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 email@example.com. 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:
For THE LIFE of me, I cannot understand how the nominating committee ovelooked the best musical on Bdway this season. It was a TITANTIC mistake on the part of such STEEL PEERS in the theatrical community not to include JEKYLL and HYDE on the roster of nominees for Best Musical.. I hear that JUAN DARIEN, whoever he is, cast the tie-breaking vote from some CARNIVAL MASS he was attending.
Long after the four nominees have folded and left their respective theaters...JUAN DARIEN is already missing in action...JEKYLL AND HYDE will still be thrilling its audiences at the Plymouth Theater.
Shame on the panel for obviously throwing aside a real audience pleaser...check out the nightly standing ovations and prolonged shouts of "BRAVO!" for the show and its most-accomplished and talented stars, Robert Cuccioli and, especially, the incandescent and luminous Linda Eder. Par for the course when there are political and financial reasons involved in the selection of nominees!!!
JUAN DARIEN...come on guys!!!!
From WINNIE, New York, NY:
I have seen nearly all of the new and revived musicals this season, and feel that the nominating committee has done an excellent job. First, we should all just take a moment and give thanks that there were actually shows (plural) to nominate!
TITANIC was interesting and well done -- much better than the critics would have had us believe -- but ultimately it fails to move the audience, and must be considered a failure (albeit an ambitious and intelligent one).
STEEL PIER was beautifully designed and executed, but anyone who can honestly say that they walked out of that theater caring anything at all about STEEL PIER's characters doesn't have much of a life. The main story's stakes are so low as to be laughable, and the sub-plots are pointless. Yes, STEEL PIER has some lovely choreography, but Kander and Ebb's songs don't live up to their past hits (I can't remember a single melody) and the cast, while skillful, is completely bland. Yes, Debra Monk's solo stands out, but only because the rest of the show is so dull. She's brassy and bold and as funny as she can be with the lame lines, but if you put her on stage with the exciting cast of THE LIFE, she'd fade into the background.
Yes, this brings me to THE LIFE -- easily the season's most thrilling show, and fully deserving of its 12 nominations. This show has a vibrant cast (you'd recognize every member of the chorus if you met them on the street afterwards -- they're that memorable) that works its tail off every minute. It has a terrific score -- when I left the theater after seeing it, I heard fellow audience members singing various songs from the show, and they were all singing DIFFERENT songs -- i.e., there are a dozen memorable numbers, rather than the one or two most of the other shows seem satisfied with. THE LIFE has fun choreography, excellent direction, beautiful design (love the costumes!) and dynamite performances.
The story may be a bit melodramatic, but then, isn't WEST SIDE STORY? Isn't LES MIZ? The advantage of the melodrama is that it really gets the audience involved -- people gasp in shock, murmur in dismay, laugh in relief, cry with sympathy, cheer with abandon. Isn't that what we all go to the theater to find? If there's justice, THE LIFE will clean up come June 1st.
Apart from the more obvious Tony scandals, I think omitting Charles Durning ("The Gin Game"), Rip Torn ("The Young Man From Atlanta") and especially Frank Langella ("Present Laughter") was a disgrace. And, quite frankly, although Dana Ivey was wonderful in "Ballyhoo," the play itself was a banal attempt at setting up carbon copy stereotypes just to shoot them down again--from racism to silly siblings. I don't think it deserved a Tony nod. At least the Best Actress category was handled correctly. And with the exceptions of Bebe Neuwirth ("Chicago") and Lillias White ("The Life"), I think every performance in a musical was as forgettable as the next. Nominating Joey McKneely ("The Life") was an insult to the memory of Bob Fosse. This has been a disappointing season.
From William J. Satter:
Jekyll and Hyde was grossly overlooked, especially Linda Eder. She has the most original voice in years. Also, I was a fan of Jekyll and Hyde music long before it came to Broadway. Anyone who really likes the music should purchase the complete works of this show because much of it (due to the length of time) was left out of the Broadway version. Regardless of the lack of nominations, the standing ovation it received on the night I attended, tells it all!!!
From John Bronston, Bloomington IL:
I was surprised but pleased by the nominations. The Best Musical was a surprise. I wish that Juan Darien had not been nominated (it really isn't a musical but a cross between a play and a performance art peice with puppets and music - however it isn't a property that was musicalized just accompanied making it not a musical. And wasn't it a revival??).
Play On would have been a much better nominee - it was silly but effective. I was pleased that Jekyll & Hyde was not nominated. Although, like Play On it, basically exists to show off the score, it suffers from a crowded physical production, uneven acting, poor staging, and lack of entertainment value. Yes the music is pretty but generally not related to the milleau that the show is set in. No matter if you enjoyed Play On or Jekyll more, Play On seems to have satisfied its goals as theatre much more than Jekyll.
The performance awards - Can't quibble with most of these - although Linda Eder may be one of the greatest Broadway singers since Streisand she is not the greatest actress (and Streisand did not win Tonys for either of her Broadway appearances for much the same reason). Perhaps with time she will develop into more than the phenomenal singer she all ready is but as long as the award is for best actress not best belt notes she didn't deserve to be nominated in this crowded field.
The score noms were reasonable (especially as Jekyll's lyrics were quite amateurish - sure they tell you what is going on but they are written more as narration than part of the action.
As to the noms for The Life - sure it is a messy show but it is an excellent score well suited to the show (albeit with flawed lyrics) filled with great acting/singing performances, appropriate physical production, and at it doesn't hold its distasteful elements at arms' length.
1) I'm tired of people whining about how old the members of the nominating committee are, how they are out of touch, how they have some "political agenda", etc. I've worked with several during my career in the theater and they more than qualified to serve on the nominating committee. Their responsibility is to separate the artistic wheat from the chaff and collectively arrive at a list of nominees. Rest assured that no one on the nominating committee is 100% satisfied with the slate of nominees -- but that's the way it goes when you get a couple of dozen people with different opinions trying to pick four nominees for each category.
2) I'm tired of the vocal minority ( i.e. producers) that rant and rave when their show fails to get the nominations they think it deserved. So JEKYLL & HYDE didn't get a Best Musical Revival. Neither did PLAY ON and DREAM. Are their producers carrying on about not getting a nomination? No. JUAN DARIEN deserved a nomination because it set out to be something more than "sit back and let the show unfold in front of you" entertainment; it attempted to stretch the definition of a work of musical theater. It may not have succeeded on every level, but it set its sights a bit higher than J & H (which is nothing more than a pale imitation of PHANTOM. Simple as that.) If J & H is the second coming that everyone claims it is, why did it take 10 years to get to NYC? And don't tell me there weren't any theaters available.....
3) No, not all worthy shows/performances get the recognition they deserve. But as long as the American Theater Wing and the League cling to antediluvian guidelines, performances like Joel Grey's will go unrecognized because of silly billing restrictions; Frank Langella won't be nominated because only 4 nominations are made in each category; ANNIE will be nominated because there has to be at least 4 nominations; SUNSET BOULEVARD will win best book and score by default because it was the only new musical that opened last season (it should get an award just because it opened?!?! -- If there aren't enough worthy nominees -- DROP THE CATEGORY). And dollar for dollar, the most entertaining event of each of the last four seasons, the Encores! series at City Center will not get any kind of recognition because the "good old boy" network is afraid of some real competition.
4) Why did 30% of this season's shows wait to open in the month of April? If the shows aren't ready don't open them! If the producers do open them and they aren't ready (TITANIC), then don't complain when the Tony Nominating Committee decides they aren't a quality work worthy of a nomination. In other words, let the piece drive the marketing campaign, don't let the marketing campaign drive the work. CHICAGO is an example. Nothing else opened last November and CHICAGO was everywhere because there was a musical theater vacuum. And it still is getting press (NYT Sunday Magazine, for example) because the show is terrific and it opened when it was ready, not in order to beat some deadline for awards.
5) I love the idea that Rosie is hosting the Awards Ceremony, but at Radio City? What does Radio City Music Hall have to do with Broadway? If you want a big venue with more seats, why not pick Lincoln Center (the Beaumont and Newhouse provide an obvious link to the theater community) or City Center which has 3,000 seats and a rich theater history. Last year the ATW and League were fighting to prevent Radio City Music Hall from being Tony eligible, now they are embracing it?
No, the Tony's just don't make sense. But, to quote Roxy Hart, "...that's show biz, kids."
From Theresa Mazzaro:
Hello, is any one from the nominating committee still awake out there? I realize that it is past your bed times!!! What were you guys (gals?) thinking? Please help me understand how one of the most original, entertaining and, yes, haunting musicals to come around in a long time, Jekyll & Hyde, can be passed over for a nomination by a puppet show????
I've be able to see both Steel Pier and Titanic, and after neither did I leave the theater singing or humming any one of their unforgettable tunes. J&H left my with goosebumps and a song in my heart. Could it be that it was overlooked because the "average" public happens to like the show (just check the ticket sales-enough said) -- despite what some so called critical "experts" had to say? I wish a member of the so-called expert committee could explain their thought process to me on this one. Call me goofy I just don't get it -- what I do understand, however, are standing ovations and a crowd in front of the stage door every night. I do not see that for these other nominatied musicals-including one that only had a limited run and is no longer on Broadway. Please!!!!
From Bonnie Stiskal:
The Tony nominees were (for the most part) well deserving of their nods, but I wish people would STOP complaining about JEKYLL & HYDE! The show was undoubtedly the WORST musical in Broadway history and no one in their right minds should see it! Yes, Linda Eder has a very great amount of talent, and Frank Wildhorn's score is very beautiful, in its haunting way, BUT the production that is currently on Broadway is horrible! While I'm on the topic of horrible musicals, please don't see Wayne Cilento's DREAM, it too is well deserving of its limited amount of nominations. Now, as for the musical that was deserving of its nominations, it is definetly STEEL PIER. What a spactacular evening of theatre! I was so touched by its wonderful amount of warmess that I was moved to tears. I have not seen THE LIFE yet, but I don't see how a show could be more deserving of the best musical award this year other then STEEL PIER. As for CHICAGO, couldn't they have just left an old great show alone? Why did they have to ruin it with a mediocre cast and a lack of EVERYTHING! I really hope STEEL PIER and most of its cast win big at the Tonys this year (Karen, Daniel, Joel, Deborah, John, Fred, Tony, et al. should all be the big winners of the Tony evening!).
From JOHN WOHLLEBER:
I have worked for a prominent sound company for the past three years and have often wondered why the aspect of sound rarely receives recognition in the Playbills and especially when it comes to the Tony Awards. With major productions attracting thousands of people weekly like "Rent", "Jekyll & Hyde", and "Forum" its extremely rare that the sound designer or the sound system involved is even credited. Your response and comments would be greatly appreciated regarding the chances of the Tony Awards recognizing "Sound Design" as an official category for future awards programs.
For more responses, see "Playbill Poll: Your Reactions to the Tony Nominations, Part 3" in Theatre News.