A Tony Award that’s not special enough anymore.

Nine years ago, the Tony Awards debuted a new award for Special Theatrical Event, to honor those shows that were slipping between the categorical cracks (like Contact in 2000, which won Best Musical, much to the shock of its own creators, who said so in their acceptance speech).

Earlier this week, the Tony Awards dropped it.

And everyone I know is wondering why.

The good money (and mine) points to the lack of consistent nominees in the category.  In the first year, there was only one nominee, and in three of the last nine years, there was no award given.

Could it also have been pressure to eliminate an award to slim down the telecast, allowing more time for the “creative awards”?  Could it be that the voters weren’t attending these special shows (how many actually saw Soul of Shaolin)?

Whatever the reason, I’m going to miss the category.  Sure, I’ll agree, if you can’t even find one nominee 33% of the time, then obviously the category is a little thin.

But still . . . if we didn’t have that category, then Elaine Stritch probably wouldn’t have won a Tony Award.  And neither would Billy Crystal.  And Def Poetry Jam too.

And Will Ferrell wouldn’t even have been nominated (and therefore probably would have never showed up).

Despite the lack of a plethora of nominees, the category seemed to be working for me.  There were some tight races.  There were some emotional victories.

And most importantly, there were some excellent performances and productions that deserved to be honored.

It will be a shame if the next Billy Crystal of Poetry Jam isn’t.

  • Douglas Gray says:

    Wasn’t the Special Category created for BLAST: The forgettable blend of great band music and inappropriate choreography?

  • Scott says:

    I was also disappointed they decided not to go through with the Best Replacement award. There are many deserving actors who have stepped into a role after the originator has left. Many have even made a career of it.
    I also think they should split Best Score into Best Music and Best Lyrics . . .

  • Michael says:

    If the Oscars can increase their Best Picture nominations to 10, which will finally and most likely include deserving comedies, why can’t the Tony’s do something a bit more creative? Come on….it’s great marketing to put something out on the road that was nominated for or won the Tony, no?

  • Richard says:

    I wish I could say that I’m sorry I’m so cynical, but that’s what I do…
    We’ll see how long this omission continues. At least until someone with an enormous talent is put forward and is being produced (at least in part) by someone who is a major star…?
    Remember why this category was created and who (justly) won it.

  • Richard says:

    I’m a big fan of the Best Replacement idea, too. It’d finally force voters to focus on well an actor delivers the material they’re given, rather than confusing the two.
    Right now if you have a runaway hit that’s exciting, and someone in a featured or leading role contributes even 75% of what they need to, well, they’re a cinch.
    Best Replacement would really recognize great performances. I remember that when Harry Goz took over Tevye in the late 60’s people talked about how well his portrayal of Tevye related to the other characters…in a way that the previous inhabitants of the role hadn’t. He was also cited for his beautiful singing.
    People close to the business don’t usually forget that stars that step into a role can recast the show in a way that makes you see it in a different way.
    It would be nice to let the general public understand that, too.

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