Was That the Oscars? Or the Tonys?

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 25 2013 1:08 AM

Was That the Oscars? Or the Tonys?

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Kristin Chenoweth and host Seth MacFarlane perform a very late musical finale at the 2013 Oscars

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

As promised, the Oscars ceremony was packed with music. Seth MacFarlane’s opening included a bouncy number with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles in which he pointed out that he had seen the breasts of several women in the audience. Then Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron did their best Astaire and Rogers during MacFarlane’s rendition of “The Way You Look Tonight.” Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt danced to “High Hopes,” and it was capped off with “Be Our Guest” without the dancing teacups and candelabras. And the evening had barely gotten started.

The “movie musical renaissance” medley had Catherine Zeta-Jones performing “All That Jazz” from Chicago (and earning the latest charge of lip synching), followed by Jennifer Hudson (“And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” obviously) and the cast of Les Misérables (a medley within a medley). None of that was as good as Shirley Bassey’s Bond tribute—or, for sheer star power, Barbra Streisand’s rendition of “The Way We Were” in honor of Marvin Hamlisch. There was also a rather dull midnight (for East Coasters, at least) musical number with the lovely Kristin Chenoweth—not to mention the performances of the Best Original Song nominees. Adele looked a little bored while singing “Skyfall,” and Norah Jones’ lively rendition of “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” came too late in the evening to fully enjoy.

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It’s nice that the Oscars wished to honor a waning genre, but an already overlong show not only felt interminable—the show also seemed out of its element: At times I couldn’t help but wonder if I was watching the Grammys or the Tonys, where performances typically win out over actual award presentations—and where singing and dancing are, in fact, what many of the performers present are famous for.

On Twitter, many people noted that the producers of the Oscar ceremony, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, were executive producers of Chicago. It was hard not to feel that a certain amount of personal pride for that movie had shaped their thinking about the broadcast. We were reminded that the film won Best Picture 10 years ago—and, in addition to Zeta-Jones’ performance, the stars of that movie presented the awards for Best Score and Best Song.

Is there such a thing as too much singing? Usually I’m not so sure. But tonight the answer, even from me, was an exhausted yes.

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.