All 14 members of the controversial 1996 Tony Awards nominating committee have been asked to return for the 1997 awards -- with the addition of as many as 16 new members, according to Tony spokesman Keith Sherman.
Sherman said 30 theatre professionals, including all 14 from 1996, were invited to serve on the 1997 committee, and that a list of those accepting could be made public as early as June 21.
In a meeting the week of June 10, the administrative committee of the Antoinette Perry Awards reportedly decided to expand the roster of nominators to reflect more different facets of the theatre world.
Members will now serve three-year terms, with one third of the committee being replaced each year by new appointees.
It was widely assumed that the 1997 committee and procedures would be substantially different from 1996's. The 1996 Tonys brought an unusual amount of dissent, most notably Julie Andrews' now-famous withdrawal of her name for consideration when the entire rest of her Victor/Victoria production team was "egregiously overlooked." The Tonys also were sued by producer David Merrick, who found it absurd that only four songs from his State Fair were deemed eligible to be nominated for Best Score. In response, Merrick has announced that he will launch his own Broadway awards, which he has christened the Merrick Awards. A spokesman for Merrick said he hopes to televise them, preferably opposite or instead of the Tonys.
-- By Robert Viagas