Early Sunday morning, I experienced one of the cooler and more bizarre events in town: the Tonys dress rehearsal. On the one hand, it was mostly what you’d expect—a fun, backstage-ish peek at a major (?), live awards show.
But at the same time, it was also a hilariously and insanely awkward masquerade. During the rehearsal, the real nominees aren’t present, so stand-ins are hired to play their parts. In an effort to help make everything as real as possible, these “nominees” actually go onstage to accept a “Tony” when, at random, their names are drawn.
Simple enough, right? Wrong! Instead of making quick dummy speeches, almost all of these “winners” delivered heartfelt, emotional, and passionate monologues, never once winking at the audience or acknowledging they weren’t actually the winners. These “victors” gave shoutouts to castmates, thanked their playwrights, and sometimes spoke for so long they had to be drowned out by the (canned) orchestra. I cannot begin to communicate to you how uncomfortable and hilarious it is to watch people take such a silly job so seriously.
“Andrew Garfield,” for example, waxed poetic about how amazing it is to “get out and put all my baggage onstage every night.” The sound designer from End of the Rainbow mused, “I feel like this is the gold at the end of one rainbow, and the beginning of another!” “Judith Light” felt “such light and warmth from her Broadway community,” and “Elizabeth A. Davis” eloquently reminded us that “Everyone on Broadway is one of the most talented people.” One stand-in who played a multi-Tony-winner ended up onstage several times, so when he seriously pontificated that he’d “had the honor of being on this stage before, and it gets better every time,” the audience laughed uproariously—and not with him, but at him!
The word for all this self-seriousness, really, is “kitsch,” the great German term for “an inferior, tasteless copy of an extant style of art,” the real actors being the originals, the stand-ins the tasteless copies.