Tony Awards

Don't Tony Worship

Jonathan Fong

In light of the recent Tony Awards, I just thought I’d write something that has been on my mind for a while. I’ve seen this happening a lot, in both community and professional theatre, and I thought it should be addressed

No, it’s not about people judging whether what won should’ve won. There has been enough debate about The Band’s Visit winning everything already, as there always has been and will be when a show sweeps the Tonys, and I’m not going to open that can of worms. In fact, what I’m going to talk about isn’t really something specific to this year nor any year in the past.
I’m going to talk about something else. I call it Tony worship. No, I’m not talking about those who have shrines to Tony from West Side Story in their rooms. I neither confirm nor deny the presence of one in mine. I’m talking about people treating the Tony Awards, and everything associated with or related to them, as the entirety of theatre itself.


Every year, I see dozens of small-scale productions, some community/amateur and some professional, of musicals mimic the Tony-winning set or costume designs of that musical’s original Broadway production. Every year I see other productions attempt to copy the original choreography, with varying degrees of success, of the original Broadway production. Every year, I see, whether online or in person, dozens of performances of the same songs from the musical theatre canon sung in the exact same way - intonation, tone, delivery, you name it. 
And every year, when I ask the person in charge of set design or the performer why, they say the same variations of the same thing - ‘(insert-famous-theatre-person-here) did it and won a Tony for it’.


Let’s ignore for a second the copyright issues which come with copying things such as set designs or costume designs (you don’t get the rights to copy a production’s set design when you get the rights to a musical, in case you were unaware). Let’s also ignore the real risk of doing things like mimicking an actor’s vocal tone in a song without proper vocal training to do so, which can actually do harm to your voice.


Thing is, yes, they won a Tony for it. But do the Tonys define theatre? Do they define your production and what direction it should take? Do they define you as an actor?
Sutton Foster, Patti LuPone, Idina Menzel - they’re all incredibly talented actors. No one’s doubting that Andy Blankenbuehler or Christopher Gattelli are wonderful choreographers, neither is anyone doubting the amazing designs of David Zinn or Mimi Lien. They’re all clearly good at what they do and the fact that they won Tonys for their work is proof of that. But at the end of the day, what they did was take the material given to them - librettos, plot synopses, the like - and interpreted and developed it in their own unique ways. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what everyone’s supposed to do?


As actors, choreographers, directors, designers, or whatever role you might have in the theatre, isn’t it our job to make our own interpretations of what we’re given? To creatively stretch the boundaries and go beyond the text or the libretto? Why are we defining what we should do by what others have done, and not the limits of our own creativity? Why are we copying other’s creative work just to feel secure in what we do?


I’m not saying that you shouldn’t seek inspiration in any way from other sources. Inspiration from others is one of the most valuable things you can get in the arts - it can offer insights you might have never otherwise considered. And I most certainly would be lying if I said I’d never looked at what other artists have done as guidance.


But please, for crying out loud, don’t just copy Sutton Foster’s Tony-winning performance in Anything Goes for your recital, or the minimalist set design of the 2005 Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd (yes, that actually happened) for your local community theatre production of the show. Don’t just sing Defying Gravity ‘that way’ because ‘Idina Menzel did it’, and don’t light the stage or design your props ‘that way’ because ‘that Broadway show did it and won a Tony’. That’s not justification for a creative cop-out. Yes, they won a Tony for it, but they won it not for copying what someone else did, but because what they did was original and creative.
Be creative. Be brave. Be theatrical. Stretch the boundaries; don’t be content with being ‘safe’ with what others have successfully done. Make your work as an artist unique and your own, not a mere imitation of what someone won a Tony for.
Don’t let the Tonys alone define what theatre is for you.

2018: The Year of the Adults-But...

Photo by asbe/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by asbe/iStock / Getty Images

Michael Kape
This was the year the adults dominated the Tony Awards. But 16 kids, 16 high school students, took two minutes (out of 525,600 in a year) to steal the show in what was the most emotional moment I can remember in over 50 years of Tony watching.
Musicals
Going into the telecast (or live streaming online), four shows really dominated the nominations: SpongeBob SquarePants, Mean Girls, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and a tiny little musical called The Band’s Visit. The prognosticators expected an all-out duel between SpongeBob and Mean Girls in the various musical categories. Harry Potter faced competition from four shows already shuttered in the play competitions, so it was expected to sweep; it did not disappoint.

So, what went wrong with all the predictions? And why was Frozen essentially shut out?
Remember, a hefty number of Tony voters come from the touring houses across the country. They vote with an eye toward what is going to fill seats in their cities. Yet sometimes, they throw caution to the wind and vote for what they think is actually the best in various categories. This was such a year.

To be honest—and certainly judging from some of the excerpts we saw on the telecast—the voters were simply not all that impressed by much of what they saw. Frankly, neither was I.
How did a tiny little 90-minute show like The Band’s Visit manage to pull off a sweep and take home 10 Tonys? Simple. It was the only musical appealing to the adults in the room.
I have never been much of a fan of Frozen, which could only muster a handful of nominations in the first place. Grant you, I am not the target demographic for this show; neither are the Tony voters. Personally, I found the animated film kind of meh (and the live version running at Disney resorts even more so). It doesn’t rank as Bobby Lopez’s (Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon) best work. Onstage, it looks like a lot of gimmicks pasted together. Still, it’s already booking its tour dates, and I don’t think anyone needs to lose sleep over it being completely shut out. 

The Theatre Wing fully expected Mean Girls’ Tina Fey to win for Best Book (hence the reason Best Book was telecast, and Best Score wasn’t). And Mean Girls did rack up a lot of nods, so it was reasonable to expect it to pick up several honors ahead of its tour announcement. Surprise (not really), it was completely shut out. Likewise, SpongeBob SquarePants should have taken home (as it was expected) a slew of the creative awards; it won just one, for Best Scenic Design of a Musical. 

Meanwhile, The Band’s Visit kept racking up wins. Quietly. As if it had snuck into the Tonys and just being nominated was supposed to be win enough.

But The Band’s Visit was meant for adult audiences; SpongeBob, Mean Girls, and Frozen were for the kids. The adults dominated the evening, and The Band’s Visit won 10 Tonys as a result.
You would think my argument about the evening being for the adults would fizzle when it came to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Quite the contrary is true. The young readers who devoured the books as they were published are now grown themselves. Harry Potter (and its brilliant script) actually tackles the very real and adult issues of parenting and having one’s youth suddenly take center stage 19 years later, with your children having to bear the brunt of your foolishness. Adult themes and an adult show. Still, it did not take home any acting honors, instead being quite content to earn several creatives and the big prize, Best Play. 

The televised excerpts from the new musicals we viewed were a mixed bag (to be kind). Mean Girls seemed lively enough, but I didn’t feel motivated to see more (let’s just say I wasn’t surprised it didn’t pick up a Best Score win). One thing really did irk me watching it. These are supposed to be high school students and most of them looked their actual ages (ie, well into their twenties). Kind of stretches credulity, and not in the intended way. As I noted earlier, Frozen was not impressive either. Sure, great special effects and quick costume changes dominated, yet it was also kind of jarring to see the full cast singing a number where only half the cast is involved (really, who would let Sven the Reindeer into a palace to sing and dance?). I wish the excerpt from SpongeBob SquarePants had been about the title character (poor Ethan Slater showed up for 15 seconds and then disappeared). Gavin Lee did get to do his big tap dance, which was remarkable to be sure, but it’s not what the show is about. Lest we forget, there was that excerpt from Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. However, now we can forget it with its really mediocre disco choreography (truly disappointing). I personally thought the excerpt from The Band’s Visit was haunting and “Omar Sharif” is a beautiful song. The moment showed a quiet dexterity in using subtle moves to make its point. Subtlety was something all the other musical lacked in what they displayed; subtlety won the night.

Revivals
What about the revivals, both Play and Musical? Even though it had its flaws, the revival of Angels in America was expected to do well—and it didn’t disappoint, with Andrew Garfield (Best Actor), Nathan Lane (Best Featured Actor), and the production itself taking home wins. Three Tall Women won what it was supposed to win—Best Actress (the incomparable and sublime Glenda Jackson) and Best Featured Actress (twice-in-two-years winner Laurie Metcalf; I guess this almost makes up for the sting of the Roseanne debacle). 

With musical revivals, My Fair Lady and Carousel were supposed to dominate. Then look at what we saw in the telecast. I could have easily fallen asleep during My Fair Lady (except for Norbert Leo Butz doing a wild imitation of Stanley Holloway, the original Alfred). Carousel confused and confounded me. On one hand, it was a great way to showcase the Tony-winning choreography of Justin Peck. Great staging for “Blow High, Blow Low” (normally a throwaway number these days but truly a highlight). On the other hand, that is NOT what Carousel is all about. Five leads were nominated in their respective categories (and I was happy to see Lindsay Mendez take Featured Actress in a Musical honors—great acceptance speech, too), and not one of them appeared in the Carousel selection. What were they thinking? I mean, guys, you had opera diva Renée Friggin’ Fleming, whose rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” put a whole new spin on an old chestnut, but she was nowhere to be seen on that stage. A really bad move indeed. Still, I expect the revival is going to make the tour—without any of the nominated leads, of course. Both My Fair Lady and Carousel came off as respectful of the originals but not overly inventive. (One need only look at the Richard Chamberlin revival of My Fair Lady 20 years ago to see a complete rethinking of the piece.) The Once on This Island moment was startling, colorful, and just brilliant. It was a complete reimagining of the original and ultimately proved why it won the award. (The goat helped in his own way.)

Springsteen
Yes, he deserves to be discussed all by himself. He’s been packing in audiences at the Walter Kerr for months (a hotter ticket than Hamilton). He looks terrific, not even close to his 68 years. (Too bad the same couldn’t be said about Billy Joel, his contemporary, who looked like he’s forgotten how to take care of himself.) For much of the broadcast, I thought diversity was going to be the dominant theme of this year’s show. Then Bruce Springsteen came on and proved it was more than that—it was diversity in the context of the American spirit. During the telecast, some of my fellow ATB bloggers were grumbling about how he talked so much and didn’t sing. But I fear they were mistaken. “My Hometown” is a brilliant monologue with a few bars being sung. It celebrated (and bemoaned) a time of lost innocence, of family bonding, and of an unfulfilled longing. Personally, I loved it and thought it was one of the evening’s highlights. 

Acceptances
Just some random thoughts about the various acceptance speeches, which ranged from quietly dignified to exuberant to deeply moving and stirring. Just some notable moments:
Andrew Garfield (Best Actor in a Play) set a lot of the tone for the evening in his heartfelt plea to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community—and to let them have their cake and eat it too (a none-too-subtle dig at the Supreme Court).

The time for the beard at the Tony telecast is finally gone, and gay men can finally thank their husbands and partners openly. Some of those thanks were emotional (Nathan Lane) and some were actually quite funny (Happy birthday, David!). 

Ari’el Stachel (Best Featured Actor in a Musical) was both inspiring and infinitely sad. Sad because he trained to play any ethnicity but his own; inspiring because he just won a Tony for playing his own ethnic background. 

I would have liked to see the full acceptance speeches—live on air—for all those creative awards presented during the commercials. Someone should remind the Theatre Wing and CBS you can’t have a Broadway show without costumes, sets, orchestration, choreography, and sound design. And not showing David Yazbek finally winning a Tony (after three pervious losses) for his score to The Band’s Visit was just plain criminal.

Why the hell cut off Jack Thorne (Best Play) from giving his acceptance speech for his brilliant work on Harry Potter? Really a bad move all around.

Couldn’t help but be moved by the acceptance speech given by David Cromer (Best Director of a Musical). His reaching-out to those in pain, those who feel isolated and alone, and those who (tacitly implied) might be considering suicide was such a wondrous departure yet so fitting with the mood of the event.

I loved Tony Shalhoub’s (Best Actor in a Musical) heartfelt tribute to his father, who came over from Lebanon as an immigrant. (A lot of grumbling online about this win for so quiet a performance as the one he delivered. Best Actor in a Musical doesn’t always have to be about belting out the score, you know.)

Other Observations
Some other notes I have for the telecast:
Three cheers for Josh Grobin and Sara Bareilles for doing a terrific job as co-hosts. You could see and feel the chemistry between them (they are good friends off-camera). They kept things moving. They were just so cute together and alone. And how the hell did they manage all those costume changes? (The cross-dressing bit was a hoot!) I gave up trying to keep count. Kudos to both of them for pulling off a big win for themselves. Now if only someone would put them together in a show, perhaps a re-imagined Nick and Nora.
A note from the Red-Carpet strut. Seems like no one was a chromophobe at the Tonys.
Shout-out to the current cast of Dear Evan Hansen for its rendition of “For Forever” during the very upsetting In Memoriam segment. 
Happy Daddies Day—no double entendre intended there I’m sure.
I’m kind of saddened because there were only three Best Musical Revival entries. 
Who the hell thought presenting the Lifetime Achievement Awards to Chita Rivera and Andrew Lloyd-Webber off camera was a good idea? That montage was nothing short of ridiculous. They both deserved their own individual moments to shine. Really a bad idea.
Bobby Lopez—a Frozen 2 is in the works? Do we really need this?
Mamma Mia 2 (as seen in the commercials)? Do we really need this (since the first one was so awful)? I don’t if care Cher is featured. Take away my card.
Judging from what we saw, the glam squad was out in full force last night.
That Moment
And a child shall lead them. Well, 16 children, actually. 
It was already a beautiful moment when Melody Herzfeld, a dedicated theatre teacher at Marjorie Stillman-Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, was awarded with Educator of the Year. Then the Tonys surprised everyone in the room and on television as a drop was raised and there stood 16 drama students who had survived the massacre on February 14, in no small part due to the heroic efforts of Ms. Herzfeld. Then they broke into “Seasons of Love” from Rent. Not a dry eye to be found in the house or at home. (No good using allergies as an excuse!)
This kind of special moment can only happen in the theatre. No movie can duplicate it. No book can adequately portray it. It was the children teaching the adults a lesson—and it was beautiful to behold. 
In Conclusion
Yes, the end is near. Not the end of the Fabulous Invalid. This year’s Tony Awards actually came off better than most I’ve ever seen. The right hosts. An undercurrent of diversity and acceptance throughout. And that moment.
Feel free to disagree (you’re wrong in my opinion, of course), but no one and no show was robbed at the ceremonies. The kiddie shows didn’t win but the adults did. And for some of us, that was a very good thing.

The "other" Tony Awards

Award season is officially over. Starting in early April with the Lucille Lortel nominations announced on April 3rd, and ending with the 72nd Tony Awards on June 10th, what an interesting season it has been. However, I’m not here to talk about what happened last night at the Tony awards cause honestly, I am not the person to give that review of what happened, and I am writing this before they occur and only wish I could predict the future. Because of this, I am going to talk about the importance and impact of the second most important award season to a seventeen-year-old high schooler…

Photo by blanaru/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by blanaru/iStock / Getty Images

The high school musical theatre awards!
I have been so fortunate to go to a high school that has been involved in these awards that take place all around the country, just to celebrate what young people are doing in the theatre scene. I am going to talk about all the great experiences I have gained by participating in these awards as a member of a nominated production, and why every high schooler should have the opportunity to at least go to these awards as an audience member.

Community
The first time I went to my region’s award ceremony, I was there all day. My older sister was in the opening number, so I didn’t go to it already in costume and prepared to represent my show. This was the case for many other people there, and because the theatre didn’t have enough dressing room to accommodate hundreds of students getting changed at the same time, we all had to walk over to a public outdoor park and use the restrooms there to get ready. This created the ability to learn about what shows people were doing, who they were playing, their background with theatre, and so much more. It was truly amazing to see people just getting to really connect on a more personal level because of theatre.

A few months ago, I was at a college audition and I met people there who I was able to talk about what happened at the awards ceremony and the performances we got to experience, and I knew of them because of this wonderful occasion.

 Gain Knowledge of other Musicals
Many high schoolers are having their first experience with musicals during their years at high school, and so they have limited knowledge about shows other than the ones they have performed in. At the ceremony, you get to see wonderful shows perform a number, wonderful soloists perform a medley of multiple musicals, and it allows people who have a very small pool of knowledge grow. Many people would ask me what the shows were about due to the songs being performed, and then would want to go and listen to them and get to know them better. It is amazing to see someone discover a new musical.

Gain Performance Experience
I have been so fortunate to be able to be a part of a production which was nominated for Best Musical, which gave my entire cast the opportunity to perform in front of 2,000 theatre lovers. People still talk about what it felt like to get a standing ovation from that size of a crowd and know that they had touched some people’s hearts that day. Even people who were in the audience still talk about it. This sort of performance experience, if you’re so lucky to get to have, can make such an impact on a high schooler’s life, that it may even change their course of life. It is truly remarkable.

These are just a few of the amazing things that a student, or anyone, can get from attending or being a part of the “Tony Awards for High Schoolers.” Put aside the competition part and look to see the impact that it is putting on real people who still can take these opportunities. Many people want to get rid of these programs because it creates some tension between the schools that win and don’t win, but I say let them stay for the impact that it allows the students to have.

 

 

 

 

Putting the Tony in the Tony Awards

Tonys.jpg

For a little over a month, we here at The All Things Broadway Blog have been preparing you for the single biggest night in theatre, and now it’s just about time to wrap up Broadway’s Award Season and look into the future. However, I’m sure just like you, it will take a while for us to debrief from all this madness, and there will still be plenty to discuss, but for now the time for preparation has come to an end. If you’ve not finished planning your tony parties yet, or made your predictions on who the winners will be, or if you still don’t even know what the heck I’m talking about, then you are almost out of time because this Sunday June, 10th at 8/7 Central, only on CBS, it’s finally time for the moment we’ve all been waiting for...The 72nd Annual Tony Awards!

The History of Broadway And The Musicals That Call It Home- The Tony Awards Special!
Have you ever wondered how award shows came into being? Or where the awards came from? I mean, who even designed the physical Tony Award? All good questions and well, I’m sure there’s a book somewhere that will tell you all that because that’s way too much for me to research. I’m kidding of course, it was legendary Art Director Herman Rosse. However, there is one question I really do want to get to the bottom of today and that is, why the Tony Awards? I mean have you ever thought about why our award shows are named what they are, I mean sure there named after people, but who? Who was the original Oscar, is he the guy the statuette was based off of? What about the Pulitzer Prize, I mean, why do we have an award based off a guy who swindled a bunch of kids just trying to sell papes? I mean, who even is this “Tony”? Well, every name has a story as you may know, and the story of the Tony Awards goes way back to 1917 in where else, but New York City.

Charitable Beginnings
In 1917 right before America would enter World War I, the country was feeling patriotic and everyone was doing their effort in the war, including Rachel Crothers who decided to create the Stage Women’s War Relief. She and several other theatre women made uniforms, collected food and clothing, and sold Liberty Bonds, but of course being actresses and playwrights, they also raised money the best way they knew how to - through performing. They built a makeshift Liberty Theatre outside of the New York Public Library, and in total, the group ended up raising a ton of money for the war effort, and you might not know Crothers today or her small organization, but you might know it by its updated name.

 The Birth Of The American Theatre Wing
The Stage Women’s War Relief was abandoned after the end of World War I, but as you all may now, it wasn’t very many years after the first war that we discovered just that. It was only the first, and once again at the beginning of World War II, Crothers was ready to get back to work and re-established the organization as a branch of the British war relief. However, when America decided it was time to enter the war, Crothers renamed the organization to something you might know a little better today- The American Theatre Wing - which focused on the American war effort and got straight to work, getting back to its New York roots and opening the stage door canteen to entertain servicemen in America. They raised money, boosted ally spirits, and once again did what they did best, put on shows. However, after the War ended suddenly, the Wing had once again lost purpose. But unlike after World War I, it didn’t disband and instead kept going stronger than ever, and though the war was over they still assisted veterans on their way home and helped in the effort to move on from the war. They then started to establish themselves and help grow the expanding world of theatre and in 1946, The American Theatre Wing was about to make one of its biggest contributions to theatre history yet, after the call for an award banquet for New York's distinguished actors was made. The award would be given to those working on Broadway, The Tony Award, named after who it was dedicated to.

 Antoinette Perry And The Tony Awards
Why the Oscars? Why the Oliviers, why do we name awards after people, and who even are the people we name them after and in this case, who is Antoinette Perry? She is, as you may be able to guess, the namesake of the Tony Awards but, who is she? We haven’t discussed her yet and odds are the name isn’t ringing a bell. Well, she is an integral part of not only the story I just told you but also of theatre history. You see, as I said, Crothers established the organization, but when she brought it back after World War I as the all new, American Theatre Wing she didn’t do alone and I purposefully left out one of her key new members, the co-founder Antoinette Perry.

Perry is known as an actress, producer, and director, but most of all for her role in the wing in World War II. She created scholarship opportunities, funded works of new plays, and supported the theatre in every way possible. To give you an idea of who Perry was, when she died in 1946, she was $300,000 in debt, and that was purely because Perry gave everything she had to theatre. Her daughter described her as a bit of a gambler but that all her winnings went straight to providing for the theatre wing. Once a reporter asked her, “Why do you give so much time and money to such thankless activities?” to which Perry replied, “Thankless? They’re anything but that, I’m just a fool for theatre.” Perry was anything but a fool, though. It was clear to her friends and coworkers that she had a passion for theatre like no other, and that’s exactly why when she did die in 1946 from a heart attack, it was no question to Brock Pemberton, head of the Wing at the time, that the new award would be named “The Antoinette Perry Award For Excellence In Theatre”, or as it would catch on, The Tony Awards.

So, if you get anything from the article get this, winning the Tony Awards isn’t the huge deal we make it out to be because it’s exclusively for Broadway, or it’s so hard and exceptional, but because it’s something reserved for only the most passionate and exceptional individuals: those who represent what Antoinette Perry stood for and would gladly give their life for theatre. So, if any of you reading this ever do win a Tony, maybe skip the note cards, and skip drawn out speeches and simply say, “I’m just a fool for theatre,” because it means so much more than the audience may ever know and if you do end up thank anyone, thank Antoinette Perry, the war supporter, theatre legend, and woman who lived her life to help grow this wonderful artform into what we know today.

And ever since that first Awards Banquet in 1947 where no medallions were even given out just jewelry and other valuable accessories we have had 71 ceremonies since. With changes to awards, changes to locations, and changes to theatre in general, the Tony Awards are now able to be seen by everyone since they've been broadcast on CBS since 1967, and its brought everyone a little closer into the world of theatre we know and love and given everyone the chance to get involved in the event. As we approach the 72nd show, it’s nice to look back onto humble beginnings in times of war and at those often unheard who paved the way for not only The Tony’s today, but theatre in general, and as well to look forward to the future as The Tony Awards is looking into the digital age and may soon find another home outside of just television, but also Broadway and the bright future of this ever growing artform.

So that’s the history of the Tony Awards! Do you enjoy this history stuff? I mean love it, but I want to see what you think, do you want more of this or should I write about other things tell me in the comments below and as always, make sure to be there or be square, unless you’re Ethan Slater who has to be there AND be square. Make sure to tune into The Tony Awards on CBS at 8/7 Central this Sunday! Wait, though I know what you’re already saying what about all of us not in America, worry not friends overseas because I got your back. I’d like to refer you to https://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/tonynight/international_viewing.html which tells you everything you need to know about overseas watching. But for those of us in America, tune into CBS, jump on the couch, pop some popcorn, and get ready to either hate or love the American Theatre Wing, you know, the ones who decided The Producers was absolutely worth a record number of Tonys and they are totally right, but also that Big Fish couldn’t even get a nomination. What?!? Sorry, Darren already covered that one, still mad about it though. I love Big Fish if you can’t tell. I mean would it have won, no probably not. But not even a nomination? I mean Nice Work If You Can Get It got a nomination for Best Musical in 2012 and that’s just a jukebox musical featuring an already done Gershwin plot and the absolute worst of Matthew Broderick practically being carried by Kelli O’ Hara, but Big Fish featuring my favorite boy, Norbert Leo Butz, can’t even get a nomination for Best Musical, and speaking about 2012, don’t even get me started on Newsies losing to Once, because we will be here all day.

Well that’s it for me, thankfully. I’ve been Taylor and I can't wait to watch the Tony Awards with all of you guys. So, thanks for reading. I encourage you if you’re just finding the blog to go back and read the other entries the team has made over the past month and make sure to keep up to date, as we all have much more to talk about and of course, if I haven’t said it enough, make sure to tune into The 72nd Annual Tony Awards Live on CBS at 8/7 Central! Thanks once again and have a great Thursday everyone.

 

 

 

Tonys In 10 Years- What Will they Look Like?

We are currently in the age of self-exploration, and the Tonys over the past few years have reflected that. We are coming to terms with ourselves as people, mostly through exploring out childhood – as most of the shows coming to Broadway are revivals or adaptations of films/shows - we are slowly starting to reconcile with our younger-selves, and this is leading to a rebirth in theatre. It’s a cyclical nature: there’s a boom, then we run out of ideas and suddenly BAM! we have our next Andrew Lloyd Webber or Lin Manuel Miranda. Ten years from now, I believe the cycle will have started again and, after reconciling with the past, the Tonys 2028 will be looking on towards the future.

The 21st century is a time of optimism, or at least it should be. A time of looking to the future, or at least it should be. A time of exploration, or at least it should be.

The Tony Awards 2028 will be focused on the future because by that time we will have changed the world (for better or for worse) with new achievements such as the #MeToo movement, and the growing ban on single-use plastics, it seems like 2028 will be a new era. After attacking our problems on every front, it may just be that we finally feel like we can now put our mind to making new art.

Photo by shutter_m/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by shutter_m/iStock / Getty Images

That is what the Tonys will be in 10 years: new.

And bold.

And happy.

I hope…

One thing’s for sure, it will be a new era. An era, I believe, that will be led by the public, as theatre makes its way out of the commercialised world and once again becomes an art form. Because what’s to say that me or you or him or her can’t have a show on Broadway, can’t put something together from our brilliant minds and make a show full of hope, a show which receives Tonys? The revolution starts here, and finishes at the 2028 Tonys where the revolution will be televised.

My predictions for the 2028 Tonys? The girl from down your road will win best supporting actress. Your baby brother will win best actor. The girl who started playing clarinet at 18 will win best orchestration. The best musical will be sci-fi, I think, because there just haven’t been enough science fiction musicals… And best revival will go to Cats, which, after a five year hiatus, will return to Broadway with the same play but this time with real Cats – and Lloyd Webber will be making that #dolla.

Is Originality Dead?

Freya Meredith

The era of entertainment has never been more versatile than now. With the accessibility of television and the internet, an array of community and professional theatre world-wide, and more people wanting bigger and better content, the following of and demand for theatre is at a highpoint. And with the biggest night of theatre fast approaching, we start to ask ourselves a very crucial question: is originality dead?

Photo by phive2015/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by phive2015/iStock / Getty Images

The answer is… undetermined! And before anyone starts screaming at their device screen about how that answer is simply not good enough, let me start by saying, “I get it”. With literally everything being remade nowadays (I don’t want to hear anything more about the non-musical version of Disney’s Mulan), it’s easy to assume that there are not many ideas left to create into a mega-masterpiece for literature, screen or stage. Sure, this could be true in the sense that no story is truly original, but, let’s face it, a story hasn’t been completely and utterly original for a long time. It’s common knowledge that in a story, something happens, and then it goes one of three ways; it ends in happiness, it ends in sadness, or it finishes unanswered. So, fine, I guess in saying that, nothing is completely original. Today, however, we are focusing on more than just the basic structure. But with only 6 of the 45 musicals and 18 of the 46 plays nominated for Best Musical/Play in the past 10 years being cited as original (as in, not inspired or based off pre-existing published work), we need to put forward a different question: why is originality not commercial?

This year, the Tony nominees for Best Musical (Spongebob Squarepants, Mean Girls, Frozen, and The Band’s Visit) all come from the screen. From the average consumer’s perspective, it is much more appealing to go and see a musical based off a movie or a television series that they recognize. It’s also a smart move for producers to invest in a show that already has a following based on its original format. It’s simply common sense and a pretty good reason as to why original musical concepts just are not as successful. Then there are stories based on real life world events and people of interest, with the most recent successes being Hamilton and Come From Away. Once again, audiences are aware of what it’s about (for the most part). I’ve found, through trying to understand why there isn’t more original musicals on Broadway, that audiences are a little scared of the unknown. This is, of course, excluding theatre fans who live for theatre and Broadway. The producers and investors know that we will come to these shows, minimal questions asked (except, maybe, ticket prices, but that’s for a later date). The people they have to “sell” the shows to are everyday people who aren’t theatre nerds. It’s easier to market a show based off pop culture or a well-known event or person than it is to market a completely new idea. So then why are shows like Dear Evan Hansen so successful? Is it the cast? Is it the story itself? Was it so good that word-of-mouth simply promoted the show?

There are plenty of variables as to why shows are commercially successful. Being a marketable product is essential to keep Broadway alive, so it’s understandable as to why there are minimal original storylines on Broadway. But that doesn’t mean that originality is dead on Broadway. Every season, we see new and innovative creations on stage, whether it be through music, choreography, set, costume, or lighting design. We are incredibly lucky to be living in a time where any subject manner can be composed into a musical setting, with ground-breaking results; subsequently living in a time where stories that deserve to be told are being transformed in, what I think (and I am very biased), the most beautiful and versatile form of entertainment in the world. So, the answer to this question is… you make up your own mind.

 

Are The Tonys Still Relevant?

(100% Definitely Not Clickbait)

Jyothi Cross

When I was 14, I watched my first every Tonys – only on YouTube mind you, the UK coverage of award show is beyond shocking – and I fell in love. I fell in love with the Something Rotten cast making Shakespeare seem cool, I fell in love with Kristin Chenoweth's comedic timing (and have seen Wicked on tour three times since), and most importantly, I fell in love with how American's pronounce Amanda Seyfried's name (it's See-fred right??). But though this spectacle of joy and dance made my little heart dance with joy, does the American Theatre Wing's night of wonder really still hold a place in modern day?

Tonys.jpeg

Every summer since then I have eagerly waited for the release of clips which showed introductions, performances, and Hamilton's 11 Tonys but I can’t help but feel that the magic is fading. Has it become so overdone, so used up, that even celebrating the achievements of our heroes is considered a bore? I haven’t had a falling out with theatre, maybe I’ve just had a falling out with the idea of an award showing how much a show's worth, with the fact that sometimes the shows which deserve it the most are often left out because they're not in the right area - here's looking at you Dear Evan Hansen.

The Tonys make me feel conflicted. Of course, you deserve an award for being the best show, but do these awards really take into account the hours of hard work, of the blood/sweat/tears which go into making 5 minutes of a musical? If you win, yes, but if you don’t? Sometimes it can be like trying to pick which internal organs you like best (and all the rest get left behind).

But don’t get me wrong, I love watching Alan Cumming being incredibly campy on a Broadway stage in a suit with shorts as he announces the evening’s nominees, and maybe that’s what makes the Tonys so special. Maybe, it is this celebration of the arts in all its weird and wonderful forms which makes it so worthy of our attention. Because when we achieve, we want to celebrate that, and when we achieve something as a community – just as a big show does – then we want to celebrate as a community. Perhaps, the Tonys can be considered relevant simply because it brings the spotlight back onto the theatre, a medium for our emotions and our turmoil to fly free. After all, if actors can win awards for being paid millions of pounds in a Star Wars movie, why shouldn’t your friendly neighbourhood Cynthia Erivo or Norbert Leo Butz win something as well?

Perhaps the Tonys are relevant because they celebrate the best of what we are, and the best of what we could be. Each year brings a new message of hope, whether it be “love is love is love is love is love is love is love” or “please recycle”. When we need to find light in a darkness, it is the spotlight of the Tony stage that bring the theatre community together to celebrate what we can do together. And that is why the Tonys are still relevant.

The Forgotten Group: The Ensemble Deserves a Tony

Savannah Karabus

A musical is a musical, and a play is a play, no matter how big or small the ensemble is or whether there is one at all. But it would be ignorant of me if I didn’t acknowledge the huge role they play in a musical or a play. Of course, there is no denying how integral it is to have solid leads, but how can we, as the audience, become so deeply involved and enthralled by a piece of work if there is no background harmonizing and dancing, no elaborate numbers with large amounts of actors. It is near impossible to connect in the way we want to.

Here in South Africa, our theatre awards - The Naledi’s and The Fleur de Caps - both nominate the best ensembles of the season so that may make me a little biased, but I still believe that there is room to at least honour the top ensembles at the Tony Awards.

When I started writing this blog, I began thinking about my favourite shows, not just of the season but ever. Frozen has an incredible ensemble that only enhances the talent of the leads on stage, as does Wicked, the Sound of Music, Singin’ in the Rain. The list of shows that would be completely different without their ensembles is endless. But the recognition they receive is minimal, if they are even recognized at all. Currently the only awards that recognize the ensemble of a Broadway show are the Chita Riviera Awards for Dance and for Choreography. The only other sort of recognition an ensemble member receives is the gypsy robe on the official opening night of a show, for being the chorus member who has been in the chorus/ensemble of the most amount of shows, but yet again this is only focusing on a single member and not the amount of effort of the group on a whole.

Photo by master1305/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by master1305/iStock / Getty Images

There has been talk that through the works of actors and actresses who believe that everyone on stage deserves to be recognized for the hard work they do to ensure the show, no matter what, is memorable and spectacular for everyone watching, that the Broadway League and American Theatre Wing and going to consider making this an actual category for next seasons awards as well as Best Chorus. This is exciting news and major progress…if it comes true! 

As someone who has loved theatre for pretty much her entire life, for one reason or another, my eyes have always been drawn to what is going on in the background; what the ensemble are doing and how they are improving the overall quality of the production. Of course this doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate all the hard work and sacrifices the leading actors and actresses make to create a mind blowing experience for us as the audience. 

I truly do look forward to the day where we will hear “and the award for best ensemble in a musical/play goes to…”. We may have a long way to go but there is an element of hope!

What are your thoughts? 
 

How To Succeed in Throwing a Tony Party Without Really Trying

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Taylor Lockhart

Warning: Despite what the title says you are probably going to have to try somewhat during this process. Unless you’re the world best party planner than in that case, what are you here for? You probably know more about this than I do.


So, You want to host a grand gala, or maybe a party, or just a get together over drinks for the 72nd Annual Tony Awards! Well you have come to the right place. First of all, I assume you know what the Tony Awards are but I am legally required by my editor to tell you anyways. The Tony Awards are despite what The Olivier Awards twitter bio says, the singular biggest night in theatre all year. It’s the night we see Peggy Sawyers become Broadway stars and then get played off the stage by the unrelenting orchestra. All hosted in New York City at the Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 10th 8/7 Central on CBS.

Ok, now that's out of the way. My name is Taylor Lockhart, and I’ll be leading you in this process of becoming the greatest host or hostess possible and what you need to throw the best and most likely only tony party on the block. Let’s get started.

The first thing you need to do is actively decide whether you’d rather just watch the Tony Awards alone on your couch and in your underwear instead of plan and cook and clean and talk to people for several hours. If you decide that this is what you want to do, now you have to convince people to abandon their plans of doing that and come to your house instead. If you plan on making food include that in the text or email. People are 65% more likely to come to a party where food is served and 100% guaranteed not to if you’re not at least serving chips, I mean you’re not a monster right? Oh and if you decide none of this is for you, please keep reading anyways. Most of these plans can be done solo as well.

Now as I mentioned, the singular most important thing to any party is the food. You can never go wrong with finger sandwiches and chips but if you’re feeling a bit more decorative Best Day Ever Toppers on Etsy is offering cupcake toppers with playbills based on this years nominees which would also work really well with sandwiches. Of course if you’re not willing to spend 10$ plus shipping for paper on sticks you could probably make your own with toothpicks and a printer. Once your ready for dessert hop over to Martha Stewart's for a sponge or in the case “sponge-bob” cake but if you want a more personalized cake or Tony themed cake. The Tony Awards site has got your back with a make your own Tony Cake. Be warned, this cake is not for those unskilled at cooking or following any directions at all. Shame, I really wanted a Tony cake.Of course themes can become unnecessary at times and you never can go wrong with a good old fashioned taco bar. Links to all of these items will be at the bottom of the article for you to check out.

Of course, I'm leaving out a HUGE part of food to serve at your party and that is, what do you serve before the food. Well for all of you of age out there, which I assume is at least 75% or higher, the answer is clear, Cocktails. No ordinary Margarita’s or Bloody Marys will do for the Tony Awards though. So here is my list for you of specialty cocktails for the 2018 72nd Tony Awards and how to make them and become the best makeshift bartender of any party you’re friends go to all year


Frozen Frostbite- Disney’s hit musical Frozen is full of icy surprises and snowy situations which may also be how’d you describe your night with this spin on a famous cocktail, inspired by the tony nomination for Best Musical.

What you’ll need: 1 ½ ounces of Tequila.  ½ ounce of white creme de cacao, 1½ ounce of blue curacao, and  ½ ounce of cream. For garnish use Maraschino Cherry

How to Make It: Pour the ingredient into a cocktail shaker with lots of ice (if you’re truly feeling frozen fever that is). Next Shake well and then strain using a slotted spoon or cocktail strainer into a cocktail glass, add your garnish of Cherry and enjoy a cocktail fit for a queen, or an ice queen that is.

On Wednesdays We Drink Pink- Feeling Mean, perhaps ready to spread gossip around about the other nominations if Mean Girls doesn’t win Best Musical. I believe you but before you do that why not try our selection inspired by the famous line from the movie, and I assume the musical. I haven’t seen it and the cast recording doesn’t come out until a day after you read this.

What you’ll need: 2 ounces of Vodka, 1 ounce cranberry juice cocktail, ¾ ounce fresh lime juice, ¾ ounce triple sec, garnish with an orange twist for serving

How To Make It: Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and add ice, shake thoroughly for about 30 seconds until the outside is very cold. Strain your cocktail through a slotted spoon or cocktail strainer into a martini glass and add your orange peel garnish. Now pretend you’re high school girls again despite the fact that you couldn’t drink in high school as you watch the Tonys!

Yellow Sponge: A spin on the classic Yellow Bird this yellow drink is sure to get you into the Bikini Bottom spirits as you shout I’m ready! For the Tony Awards that is.

What You’ll Need: ½ lime juice, 1 ¼ ounces orange juice, 1 ounce light rum, 1 ounce dark rum, ¼ ounce Galliano Liqueur, For garnish use a maraschino cherry and 1 sprig of mint, pineapple in this case is also heavily recommended as a garnish, any tropical fruit could be used.

How To Make It: Squeeze your lime juice into a cocktail shaker with ice, next add all of the other ingredients, Shake well, Strain into a collins glass with crushed ice, and garnish with a cherry and a sprig of mint, and/or tropical fruit of your choice, and enjoy. Don’t drink too much though or you’ll wind up looking like a Goofy Goober as Ethan Slater sings about The Best Day Ever live.

Once On This Island Breeze: I won’t lie, I know nothing about Once On This Island but I saw there was a cocktail named Island Breeze and I leaped at the pun opportunity, so make up your own witty description for this one.

What You’ll Need: 1 ½ ounces light rum, 4 ounces pineapple juice, 1 ounce cranberry juice, 2 dashes Angostura Bitters, and a lemon wedge or cherry to garnish

How To Make It: Fill a highball cocktail glass with ice, pour in your ingredients and add lemon wedge or cherry for garnish and drink till you turn into a tree. That’s it, That is the one thing I know about this musical someone turns into a tree. I’m sorry ok.

My Fair Lady: Originally the drink of choice was going to be a Mimosa for its classy Champagne contents and the pun of course would be, My Fair Mimosa, but then while looking up cocktails I scared just about everybody around me with a high pitched scream as I saw...There is a cocktail named My Fair Lady after the show and it would be a disservice to tell you to make anything other than that.

What You’ll Need: 1 ounce Gin, 1 ounce Lemon Juice, 1 ounce Orange Juice, 1 ounce Strawberry Syrup, and 1 dash of Egg White

How To Make It: Pour the ingredients and ice into a cocktail shaker and shake thoroughly and then strain into a cocktail glass and whether your a cockney mess who can’t english that good or a convincing crown jewel capable of fooling anyone into believing you must be a queen. Enjoy your cocktail fit for a rainy day in Spain or at the Ascot Races or just on the street where you live. As you can see unlike the last entry, I have two many My Fair Lady puns I can make and I’m going to stop now or I never will. Just remember not to drink too much or you might find yourself dancing all night. Alright Sorry, my bad now I’m done.


Now you’re ready to serve drinks to your guest to enjoy while watching the Tony Awards, and as always remember to drink responsibly avoid drinking games like “Take a shot every time the orchestra plays because someone's speech is too long” because you will almost certainly die. If you don’t like any of these choices you can simply find whatever cocktail you would like to serve and title it the, “Insert Show Here- Special” and that’s boring and uncreative but if that’s what you want, You do you. I won’t stop you.

Once you have finished eating and drinking it’s probably about time for the announcer to open you into Radio City Music Hall the same way he does every year and time for you to start keeping track of the show even closer than you already would have with my homemade 2018 Tony Awards Bingo. You know the rules, try to get five in a row and trust me you totally can.

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And if you’re looking to get more competitive, try your shot at predicting the winners before the show starts with my homemade 2018 Tony Awards ballot sheet

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GnymzC6il9LUPBqc7yFId_J0kYVZ0LsAuscFLgYaM-Y/edit?usp=sharing

You are also going to want to give out some reward for whoever can guess the most correct answers and unsurprisingly you can’t buy a replica or plastic Tony Award. But you can head over to Crown Awards which has very nice theatre awards for cheap that someone could actually display and it adds to the room rather than being a cheap piece of plastic garbage no one can do anything with. If you want one that looks like a tony award in shape but for legal reasons contains not many other similarities, The Toni Award might be for you. Yea, I know real subtle. Perhaps you’d rather ditch the idea of trophies and award someone something they can actually use like any of the many officially licensed Tony Awards shirts, hats, mugs, or bags. You could also award them a Tony Awards Playbill commemorating the event. Or finally the thing I would recommend the most, A paperback book by Isabella Stevenson and Roy A Somlyo, containing all of the nominees and winners...up to the year 2001. A perfect coffee table book as long as you stop guests from trying to find Hamilton. Again links to all of the these are at the bottom of the article.

So you have done it, or at least planned to do it which is half the battle you know. With food, drinks, ballots and bingo and prizes to be won your party is bound to be a surefire success.

Of course you don’t have to do any of that. There’s nothing wrong in going all out with themes and decorations and food but a few sandwiches and soda from your fridge surrounded by a few friends to laugh, chat, and overall enjoy the biggest night in theatre all year is really all you need. A party doesn’t need to be anything else than 2 or 3 friends and the most important part is that you enjoy it because it only happens once every 365 days and if to you that’s done in a nonchalant way more power to you, but if you think the best way to celebrate the 72 year old super show is to go all out and make a big and elaborate splash, you’re my kind of person and I hope you learned something that will help you with the future of your Tony Awards party.

So happy Tony Awards everyone and I’ll see you in 3 weeks when we go a bit more in depth at what 72 years really means and how this whole phenomenon all got started with The 2nd installment of The History Of Broadway And The Musical That Call It Home: Tony Awards Special. Until then I hope you have a fantastic thursday and once again be sure to tune into the Tony Awards Sunday June 10th at 8/7 Central. You are not going to want to be anywhere else but in front of your tv when it all goes down live. Also be sure to check back to the blog every Monday and Thursday for Tony related content leading up to to the big day. Well, If that is all I’ve been Taylor and You’ve been you and I will see you later, Goodbye.


Cupcake Toppers-  https://www.etsy.com/listing/598193132/tony-awards-2018-playbill-cupcake?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=tony%20awards%20party&ref=sr_gallery-1-3

Sponge Cake Recipe-

https://www.marthastewart.com/978785/sponge-cake

Tony Award Cake Recipe- https://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/news/articles/2010-06-08/201006081276012829208.html

Crown Theatre Awards-

https://www.crownawards.com/StoreFront/92X.Drama_Trophies_And_Awards.cat?&start=60&sz=30

Toni Award-

https://schoppy.com/products/toni-award?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=googlepla&gclid=Cj0KCQjwre_XBRDVARIsAPf7zZh3QFehcQQczfsa6wvkiONFrWVQnW1NyLS7du_7sCBfQY7h6eZu4UAaAhlZEALw_wcB

Tony Merchandise-

http://tonyawardsstore.com/

Tony Playbill-

https://www.playbillstore.com/the-2018-tony-awards-playbill.aspx

Plastic Theatre Award- https://www.amazon.com/Gold-Award-Trophies-Trophy-Statues/dp/B06XFZ61BV/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1526528135&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=tony+award&psc=1

Tony Book- https://www.amazon.com/Tony-Award-Complete-Nominees-American/dp/0325002940/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1526526349&sr=8-11&keywords=tony+awards

Unmentioned Tony Book- https://www.amazon.com/Tony-Award-Book-Decades-American/dp/0896597717/ref=pd_sbs_14_1?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0896597717&pd_rd_r=TX2RX4ANE8BNV58YMXGX&pd_rd_w=ssz53&pd_rd_wg=9mM7M&psc=1&refRID=TX2RX4ANE8BNV58YMXGX




 

Don't Judge a Show by its Tonys

The Tony Awards, it’s the Superbowl for theatre fans. We root for our favorite shows/actors, we indulge in the 5 minute number of those nominated, and we cry when a favorite show wins or ultimately loses. We make joke bets on the nominees. We base a LOT of judgment of a show based on their Tony nominations. But I personally feel that we shouldn’t. Because not every show every season gets nominated for a Tony, and sometimes those shows not nominated are the best ones, and those nominated for a Tony may not be. While the Tony Awards are a great thing to reward shows every season, I think judging a show based solely on how many Tony’s they have or don’t have is kind of silly and we should stop judging a show based on those facts and look at the show as whole (story, music, book, development).

I know not everyone pays attention to a shows Tony nominations, but I know for a lot of fans, that’s a huge basis of whether or not they should see a show (I have seen it a lot recently on twitter). I get it, following what The Tony Committee says is a good show and what they feel deserves to be “show of the year”. Again, I understand. They seem to know what’s the best of the best this season. But sometimes, the shows nominated and the shows NOT nominated may be just as good or not. People are so presumptuous based on these nominations that they often forget those that aren’t nominated. While I personally don’t believe in a “Tony snub” that goes around on social media, I do believe that shows not nominated often get underlooked as they are often outshone by those nominated. Again I’m not saying this is always the case, take Anastasia for example. It wasn’t nominated for a Tony last season but is still one of the most beloved shows on Broadway currently and was more beloved than some of the nominees last season. Perfect example of why I think that a Tony nomination doesn’t give a show its worth. 

I suppose my main point is that because a certain show is nominated for a Tony, that doesn’t mean it is the best, and because a show wasn’t nominated for a Tony, doesn’t mean it’s bad or isn’t awesome, because every show on Broadway is. I mean it made its way on The Great White Way! Especially since we are approaching Tony season, all shows, nominated or not, should be given the love and support they deserve. Us as Broadway fans owe it to them. Whether we are huge fans of the show or not, every show deserves love and praise, nominated or not. Do take what I am saying with a grain of salt, this is all from my personal observation and a personal opinion, but it is something I’ve felt for a while.


-Taylour xx

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No Tonys In the Pit!

By Freya Meredith (A.K.A. Australia’s Ally to Broadway)

It is a well-established fact that the Tony Awards celebrates excellent in theatre. In the lead-up to the nominations, many theatre practitioners, including actors, writers, composers, producers, choreographers, directors and so many more, anxiously hope for their name to be announced as a cut above the rest. These people have dedicated months, most likely years, into making their production the best it can be. And while they are proud to be a part of that show and have already experienced the gratitude of audiences and critics, many say that to be recognized by the American Theatre Wing is the icing on the cake. What an honour it must be to be “a Tony nominee!” Many people in theatre have endless dreams about this - but unfortunately, for some people, this dream may never come true.

Musical Directors and Conductors have been an essential part of theatre since the invention of “the performing arts”. With the help of the rise of orchestras and operas, it is unlikely that you will now go to a musical theatre production that is not accompanied with a musical director and/or a conductor. The role of a musical director/conductor, whose job is to shape and lead a musical performance, is a vital role on the production team. In my personal opinion, this role is just as important (sometimes even more depending on the show) as the choreographer. So my question is: why is there no longer an award recognizing the work of a Musical Director?

The Tony Award for Best Conductor and Musical Director began being presented at the 2nd Annual Tony Awards ceremony in 1948 (the first award being given to Milton Rosenstock for his work on Finian’s Rainbow). The last of this award was presented in 1964 to Shepard Coleman for his “vocal arrangements” (or so it is said) on the original production of Hello Dolly! As Joseph Church writes in his book Music Direction for the Stage: A View from the Podium; “In truth, Mr Coleman had been let go early in the production, and his position was taken over… three months after the show opened.” It is thought that Coleman received the award because it was Hello Dolly! and voters were unaware of his actual contribution to the production. Because of the supposed difficulty of analyzing the work of a musical director/conductor (as opposed to the very evident work of a director and a choreographer), the Award was retired. 30 years later, a committee of music directors (in which A View from the Podium’s author was a founder of) presented a case to bring back the Best Conductor and Musical Director award and to create an award for orchestrations to the Tony committee members. The committee rejected their motion for the Musical Director award, but were compliant in creating the Tony Award for Best Orchestrations. And nothing has really happened since.

Photo by Furtseff/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Furtseff/iStock / Getty Images

Now, I kind of understand why the Award was dumped. I have to agree (sorry musical directors) that it is a little hard to track how a musical director creatively contributes to a production. Other than doing their job and relaying the composer’s intentions from the score, they creatively aren’t giving as much as the director or the choreographer or the costume and set designers and so on. A lot of the time, you don’t see someone’s musical direction live on through other productions of that same show like someone’s direction or choreography does (ala Michael Bennett’s A Chorus Line). It’s also known that audiences aren’t as aware of someone’s musical direction as they are with direction or costume design (which is unfortunate).

But besides all these complications, musical direction and conducting is tough work, and the American Theatre Wing should recognize it in an Award. Musical directors, especially in the case of a brand new show, have to take everything that the composers, lyricist and orchestrators have put together and make it work! They are responsible for every aspect of the preparation and the performance of the music. Musical directors have to coordinate with the creative team and designers to make sure that what audiences are hearing is telling the story just as much as what they are seeing. They have to hire and work with different musical personnel to complete scores, and also work with different voice types and vocal skills to achieve a clean and almost perfect sound (which, as a singing teacher, I know can be a nightmare to do). Musical directors have to lead rehearsals with both the cast and the orchestra (double the work) and are the link between both groups. Most musical directors are also the conductor in these productions, and having the ability to lead an entire orchestra AND cast 8 shows a week is astounding. If something goes wrong, they have to immediately improvise and coordinate sometimes over 60 people (example: West Side Story can have 31 orchestra members and 40 cast members on stage) all at once, and they can do that without missing a beat - literally. It is remarkable how much of a genius of music you need to be to become a successful musical director and conductor, especially in musical theatre.

I believe that when good work is presented, it should be awarded. Yes, the job description for a musical director can mean a lot of things and it can be hard for the American Theatre Wing to keep track of, but it is also one of the hardest jobs on Broadway (don’t even get me started on stage technicians and managers. The Tony Award for Best Stage Technician needs to be a thing again). Like I said, I think you need to be a genius (and a little bit insane) to be a musical director, and while this role is obviously very fulfilling, a little recognition on the biggest night for theatre wouldn’t go astray. If my local theatre awards can manage to do it (shout out to the City of Newcastle Drama Association Awards), the Tony’s can too!

Why They Didn't Win: An Analysis of "Robbed" Shows

Darren Wildeman

“________ was robbed!” you will often hear theatre fans exclaim. Whether it be after the most recent Tony Awards, or whether they’re still bitter about a previous awards season almost everyone probably has a favourite show that never won, or even got nominated. But why did some high profile shows lose? Whether you agree with it or not the voters have a reason for voting the way they do for a show. Let’s jump in and take a look at some shows which are perceived to have been robbed and maybe why they didn’t win.

 

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1958 Tony Awards

The Robbed Show: West Side Story, losing to The Music Man.

Thankfully this now beloved show didn’t get totally skunked at the Tony Awards. Jerome Robbins won for best choreography and Oliver Smith won for scenic design. However, this now beloved show not winning the Tony for what was then called “Outstanding Musical” seems baffling. This now begs the question, what went wrong, and why did it not win?

One thing that may have at least played a role in this is the show being covered in controversy. Sara Fishko writes on NPR about how Jerome Robbins was a former Communist Party member and he exposed ten other people as such before court. Of course communism in 1950s America was a huge deal. He was also a secret homosexual, however I’m not sure if this would have played a role in the show being robbed as not many people knew about it. The other thing Sara discusses in the article is how Jerome Robbins intentionally would try to create tension in the cast. The actors of the gangs weren’t allowed to even eat together (for Sara’s full article, click here). Finally, there’s the matter of the content. Race, rape, and general bigotry are something modern day theatre audiences have become somewhat more accustom to being addressed in theatre. However, it’s possible that even though the show was popular that it may have just been too much for the award voters.

We also need to consider the musical that won. The Music Man. The Music Man is largely to be considered a good show in its own right, however most people don’t seem to put it on the level as West Side Story either. By comparison, it’s a much more “safe” musical that includes some comedy, and a romance story, and it didn’t have the controversial for the time subjects of race, and rape brought up. By 1957 standards The Music Man is much more what people were accustom to seeing in the theatre, and this could very well be what gave it the win.

1960 Tony Awards

The Robbed Show: Gypsy, losing to The Sound of Music and Fiorello!

Looking back, this is another show that’s hard to believe didn’t win any Tonys. Not only did it lose Best Musical, but Ethel Merman also lost the Tony for best leading actress for her role in Gypsy. It had eight nominations in total and lost all of them. What happened?

While probably not related it’s interesting that this is the second musical that Robbins and Sondheim worked together on that is now perceived as being robbed.

The Sound of Music was released in 1959. America was only fourteen years out of World War Two and the world as a whole would have still had it in their memory. Something that we will see time and again in theatre, is that something that is relevant to the times, will win. Given that World War Two was quite recent in people’s minds, and that by this time Rodgers and Hammerstein had already built quite the name for themselves it makes sense that this won the Tony. While not directly related to winning the Tony it is also worth noting that this would be their last show together due to Oscar Hammerstein eventually passing away from cancer.

Fiorello! also opened to amazing critical reviews and large audiences. Gypsy is also another example of a show with a bit of a darker and deeper storyline not winning. This combined with the fact that it was up against two other very good shows led to its not winning. One show was really relevant and the other was considered very good. Gypsy turned out to be the odd one out in every category. It was just too competitive of a season for it.

1964 Tony Awards

The Robbed Show: She Loves Me losing to Hello Dolly!

Honestly this one is relatively easy to explain. As beloved as She Loves Me is now, it initially wasn’t that well received. Combine the fact that it was up against a show that was both a powerhouse both in its day and in modern times, and it never really had much of a chance. The same goes for Barbara Cook not even being nominated. She had a fabulous career, but She Loves Me just wasn’t going to be the show to get the big awards.

1972 Tony Awards

The Robbed Show: Follies, Grease, and Jesus Christ Superstar losing to Two Gentlemen of Verona

This one confuses a lot of people. One of the popular opinions on this one is that Two Gentlemen of Verona won because Galt Macdermot lost at the Tonys with Hair a few years prior. It was essentially a “make up” decision to give him the Tony that some people thought he deserved. Also one blogger Pewterbreath, points out that no matter how he is portrayed on stage it is pretty hard for people to argue with anything Shakespeare related (for the full article on this you can click here). It was another year with too many good musicals, and Two Gentlemen of Verona was a semi successful show. Most people think the voters got it wrong, however in some ways it is another case of there being too many good shows in the same year. Jesus Christ Superstar wasn’t even nominated for best Musical (although it was nominated for five other awards) probably just due to being too crowded in the category and it was the odd one out. Between being moderately successful and well received and Galt Macdermot not winning a Tony a previous year, Two Gentlemen of Verona managed to push out many other successful shows and come out on top in a very crowded Tony year.

You could argue that Grease also lost for being too “poppy” and “fun.” The exact opposite problem West Side Story had. You see by this point in theatre history Sondheim had ushered in an era where it was okay for musical theatre to be more serious. It was up against Follies which is a Sondheim creation, and Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death which is another show that goes deeper and explores the African American life in the ghettos. Grease was up against these as well as the eventual winner and really in a season like this it really didn’t have a chance.

It is also worth noting that Follies managed to pick up 4 other Tony including best score and direction. It isn’t as if they were totally ignored.

1976 Tony Awards

The Robbed Show: Chicago losing to A Chorus Line

This is another one that really doesn’t need much of an explanation. What A Chorus Line did for dance was revolutionary. Meanhwile the first run of Chicago was not terribly well received. It didn’t do horribly, but calling it robbed is definitely an overstatement; especially when you look at what the winner did for theatre.

 

1984 Tony Awards

The Robbed show: Sunday in the Park with George losing to La Cage aux Folles

This is a really interesting one. Sunday is an incredible show and Sondheim did something with this show that had never really been seen before in turning a painting into a musical. It’s a very original concept and the show is flawlessly executed.

Not only did Sunday lose best musical, but La Cage pretty much wiped the floor with them leaving Sondheim’s creation with just 2 design awards. It’s hard to point to one single thing as to why Sunday lost. However, one thought is maybe Sunday was just too far out there for the voters. In his Washington Post review of the 1984 Tony Awards David Richards echoes these thoughts calling Sunday “radical and adventurous” and saying it was “experimentation.” Meanwhile he said that La Cage “is right out of Broadway mainstream.” (to read his full 1984 Tony summary click here).

This isn’t to say La Cage was undeserving of the Tony award as it was very well reviewed and the voters themselves obviously loved it. It’s also hard to ignore the storyline of La Cage. From the 1970s onwards many of the States were in the process of decriminalizing homosexuality. While by the 1980s this revolution still had a long ways to go, it was also relevant to the times. Remember, we’re also in 1984 here. We’re just nine years away from the first workshop of Rent.  Not to mention that Broadway has historically been ahead of social issues. Considering these two things, and combining them with the popularity La Cage was getting as a show it starts to seem somewhat obvious why La Cage won.

1991 Tony Awards

The Robbed Shows: Miss Saigon losing to The Will Rodgers Follies

Given that Miss Saigon was drowning in controversy at the time over its casting, I don’t think it’s a huge surprise to see why it lost. Although Lea Salonga did win for her performance, the show as a whole lost all around. From criticism to their portrayal of Asian people, to the “yellow facing” of white people to make them look Asian including one of the lead roles. While being well received the show just couldn’t overcome these mistakes among a few other things. It’s also worth mentioning that by today’s standards, while Miss Saigon is certainly a spectacle to see, a lot of the music and book fall flat. A lot of the reviews of it at the time were positive, there were also some mixed to negative reviews (such as this one by Linda Winer of the LA Times). Between controversy, and some critics not loving it from the get go, it leads to Will Rodgers Follies winning.

1998 Tony Awards

The Robbed show: Ragtime losing to The Lion King

Today Ragtime is a quite well liked show that has aged very well, and has stayed if not become even more relevant. However, it opened to mixed reviews. For the most part it wasn’t completely trashed by the critics, however they weren’t exactly raving about it either. A lot of the criticism the show faced is not unlike the complications Les Miserables had. The nuances of bringing a novel that deep, with that much going on can be difficult, and things can get lost, and to a lot of critics this is what happened.

Furthermore, it was going up against The Lion King. While the Lion King itself isn’t without its flaws, it’s a spectacle. You can hide a lot with spectacle, powerful music, and great vocal performances. Not to mention the cultural influences on this show that give it yet another layer that makes it even more attractive to a lot of people.

Considering all these things I think it’s pretty easy to see why Ragtime lost the Tony this year. It’s also worth noting that Ragtime did win for best score and best book. It wasn’t totally ignored.

1999 Tony Awards

The robbed show: Parade losing to Fosse

Like Ragtime the previous year, Parade picked up the Tonys for best score and best book, however, it failed to win the big award in best musical. The reviews for it were mostly positive, and some of them downright glowing. That really wasn’t the issue here. Tony voters have a bit of a habit of sometimes turning away from dark and heavy material. While the shows get reviewed well and do well at the box office, they don’t always win Best Musical, even if it looks like it might be the best of that season. Maybe the voters aren’t sure how well the show will do post Tonys or even post-Broadway. It might sound crazy to some but as we will see in a bit with Wicked this is something that gets considered. It’s possible they’re concerned if non NYC crowds will go see these heavier shows and receive them as well in other cities. Sometimes it’s possible they’d rather give the Tony to a safer show for touring purposes.

It’s also worth noting that Fosse was a chilling remembrance of one of Broadway’s best composers in Bob Fosse. It was very well received and payed great homage to him. Between Parade possibly being too dark for some and Fosse remembering a Broadway great you wind up with Fosse winning the Best Musical.

2004 Tony Awards

The robbed show: Wicked losing to Avenue Q

This one is somewhat easy to explain as well. Avenue Q was new, innovative, and was really well received. There is also speculation that it needed the Tony win to continue to be successful. Whereas Wicked wasn’t as well received critically, but commercially it would do just fine Tony or not. Ergo, Avenue Q wins the Tony

2009 Tony Awards

The robbed show: Next to Normal losing to Billy Elliot

This is yet another example of a darker show not winning. This isn’t to say a dark show can never win, however the Tony voters tend to prefer the “safer” shows. Not that Billy Elliot is all rainbows and unicorns, but Next to Normal is so heavy and as discussed earlier this can scare Tony voters for a variety of reasons.

That’s not to say the Billy Elliot isn’t a fine show in its own right either. It’s a fabulous show that many people love. This isn’t necessarily a case of an inferior show winning like we’ve seen in other seasons. This was really a heavy weight match which saw Next to Normal win best score, but Billy Elliot took the big award.

The same thing also partially applies with what was discussed in regards to The Lion King about spectacle, beautiful music, and powerful vocals being a winning combination. Billy Elliot doesn’t quite have the same type of music as Lion King but it’s moving nonetheless. Also it is a dance spectacle, whereas Next to Normal is smaller scale, and more intimate.

Between Next to Normal being darker and Billy Elliot being a really good show on its own, and being more of a spectacle this leads to a best musical Tony award for Billy Elliot.

2014 Tony Awards

The robbed show: Big Fish with zero nominations

This one is a bit unusual. It’s odd that a show of Big Fish’s caliber doesn’t at least get some nominations. I’m not sure that it would have won anything but not even getting a nod is weird. So what happened?

It’s hard to say, it did receive some mixed reviews, and it was a very strong season. It probably just got overlooked. Some seasons a show just happens to be the odd one out. That appears to be the case here.

2015 Tony Awards

The robbed show: Finding Neverland with zero nominations

For the sake of length I generally haven’t discussed shows robbed of nominations. However, Big Fish was worth talking about and Finding Neverland was also an interesting case.

In the first place Finding Neverland was not received well by critics. In the second place, it was behind the scenes politics. Harvey Weinstein fired a lot of staff members and left a general distaste in the mouth of a lot of important people (you can read more about this here).

This goes to show that having a good show alone isn’t good enough for nominations. Key members of the show also need to be careful not to upset the wrong people. Otherwise they will find themselves on the outside looking in.

2017 Tony Awards

The robbed show: Everything vs. Dear Evan Hansen

Last year was a really interesting season. I don’t know how many people think something was robbed, but last year no matter which way the voting fell someone was going to be upset. All of these shows could have won the Tony in any other season, but it was a loaded year.

One of the big reasons Dear Evan Hansen won is trendiness and marketability. The show is so popular that it is going to tour well, and get attention no matter where it goes. Slapping that Best Musical title on it is only going to increase the hype. Not to mention that technically speaking it is a very well done show.

It’s not to say that the Tony wouldn’t have helped the other shows, but it was just such a strong season but wherever you go Dear Evan Hansen always stood out among fans as being the top show of the season, and the critics agreed. It by far generated more attention than any other show, was super well done, and stood out just enough more than anything else in a good Tony season.

It’s not that there was anything really wrong with the other shows but Dear Evan Hansen broke away from the pack more than anything else did.

I understand that people aren’t going to always agree with the Tony voters. However, even if you don’t agree with them, or think a show got robbed- I hope this article at least helps you to understand why a show didn’t win. It might help to try and see what the voters look for, and why some shows might not get as much attention from the voters.

 

It's the Tonys. Yawn

Michael Kape (a/k/a Grumpy Olde Guy®)

When I was a mere lad of 10 years, CBS broadcast the Tony Awards for the first time. It was 1964, and my family gathered around our big, new RCA color television (a novelty back then) to watch the proceedings. It was an exciting show, with live re-enactments from top Broadway shows—both musicals and plays. I don’t remember too much from the broadcast (c’mon guys, it’s been more than half a century), but I remember saying, “Someday I’m going to be there.”

Well, it took a while, but I did make it a few years ago when two plays in which I was an investor were nominated for four Tonys between them. Didn’t win a single one (we should have won for Best Play, Time Stands Still, and Best Musical Revival Finian’s Rainbow—but I digress). Still, I was able to cross “Go to the Tony Awards” off my bucket list.

In the years before and since, I’ve endeavored to watch the telecasts. I’ve missed some years. When I was in college I didn’t see some of them though I had seen almost all the nominees. After my partner died 10 years ago, I made it a point to be at a theatre (always Off-Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway). We had made such big deal out of watching the telecasts together I couldn’t bear to watch it alone. If you’ve ever been widowed you’d understand.

These days, I’m living out in the desert, 100 miles from Los Angeles. I rely on touring productions. Yes, I still watch the telecasts. No, I don’t really care all that much.

The likelihood of seeing any of the Tony-winning performances in Los Angeles is slim to none (except, of course, when a Tony winner is angling to get noticed by Hollywood producers). Unless a show is going to be sitting for a few months in one theatre (like Hamilton or Aladdin did this season at the Hollywood Pantages), we’re likely to get a scaled-back version of the Broadway production. Most tours are designed to fit a stage depth of no more than 29 feet. Why? Because the Fox Theatre in Atlanta is a major touring house and its depth is, you guessed it, 29 feet. Many Broadway houses are well over 30 feet deep. When they go on the road, they scale the sets back to fit the Fox.  Speaking of touring houses, those producers have an outsized influence on what and who wins the Tonys. They actually make up a large chunk of the Tony voters and their judgment is influenced by what they think would play best in their cities—not necessarily what might be the best shows or the best performances. Oops, did I say this? Yes, I did. It was told to me by one of those touring house producers in a freak moment of candor.

I guess I should get to my point—why I’m no longer particularly excited by the Tony Awards. I’m not going to be able to see any of the scaled-back winners for at least a year or two (or more). In a rare treat (really), I get to see last year’s Best Play, The Humans, next year, a wait of just two years (but not with the Tony-winning cast, which included an old friend from my high school days—who finally won the Tony he so richly deserves). Next year, we’re also getting last year’s Best Musical Revival, Hello Dolly, but of course we don’t get to see the Divine Miss M in her Tony-winning performance.

This year, the big competition in musicals seems to be between Mean Girls and SpongeBob Square Pants. What about Frozen you ask? Heck, Disneyland has been running a scaled-back (surprise) live version of it for many months now. (Yes, I saw it. No, I wasn’t impressed. But I wasn’t impressed by the animated feature, either. I’m the wrong demographic, obviously.) None of these is on the schedule for the 2018-2019 season at any of the four local touring houses. Sadly, neither is The Band’s Visit, the likely winner this year for Best Score. But we’re getting repeat revivals of Les Misérables, Miss Saigon (ugh), Cats (no way I’m wasting any time to see this for a fifth time; four times was bad enough), Fiddler on the Roof (a show I first saw back in 1964—jeez), Something Rotten (it was just here this season, but the bus & truck is out there now), Jersey Boys (for the fourth time), Phantom of the Opera (for the umpteenth time) Spamalot, and Evita. Alas, we will never get to see Groundhog Day or Bandstand.

And this gets me to my biggest gripe. I fully expect Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to win for Best Play and dominate most of the design awards. Will it ever tour? With a cast of 40 and a five-hour running time (spread out over two seatings), not bloody likely. I’ve read the published script (it’s simply incredible, of course). I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and would really like to see it. But it’s sold out years in advance in New York and the sheer, massive logistics make it impossible to tour. Unless there’s a scaled-back (ugh), cut down to three hours (double ugh) production. It just won’t be the same.

So yes, I’m going to be watching the Tonys this year—at home in the desert. Am I going to be all that excited? No, not really. I won’t ever see any of the winning performances live. I won’t see the same show as it’s being done on Broadway when I eventually have it on one of my subscription series.

The Theatre Wing (which presents the Tonys) touts how the telecast promotes live theatre in the hinterlands (you know, places like Los Angeles or Chicago or the place where you live if you’re not in the New York metropolitan area). And touring houses promote some shows as “the Tony-winning production of [show name],” but fail to mention the Tonys were for performances, not the show itself. What, a tour producer over-hype a show? Impossible.

You know something? This frustrates me and makes me grumpy. And you know you should not make me grumpy. It isn’t pretty (but neither am I, so how can anyone tell the difference).

Grumpy Olde Guy® at the 64th Annual Tony Awards.

Grumpy Olde Guy® at the 64th Annual Tony Awards.

A Cut Above the Rest

Photo by stsmhn/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by stsmhn/iStock / Getty Images

Jonathan Fong

As Broadway approaches awards season once more and every Broadway fan performs the obligatory sharpening of the pitchforks for when their favorite show, actor, composer, or designer inevitably, in their opinion, gets snubbed in the nominations or perhaps, later, the wins, I find that all too often we, as thespians, do tend to forget some things. Namely, we forget what makes Broadway theatre so incredible and unlike most anything on this planet.

Some of us are fortunate enough to have frequent exposure to live theatre. Perhaps you live in a big city which often gets equally-big tours and other major professional productions, or perhaps you’re among the lucky few who live in New York or London and have access to Broadway or the West End, respectively, the world’s great hotspots of live theatre.

Or perhaps you’re something like me - hailing from a tiny city in the middle of nowhere with little, if any, exposure to any live theatre, let alone the big tours and Broadway/West End productions ‘everyone else’ seems to get. If you come from somewhere in the middle of nowhere too, you’ll know what I mean.

Suffice it to say that while I’m a Broadway aficionado, I haven’t exactly had the chance to see lots of shows. In fact, I’m probably one of what’s probably a tiny group of people who can say that they’ve been in more shows, whether behind the curtain as stage crew or onstage as a performer, than they’ve seen in the audience.

Last February, my family surprised me with a gift that I’ll treasure my whole life. A week-long trip to New York, with tickets to any Broadway show I wanted.

Now, I’d heard stories of just how incredible Broadway productions and the actors, designers, stage crew, and everything else involved in them were, how they were all ‘a cut above the rest’ and whatnot, but I had no point of reference to guess what that might entail. I’d seen a few professional productions of musicals before; I couldn’t imagine how anything could be better, and honestly, I did have a few doubts about whether Broadway was really as good as everyone made it out to be or whether it was all just mindless hype.

When I stepped into a Broadway theatre for the first time, still riding a caffeine high from the coffees I’d had earlier to make sure my jetlagged self would be able to stay awake for the whole thing, I could just feel that the show would be something special. You could just feel the effort that so many people, seen and unseen, had put into the show. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before and I loved every second of it.

I thought I’d seen great performances before, but actually seeing a show on Broadway completely redefined what I thought it meant to act, to sing, and to dance. I thought I’d seen incredible set and costume design, but seeing a Broadway show convinced me otherwise. I thought I’d heard great pit orchestras, but hearing the first notes of the overture convinced me that I must have been deaf before I stepped into that theatre.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention any musical in particular. That’s because there was no single musical I saw that convinced me of the above - it was every show I saw that led me to those conclusions.

Originally, my plan was only to see Dear Evan Hansen (since the show hadn’t yet won all its Tonys in February, I actually managed to snag tickets that didn’t break the bank); in the end, though, I managed to snag cheap tickets to Wicked and Cats too while I was in New York. All three shows were quite different and each incredible in their own ways, but the one thing they convinced me of after seeing them is just how incredibly talented and hardworking Broadway professionals really are. I’d heard it before, but now I believe it - they truly are a cut above the rest.

So, as we head into awards season, please, everyone, remember just how talented each and every person working on Broadway is. Don’t get used to them and their performances, whether on the cast recordings, the clips you might find on YouTube or Broadway.com, or perhaps live if you’re one of the lucky few who get the opportunity to do that, because you may just get used to them and forget how incredible they really are. Every actor and actress, every member of the crew, every set designer and choreographer and composer and director - they all pour their hearts and souls into their work in ways that most of us would find unimaginable. These people are some of the most talented on this planet and they each work their butts off to create some of the finest art eight times a week.

So please - don’t fight or squabble too much over whether or not an actor is worthy of an award or perhaps if a designer or composer was snubbed or not. Because these people - each and every person on Broadway - are all truly a cut above the rest, and that’s something that we should all remember.