EXCLUSIVE: Deadline’s Jeremy Gerard and Jujamcyn Theatres majority owner and president Jordan Roth talk about the state of the industry, the only stipulation being no holds barred.
GERARD: This morning will see the final meeting of the committee that considers producers’ requests for deviations from Tony rules regarding categories for nominations. As one of your colleagues remarked to me earlier this week, “this is the only business where they decide the rules after the fact.” It’s also a business whose rules are decided by folks with financial and artistic conflicts. Case in point, and the decision that will have all of us on the edge of our seats until it’s delivered, concerns Shuffle Along, and producer Scott Rudin‘s request that the show be considered a revival, not a new musical. In this case, not only will the committee be deciding this crucial issue well after the show has been running in previews but also after the reviews have appeared. Already, one prize-giving group — the Drama Desk, made up of entertainment editors and writers — has ignored the issue and placed Shuffle Along in competition for best new musical. It’s hard to imagine the administrators being immune to whatever arguments the critics make on this issue (and I’m writing this before I’ve made up my own mind).
You don’t have to be a direct investor or producer or member of the creative team to have a conflict of interest. Broadway, for all its global aspirations, is where everyone knows everyone else’s business, and if you’re not in bed with a producer on one show, you’re likely to be on the next or one down the road. Having this meeting today, on the last day of Tony eligibility, strikes me as nuts and unfair to everyone involved, whether as investors, creatives or even, dare I say, as journalists. For starters, the categories — from new-versus-revival to star billing — ought to be determined when the producer reserves an opening-night date with the Broadway League.
ROTH: No, no and no! The committee is not deciding what the rules are after the fact, it is applying the rules — and not after the fact but rather at the earliest moment possible, which is once the show is completed. How could you possibly decide who the lead of a show is without seeing it? And how could that decision possibly be valid if the show is not in final form? By your plan, a role deemed leading even a year or more before opening night (as many openings are registered that far in advance) could be so cut down as the show developed — in workshops, out-of-town and previews — as to be barely featured.
As for conflicts, you bemoan the perceived conflicts among the committee but don’t want the decision influenced by presumably non-conflicted critics? Why wouldn’t you want these decisions to be as informed as possible — which would include the contextualizing of a well-researched review? And as we’ve discussed, any committee members involved in any way in the show being considered have to recuse themselves from that vote.
Speaking of awards consideration (or lack thereof) and the Drama Desk nominations, I note that its nominating committee surprisingly decided to cut the Outstanding Book of a Musical category altogether. Presumably not because they don’t think books in general are award-worthy, but because they decided none of this year’s books were. While the idea of nominating and awarding only work that rises to a high level of excellence and not just the best of a given bunch sounds good in theory, when it actually happens, it’s another story. Hard to believe that of all the many musicals both on and off-Broadway that the committee evaluated, there weren’t at least three books they would recommend to their voters. That’s even harder to believe when we consider that the Drama Desk nominators did single out five shows for Outstanding Musical — most of which also were recognized in the music and/or lyrics categories.
When people like a musical, they credit the score. When they don’t, they blame the book. Neither is right.
GERARD: We’ll know the decision of the Tony gods later today. Watch this space.