re: this is how Best Musical should be
Last Edit: Chazwaza 05:13 pm EDT 08/22/19
Posted by: Chazwaza 05:03 pm EDT 08/22/19
In reply to: re: this is how Best Musical should be - WaymanWong 03:23 pm EDT 08/22/19

Yes, that's fair also about the artier musicals - though with famous losses for shows like Follies to 2 Gentleman of Verona, Hair to 1776, Ragtime to Lion King, even something like Parade to the dance revue/jukebox musical Fosse... they only really go for "small" and artsy when it has almost universal praise and there isn't a big splashy show with equally notable reviews/cultural response.

But not all of your examples of this are really making your point if you look at the years they won.
-Dear Evan Hansen - I don't think this qualifies in this category since it was the mainstream popular hit that year, and beat out the much more artistic-minded and musically challenging Great Comet.
-The Band's Visit - this was raved about, but I think that if the other splashy musicals hadn't been so deeply mediocre and unimpressive (even disappointing, as they are) then Band's Visit might have lost despite being the popular underdog.
-Hadestown - the same is true for this as the Band's Visit year, I think. If Tootsie had a score that was as good as its book (or as good as Band's Visit's score) then it may have won.
-Gentleman's Guide - same is true. And this one in particular is an outlier to me because unlike Band's Visit and Hadestown (and DEH), I don't think this show is actually very good. So to me it's not like they gave it to a brilliant show that might have lost to a blockbuster splashy musical, but it was the only original musical nominated and the others were a mediocre disney cartoon, a mediocre jukebox musical, and a sensational but short-lived revue that was never going to win.
-Once - also, weak competition that year. Leap of Faith got a sympathy nom, Newsies was mostly loved for it's choreography and the 5 good songs from the movie, but never taken seriously really. And Nice Work was a mediocre jukebox rehash.

I think the biggest example of the Tonys choosing small and artistic over big splashy blockbuster is Passion winning over Beauty and the Beast, but it is commonly opined that, despite how much some of us love Passion, it was voted for as a symbolic backlash against Disney's new bway takeover, and not because the majority of the voters thought Passion was just more worthy of Best Musical. I'm sure though, if that had been Taymor's production of Lion King competing against Passion, LK would have easily won because of the intensely brilliant theatrical stage craft (and added material) and people would have voted for it despite their resistance to Disney at the time.

Perhaps Memphis' win is another example, but American Idiot wasn't a runaway hit or a fully raved about show, and neither was Million Dollar Quartet, and Memphis was an original show with a message about racial prejudice. I don't even know the show, but I know it's widely considered one of the weakest musicals to ever win Best Musical. So that year it seemed like more of a lesser evil kind of scale rather than championing the best show. I wish Caroline or Change had opened that year!

Point being, I would suggest that there are far more examples of the Tonys going with the safer popular choice of a show that is good but perhaps not as artistically brilliant as one of the other nominees. Most of the musicals that have won Best Musicals are, by most measure and for all intents and purposes, VERY good musicals, even if I personally think many of them won over notably better musicals (which I actually detailed in a list in another post last night).
The exceptions to me would be the following musicals which I don't think are good despite their wins: Redhead (weak year), Applause (weak year), Two Gentlemen of Verona (Follies should have won), Raisin (weak year), Jerome Robbins Broadway (weak year), Fosse (Parade should have won), Gentleman's Guide (not bad but not *VERY good*), probably Memphis from all I've heard, and I don't think Kinky Boots is at all good but most people disagree). The major battles where I think something else deserved it more, the winner was still really good (like Phantom, La Cage, etc).

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