PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 7-13: Tony Awards Rulings Draw Ire From Industry

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13 Jun 2014

Jason Robert Brown
Photo by Monica Simoes
Jason Robert Brown continued to be that curious case: a composer who can't catch a break on Broadway (his shows don't last long), but continues to collect Tony Awards. He took home two for the now-closed The Bridges of Madison County: Best Score and Best Orchestrations.

Regarding Madison County, some observers were surprised and irate to see that the musical was not given a number on the Tonys broadcast, and that Rocky, another luckless show, was given time for a scene but not a song... but not as surprised and irate as they were to see Sting perform a number for The Last Ship and Jennifer Hudson sing a song from Finding Neverland. Both those shows are coming to Broadway next season, but were not part of the 2013-14 season — the season the June 8 Tony ceremony purported to celebrate. So they amounted, in the eyes of critics, to nothing more than advertisements for coming attractions.


The grumbling about the Tonys that began with the Sting and Hudson performances intensified June 11 when the Tony Awards Administration Committee met for the final time this season to determine new eligibility rules for the 2014-15 season. It emerged with the stunning announcement that the Best Sound Design of a Play and Best Sound Design of a Musical would be eliminated from the competitive categories in the 2014-2015 season. However, it was added, "the Tony committee holds the right to determine a special Tony award for certain productions that have excelled in this particular design realm."

The outcry from the theatre community was almost immediate. The sound design awards had been hard won. The oft-ignored craft was finally given a complete category in 2008, falling alongside awards for scenic, lighting and costume design.

According to reports, the decision was prompted by several factors, including that many Tony voters do not know what sound design is or how to judge it. (This begs the question: How do you get to be a Tony voter and not know anything about theatre sound design?) And, as the Times put it, "some administration committee members believe that sound design is more of a technical craft, rather than a theatrical art form that the Tonys are intended to honor." (And this begs the additional question: How is sound design any more of a craft and less of an art, than costume, scenic and lighting design? And then there are those who argue that acting and directing are actually more craft than art, but there things get messy fast.)


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