Broadway | Met’s historic opening night, Tony Awards ups and downs, and more

Angel Blue as Destiny, Walter Russell III as Char’es-Baby, Latonia Moore as Billie, and Will Liverman as Charles in Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones.”
Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

The Metropolitan Opera returned from its 18-month shutdown on Monday night with the opening night performance of Terence Blanchard’s intense contemporary opera “Fire Shut Up In My Bones,” which marked the first opera by a Black composer to be staged by the Met in its 138-year history.

The performance was also broadcast live in Times Square and Marcus Garvey Park.

Based on journalist Charles Blow’s memoir of the same name, “Fire Shut Up In My Bones” depicts a  young Black male living in the rural South of the 1970s who is subjected to sexual abuse and then forced to confront the traumatic experience as an adult.

Throughout the pandemic, the Met managed to stay on the cultural radar by streaming selections from its massive catalogue of previously filmed performances for free every night for 16 months. However, the Met nearly derailed its new season in its attempt to negotiate new contracts with the unions representing its employees, which led to a lockout, protests, and bitter accusations.

The new Met season will also include new productions of two more contemporary operas, Matthew Aucoin’s “Eurydice” and Brett Dean’s “Hamlet,” in addition to new productions of “Don Carlos,” “Rigoletto” and “Lucia di Lammermoor” and 16 revivals. Unlike Broadway, at this time, the Met is currently not allowing unvaccinated children under age 12 to attend.

Tony Awards bring low ratings and surprises

Sunday night’s Tony Awards, which recognized the winners of the severely truncated 2019-2020 Broadway season while trying to publicize Broadway’s reopening, did not fare well in the TV ratings. It reached 2.62 million viewers, representing an all-time low for the Tony Awards and a decline of more than 50 percent compared to the 2019 ceremony.

The winners in the musical categories were generally not surprising, such as “Moulin Rouge” (Best Musical), Adrienne Warren (Best Actress in a Musical for “Tina”) and Danny Burstein (Best Featured Actor in a Musical for “Moulin Rouge!”). Aaron Tveit, the only nominee for Best Actor in a Musical, won the award for his performance in “Moulin Rouge!”.

In the play categories, the controversial and divisive “Slave Play,” which earned a record-breaking 12 nominations, did not win a single award. As a result, the news that the show will reopen on Broadway later this fall could not be announced until after the Tony Awards.  On the other hand, a holiday-time engagement of “A Christmas Carol” swept all five categories in which it received nominations including Best Score, making it the first play to ever win in the category.

The ceremony itself was an oddity, with the vast majority of the awards given out during a low-key but classy and effective two-hour presentation on Paramount+ followed by a flashier but empty two-hour concert that was marked by theater celebs performing mostly dulling duets and prerecorded musical numbers from the shows nominated for Best Musical. The best performances occurred during the Paramount+ portion, including Jennifer Holliday reprising “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” the “Dreamgirls” power ballad that made her famous 40 years ago.

In other theater news…

 “Lackawanna Blues,” which had been slated to open on Broadway earlier this week, has pushed back its opening night to Thursday of next week due to a back injury suffered by Ruben Santiago-Hudson…“The Skin of Our Teeth,” Thornton Wilder’s wild and overstuffed 1942 Pulitzer-winning drama, in which an American nuclear family is confronted with everything from domestic squabbles and rivalries to earth-shattering physical catastrophes, will receive a Broadway revival in the spring produced by Lincoln Center Theater and directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz (“Pipeline”).