perhaps it might get the full coverage it deserves. Then we can talk about the Tonys.