Contrary to what you might have read elsewhere this morning, Harvey Weinstein never threw in the towel on Finding Neverland, and has no plan to now. He charged into the end-of-season with guns blazing to promote his show and was on the horn with journalists (myself among them) right up until the moment the Tony nominating committee met to begin making its choices. I say this in admiration. Having covered the nut job free-for-all that is the Tony Awards race for over 30 seasons, I figure producers have the right, perhaps even the obligation, to do whatever they want to hawk their wares. Even if it means roping in a nonprofit company like the American Repertory Theatre and its artistic director to fix your commercial enterprise (yeah, I know, everyone does it). After all, in the end, I can decide whether I’m buying what they’re selling.
Weinstein, a regular Broadway investor making his debut as lead producer with Finding Neverland, showed grace in standing by his show, congratulating the competition and, at least as of 2:30 P.M. New York time, not dissing the nominees who edged him out of the running. He’s not alone in feeling the pain of a Tony shutout: Already one show, Living On Love, has posted a closing notice, and more will follow. Among the very expensive musicals to have come away empty-handed this morning were the acclaimed revival of Side Show, the Tony Danza-starring Honeymoon In Vegas, the incomprehensibly optimistic Doctor Zhivago and the ambitious Holler If Ya Hear Me. Only Doctor Zhivago remains open, and it’s on life support. I won’t surprise anyone by saying it’s a goner.
The nominators were just as severe with the plays that opened this season, denying any nods for Larry David’s Fish In The Dark, Scott Rudin’s megahit that can afford to flip the bird at the whole process; Jez Butterworth’s The River, which even a starring run with Hugh Jackman couldn’t convince people was more than a trifle, and another Rudin production, Pam MacKinnon’s revival of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance, which brought Glenn Close back to Broadway and really ought to have secured a nomination for co-star John Lithgow in one of the very great performances of the past year. Also gone and forgotten: Blythe Danner’s sweet turn in The Country House, Gregory Mosher’s stars-through-the-revolving-door revival of A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters, and the Roundabout Theatre Company’s misguided revival of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ewan McGregor.
Well, shed no tears for the nonprofits on Broadway. Not with Lincoln Center Theater’s gorgeous revival of The King And I (not to mention the best-play nominee Disgraced), the Roundabout’s slapstick On The Twentieth Century, Manhattan Theatre Club’s post-Katrina Airline Highway and Constellations, and the Public Theater’s Fun Home all coming away with multiple nominations. Off-Broadway’s MCC Theater launched the potty-mouthed Hand To God (by way of an earlier production at Ensemble Studio Theatre, one of New York’s great unsung talent cauldrons). Add in the Big Feet of U.K. subsidized companies, the National Theatre (The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time) and the Royal Shakespeare Company (Wolf Hall Parts 1 & 2) and you have a whole lotta nonprofits profiting on Broadway.
Which is great for all of them, and in truth there isn’t a single show, nominated or not, that didn’t directly benefit from development in the nonprofit world. Still, Weinstein went to bat for a project he’s convinced has commercial appeal. Producer Kevin McCollum forges ahead with Something Rotten! despite an icy response from the New York Times (that will be rewarded, according to Broadway tradition, not with a cold shoulder but with a rich tribute of ad dollars delivered to the New York Times), as well as with Hand To God. The producers of On The Town have been tilting at windmills from the outset, but who can possibly complain about a season that included two full-scale revivals of musicals with songs by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, first working with Leonard Bernstein (On The Town) and then with Cy Coleman (20th Century)? And while The Last Ship failed to ignite the box office even when its songwriter Sting joined the cast, at least the nominators showed some memory and class by nominating his songsfor an award. Score one for commercial producers in the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York. Speaking of horse races.