Legendary showman David Merrick has hopped on the bandwagon of protest against the 1996 Tony Award nominations May 14 by threatening to sue the Tonys for the way they treated his show, State Fair.
The stage adaptation of the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein film musical was nominated for two Tonys, including Best Score (though not Best Musical).
But in an unprecedented move, the Tony committee nominated only those four songs that were interpolated into the score from the R&H trunk. The songs from the film, and songs plucked from other R&H musicals on Broadway previously, were ruled ineligible. That means all the show's most familiar hits -- "It Might as Well Be Spring," "A Grand Night for Singing," etc. -- are not eligible.
The Tony ballot contains this notice to voters: "When considering the score of State Fair, please consider only the following 'Original songs written for the Theatre' as eligible: 'Driving at Night', 'You Never Had It So Good', 'When I Go Out Walking With My Baby', 'Boys and Girls Like You and Me'."
Merrick at first responded to the anomaly with a humorous publicity stunt -- sending Tony voters small wads of cotton to stick in their ears during the non-nominated songs. He also took out an ad May 10 with the line "When the Big Victor is announced, it won't be Fair." It was a sly reference to the fact that neither State Fair nor Big nor Victor/Victoria was nominated for the Best Musical Tony Award. Perhaps taking note of the spike in box office activity at Victor/Victoria after star Julie Andrews declined her Tony nomination May 8 because no one else in her show was nominated, Merrick announced May 14 his intention to sue the Tony committee. He pointed out that the entire score of Disney's stage adaptation of Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Score in 1994. It lost to Passion, but that's besides Merrick's point.
In a letter to the Tony committee, obtained by the New York Post, Merrick reportedly wrote "Partial scores obviously cannot compete with entire scores. This is not fair competition! The Tony committee has a duty to see that justice is done."
A Tony spokesman said each year's committee sets its own rules.
In the suit, Merrick said he is demanding that the entire score be considered for the Tony. The suit reportedly has not yet been filed in any New York courthas tured Actor in a Musical.
. Merrick, who has been producing shows on Broadway since 1954, has a keen sense of the value of publicity.
Scott Wise of State Fair was nominated for a Tony as Best Featured Actor in a Musical.