Theatrelover's Journal May 2000

The 2000 Tony Nominations:
The Annual Outrage

by John Kenrick

(A complete list of nominees appears at the end of this commentary)

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Every May, the latest Tony nominating committee manages to find new and inventive ways to anger the theatrical community. The weaker the season, the greater the cause for outrage.

Since 1999-2000 was a year when most of the acclaimed productions were either revivals or old material masquerading as new, it should be no surprise that the Tony nominations are particularly sickening. Of the four nominees for Best Musical, only two have original scores – and both of those scores (The Dead, Wild Party) were forgettable. (Has anyone you know been oining for a recording of either show? Unless you've been sleeping with the composers, I have a feeling the answer is no.)

One of the nominees for Best Book (Contact) does not even have a recognizable book! And it’s a sad year indeed when as uneven a talent as John Michael LaChiusa has no less than four nominations – who is kidding who? (His Marie Christine was an impressive opera, but four nods for Wild Party? Puh-leese!)

Last year, suggested that it was high time to stop pretending that there was any point to retaining most of the musical Tony categories. Let's be blunt – there was NO great new musical this season – nor has there been one for more seasons than I care to mention. That being the case, let’s stop pretending – admit that the Broadway musical is essentially a thing of the past, and redesign the awards accordingly.

Of course, this is not going to happen. The Tonys are no longer about quality – they have long since become no more than a marketing tool. As such, they will continue to pretend that something new and exciting is happening on Broadway, particularly when the opposite is so resolutely true.

My guess is that Contact is going to get the top musical honors – but it matters not. Once the original production has run its course, who the hell else will be able to stage it? Can regional theatres or high school groups re-create Susan Strohman’s original choreography? It is not a musical – it is a ballet, set to pre-recorded pop tunes.

Two years ago, the Best Musical Tony went to The Lion King, a rehash of an animated film. Last year, the same award went to Fosse, a rehash of old numbers created for previous shows and films. Giving that coveted award to Contact will confirm just how dead the Broadway musical is. As any cook will tell you, hash is not something new – its just an excuse to reuse leftovers.

At this point, claiming that there is such a thing as a Best New Musical is like claiming one has seen Elvis – its kind of sweet, but it borders on the necrophilic.

(Two non-musical gripes: They overlooked Noel Coward's script for Waiting in the Wings and Michael Sheen's gripping Mozart in Amadeus? Pathetic!)

For the record, here are the noms –

Best New Musical
James Joyce's The Dead
The Wild Party

Best Revival of a Musical
Kiss Me, Kate
The Music Man
Jesus Christ Superstar
Tango Argentino

Best Direction Of A Musical
Michael Blakemore, Kiss Me, Kate
Lynne Taylor Corbett, Swing!
Susan Stroman, The Music Man
Susan Stroman, Contact

Best Book of a Musical
John Weidman, Contact
Richard Nelson, James Joyce's The Dead
Michael John LaChuisa, Marie Christine
Michael John LaChuisa and George C. Wolfe, The Wild Party

Best Original Score
Elton John, Tim Rice, Aida
Shaun Davey, Richard Nelson, James Joyce's The Dead
Michael John LaChiusa, Marie Christine
Michael John LaChiusa, The Wild Party

Best Choreography
Kathleen Marshall, Kiss Me, Kate
Susan Stroman, Contact
Susan Stroman, The Music Man
Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Swing!

Best Orchestrations
Doug Besterman, The Music Man
Don Sebesky, Kiss Me, Kate
Jonathan Tunick, Marie Christine
Harold Wheeler, Swing!

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Craig Bierko, The Music Man
Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kiss Me, Kate
George Hearn, Putting It Together
Mandy Patinkin, The Wild Party
Christopher Walken, James Joyce's The Dead

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Toni Collette, The Wild Party
Heather Headley, Aida
Rebecca Luker, The Music Man
Audra McDonald, Marie Christine
Marin Mazzie, Kiss Me, Kate

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Michael Berresse, Kiss Me, Kate
Boyd Gaines, Contact
Michael Mulheren, Kiss Me, Kate
Stephen Spinella, James Joyce's The Dead
Lee Wilkof, Kiss Me, Kate

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Laura Benanti, Swing!
Ann Hampton Callaway, Swing!
Eartha Kitt, The Wild Party
Deborah Yates, Contact
Karen Ziemba, Contact

Best New Play
Copenhagen by Michael Frayn
Dirty Blonde by Claudia Shear
The Ride Down Mt. Morgan by Arthur Miller
True West by Sam Shepard

Best Revival of a Play
Moon for the Misbegotten
The Real Thing
The Price

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Gabriel Byrne, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Stephen Dillane, The Real Thing
Philip Seymour Hoffman, True West
John C. Reilly, True West
David Suchet, Amadeus

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Jane Atkinson, Rainmaker
Jennifer Ehle, The Real Thing
Rosemary Harris, Waiting in the Wings
Cherry Jones, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Claudia Shear, Dirty Blonde

Best Direction Of A Play
Michael Blakemore, Copenhagen
Peter Hall, Amadeus
James Lapine, Dirty Blonde
David Leveaux, The Real Thing
Matthew Warchus, True West

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Kevin Chamberlin, Dirty Blonde
Daniel Davis, Wrong Mountain
Roy Dotrice, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Derek Smith, The Green Bird
Bob Stillman, Dirty Blonde

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Blair Brown, Copenhagen
Frances Conroy, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan
Amy Ryan, Uncle Vanya
Helen Stenborg, Waiting in the Wings
Sarah Woodward, The Real Thing

Best Scenic Design
Bob Crowley, Aida
Thomas Lynch, The Music Man:
Robin Wagner, Kiss Me, Kate
Tony Walton, Uncle Vanya

Best Costume Design
Bob Crowley, Aida
Constance Hoffman, The Green Bird
William Ivey Long, The Music Man
Martin Pakledinaz, Kiss Me, Kate

Best Lighting Design
Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, The Wild Party
Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Marie Christine
Peter Kaczorowski, Kiss Me, Kate
Natasha Katz, Aida

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