Tony Watch: First, Kill All The Nominators – Plus: Eric Bogosian’s Master Class; Opera’s Latest Tempest

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Too Ambitious For Tonys?

Deadline's chief theater columnist Jeremy Gerard discusses why he believes 'If/Then' was overlooked by Tony nominators.

UPDATE: On the subject of Violet as revival (see below). If/Then should have received a Tony nomination for Best Musical. Sure, it’s thankless to parse the politics, prejudices and caprice of the process by which Broadway shows are deemed eligible by the Tony Administration Committee (Violet is a revival?) and then competitors by the Nominating Committee. And I run the risk of looking like a booster by emphasizing one major omission over others, but the truth is, I have no dog in this hunt other than -– OK, I’ll say it -– an ethical one. The Nominators went out of their way to snub the Broadway season’s most original new show, rubbing salt in the wound by leaving blank a slot in the Best Musical category. So the score (by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey) and star (Idina Menzel) of If/Then were deemed nomination-worthy, but not the show itself. Wait, what?

First, a word about Violet. I’ve pointed out a couple of times that its nomination for best musical revival strikes me as odd, if not punitive, and a number of readers have called me wrong (and worse) on this point. If Violet was eligible in the Best Musical category, they say, then Hedwig And The Angry Inch should have been eligible as well, since both shows previously ran off-Broadway. True fact, uneasy logic. Hedwig opened off-Broadway in February, 1998 and ran for 857 performances before closing more than two years later. It was a huge hit. Violet, by comparison, opened at Playwrights Horizons in March, 1997 and closed three weeks later. It’s not a classic and, to all intents and purposes, it’s essentially new to New York. I’d have argued to bend the rules, and damn the complainers. It would hardly have been the first time the Tony rules were jiggered to accommodate the peculiarities of a season.

I caught up with If/Then this week and personally, I think there should have been separate nominations for Idina Menzel and her mouth, the most arrestingly expressive lips this side of Sandra Bernhardt. That aside, I didn’t love the show, for reasons well-rehearsed elsewhere, mostly having to do with its confusing dual storyline. But guess what? Tell me the plot of The Magic Flute or Arcadia in 50 words or less and you get the Cracker Jack prize. Confusing is hardly the worst offense in art.

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