Tony nominations 2010: angst over nods to Hollywood stars
The American Theatre Wing's 2010 Tony nominations list, released Tuesday morning, includes Hollywood heavy-hitters like Denzel Washington and Scarlett Johannson.
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When Broadway uses Hollywood stars in stunt casting, as it has with with musicals like Grease, where now even reality stars are getting plucked to appear, that's one thing,” says playwright Charles Evered, an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside. But, he writes in an email, “when theatre actors who happened to have become movie stars come back to the great white way, that is a good thing."Skip to next paragraph
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While many of the big-name stars that now grace Broadway marquees are well known to movie audiences – think Daniel Craig of the James Bond franchise and Hugh Jackman of the X-Men series – the stage novice is more of an exception than the rule, says Howard Sherman, executive director of the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tonys.
He ticks off the credentials of many of the high-profile nominees: Denzel Washington began his career in New York’s Negro Ensemble Company. Mr. Jackman started on the stage, as did Mr. Craig and Mr. Walken. Mr. Sherman vigorously defends their presence on the Great White Way.
“It is insulting to all these artist to suggest this is something they do when they have nothing else going on,” says Sherman. “They have to carve time from their schedule to do live theater, but that shows a commitment.”
In contrast to many who question the health of the Broadway scene, Sherman says that much to everyone’s surprise, “Broadway has held up strikingly well at a time of great economic challenge.” Indeed, Broadway box office receipts totaled about $1 billion for last year, according Elisa Shevitz of The Broadway League.
He adds, that if one was to read what was being written about live theater back in 2008, “they were predicting disaster , but the fact is that theater-going has held steady.” He points out that the number of productions has remained at the same level. “People are still willing to invest in work on Broadway,” he says, adding that no matter how dire the predictions, live theater will not go away.
“The very thing that makes theater chalenging to produce, and succeed economically is what makes it unique and special. It can only be done for a finite number of people, but for people who crave the live experience, there is nothing that can replace it.”