The Broadway season limped to a close this week, with August Wilson's King Hedley II coming up a little less than royal in critics' estimations, and only every other dancing foot getting a good notice for 42nd Street. But that didn't matter. All anyone could still focus on was The Producers, which opened two weeks ago. The current flavor of the buzz has to do with, of course, the Tony nominations, which will be announced at Sardi's Monday morning around the time that most normal folks are drearily making their way to work. The question is not whether The Producers will get any nominations — My God! Don't be ridiculous! —but, rather, how many it will collect.
This matter of numbers — which, one would imagine, should dance in the heads of only the musical's producers — occupied the thoughts of the theatre columnists of the New York Times, the New York Post and Newsday. The magic figure everyone kept spouting was 15. That's how many nominations the record holder, Company, received in 1971. As might be expected with the Tonys — the rules of which seem to be constantly fluctuating — this was due in part to a fluke. Prior to the 1971 ceremony, the producer, composer, lyricist and bookwriter all received one trophy, for best musical. With Company, only the producer collected the best musical prize, while the composer, lyricist and librettist all competed in separate categories. Thus arose the potential for many more Tony wins for a dominating show.
Of course, this couldn't last. In fact, the very next year the rules changed again, and music and lyrics were combined into a single "best score" category. Thus, Stephen Sondheim won two Tonys for his score of Company in 1971 and only one for his score of Follies in 1972. Company's having luckily fallen into this narrow window of opportunity has created a situation in which it is virtually impossible for a musical to meet or top its 15 nominations.
The Producers' main problem vis-a-vis the record is that it has no one to offer in the leading actress in a musical category (make no mistake, this is a very male production). Otherwise, it's all over the other divisions, including musical, score, book, direction, choreography, actor (nods for Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick), featured actor (Gary Beach and Roger Bart), featured actress (Cady Huffman), and all four design areas. That's 14. Michael Riedel of the Post puts the onus of coming up with the extra nomination on Brad Oscar, who plays the Nazi playwright. Indeed, Oscar seems to be the only member of the cast who isn't positively drowning in praise and publicity (though he is arguably as good as Beach, Huffman and Bart). Still, even if Oscar succeeded, that would only give The Producers 15 and a tie. But, perhaps that's best, as it will provide some comfort for reigning champion Sondheim, whose current revival of Follies will not be breaking any records on Monday.
So. Other news in which I can talk about the Tonys and The Producers in one breath: Lane and Broderick will be hosting the shindig at Radio City Music Hall. (This, after Lane's not-too-high marks as co-host last year—but a little touch of Mel Brooks removes all stigmata.) No word on what Producers numbers will grace the show, though it appears that the highlight of the musical, "Springtime for Hitler," has been nixed. Something about it's not working out of context. How particular these television executives are.