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Episode 16

AND THE 1998 TONY AWARD GOES TO . . .

"What's this?"

Your next reading assignment. The Tony Award: A Complete Listing With a History of the American Theatre Wing edited by Isabelle Stevenson. You should read it so you have an appreciation of what you're going to see in a couple of weeks. You can skip all the lists of nominees and winners if you want to. But definitely read the section on the history of the Wing. I think you'll like Isabelle, when you meet her. She's a feisty old broad and as sharp as they come. She's also a real lady. If you know what's good for you, you will never forget that she's a lady. Not that she would ever let you forget. She always gets what she wants, that one does.

"When am I going to meet her?"

I'll introduce you when we run into her at the awards. Be charming. There are two organizations I want you to start working with; the American Theatre Wing and BC/EFA. Both of them deserve your support.

"Cool. No problem. What's this letter stuck in the book?"

Oh, I'm sorry. That's my Tony ballot. It came today.

"Wow. I've never seen one of these before."

Few have. You'll be getting one next year.

"Who ya' gonna vote for?"

In which category?

"All of ‘em."

Read it for yourself. I've already marked it.

"You know, I thought I knew you. I would have bet I could guess who you would pick in each category, especially since I saw all of these shows with you and had to listen to your critiques afterward. But, you really surprise me with some of these choices."

Why?

"Well, take Best Actor in a play. For weeks now you've been saying how Richard Briers is up at the Golden giving a once in a lifetime performance that people will be talking about for years. You've said several times that it's the single best performance in a play this season. Yet you didn't vote for him. Why?"

Oh, to be young and naive again.

"Just answer my question."

You're right. Briers is giving the best performance this year. But it would be wasting a Tony Award if he won. So, I'm not voting for him.

"Wasting a Tony Award?"

To any person or any producing organization that wins it, a Tony means one thing. Money. Why throw away a moneymaking Tony by giving it to somebody who isn't a good investment?

"Talent and achievement mean nothing?"

Talent and achievement are part of the equation, but not always and only at the end, after you take everything else into consideration.

"Such as?"

What?

"What do you look at first? How do you decide who you're going to vote for?"

Okay, I'll run through the whole procedure. But, get a pencil and paper and take notes. I'm only going to go through this once.

"I'm ready. What do you do first?"

Vote for yourself. Vote for yourself and then anybody you have a vested interest in. If anybody involved in one of our shows gets a nomination, then we vote for them regardless of whoever else may be nominated in the same category.

"I can see the point of that, yes."

Second, ignore any nomination for any bastard who ever screwed you over.

"I don't have any problem with that one either."

Third, ignore any nomination for any show that couldn't be helped by winning a Tony.

"You're going to have to explain that one."

Look at the list of nominated shows. Anne Frank has been running at just over 50% attendance on a discounted ticket. It's had its run. It's up for featured actress and best revival. Even if it won both they wouldn't be able to sell out the house again for more than a couple of weeks.

Same thing for both Honour and High Society. Neither show is going to make back its investment. Giving either a Tony would just let it limp along a few weeks more.

Freak? It's not a play. Something happens to Leguizamo and it's over. Capeman and Side Show? They're closed, forget it.

Chairs has two strikes against it. It's an import and it is scheduled to close less than a week after the awards are given out.

Beauty Queen and Art are both imports, which is a strike against. They're both prestige hits with decent box office, which combined with being foreign is another strike against. Neither one of them needs to be helped along.

They're already papering the house at View From the Bridge, which pretty much puts it in the same situation as Anne Frank. Besides, I personally have a hard time giving a moneymaking Tony to a non-profit producing organization like Roundabout. And that means Cabaret or 1776 only gets a vote of everything else in their 10 nominated categories is pure dreck.

And then we come to Ragtime and Lion King. There ain't no way in hell I'm voting for anything that's going to make either Livent or Disney one more dollar!

"Okay, you've just eliminated everything but Pimpernel and Golden Child."

That sounds about right. You see how easy this is?

"But that still doesn't explain most of your votes. You contradict what you've just said several times on this ballot."

You've got to use a little common sense in applying the rules, you know. Read off the categories one by one and I'll explain the choices.

"Best Actor in a play?"

Chairs is closing six days after the awards, so Briers is out. Nothing much could extend the run for Bridge, so LaPaglia is out. Art doesn't need the help, so Molina would be out. But, regardless of how good Leguizamo is in Freak, he hasn't paid enough legit dues. I voted for Alfred Molina.

"Best Actress in a play?"

This one isn't easy. I've already explained why Janney in Bridge, McEwan in Chairs, and Mullen in Beauty Queen would be out. But that only leaves Jane Alexander in Honour. No matter how you look at it, Alexander isn't giving a performance anywhere near as good as any one of the other three. But, since she's been down in Washington for the last few years fighting the good fight and since he has done excellent work in the past, I voted for her. Call it payback.

"Featured Actor in a play?"

Both Murphy and O'Byrne in Beauty Queen are out. You can make a case for either one of the two remaining nominees deserving the Tony. Giving it to Max Wright for Ivanov would be a bow to the past. Giving it to Sam Trammel for Ah, Wilderness would be a bow to the future. I went with Trammel.

"Featured Actress in a play?"

The two obvious choices, Graham in Honour and Soelistyo in Golden Child, are both good. But, a Tony couldn't really help either show survive for long. The same goes for Lavin in Anne Frank. Manahan in Beauty Queen would seem to be the logical choice, although she can only stay in the play a couple of more months. As much as I love Linda as a person and as an actress, Anna Manahan gets it because that's where the Tony will do the most good.

"Best Actor in a musical?"

Voting against Livent and Roundabout only leaves Douglas Sills in Pimpernel. He's the perfect choice. Sills is a new face giving a great performance in a struggling show. I love the guy! By every rule in the book I should vote for him, but I can't.

"Why?"

Because the son of a bitch has missed too many performances. Think about it. A young guy gets his big break as the lead in a Broadway musical, wows the critics and public, is acknowledged to be one of the main reasons the show has managed to hang on as long as it has, and what does he do? He repays the producers who had faith in him and hired him by missing performances whenever he feels like it. What do you think that does to "word of mouth?"

"So your vote goes to Brian Stokes Mitchell even though he works for Livent?"

Cumming has two strikes against him; he's a foreigner and he's in a Roundabout production. Besides, he can't seem to pull off the second act opening bit that idiot Marshall stuck in. Friedman is good but just can't compete with Stokes on a stage. Stokes is classic leading man material if I've ever seen it. I think of this vote as an investment in the future of musicals.

"Best Actress in a musical?"

Mazzie is out because I'm not giving Ragtime two in a row. Buckley would have gotten it if Triumph were still open. But why feed an ego that's already big enough? Richardson probably deserves it for Cabaret, but, like Cumming, she's a foreigner and I'm buying off Roundabout with a vote for best revival later on, so she's out. By default and even though it's closed, Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner for Side Show. Who knows, maybe they'll make some money out of the tour.

"Featured Actor in a musical?"

John McMartin, in spite of High Society.

"Featured Actress in a musical?"

Again, McDonald is out because one performance Tony for Ragtime is enough. You already know why I'm not voting for Kendrick in High Society or Wilson in Cabaret. If I gave Livent one, I might as well give Disney one too. Tsidii Le Loka for Lion King it is.

"Best play?"

Freak isn't a play. Golden Child isn't a finished play and a Tony can't save it. Even though Art is one of the funniest plays I've seen in awhile, I don't want to encourage Yasmina Reza to try and write another. One like Art is enough for my lifetime. My vote goes to Beauty Queen.

"Best Director for a play?"

Garry Hynes for Beauty Queen. I'm old fashioned enough to believe that best play and best director mean pretty much the same thing.

"Best revival of a play?"

Chairs is closing and Ah, Wilderness has closed. Bridge and Anne Frank are the only two that could even marginally benefit from winning. Of these two, Anne Frank gets my vote because it has the best chance of lasting for a little while longer.

"Best musical?"

Let's come back to this one later.

"Best Director for a musical?"

Forget Mendes and Marshall for Cabaret and Scott Ellis for 1776. It's the Roundabout connection. And it's too easy to buy off Taymor with best costume design. Even though it means it's going to Livent, I have to vote for Frank Galati for Ragtime.

"Best revival of a musical?"

I can't bring myself to vote for Sound of Music, even though I should. Of the two Roundabout entries, 1776 is the better production but Cabaret got all the coverage. It's a toss-up. Since you have to throw Roundabout a bone, I'm voting for Cabaret.

"Best book for a musical?"

You don't know how much I wish Side Show was still running. Again, Terrence McNally for Ragtime.

"Original musical score?"

Ragtime, dammit!

"Scenic designer?"

Richard Hudson for Lion King. Heaven knows it should be a four-way tie. Bob Crowley, Eugene Lee, and Quay Brothers all did superb work, but Disney's going to take it.

"Costumes?"

Taymor, because she didn't get it for directing.

"Lighting?"

Donald Holder for Lion King.

"Choreographer?"

Garth Fagan for Lion King. That damn show doesn't stop moving, even when it should.

"Orchestration?"

William David Brohn for Ragtime.

"And coming back to best musical?"

Again, I should cast my vote for Pimpernel, but I can't force myself to do it. Side Show would have been a strong contender if it had managed to stay open. And I will not, under any circumstances, cast a vote for Disney and Lion King in this category. By default, it has to be Ragtime.


The Tony Award

CLICK TO PURCHASE

The Tony Award: A Complete Listing With a History of the American Theatre Wing by Isabelle Stevenson (Editor) List: $14.95 Published by Heinemann ISBN: 0435086588


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