The Tonys -- all 21 categories of them -- can go on as scheduled June 2. A New York State Supreme Court judge dismissed David Merrick's $2 million suit against the Antoinette Perry Awards May 28.
Merrick, executive producer of Broadway's State Fair had sought $2 million in damages and a suspension of the Best Score category when the 1996 Tony committee nominated the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical for Best Score -- but took the unprecedented step of instructing Tony voters to consider only four songs of the 15-song score.
Those four songs are from Rodgers and Hammerstein's trunk -- that is, songs that had not been performed on Broadway before. Also declared ineligible were the hit songs from the 1945 film -- "It Might as Well Be Spring," "A Grand Night for Singing" and the title song.
In his suit, Merrick also asked the judge to forbid the Tonys to count ballots in the Best Score category and to hand out a Best Score award this year. But Judge Sheila Abdus Salaam found that Merrick had agreed to follow the Tony rules -- however the committee might set or change them -- when he submitted his show for consideration. She dismissed the suit entirely.
Merrick's spokesperson Susan L. Schulman told Playbill On-Line: "While disappointed (though not surprised) witht he results of today's hearing, Mr. Merrick and [co-producer Natalie Lloyd] feel satisfied that important issues of fairness have seen the light of day. They hope that this effort will bear fruit in a revised Tony Award process that supports, nurtures and preserves the American musical theatre." Tony spokesman Keith Sherman issued this statement: "Justice has been done. We thought this was a frivolous suit from the beginning and the court has ruled that to be so."
-- By Robert Viagas and April Pressel