Theatre Lover's Journal for May 1999

The 1999 Tony Nominations:
Celebration or Funeral?

by John Kenrick

No matter how mindlessly optimistic you are, there comes a moment when you have to admit that something you care deeply about is over. When the last lifeboat was gone and the Titanic's butt was in mid-air, it's remaining passengers had to admit the ship was a goner. When the Russians were three Berlin blocks away, even Hitler admitted he had lost the war.

Well, when the most Tony nominations go to a musical that died months ago due to critical disdain and audience disinterest, musical theatre buffs ought to admit that the Broadway musical is about as dead as it is going to get.

Of course loads of people will deny this, especially people whose careers depend on ticket-buyers being stupid enough to think otherwise. How long can this farce go on? (Mind you, admitting an art form looks dead is not a bad thing. It usually indicates that a rebirth is due any minute – we should only be so lucky!)

Nobody liked Parade much – at least, not while it was open and they had to sit through it. Critics yawned, and most people who saw it gave it shrugging ovations, warning friends to stay away from more than two hours of preachy neo-history. The show closed after just 84 performances. And now, in a desperate attempt to keep Footloose out of the running, Parade is given more nominations than anything else this season – more than even the season's biggest musical hit, Fosse? We know the Tony Committee is not stupid (well, we hope they aren't . . .), so we have to wonder what they are up to.Are these bizarre nominations their way of saying that this past season was such a flop that only a flop can be it's standard bearer?

This is not just a weak seaon – it's a disasterous one. Look at the nominees for best musical – not one of them will be performed regularly a decade from now. The extent of the situation can be seen in other categories too. Most of the nominees for Best Musical Actor or Actress are in closed productions, and one of the nominees for best score is (Mother of mercies!) for the incidental score for lincoln Center's Twelfth Night.

When it is this bad, why bother giving these awards? It cheapens the whole concept of the Tony's to give them when there is no musical out there that really deserves them. When Footloose is nominated for Best Book or Score, what's the point? When a plotless pile of theatrical dung like The Civil War is up for Best Musical, what is the point? If the idea of The Tony Awards is to act as a selling tool for Broadway, what is the point if what they are promoting is trash?

And for all the phony press bally-hoo about this being a season for dramas, the important nominations seem to have gone to plays and playwrights of the past. None of the Best Play nominees is an unqualified hit, and one is written by the long-dead Tennessee Williams! So much for a great new season!

The Tony ceremony is set for the Gershwin Theatre on June 6th – I won't be there. At this point, I even doubt that I'll be watching. is about the history of the musical, and far too little in the current list of nominees has any functional place in that history.

The full list of nominees for 1999:

Best New Musical:
The Civil War
It Ain't Nothing But the Blues

Best Revival of a Musical:
Annie Get Your Gun
Little Me
Peter Pan
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Best Revival of a Play:
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Electra by Euripides
The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O'Neill
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Best Book of a Musical
Footloose, Dean Pitchford & Walter Bobbie
It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues, Charles Bevel, Lita Gaithers, Randal Myler, Ron Taylor & Dan Wheetman
Marlene, Pam Gems
Parade, Alfred Uhry

Best Original Score
Footloose, Tom Snow, Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins & Jim Steinman
Parade, Jason Robert Brown
The Civil War, Frank Wildhorn & Jack Murphy
Twelfth Night, Jeanine Tesori

Best Direction Of A Musical
Matthew Bourne, Swan Lake
Richard Maltby, Jr. & Ann Reinking, Fosse
Michael Mayer, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Harold Prince, Parade

Best Orchestrations
Ralph Burns & Douglas Besterman, Fosse
David Cullen, Swan Lake
Don Sebesky, Parade
Harold Wheeler, Little Me

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Brent Carver, Parade
Adam Cooper, Swan Lake
Martin Short, Little Me
Tom Wopat, Annie Get Your Gun

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Carolee Carmello, Parade
Dee Hoty, Footloose
Bernadette Peters, Annie Get Your Gun
Si'n Phillips, Marlene

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Roger Bart, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Desmond Richardson, Fosse
Ron Taylor, It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues
Scott Wise, Fosse

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Gretha Boston, It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues
Kristin Chenoweth, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Valarie Pettiford, Fosse
Mary Testa, On the Town

Best Choreography
Patricia Birch, Parade
Matthew Bourne, Swan Lake
A.C. Ciulla, Footloose
Rob Marshall, Little Me

Best New Play:
Closer by Patrick Marber
Lonesome West by Martin McDonagh
Not About Nightingales by Tennessee Williams
Side Man by Warren Leight

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Brian Dennehy, Death of a Salesman
Br'an O'Byrne, The Lonesome West
Corin Redgrave, Not About Nightingales
Kevin Spacey, The Iceman Cometh

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Stockard Channing, The Lion in Winter
Judi Dench, Amy's View
Marian Seldes, Ring Round the Moon
Zo' Wanamaker, Electra

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Kevin Anderson, Death of a Salesman
Finbar Lynch, Not About Nightingales
Howard Witt, Death of a Salesman
Frank Wood, Side Man

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Claire Bloom, Electra
Samantha Bond, Amy's View
Dawn Bradfield, The Lonesome West
Elizabeth Franz, Death of a Salesman

Best Scenic Design
Bob Crowley, The Iceman Cometh
Bob Crowley, Twelfth Night
Riccardo Hernandez, Parade
Richard Hoover, Not About Nightingales

Best Costume Design
Lez Brotherston, Swan Lake
Santo Loquasto, Fosse
John David Ridge, Ring Round the Moon
Catherine Zuber, Twelfth Night

Best Lighting Design
Andrew Bridge, Fosse
Mark Henderson, The Iceman Cometh
Natasha Katz, Twelfth Night
Chris Parry, Not About Nightingales

Best Direction Of A Play
Howard Davies, The Iceman Cometh
Robert Falls, Death of a Salesman
Garry Hynes, The Lonesome West
Trevor Nunn, Not About Nightingales

Follow up: The 1999 Tony Awards

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