Tony Awards: Why producers are turning to oldies but goodies
Tony Awards producers under pressure to put on a good (ratings) show this year will spotlight material that viewers 'know and love,' not just numbers from nominated plays.
Sunday nights’ 67th Annual Tony Awards may provide a toe-tappin’ evening, but that won’t necessarily be thanks to any show nominated for Broadway’s top honor.Skip to next paragraph
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In a break with the awards-show tradition of showcasing nominated material, tunes from past hits such as “Phantom of the Opera,” and the current box-office darling “Motown” – not up for best musical – are set to deliver some of the broadcast’s big musical numbers.
There’s a reason.
“This just illustrates how bad the split between commercial and critical hits has become,” says playwright Charles Evered.
Of course, ever since the founding days of Broadway, playwrights have bemoaned producer’s demands to sell tickets. Nonetheless, says Mr. Evered, “there are many good examples from the past … even more recent past such as ‘The Lion King,’ that show it possible to be great art and a big hit.”
But this year, the broadcast’s producers are facing a mandate to lift the CBS event from last year, when only six million viewers tuned in and the show scored its lowest ratings in two decades.
This refrain is familiar, too. The Tonys have routinely scored behind other awards shows such as the Oscars and the Grammys, says Anthony Chase, theater critic and assistant dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at Buffalo State University in New York.
The standard line on this audience lag, he says, goes something like this: “There will be 6,000 people watching from the audience in Radio City Music Hall Sunday night, and maybe that many will be watching on TV,” he says, somewhat ruefully.
Producers acknowledge this year’s approach is a departure. “This year is a bit different for us because we’ll be putting on a show about iconic Broadway,” producer Glenn Weiss told the Los Angeles Times. “We felt that that was important for [viewers] who didn’t make it for the first month of opening. They need material they know and love.”
Frontrunners such as “Matilda The Musical” and “Kinky Boots” are not exactly household names and tell relatively unfamiliar tales.