V.J. vs. Fergus, Round 1
The Tony Awards
In our last column we announced the Tony Award nominations and our resident
critic's picks for the winners of each category. While I agreed with Fergus McGillicuddy
in many of the categories, I thought I'd give him a call and ask what his reasoning was for
some strange picks.
V.J.: Fergus, it's me V.J. Before I get into the Tony nominations, just who
are the people who vote on show nominations?
F.M.: There are just over 800 Tony voters. They are members of the American
Theatre Wing and The League of American Theatres and Producers, industry
professionals, and various media types. A person who votes in any category
certifies he or she has seen all the nominees in that category.
V.J.: I can't believe that all 800 see every show, so it's safe to assume that
they wouldn't vote in certain categories, sort of like the honor system?
F.M.: Integrity is a given. It would be difficult to find a more honest,
incorruptible group of people. I know several of the voters, and they take the
responsibility very seriously.
V.J.: I hear the Pope is nominating a few of them for Sainthood too. Well,
then just how
important is a Tony Award? And, please, we all know that sometimes Awards are
not always given to the "best," if you will.
F.M.: How important is an Oscar or a Pulitzer? You can make a case that they
ultimately mean everything or nothing. (Depending, I assume, on whether you've
just won or lost.) I think most of the problems arise from how each individual
defines "the best." It's all subjective. Take any of the acting categories,
for example. An actor voting for another actor probably values technique and
talent above everything else. On the other hand, a theatre owner from Chicago -
who may book the play the actor will be touring in - would naturally place more
importance on how well an audience responds to that actor. After all, that's
what the theatre owner is qualified to judge.
(And, sadly, there are more than a few highly talented actors, respected by
their peers, whose performances are almost inaccessible to a lay audience.)
V.J.: Fair enough. Let's talk about Frank Wildhorn.
V.J.: Why this anti-Wildhorn sentiment that you read so much about? I mean,
the guy has three shows on Broadway and it just seems to me theater fans and the
theater community just won't give the guy a break.
F.M.: Have you seen Jekyll & Hyde and Pimpernel I & II? He deserves everything
for those shows.
V.J.: Civil War? Only two nominations and yet you think it's going to win the
big prize, Best Musical?
F.M.: Yes, I do. The only competition is Parade, a badly executed experiment
musical theatre which happens to have had a decent score. Civil War is
successful in what
it set out to do on all counts. It's much the better show.
V.J.: The way people are talking now, after the fact, is like Parade was the
greatest thing since chopped liver. I imagine it's because the CD is being received
so well. So, we'll give you that. But, why not Fosse for the big prize? It's
got potential on the road.
F.M.: Why not Fosse for Best Musical? Because it's not very good. And,
outside of a few
sophisticated venues like Chicago and San Francisco it will die a painful death
on the road.
Fosse's choreography, like Cole Porter's music, works in the big city, but not
in the rest of the
V.J.: Well, The Civil War is going out on the road. You think outside the big
going to like a cantata?
F.M.: I doubt very much of most of The Civil War's potential audience has ever
even heard the
word "cantata," much less knows what it means. But they have heard of the Civil
especially in the South. And they will have seen Gone With the Wind - several
times. The bloody show is virtually presold across the nation just on those two
V.J.: Dance is a universal language. Why do you think CATS is running all these
years? You don't need to understand anything, just watch the pussycats dance and
you get it? CHICAGO is hot and generation X has discovered Fosse. Anyhow, dance, yes, cantata?
I don't think so. And speaking of the road tour possibilities, do you think this has any
influence on how Tony voters vote, specifically, in this category?
F.M.: I would imagine it has crossed the minds of the bookers and theatre
that will be the determining factor in their votes we'll never know. Just
remember, this cottage
industry we call the Broadway Theatre took in more money from the road last year
than it did
from all the shows in New York city combined.
V.J.: That's why Salesman is going out on the road. There's money in them thar
hills! And a play is much cheaper to produce. Speaking of plays, let's go
there. David Hare. What happened? Three plays and no nominations for Best
Play. Surely Amy's View should have been nominated.
F.M.: I fail to see what the problem is with Mr. Hare not receiving a
nomination in this category.
He's one of the best playwrights we have, but Blue Room and Amy's View are
simply poor efforts, neither of which deserve a nomination, and Via Dolorosa
simply isn't a play.
V.J.: And what about Lonesome West getting a nomination which one of our astute
called "Erin Go Blah!"
F.M.: Beauty Queen was difficult enough to appreciate the first time around.
that its testosterone drenched sequel made the cut.
V.J.: You picked Not About Nightingales for Best New Play. It's written by
Tennessee Williams. He's very dead, I think, for a long time. Wasn't this
written a thousand years ago?
F.M.: More like 60. It's not his best work by a long shot. But, even early
Williams is better
than the competition.
V.J.: Better than Closer and Side Man? I really think Side Man is the dark
horse here. Did you see Side Man? It's great and Frank Wood's performance
is brilliant. Why give an award to an inferior play written by a great
playwright who even had the sense not to produce it in his own lifetime. Blow
out your candles Fergus!
F.M.: Closer is very much of this moment in time, too ephemeral. It addresses
issues which have
been dealt with more effectively in other recent plays. Side Man is indeed the
dark horse. I very
well may have picked it had it had a better, stronger production.
V.J.: Okay then. You pick The Civil War, I pick Fosse. You pick Not About
Nightingales and I pick Side Man. You're Irish, aren't you?
F.M.: Yes, and so are you. Why?
V.J.: Know what Blarney is?
V.J.: Well, that's what I think of your picks.
F.M.: Know what I think of yours?
V.J.: No. What?
F.M. Erin Go Blah!
Join us Thursday as Fergus and V.J. have a go at the Best Revival of a
Musical and Best Revival of a Play.
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