Musicians Union Protests Contact's Eligibility for Best Musical Tony

Tony Awards   Musicians Union Protests Contact's Eligibility for Best Musical Tony As reported earlier today, the president of Musicians Local 802, William Moriarity, sent a letter to American Theatre Wing (ATW) president Roy A. Somlyo on April 18 protesting Contact's candidacy for a Tony Award for Best Musical. Moriarity asserted that Contact is not eligible for a Tony because "there is no original or live music in the play." A well received production from director Susan Stroman, Contact is currently running at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in Lincoln Center.

As reported earlier today, the president of Musicians Local 802, William Moriarity, sent a letter to American Theatre Wing (ATW) president Roy A. Somlyo on April 18 protesting Contact's candidacy for a Tony Award for Best Musical. Moriarity asserted that Contact is not eligible for a Tony because "there is no original or live music in the play." A well received production from director Susan Stroman, Contact is currently running at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in Lincoln Center.

Subsequently, a Tony spokesperson told Playbill On-Line that there was a discussion about Contact, but that the Tony committee ruled the show was eligible in the Best Musical category.

"We've seen the [Local 802] letter," the spokesperson said, "but the committee made its decision and ruled last week thatContact was eligible. The rules are very clear--it's either a musical, a play or a revival. If it's not eligible in any of those categories, it just isn't eligible. "The committee's determination is final," the Tony source said, "because there are gray areas. Dame Edna fell into that area, just like Swan Lake did last year." The spokesperson said the Tony administrative committee entertained a great deal of discussion about Contact, just as it did with Jerome Robbin's Broadway and, to a lesser extent, with Fosse.

"It's getting tougher," the spokesperson said. "The rules were created to guide the committee in formulating eligibility decisions, but increasingly we find that there are shows produced that defy the rules." Citing other examples of recent productions that have generated either Tony eligibility controversy or debate, the spokesperson mentioned True West and Waiting in the Wings.

"They may not necessarily be new plays," the Tony source said, "but they're considered eligible in the category of Best Play of the 1999-2000 season." The spokesman added that a Tony Rules Subcommittee meets on a regular basis to consider Tony eligibility issues and that the rules are amended annually. "New situations always present themselves with the changing face of Broadway theatre," the spokesperson said. *

Local 802's William Moriarity described Contact as a "dance play" and protested its eligibility in the "strongest possible terms." Moriarity's letter focused attention on two areas.

"First, no music, vocal or instrumental, has been created for this production," Moriarity's letter stated. "To the best of my knowledge, no work has ever been considered for a [Best Musical] Tony -- an award ostensibly for creative merit -- that contained no creative musical elements.

"Second, no newly created musical performance, whether instrumental or vocal, occurs in this production. Dancing, of course, takes place, but in our opinion, that alone is not sufficient to define musical theatre. A musical must contain music as a creative element."

Moriarity's letter went on to acknowledge Contact's critical acclaim and exceptional dance elements, even suggesting that it receive some sort of "special recognition citation," but not a Tony for Best Musical.

-- By Murdoch McBride