The Tony Awards were announced on June 5, and sharing the wealth was the rule of the evening. (In the musical categories anyway; in the world of plays, Doubt was a laurel hog.) Spamalot walked away with the biggest prize, Best Musical, plus two others. The Light in the Piazza somewhat surprisingly hauled in the biggest trove—six trophies—including ones for Best Score (Adam Guettel) and Best Actress (Victoria Clark). The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee laid claim to Best Book (Rachel Sheinkin) and Best Featured Actor (Dan Fogler). Even Dirty Rotten Scoundrels collected an honor, for Leading Actor Norbert Leo Butz, which is one more prize than was accorded the last Broadway musical by David Yazbek, The Full Monty.
For producers, the truly happy news came the next day. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee did more than four times its regular Monday take. Spamalot's sales were "way ahead of typical Monday sales" according to a show representative with the single ticket advance approaching $30 million. But the biggest beneficiary was perhaps The Light in the Piazza, which not only has a surge in ticket sales of around $300,000, but quickly extended until Jan. 1, 2006, giving Lincoln Center Theater its first long-run musical since Contact.
Net result? All four of the strong musicals that contended for the night's awards will very likely be around for some time. When was the last time a Tony race ended that way?
Of course, the news wasn't good for all. La Cage aux Folles won the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival, but the victory failed to ignite the box office, and producers announced a closing date of June 26.
Another revival, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, did not do as well as some expected, but it did deliver the surprise win of the evening. Bill Irwin—whose casting as George caused the entire theatre community to exclaim "Him?"—was named Best Leading Actor in a Play, effectively putting a seal of approval on the world famous clown's unexpected career second act as a dramatic actor. ***
So now that the 2004-05 Broadway season is over, what's the best way for the industry to relax and take a breather?
Why, open a new Broadway show, of course! Exactly one day after the Tonys, Mark Twain Tonight!, the Hal Holbrook solo perennial, began performances at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. It opened three days later, and most critics liked it as much as those who first passed judgment nearly a half century ago.
The production is produced by Emanuel Azenberg, who had another reason to be happy this week. Within 24 hours of releasing tickets for the upcoming Broadway revival of The Odd Couple with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick to American Express card holders, Azenberg and company found themselves in possession of roughly $7 million. Must be nice to open a play that's already earned its money back.