The Tony Awards Administrative Committee is scheduled to meet April 30 to decide, among other things, whether a Special Award should be given in 1998. These special honors are given in addition to the regular Tony Awards, generally for lifetime achievement or special sustained contribution to Broadway.
Playbill On-Line asked readers to tell us who or what they think deserves a Special Tony or Tony Honor this year. We asked readers to include a paragraph explaining their choice.
In recent years special awards have been given to, among others former Shubert Organization President Bernard Jacobs, actress Carol Channing, the National Endowment for the Arts, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, IATSE, the long-running The Fantasticks and the wife-husband acting team of Jessica Tandy & Hume Cronyn.
Here are the results so far. Playbill thanks all who took the time to write.
From Schreiner, Page:
The year Ethel Merman died -- if you recall -- there was absolutely no tribute to this individual whatsoever at the Tony Awards (not even before she died, too.) Which, I feel, a huge oversight and neglect on the committee's part! I know when it comes to award ceremonies in general, regardless of orientation of the award itself, "time" is a factor. I understand, as everyone else does, everything has to be squeezed into 2 hours (more or less). And it is especially not fair to acknowledge some and not others who have contributed equally. If an award ceremony, such as The Tony Awards is going to take the time to acknowledge an individual -- I strongly feel that Ethel Merman deserves a shot! It's never too late. I don't have to tell anyone what she did for the theatrical community, not to mention Hollywood, too. Her life and career speak for itself! I hope an oversight like this does not happen again to anyone who is so deserving -- living or dead!
From Jonathan A. Rybka:
Although I am sure there are a few who might hate me for saying this . . . Disney should get an honorary award for helping revitalize Broadway. Disney or else Livent. They have both helped in the "re creation" and continuation of Broadway in NYC and around the world.
From Galen Colbert:
No performer of her era epitomizes the Broadway musical performer more than Ms. Gwen Verdon. The number of Tonys she has won, The first real "triple threat," her devotion to the craft of theatre, evidenced by her roles as star AND dance captain on numerous Fosse shows. And, of course, a special mention should be made of her legs!
I think the Encore! Series at City Center should get a special Tony Award. A valuable service of historic preservation/recreation that provides excellent nights in the theater.
Also, if this isn't too weird...how about a special award to the NY TIMES for their excellent coverage of theater, the scene, the reviews, the ABC's, the ads.
Anyway, I am sick at heart over the shrill Alice Ripley getting a Drama Desk Nomination today over the regal, peaceful, and better singing Emily Skinner!
From Joe Geigel:
Personally, I think that a special award should go to the Roundabout Theatre Company....With two successful transfers (1776, A View From the Bridge) and the launching of Cabaret, I think they deserve some special kudos.
From Chris Sgarlata:
I feel that Rosie O'Donnell deserves a special award for her help in giving the general public a look a Broadway. Her talk show has helped to promote many new musicals and her being the host of last years Tony Awards helped to increase the audience greatly.
From Clair Sedore, Toronto (email@example.com):
There should be a special lifetime achievement award given to Broadway's greatest actress, Miss Julie Harris. I feel most privileged to have seen most of her performances on stage including those in Toronto area i.e. Romeo and Juliet, at Stratford, And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little at the Royal Alexandra.
Ever since she played Frankie in Member of the Wedding, she worked her way into becoming a national treasure, and in spite of what most theatre people feel, she is the first lady of the American Theatre. She is much more talented than Helen Hayes ever was or Lynn Fontanne. I have also met her on many occasions at the stage doors and she has always been most gracious, and I even got to hold her dog after a performance of Belle of Amherst while she signed autographs for her public.
Unfortunately her film presence, other than Member of the Wedding, I Am a Camera and East of Eden, has not been as great. Even on TV i.e. Knot's Landing, she could almost salvage a ridiculous soap.
If we were in England she would surely be Dame Julie Harris.
From Rodney R Anderson/HQ/Genstar:
I'd give a life time achievement Tony to Angela Lansbury, The regional Tony to the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, and a special Tony to the creators of Off-Broadway's The Last Session.
My thoughts go towards Chita Rivera. She's the last of the great legends & has given her heart and soul to the theatre. A most deserving national treasure.
From Jasmin Singer:
I think the 1998 recipient of the special Tony Award should be Patti LuPone. In my opinion, she epitomizes the word "performer" and brings to the stage a talent which is unsurpassed, in any role she is given. She has seen the highs and lows of stage in every area possible, yet has persevered untainted throughout it all. Patti LuPone deserves a Lifetime Achievement Award for what she represents in the world of Broadway. She is an amazing person and a PHENOMENAL talent/genius!
From Steve Spurgat:
I believe Edward Albee should receive a lifetime achievement award. One of the creators of off broadway, his contributions extend beyond his playwrighting and three Pulitzers. His work explains itself...
I could go on, but need I...
From David Mahler, Laguna Hills, CA (Trampyre@aol.com):
If I had a chance to nominate someone, I'd have to go with Jerry Herman....
Jerry has provided Broadway with some of its most memorable music for over 30 years -- while the shows his music have graced haven't always been commercially successful, his endearing songs have achieved lives of their own. It's been said that Jerry is one of the last great showtune composers who leave you humming their music when you leave the theater.
Sometimes, we think of certain performers when we think of his songs. Who can forget Angela Lansbury at the top of a stairway announcing "It's Today"? Or Bernadette Peters hoping that "Time Heals Everything"? Or the dazzling Carol Channing (OR Barbra Streisand, for that matter) making the penultimate entrance with "Hello, Dolly!". His songs have even been embraced as anthems- "I Am What I Am" from La Cage Aux Folles became a theme song of Pride for the Gay & Lesbian community.
His approach with a song is simple and direct. No twisting lyrical mazes capped with a complex patter of notes like you get with his contemporary Stephen Sondheim. Jerry's music & lyrics are straightforward, as to be totally digestible by his listening audience. And you savor them long after the song has ended- they stay with you. You can listen to his songs time and time again, and never tire of them.
And with Jerry's songs, you FEEL. His ballads bring a tear to your eye. His upbeat numbers make you tape your feet. And his humor isn't snide or condescending (remember laughing at "Man In The Moon" (Mame), "Nelson" (A Day In Hollywood...) or "So Long Dearie" (Hello, Dolly!)?)
The music of Jerry Herman doesn't stir controversy, like Sondheim or Andrew Lloyd Webber's sometimes do. Because it is perhaps not as complex, it sometimes gets overlooked for that reason. But all I know is that when I hear something that Jerry Herman has penned, My Heart Leaps Up...
From Gary Sixsmith:
There has been no one person who has revitalized Broadway and the Tony awards more than -- Rosie O'Donnell -- I give my vote to her and a heartfelt. Bravo!!!
From Mike Harrington:
I would like to propose that a special tony award be given to GWEN VERDON Seeing many shows as a kid, i never viewed the different skills in a broadway show on there own merit.It was Gwen Verdon in Sweet Charity that made me appreciate dance. There are just a few performers who make there claim to broadway with dance , and i think she has been one of the very best. Also,although she make work in movies and on TV now, In her prime she never abandoned the theatre, but worked there almost exclusively.She is a big supporter of the theatre and one of it's finest products.
From Jeremiah Clauss:
This year's recipient should be the San Jose Children's Musical Theatre. For the past 30 thirty years, SJCMT has trained over 10,000 kids in the areas of acting, singing, and dance while producing professional theatrical productions. Several of their alumni have gone on to have successful careers in the performing arts such as Teri Hatcher and Heather Stokes. For the past year, SJCMT has collaborated with Apple to create an original musical entitled "Pulse: The Rhythm of Life". Through the organization Convomania, children around the world have sent their stories via the internet to SJCMT about their disabilities and how it has affected their lives. The world premiere is set for May 5 and 6, 1998. The reason I'm nominating this wonderful organization is because I am an alumni of the theatre who has been with them for 4 years. They have given me the training, courage, drive, and confidence I needed to continue my passion for the theatre and to fulfill a life long dream of one day performing on Broadway. I cannot highly recommend this company receive the achievement award for excellence in the theatre. If you have any questions about the company, feel free to contact San Jose Children's Musical Theatre at (408)288-KIDS (5437) and speak to either Michael Mulcahy (Executive Director), Kevin Hauge (Artistic Director) or myself at (415) 406-5809. I thank you for your time.
1. Gwen Verdon-lifetime achievement award for her devotion to the broadway stage and her truly being one of the few stars who did so.
2. John Kander and Fred Ebb: two super-hit revivals and a great career. They are also two of the nicest people in show business. And they continue to work to bring new shows to Broadway.
3. Arthur Laurents: a true man of the theatre. Writer and director and should have been a great actor as well. Huge hits and many years of devotion to the theatre and Broadway.
Simple. Every year the American Theatre Wing and the League of American Theatres and Producers ignores their contribution, and every year the productions they present are the most entertaining in town -- isn't it about time to give a special Tony Award to City Center for its Encores! series.
I'd like to see a special Tony go to one of the greatest Broadway troopers of all time, Elaine Stritch. She's had a career that's lasted close to 50 years, and her work just gets stronger as the years go by.
From: ViolinBWay (ViolinBWay@aol.com):
In my opinion, special recognition should be given to the adept stage actor, Victor Garber. From Sweeny Todd to Assassins to the current Broadway hit ''Art'' he has conveyed extreme extremities to subdued intellectuals and such forth. If not Victor Garber, maybe Michael Cerveris?
From Patrick Pearson (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Disney (it's imagination has been the main force behind two successful musicals this decade and they provide quality entertainment for the whole family with a message and some extravaganza that is not to be believed).
A Chorus Line (23 years later, the words still ring true and just as poignant to anybody who has ever set foot on stage as a dancer. Also, check out any playbill and see how many biographies include A Chorus Line. So many of today's performers have at one time had the chance to work on this show that changed the face of American Musical Theatre.)
The ensembles of Ragtime or The Lion King (Ensemble makes both of these shows tick, just as it does so many other shows. However, ensemble is oftentimes pushed to the wayside for the stars).
That's all I can think of for now. By the way, I really enjoy your book "On the Line." It is incredibly informative and insightful for me, a musical theatre major about to enter the working world.
How quickly we forget. . .
From Matt Hough:
I think the Tony committee should present a special honor to Julie Andrews.
1. In her career, she created four classic Broadway leading roles: Polly Brown in THE BOY FRIEND, Eliza Doolittle in MY FAIR LADY, Guenevere in CAMELOT, and Victoria Grant in VICTOR/VICTORIA.
2. She has never received a Tony award before.
3. She graciously appeared as a presenter last year to demonstrate there were no hard feelings from the previous year's brouhaha.
4. She is a show business legend, worthy of being honored with a special Tony YEARS ago. In comparison, Barbra Streisand and Carol Burnett were both awarded special Tonys having created only TWO Broadway roles. (Burnett has since created a third in MOON OVER BUFFALO.) Barry Manilow and Diana Ross, neither Broadway actors, were given special Tonys for brief concert events on Broadway. (Shirley MacLaine and Liza Minnelli were also, but they at least have Broadway acting credentials.)
An award for Julie Andrews is most overdue.
From Pier, Brian:
A special Tony should be given to Disney for the exceptional restoration of the New Amsterdam Theatre.
No doubt: Diahann Carroll.
From Alessio & Lenora Tringali:
I wonder how many people will agree with me, but I think that a Tony award should perhaps be given to Laurie Beechman (with her husband accepting of course), in her memory. She has been a great leading lady of musical theater throughout her short life, and I think she should be remembered. What better way than a Tony Award in her honor?
Jason Robards who continues to be a great presence on the New York stage after 40 years in many legendary plays and has 8 Tony nominations as proof of this achievement. He won only once and it is high time he be honored for his grand career. The dynamic Elaine Stritch has been a memorable warrior on Broadway for over 40 years. Nominated 5 times for a Tony she is long overdue for official kudos.
From Rosemarie Derr (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org):
I have 2 suggestions for Special Tony/Life Time Achievement Awards. The first suggestion for Life Time Achievement is for Laurie Beechman who recently passed away from her long struggle with Ovarian Cancer. Besides her Tony Nomination for "Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat", she was the longest, and the greatest "Grizabella" to grace any stage where "CATS" played. She had one of the greatest voices that Broadway and many NYC Cabaret's ever heard. Although too late for Laurie to enjoy, it is an award she deserves, and earned in her short life. There's no doubt that she would have accomplished as much as other Life Time Achievement recipients, if the cancer had not cut short her life.
The second suggestion for a Special Tony Award is for Ken Prymus who recently ended his 7 years as "Old Deuteronomy" in "CATS", the longest run in a Male Principal Role on Broadway. Like Laurie, he brought more to the character than anyone else who played the role, and also the greatest "Old Deut" that "CATS" has ever seen. "CATS" had its greatest moments when the two graced its stage, especially last June 19th. The only regret is the Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber decided to "film" a staged production of "CATS" in London, for the best video of the musical he could have released would be a tape of the record breaking performance.
From Connelly, Chris:
This is not so much a suggestion for a special honor but to include a new category:
As the Outer Critics have noted this year with the cast of "Art" and the success of several musicals in recent years ("Titanic" & the "Chicago" revival) show, the success of many shows depend on a full acting (and in the case of musicals, acting, singing and often dancing) ensemble to fully realize a show's potential. Some shows, like last year's "Titanic" had no real stand-out individual performances to honor (or so the Tony Committee deemed) but clearly the major strength of the production was the cast as a whole, which does some of the best choral singing ever heard on a Broadway stage. This is a case where the whole is clearly greater than the sum of its parts.
Therefore, I would suggest the Tony Committee create a Best Ensemble category, combining both plays and non-musicals into one category, or, like the Best Revival, creating two distinct categories when the field in any one season is particularly strong. Broadway is getting further and further away from the Star vehicle. Individual performances are often important for igniting interest in a piece or even the entire season, but it is the Broadway ensemble ("Cats", "A Chorus Line", "Les Mis") that keeps these shows running at such a high level of professionalism year after year, star after star.
I think that Chita should definitely get the special award. Or as Rosie O'Donnell call her- chitarivera. Her career is still going strong! West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Rink, Spider Woman, and now possibly Dear World? What CAN'T she do? Obviously there isn't much that she isn't capable of. Doctors told her she would never be able to dance again after her car accident, yet she can still dance better than most. I could write paragraphs and paragraphs to as why I think Chita should get it, but I think her name pretty much says it all! A living legend. =)
TC&SC! (Take Care & Stay Cool!)
I think a special Tony should be given to Julie Taymor for her excellent vision of what everyone thought was impossible. She has done something with the theatrical experience that no other play or musical has ever done. And I don't think anyone could have done a better job creating and giving animals such humanity and personality. I definitely think she deserves it.
From Gary Mathias:
I think the committee should give a special Tony posthumously to Laurie Beechman for her incredible courage and unfaltering support of the musical theatre artform under the most difficult time during the illness that took her life. She is the embodiment of those special traits that take this art to its highest level. She stands as a symbol to everyone who is facing adversity in their lives and how to deal with those situations. She will be missed by the many people who had the chance to see her perform and the love and enthusiasm that she instilled in those performances.