The nominations for the 1997 Tony Awards were announced May 5 (see separate story in Theatre News).
Please share your reactions. How do the noms compare with previous years'? Any of your favorites overlooked?
Please post your answers to Managing Editor Robert Viagas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Answers will be posted as they come in. Please include your town and state, and let us know if we can post your e mail address, so you can receive responses.
Here are the responses so far. Playbill On-Line thanks all those who took the time to write:
From JoeMarino (Sinepman@aol.com):
It was great to see Cy Coleman get a nomination for "The Life" and I congratulate all that were nominated from that show as well as all the other nominations. I was very excited to see the orchestrators once again get the recognition they deserve-this is one category I eagerly anticipate the verdict. J&H is at best mediocre and fared much better than I had expected. I applaud PBS for broadcasting an extra hour of the Tony telecast and in the future I think network t.v. should let the true arts channels broadcast the entire event(i.e A&E or Bravo) so we can truly enjoy the evening. I look forward to the broadcast this season but I hope that Julie Harris doesn't win-She's a terrific actress but if she wins the true great lady of Broadway, Angela Lansbury may never be able to catch her.
Having considered the Tony nominations, we find some appalling, some confusing, others well-deserved.
First, the appalling: Titanic for scenic design? Not with that paint job. It was a unfortunate display of function before form. Who cares if it goes up and down or tilts, when it looks like that? (The Titanic was OPULENT. Ballroom -- yellow and purple in two dimensions? I don't think so.) Bob Cuccioli for best actor in a musical? If his talents matched his apparent affection for himself -- maybe. Back to Titanic: best musical!? Had there been any apparent sense of style, another maybe. Daniel McDonald: pretty, but since when does lumber merit a Tony nod? J&H best book? We only saw this one on tour, but relentless grimness does not a good story make.
The confusing: Why was Stewart Laing not nominated for costume design instead of scenic design -this is surely the area where he deserves recognition for this production. And why is everyone so upset about Jekyll and Hyde? Linda Eder has an incomparable singing voice, but the category is best ACTRESS. Sure this pop-oriented stuff is musical manna for the masses, but so are John Tesh and Yanni. Does that make it worthy of recognition beyond the pop charts?
Well-deserved: Karen Ziemba, Bebe Neuwirth (if it's not a tie, it will be a shame). Maury Yeston for Titanic's score, and Johnathan Tunick for the orchestrations -- finally, a musical score that's musical.
Regretfully, we have not yet caught The Life, but friends who have assure us it is worthy of the attention. Ann Reinking and Susan Stroman: very different styles, both exceptional. Debra Monk and Marcia Lewis: the quintessential brassy broads. Tony Walton, scenic design for Steel Pier: clean and stylish, beautiful to look at, form AND function.
From Frontrow (FrontRow@aol.com) Palm Desert, CA:
I am absolutely stunned that Jekyll and Hyde was not nominated for Best Musical. What a snub!! It is a blockbuster of a show with gorgeous music by Frank Wildhorn, to say nothing about the phenomenal Robert Cuccioli, who is Jekyll/Hyde, and the star turn of female lead Linda Eder of the incredible voice, and the fine supporting actress, Christiane Noll; to say nothing of the rest of the distinguished cast.
The likes of this has not been seen on Broadway. It is a blockbuster! After touring for almost a year to standing ovations at every show, it has come to Broadway with many improvements that were needed and still plays to standing ovations - every night is filled with cheers, whistles, etc. The music by Frank Wildhorn is absolutely gorgeous and singable. Every night during previews the show got this fabulous feedback, and it continues with tickets hard to come by. Where were all those nominators when all of this was going on? Jekyll and Hyde is the best musical to come along in years!!!!!!
In spite of the snub by the Tony nominators, it is going to run and run and run because it appeals to the audiences. To see the show time after time and hear and feel the excitement of the spontaneous standing ovations indicates that this Jekyll and Hyde has what it takes to please an audience. Justice, however, was done by the nomination of Robert Cuccioli as Best Actor-Musical. He gives a tour-de-force performance. I have never seen a more bravura performance in all my theater going. It equates to me with Michael Crawford as The Phantom. I will be attending the Tony's and hope to see performances from the Jekyll and Hyde cast. The obvious exclusion of Jekyll and Hyde is deplorable. I do not understand the mechanics and minds of those who nominate for the Tonys! This show will run and run - another Phantom. And Frank Wildhorn has two more musicals on the way. He WILL make his mark on Broadway. The audiences know that he has already with Jekyll and Hyde! All I can say is - do not miss this show!!!!!
I may be a lone voice in the wilderness, but I think the nominating committe is to be applauded this year. The Tonys were created to honor artistic excellence in the theatre, not the most savvy publicist or the show that took the longest road to Broadway. Yes, Jekyll & Hyde is a very popular show with some audiences, but artistically it is sub-standard.
And while Linda Eder has received (well-deserved) acclaim for her vocal power, her overall performance does not match up to the other nominated actresses. The real sin of omission this year has to be Joel Grey, and I think the rule that caused this has to be changed by the Tony organization. Billing should not be an issue in such a clear case of an actor having a featured role. (I believe this is the same rule that lead to Elaine Stritch being placed in the Lead Actress catagory for A Delicate Balance last year.)
It seems to be a form of punishment for an actor's having reached a level of career achievement and that smacks of pettiness to me. In this Broadway season of a happy embarrassment of riches where performances are concerned, I do think the committee had a monumental task in weeding them down to only 4 nominees. The question I have for people who think this actress or that show was (are we tired of this phrase yet?) "egregoiusly overlooked" is this: who would you have bumped off the list?
From Fiona's Dad in Rehoboth, Mass.:
Just came back from a two-day, four-show excursion in NYC. CHICAGO was by far the best musical I saw (worth the four+ hour in line for front-row). Bebe and Marcia are quite worthy of their nominations; likewise with James Naughton. Annie seemed pushing Roxie a bit too hard (but an excellent "Roxie " number). Joel Grey was good, but his omission is due to a billing problem (isn't Amos a supporting role rather than a lead). STEEL PIER was also a gripping event in the theatre. I thought any of the supporting characters worthy of a Tony nom, but I am ecstatic that Debra Monk nod for stopping the show in Act I.
TITANIC was too big to care about most characters, with the exception of Brian D'Arcy James as the Stoker. TITANIC people should be happy they're considered at all for Best Musical. The show stopped for about seven minutes during Saturday's performance and seem3ed to make the audience quite nervous. Yeston's score was okay, but not up to the level of Nine or Grand Hotel. Finally, I thought THE LIFE was a mess: some good perfromance, especially Lillias White's Sonje. what a complete shock to learn it won the Outer Circle over STEEL PIER. At least you cared for people in that show. I'm anxious to learn what numbers will be performed for television on June 1.
I'm thrilled Tonya Pinkins was nominated--for me she is the standout of this B'way season--her Play On ACT II "I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues" rivals Jennifer Holliday's "And I Am Telling You..."--this knockout from Jelly's Last Jam deserves recognition for her powerhouse presence and stellar singing! I was disappointed that Mercedes Ellington's choreography was overlooked. The big athletic jitterbug number is the kind of thing that I thought I would only see in documentary footage--it was thrilling to see it fleshed out with such wild abandon.
From Beth (NYCAngel97@aol.com) in NH:
OK, here goes... last year was the first year in my 18 years of life that I watched the TONYS. I was raised on movies, and slowly this year have been getting into what's happening in the glittering gulch they call Browadway. I have only been to one Broadway show, and that was last year's TONY award winner RENT.
But, one of the shows nominated for Best Musical Revival is also one of my favorite shows. It was the very first musical I ever performed in, and is what changed the course of my life from wanting to be in movies, to dreaming of starring in a Brodway Musical. And that show is "Once Upon A Mattress". I was so happy that it was nominated, even though I'm pretty sure that "Chicago" will kick it's butt. However, despite what critics and anyone else might say about "Mattress", I will be cheering it on, because it is a fun show with some great music, and a wonderful cast, lead by a great actress: Sarah Jessica Parker.
I wish everyone nominated good luck, and as sad as I was that my idol, Stockard Channing, did not get nominated, there's still more to come. Again, I guess I don't knw much about the TONYS, but I do know that often when a play is cast, there is more talent than there are parts, and in the cases of Jeckyll and Hyde and other performers who were not nominated, this is true. There are only so many nominations to go around. So, quit your whining about who didn't get nominated, and be happy for those who did.
From Larry Mullen:
For the second year in a row I find myself at odds with the nominating committee. Maybe its time I sat back and ignored the awards like most of middle America does. Do they really matter to me? At this point I am not sure anymore. I have seen all the new musicals with the exception of The Life which I have tickets for on 17 May.
To pass over Jeykill and Hyde for Best Musical or Best Score seems to me an impossibility. I enjoyed Steel Pier but was greatly disappointed with kander & Ebb. Very forgettable music. Pleasant but nothing to come out humming. Dream was wonderful but that was all old music, the likes of which we won't hear for a long time to come. The Titantic was a hodge podge of scenery flops etc. Also nothing special. Jeykill and Hyde may be a gruesome story but the music is magnificant. And the audiances love it.
I guess awards have gotten to the point that its immaterial that you are accepted by the public and receive one standing ovation after another. Its smart for the Wing to pick the "in" things rather than what is judged good by the public. This will be my last year as a person who cares about the Tonys. From now on they will just be something that was cooked up by a highbrow who wants to tell the world what is the best!
From Stacey Mac Kinnon (CARBENMIK@AOL.COM):
Thank God the dazzling, gorgeous, and talented BEBE NEUWIRTH was nominated for a Tony!! She is absolutely the most spectacular performer in the business, and she more than deserve it!! All my money is on her June 1!
I can't believe that The Life received 12 nominations! I can understand the nominations it received for the performances of the cast; anyone who can deliver the embarrassingly bad dialogue and utterly inane -- and predictable -- lyrics in that show deserves every bit of recognition he or she can get! It's the only reason I applauded at the end of the show when I saw it; it was all I could do to sit through the interminable first act -- 1:45 in length -- and if I could have left at intermission I would have. It is so misogynistic and offensive that I can't imagine anyone wanting to sit through it. I haven't spoken to a single person who actually thought it was good. I think that the only reason it is getting any positive response is because it opened at the end of a lackluster season (for the most part) and it, at least, has the energy to commit to being awful energetically, as opposed to the other shows that are neither great nor horrible.
From Mary Ellen Kelly:
Talk about "egregiously overlooked"! It's a great pity that Frank Langella was not nominated for his superb performance in "Present Laughter." (It's also a great pity that "Present Laughter" has closed. Could these two seemingly discrete facts somehow be related?)
From Herbert M. Simpson, Geneseo, NY:
What about Peter Kaczorowski's lighting for STEEL PIER and Robin Phillips' direction of JEKYLL & HYDE?
Still, some omissions do get redressed: I don't think Andre De Shields (THE WIZ and AIN'T MISBEHAVIN') has ever been nominated before.
I would certainly agree the dramatic acting categories simply could not include every worthy performance. I regret the absence of Frank Langella and Rip Torn. I am at a loss to understand why "Play On" did not get a Best Musical nomination. It is no classic, neither is any of the other nominees, and "Play On", an unpretentious entertainment built around great music deserves a place in the running instead of at least one, if not two, of the current finalists.
From Steve Allen (stlcritic):
I am just pleased that we have original book musicals in this category this year. I've been disappointed with musical revues not only being nominated but winning Tony's in the past. Not being a New Yorker nor getting there to see the shows on a regular basis, the only show I can really talk about is "Jekyll and Hyde" which we saw about 2 years ago in St. Louis. I was not surprised to see it not get a nod with the shape it was in then. I'm sure it's much better now, but the doggerel that passed for lyrics when it played in St. Louis certainly didn't bode well then for a Tony nomination. Audiences then (and I'm sure now) loved it, gave it a standing "O"- but those of us in the critic's circle didn't have much good to say for it then.
Overall, I'm surprised by some of the snubs in all of the catergories, but I think the nominating committee did a fine job this year and I look forward to the three hour! broadcast. What a delight to see that the best awards show on TV is getting the time it deserves. And one last remark- Thank God for Rosie O'Donnell- she has almost single-handedly brought the Broadway theatre back in the spotlight where it belongs!
I have seen Jekyll and Hyde three times and every time I enjoy it more and more. The music is haunting and gives the audience goosebumps. THEN WHY WAS IT NOT NOMINTATED FOR A TONY FOR BEST MUSICAL??? Linda Eder is a talented young woman who received no nomination either. She spent almost 10 yrs of her life working for this role and she will not win a Tony for it. What is wrong with this????
From Fred Orlansky:
I am more fed up with the way the Tonys are picked and the Tony show itself, then who gets picked. I want to know who took the show out of the Tony Awards. It used to celebrate theatre. Now it gives awards to help box office. One of the highlights of the show was the acceptance speeches. From the Lighting Designer to the "Star" they were almost always incredibly articulate. Now they are barely able to say Thank y...when they are ushered off. As for the shows themselves, we all have our favorites look at how Miss Saigon and Cats are still running. The general public wouldn't know a good show if they fell over one. I will guarantee you that Jekyll and Hyde will run for 5 years while The Life will close in six months, if it doesn't win the Tony of course. I must say that the one great omission is PRESENT LAUGHTER's Frank Langella, and Alison Janney deserves a supporting actress nomination. And what about Ron Lagomarsino for Best Director of a Play! Oh well.
From Robert Grabowski (email@example.com):
I'm saddened that Daniel Massey wasn't nominated for his brilliant portrayal of Maestro Wilhelm Furtwangler in "Taking Sides". Mr. Massey was exceptional in a very difficult role.
From Donna J Purnomo, Albany NY:
I'm completely and totally Incredulous!!! Jekyll & Hyde overlooked for Best Musical, Actress, Music??? I've been schlepping to NY to enjoy theater for 31 years (I saw my first show at 12) on a very regular basis. I can not fathom what poisonous venom fueled the Tony Nominating Committee. I pray there's an antidote so nothing like this happens again. What a glaring omission.
From Paul & Nancy:
I am extremely disappointed in the snub of Frank Wildhorn's beautiful score and Jekyll and Hyde. This show has raised controversy between the critics, theater elite, and the masses who are loving it and flocking to see it. I had faced the fact that there was a possibility it might not actually win the Tony there is well deserved competiton-but to not even get nominated is very hard to believe. Likewise the omission of both Christiane Noll and Linda Eder-wonderful performers. One of the NY papers reported that there was a tie between Juan Darien and Jekyll and Hyde. How is it that the tie breaker went to a show that closed months ago and was only for a limited engagement in the first place?
I saw Chicago and loved it but to nominate it for best lighting and best costumes???? Joel Grey was great and was done an injustice in the legalities of where his name was placed and who exactly forgot to get his change into the committee in time. In drama, I was stunned at the omission of An American Daughter.
Every year there are shocking surprises and this year was no different. But in the long run it will not be the Tony nomination that sells the show-it will be word of mouth of the general audiences who see these shows. Some shows nominated for Tonys have already closed, some will close soon, and Jekyll and Hyde, Tony or not, will out last most of the others.
From Barbara Bergeron, New York, NY:
The nomination I most miss is for Selena Cadell as Featured Actress in "Stanley". As good as all the principals were, she was especially fine in her reactions to the outrageous behavior of her on-stage lover. But I'm very pleased that Antony Sher made the cut; he's my personal choice for Best Actor.
I was also very pleased that Shirley Knight was nominated; hers is a beautiful performance (no surprise, though, from this very gifted actress).
And I'm glad that Beverly Emmons was nominated for her lighting of "Jekyll & Hyde" -- it was the only thing I really liked in that show!
And finally, very nice to see Helen Carey's nomination for "London Assurance." I've seen her at Arena Stage and the Shakespeare Theater in Washington, and maybe now she'll have the opportunity to work frequently in NYC.
My wife and I saw "Chicago" 3 weeks ago. The show itself was great. Bebe Neuwrith was terrific, the ensemble was phenominal (especially Leigh Zimmerman -- wow), and yes, the choreography was spectacular because it was, well, Fosse. And Reinking played Roxie SO over the top that NOBODY could understand a word of what she was saying. Her very first spoken lines (at the end of "All That Jazz") are: "Nobody walks out on me [gunshot]...Don't 'sweetheart me, you sonofabitch [3 gunshots]....I gotta pee!". She delivered the lines, and EVERYONE around turned to each other and asked, "What did she just say?" At first I thought, "OK, she just garbled the line and nobody understood it. It'll get better." Unfortunately I found myself playing her interpreter for the rest of the show.
So, sorry to disagree, but in my opinion she was the ONLY downfall of a wonderful production and, justly, did not deserve a nomination.
I think it is time we put this archaic nominating committee out of it's misery. How about a rotating committee with fresh, new blood each year?
Better yet, get rid of this nominating committee and let the actors nominate actors, directors nominate directors etc. There is something wrong with a system that ignores great new shows and new composers such as Jekyll & Hyde and Frank Wildhorn respectively. These are the same people who cry year after year "where are all the new composers?" They go off to do other things because they are not let into that inner circle of old blood. This committee is too narrow-minded and rigid, trying to hold on to their fleeting control to pass on the baton. They had to dig deep for their slap in the face to nominate what is essentially an elaborate "puppet show". Maybe they could have at least done a positive thing for Broadway and nominate a show that could have used it support like Play On! It's closing May 11. Let's hope this nominating committee will somday soon meet the same fate.
For more responses, see "Playbill Poll: Your Reactions to the Tony Nominations, Part 4" in Theatre News.