A letter from Elizabeth Ireland McCann — Managing Producer of this year's Tony Awards — to theatre columnist Michael Riedel was printed in the May 10 edition of the New York Post.
McCann, a veteran Broadway producer, responded to Riedel's May 3 Post editorial, "Slim Tony Pickings," in which the host of PBS' "Theatre Talk" complained, "The Tonys aren't about excellence anymore. They're about ticket sales and hype and publicity; they're about marketing Broadway as a 'destination point' and a 'brand name.'" McCann counters in her letter: "I would argue that the Tonys are indeed about excellence — excellence as of this moment and this year."
The producer of Broadway's Piaf, Crimes of the Heart, Mass Appeal and Copenhagen, McCann also writes about the diversity of the season as well as the young, new blood that Broadway is fostering: "As I gaze down the list of first-time Broadway producers, I spy several who have worked their way up from the ranks without benefit of checkbooks . . . There are young directors like Michael Mayer (Thoroughly Modern Millie) and John Rando (Urinetown) working in the musical field. And what about Mary Zimmerman, who directed Metamorphoses? Can we not dream what riches she still has in store for us in future seasons? There is a new book writer and lyricist on Urinetown — Greg Kotis — and a new composer, Mark Hollmann . . . Now you may argue that some of these first time efforts do not live up to your standard of excellence, but in my view, these are examples of burgeoning excellence today and signs of even more exciting days to come."
McCann also questions why many of the theatre critics seem angry this year, citing the nasty jabs made at Kathleen Turner's expense. "A lot of things may be wrong with The Graduate, but I suspect that [critic] Walter Kerr would have welcomed a sexy lady in the tradition of Mae West or Sophie Tucker. But then, you see, he knew his theater history. He knew a season was the working out of a very, very long tradition."
—By Andrew Gans