Theater lovers will be able to pique more of their multitasking neural connections while watching the 70th annual Tony Awards June 12 on CBS.
For the first time, backstage happenings will be streamed live and free thanks to a joint effort by the Broadway League and Broadway HD, the young online streaming service. Called Behind the Scenes Livestream, the show will include real-time reactions from the winners and off-camera performance logistics in addition to scenes on the street outside the Beacon Theatre and prerecorded content from dress rehearsals.
“This will be a different experience from what’s seen from the audience,” says Bonnie Comley, who last fall began Broadway HD, the subscription-based streaming library, with co-founder Stewart F. Lane. “Everything you see on the telecast is flawless. Winners try to be dignified and professional in their speeches. You see them with their brave faces on.” But when they get offstage, Comley says, “That’s when reality hits them. They let their guards down. I think people sitting in the seats want to go backstage, where all the action is.”
Enter Broadway HD, which, seven months after its launch, is embarking on its most ambitious project yet. The company has made initial moves into live streaming with the revival of Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child,” starring Ed Harris and Amy Madigan, and “Old Hats,” with new vaudevillians Bill Irwin and David Shiner.
For the most part, however, the service ($14.99 a month/$169.99 a year) has been adding pre-existing tapes to its considerable online library — most recently, the much-praised London production of “Gypsy,” starring Imelda Staunton.
“The dream,” enthuses Comley, “is to live-stream Broadway shows.”
Although producers are understandably concerned about cannibalizing the value of their product, Comley says the dream is “not impossible. The Broadway League sees the potential in doing something else.” She believes likely projects are closed shows, “shows that never quite found their audience but that a lot of people would love to see,” and limited sold-out runs with big stars.
Meanwhile, there is Tony night, when, if all goes well, Broadway HD will expand its subscription base by adding something new to the experience.
People who want to watch the Tonys and tweet and follow the live stream, and also want to make a sandwich and walk the dog, however, will have to wait for the drones.