Seth MacFarlane is a bigger musical junkie than Ryan Murphy. His hit animated series Family Guy--which features the comedian-creator's singing so often he regularly duets with himself--is known for elaborate Broadway parodies, and its characters burst into cover songs almost as frequently as Glee gleeks do.
So when MacFarlane devoted the 85th Annual Academy Awards to beating his critics to the punch Eminem-in-8-Mile-style (all that was missing was the "tell these people something they don't know about me"/mic drop combo) and showing off his Broadway song and dance prowess, no one here was surprised. By evening's end, the event felt like an extended backer's audition for the next revival of a MacFarlane-fronted Guys and Dolls, punctuated by a series of bone-dry acceptance speeches. (Can we get a librettist on those thank-yous next year, please?)
Granted, the theme for this Academy Awards was "movie musicals," but the February 24 telecast was so stuffed with spangly musical performances we occasionally forgot which awards show was airing. (Until they cut to the shot of the event's live orchestra—something the Tony Awards would kill for—playing in a cement building four blocks away from the Oscar stage itself. Which, for the record, someone should have mentioned felt weird, because it did feel weird, because it's basically like online dating your symphony, but whatever.)
With the exception of Dame Shirley Bassey's scorching performance of "Goldfinger" and Jennifer Hudson's return to star vehicle "And I Am Telling You From" from Dreamgirls, MacFarlane outperformed--and outproduced--everyone, including the cast of Les Miz.
MacFarlane's opening featured a musical number about breasts that could have been pulled from Music Man if it weren't for the mammaries, followed by a down-tempo cameo waltz, transitioning into a crooner's soft-shoe, and capped off by—you know, just Google it. The 15-minute performance boasted footwork by Hollywood favorites Joseph Gordon Levitt, Daniel Radcliffe, Channing Tatum, and Charlize Theron, with backup from Broadway hoofers Spencer Liff, Marty Lawson and Cody Green. Even William Shatner joined in, injecting meta-commentary about how MacFarlane was faring with the audience while the dancers reset.
[Side Note: Joseph Gordon Levitt can sing? In parts? When did this happen??]
By the time he reached his duet with Tony Award-winning stage nugget and red carpet host Kristin Chenoweth (Wicked), one thing was clear: Seth MacFarlane wants to do Broadway. Or, more accurately, wants you to know he could do Broadway...if he wanted to.
Of course, Seth MacFarlane will never do Broadway, because Seth MacFarlane is bigger than Broadway--the man had his own 70-piece orchestra at his Academy Awards afterparty. 70 pieces, as in twice the size of a standard Broadway orchestra. He's sold-out Carnegie Hall, scored a Grammy nomination, and has an estimated net worth of $100 million. Seth MacFarlane could back, mount and star in his own one-man production of Chess and the thing would have a better pit than the Phantom of the Opera and recoup faster than Pacino's Glengarry Glen Ross.
As with every awards show host who is not Billy Crystal or Tina-Fey-and-Amy-Poehler, MacFarlane took a beating from Oscar critics who felt his all-singing, all-roasting hosting style was too "blue" for an event as stately as a celebrity parade in Los Angeles. Fair enough--when you do a live song about rich women appearing topless, expect fallout. What was not fair, or logical, was criticism about the performer's voice:
"Maybe I don't hate Seth MacFarlane, but I'm sure no fan of his singing," Twitter user @poritsky preemptively commented before the ceremony.
"As @kellytindall and I sadly determined, there is literally no chance Seth Macfarlane will not sing several times during the Oscars," @jeffparker Tweeted on February 23rd.
"[Joseph Gordon Levitt] & [Daniel Radcliffe] singing and dancing? This would be so awesome were there no Seth MacFarlane in the mix," @windowseat posted February 25th.
But, as you'll see below, boy can legitimately sing. So why the ire?
Here's some of the live action from the Oscars:
Plus this loving homage (Dear Glee, this is what that phrase actually means) from Family Guy, a shot-for-shot imitation of Little Shop of Horrors ' "Somewhere That's Green," followed by a Guys and Dolls BBC Proms performance with Anna Jane Casey:
Given all that, complaints about the singing seem misplaced.
Upon viewing our highlights, and the dozens of videos scattered across the internet that didn't make this round-up, maybe MacFarlane would do Broadway. His love for it is clearly there--why else would anyone budget a shot-for-shot animated recreation of a cult movie musical starring Rick Moranis into their TV season?
The blow back against MacFarlane's theoretical Broadway chops, as prominently demonstrated at the Oscars, has more to do with how much MacFarlane Broadway audition material already exists on CD, DVD, MP3, and the web, without the one-man brand ever making the formal leap to stage. MacFarlane would likely have to do Broadway, and do it well, to get critics off his back about singing well, and enjoying singing well in public. Few things say, "Haters feel free to hate on me" more effectively than a Tony statuette and sold-out run in Times Square. But does Seth MacFarlane need to be on Broadway? Not at all, when all the animated and prime time guest slots in the world are his stage. Who else who so obviously adores a belting out male torch song can say the same?
There's only one thing that Broadway can offer MacFarlane: the "T" in that EGOT. So who knows. Maybe we'll see that 70-piece orchestra in person someday.
Don't show this again.