From Hedwig to Lady Day to Violet... A Revival or Not a Revival: The Eternal Tony Question

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24 Apr 2014

Sutton Foster in <i>Violet</i>
Sutton Foster in Violet
Joan Marcus

Playbill.com offers a look at the history of the rules determining which plays are considered revivals for the Tony Awards. 

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The Tony Administration Committee, a group of 24 theatre professionals (ten designated by the American Theatre Wing, ten by the Broadway League, and one each by the Dramatists Guild, Actors' Equity Association, United Scenic Artists and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers) will meet for the final time this season April 25. At this meeting, the fates of the final shows that opened this spring — as far as their eligibility for various Tony Awards categories goes — will be decided.

For old shows like Violet (1997), Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill (1986) and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (1998), this meeting holds little drama. The producers of their shows largely know what decisions will be handed down regarding their productions. This is because the Tony Awards' rules regarding eligibility of revivals are quite clear. They read, in part:

"A 'Revival' shall be any production in an eligible Broadway theatre of a play or musical that: (A) is deemed a 'classic' or in the historical or popular repertoire in accordance with paragraph 2(g) above; (B) was previously presented professionally at any time prior to the 1946-47 Broadway season in substantially the same form in the Borough of Manhattan (other than as a showcase, workshop or so-called 'letter of agreement' production) and that has not had a professional performance in the Borough of Manhattan at any time during the three years immediately preceding the Eligibility Date; or (C) was previously presented professionally at any time during or after the 1946-47 Broadway season in substantially the same form in an eligible Broadway theatre and that has not had a professional performance in the Borough of Manhattan at any time during the three years immediately preceding the Eligibility Date."

The key phrase where the above-mentioned shows are concerned is (A)'s "popular repertoire." Hedwig, Violet and Lady Day will likely be considered as being part of the popular repertoire of produced titles and thus considered revivals.

Life wasn't always this straightforward for productions of old plays experiencing their Broadway production. In the early decades of the Tonys, new plays produced in New York were largely produced on Broadway, so the first time that Broadway staged them were generally the first time critics and audiences laid eyes and ears them as well.

The separate Tony Awards for Revival of a Play and Revival of a Musical were first introduced in 1994 in response to an increased number of revivals of both kinds on Broadway. Prior to that, plays and musicals were bunched together in one category, first called "Reproduction (Play or Musical)" (1980 to 1986) and then "Revival" (1987 to 1993).



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