The revenge of the clowns: Tony Awards forced from Radio City Music Hall

February 10, 2011

In May 2010, the New York critics clobbered Cirque du Soleil's first attempt at creating a Broadway show, the stupefyingly juvenile and out-and-out vulgar "Banana Shpeel," which the Cirque folk billed as a throwback to vaudeville. It wasn't and, clearly, the Cirque People (CP) had no concept of what American vaudeville was. Alas, mes enfants! If only the CP had paid attention to the equally-bad Chicago reviews when the show tried out here, they would have been able to fix the show, or at least know what to expect when they opened in New York.

Well, now it's time for Revenge of the Clowns: having been rejected by Broadway, Cirque du Soleil now is throwing Broadway out of the house on the most important night of the Broadway calendar, the 65th annual Tony Awards ceremonies and telecast on June 12. For the first time in years, the Tony People (TP) will NOT be able to stage the big show at Radio City Music Hall, with its vast and magically mechanical stage and its vast seating capacity. Radio City has been home to the Tony Awards since 1997, but it seems the CP have signed a multi-year contract with Radio City Music Hall to produce an annual summer-long show. This means the TP have had to find other quarters for 2011 (and beyond if the Cirque venture is a hit).

In a wonderful irony, the TP will move to the very theater where the CP slipped on its banana shpeel, the Beacon Theatre on Broadway at 74th Street on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Sure, it's a fine old house, dating from the 1920's. But with only 2,894 seats, it's less than half the size of Radio City Music Hall, which means the TP can only sell half as many tickets for the fancy night. Ouch! Stop clowning around and just kick a producer in his money bags, why dontcha! You might ask why the Tony Awards aren't held in a real Broadway theater and the answer is, none of them have as many seats as the Beacon does.

Of course, we're kidding! The Broadway producers and theater owners who run the Tony Awards would have liked nothing better than to have had "Banana Shpeel" turn into a big, fat, profitable long-running hit. Hey, it wasn't the TP who killed the CP, it was the theater critics. Of course, we should line them up against a wall and shoot them. Still, you can bet that privately the TP are hoping that the CP fail again at Radio City so the TP can get the Music Hall back.