Broadway Loses `Velocity', Gains Gladys Knight As Tony Awards Hit Silly Season

"The Velocity Of Autumn" Broadway Opening Night - Arrivals & Curtain CallEstelle Parsons earned her fifth Tony Award nomination yesterday. Her reward? Unemployment. Parsons, who is 86 and made her Broadway debut in 1957, is the star of The Velocity Of Autumn, in which she plays a youngster of a mere 79 years who has outfitted her Brooklyn brownstone with Molotov cocktails should anyone try to move her into a home. Despite sterling reviews for the indomitable actress, the play got middling reviews. The producers posted a closing notice of this Sunday. It will have played 22 previews and 16 regular performances at the Booth Theatre.

Related: Tony Noms’ Many Celebrity Snubs Leaves CBS Mulling What Might Have Been

The closing, along with several weird Tony nominations in a season ripe with them, has consequences beyond just the Velocity company. Why? Because Velocity is one of six shows that received Tony nominations but closed before, or will close immediately in the wake of, yesterday’s announcement of the nominees. So many of the 800-plus Tony voters, most of them producers scattered around the U.S., will not have seen the nominated shows. That means they’re not supposed to vote in any category that includes a show they haven’t seen. And since those producers are thinking about prospective ticket sales (OK, and quality), they’re also not likely to cast a vote in favor of a show unlikely to make money at their box offices.

Related: Tony Noms Show Complicated Affair Between Broadway And Hollywood

How important is this? Well, consider the case of The Glass Menagerie. This groundbreaking revival (two words infrequently seen together) is nominated in seven categories — including best revival, outstanding direction and Cherry Jones’ outstanding performance in a leading role. But Glass Menagerie closed in February, and if you’re a Tony voter but missed it, you’re not supposed to vote for any nominees in those categories. Same goes for the two categories in which Mark Rylance was nominated, lead and featured actor, for Richard III and Twelfth Night, respectively. Both shows are history. In all, 20 nominations went to shows that have closed.

AfterMidnightHappier was the news for After Midnight, the vintage Harlem club revue that beat out several other hopefuls in the Best Musical category. This feel-good 90-minute show with a sensational vintage score played by the Jazz At Lincoln Center All-Stars under the direction of Wynton Marsalis, and with no small assist from "The Cripple Of Inishmaan" Broadway Opening Night - Arrivals & Curtain CallHarlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, has capitalized superbly on stunt casting with brief run by the likes of Fantasia Barrino and k.d. la Nominated for seven Tony Awards including best musical, the producers announced today that the “special guest star” slot would be filled shortly by pop-music icons Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight and Natalie Cole (making her Broadway debut) beginning in June at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

ArielTepperMadoverTony producers threw a meet-the-nominees reception this morning that tried to seem upbeat despite the absence of a number of crossover stars who didn’t make the cut yesterday, notably Denzel Washington in best revival nominee A Raisin In The Sun and Daniel Radcliffe in the revival-nominee The Cripple Of Inishmaan. Ariel Tepper Madover, a co-lead producer of Inishmaan, by Martin McDonagh, was feeling her star’s pain. “I’m really sad  that he didn’t get nominated,” she told me. “I think that he deserved it. He gives an unbelievable performance.”

She may have a conflict of interest, but she is hardly alone in that sentiment.

  1. LOVING the Rialto coverage. Thank you!

    If I was a serious Tony voter, I would be sure to see the plays and musicals as they opened — in the event of a nomination — or pass on the invitation to be a voter. If a show closes, then some preservation of the performance neesds to be made avaiable, although seeing my words I realize that is not theatre. Scratch that. Voters just need to be available and take the charge seriously. We cannot beinvested seriously if the system has too many flaws. Look at the Daytime Emmys!

  2. Velocity got pulled because it was boring. Plain and simple. It was over-the-top acting, long-winded and only had 1 great emotional roller coaster moment and that was when the son talked about seeing a girl get hit by a truck. Other than the occasional laugh here and there, most people bolted for the door as soon as the show was over.

  3. If Deadline wants to cover theatre/Broadway, perhaps you should get someone who actually knows the industry. The mistake you made in Tuesday’s nomination story was amateur and now you’re trying to make a story of an issue that doesn’t even exist. Crap shows close…just like crap TV and movies.

  4. Ms. Parson (suffering from the flu) has missed SEVERAL performances since the opening last Monday & her wonderful standby (LIBBY GEORGE) has been doing incredible sub work. Stephen Spinella (2X TONY Winner) is also superb as the son.
    The play is simple, sweet, funny & touching (possibly too ‘light’ for tough B’way) & will be seen for years in the regions, translated into MANY foreign languages as well as a possible Lifetime movie for two BIG stars.
    CONGRATS to the producers but there are just too many straight plays currently running on Broadway & not enough dollars for plays. The ‘folks’ LOVE the musicals.

  5. a couple odd nominations? They must have been on drugs when they were doing this. They should have a new rule, if a shows closed thats it- no nominations. It’s not fair to shows that are running. They need a huge overhaul from top to bottom. New rules. new categories. There should be one for ensemble acting- its way overdue. There are plays that you can’t pick the best = they all are. And since fan favorites like If / Then and Bridges were screwed royally – how about a fan category that they vote on. Being a snob doesn’t mean you have better taste than those paying high prices for tkts.

    1. Many fall shows are only booked for limited runs, closing after the holidays. To eliminate them from contention in one fell swoop would be death to Broadway, as no one would open a show in the fall. And since those shows cater to big stars who don’t want to be tied down for more than three or four months, that would be another fiasco.

      1. The solution is not to exclude closed shows from Tony nominations, but to require better monitoring by the Tony producers of the voters. Any voter who can’t commit to seeing every Broadway opening should lose voting privileges.

  6. It is a shame on Tony that Daniel hasn’t got it yet for H2$ and especially for Equus!!!

  7. Not a shame at all. The only people who actually think Radcliffe deserves a nomination are his massive Harry Potter fanbase, who are far from objective, and the press which wants to pander to said fanbase. His performance was nothing special in Cripple of Inishmaan and he was clearly outclassed by Ingrid Craigie, Gillian Hanna and Sarah Greene. It’s no surprise he wasn’t nominated despite this production garnering nominations in other areas. That should tell you something about the quality of his performance, but his fans in denial will instead insist it’s a personal snub, and the press will gladly humor this notion because of Radcliffe’s popularity (= page views).

    I for one am glad the Tony nomination committee upholds some standards.

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