The war of the revivals. Who has the advantage?

The biz is buzzing about the battle of the two major heavyweight revivals this year.  Who will take home the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical?  Will it be the mother of all mother-daughter stories, Gypsy?  Or was the wait worth it for R&H and South Pacific?

And, more importantly, does Pacific have an advantage over Gypsy because it was produced by a Non-Profit?

I decided to look at some numbers to see who was taking home the most trophies on Tony night, NPs or commercial producers.

We start our research in 1994, because that was the first year there was a delineation between revivals of musicals and plays.  It used to be one big category.

Since then, 5 of the 14 awards given out for Best Revival of a Musical were produced by non-profits or 36%.

Best revival of a play?  7 of the 14 winners were producer by non-profits or 50%.

Sorry my pundit friends, no clear cut favorite here based on these numbers.

Still, does Pacific have an advantage because it could afford to employ more musicians, employ more actors, previewed as long as a new musical would preview, etc. because they weren’t relying on ticket sales to fund the production?

Yes, they have an advantage.

But they only have it because they wanted it.  And the commercial producer could have taken the same risks, if they could convince their investors it was worth it.

I’ve seen NPs underproduce shows and look cheap, and I’ve seen
commercial producers overproduce and have almost no regard for the
bottom line (Show Boat, anyone?).

Either way, it’s a choice the producer has to make, no matter who is paying the bills.  And whoever have the most guts usually wins.

In this case?  It’s South Pacific.  The scarity rule plays here.  By
keeping SP off the boards for so long, they’ve created something
super-special that yet another production of Gypsy can’t beat.

  • A. Scott Falk says:

    Ken, as a guy with a statistics degree, I want to know an important set of stats you’ve left out here.
    I can’t judge the percentages of nonprofit wins without knowing the percentage of nonprofit productions out of all shows eligible (or at least the percentage of the nominees that were nonprofit, although that may not reveal who has the edge in nominations to start with).

  • Madley says:

    Hi Ken — have you seen either of them yet (or even planning to)? I know what reviews say — would love to hear YOUR opinion 🙂

  • Richie says:

    Hi Ken,
    In my humble opinion, commercial producers and artistic directors fundamentally have different responsibilities. As a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization, its objective is to adhere to its mission and serve the community it intends to serve. By doing so, the organization enjoys the privileges of receiving tax exemptions and tax-deductible contributions. As opposed to 501(c) (3) organizations, commercial theatre producers ultimately have an obligation to act in the best interest of the investors that is to optimize the financial returns. Accordingly, commercial theatre producers and artistic directors have different priorities.
    Whereas optimizing the financial returns is not the primary objective of the non-profit theatres, they are allowed to enjoy a greater degree of artistic freedom to produce productions that are not based upon potential box-office revenues. In contrast, the shareholders of commercial theatre productions may demand to recover from the financial damages if the producers fail to acknowledge shareholders’ financial interests.
    Since we know that when all things being equal, judging for the Tony awards is merely based on the artistic value, the answer of this argument seems to be somewhat clear.

  • Esther says:

    While I thought the individual performances were stronger in “Gypsy,” I loved the overall look of “South Pacific.” For want of a better word, I think it’s a “showier” show – and the Lincoln Center production plays that to the hilt. It looks and sounds beautiful.

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