What’s the difference between Best Musical and Best Revival of a Musical?

This question came in over the weekend, after a reader noticed my tweet about going to see the new Broadway revival of West Side Story.

Obviously, the person who asked knew the basic difference between the two awards categories, but she was more interested in how revivals were judged.

It’s a great question – considering that shows like West Side or Hair or Guys and Dolls may have been seen countless times by the voters of The Tonys, Drama Desks, Outer Critics, etc.  These shows have been on Broadway, on tour, in dinner theaters, in high schools, on cruise ships, etc.  Many of the voters have probably performed in these shows at one point in their life!  (When I was working on the Rosie O’Donnell revival of Grease, I mentioned to Author and Greased-Lightning Zillionaire Jim Jacobs, that I once played Kenickie in summer stock. His response?  “Ken, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t done Grease.”)

With such familiarity and such an emotional (or lack thereof) connection, how do voters (and reviewers, for that matter) distinguish one revival from another?

This question reminded me of the end of the season awards banquets my high school baseball team used to have.  Every year when the season was through, we got together in the high school cafeteria. After some bad pasta and some bad speeches, the coaches gave away two awards:

Most Valuable Player . . . And Most Improved Player.

And that’s what a great revival is to me; the most improved.  It’s a take on the material that makes it seem even better or more relevant now than it ever was.

The trouble is that it takes a lot of sweat to be an MIP, in baseball and on Broadway.

And if you’re not ready to go “sweatin’ with the oldies,”well, then stay away from producing revivals.

Because, without an MIP mentality, you’ll just end up being another one of the millions of Kenickies out there.


  • I’m not sure I entirely agree with the MIP concept — West Side Story, for example, starts off at a pretty rarefied place, and it’s hard to imagine that the measure of the show’s success is if it improves on the original. Part of the importance of the new production is to bring the classic to the stage for a whole new generation. (Of course, they *tried* to improve the show and its relevance in this case…so maybe it’s not the best example.)
    I’m with you on the basic concept though — a revival should, ideally, be bringing enough newness to the table to earn its time on stage. I just think that these shows — West Side, South Pacific, maybe even Hair — deserve the head start they get thanks to their well-earned reputations.

  • That’s exactly the question – Is Hair in a better position because it isn’t as good of a show?
    We’ll find out what the voters think in a month and a half!

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