Five reasons why Fun Home winning the Tony for Best Musical is great for Broadway and Beyond.
Now that the champagne bottles have been recycled, and those “Rent the Runway” dresses have been returned, it’s time to look at what happened on Sunday with an objective eye.
Look, I had a show in the hunt for Best Musical, and winning that award could have had a huge impact on the business, and my life . . . so even though I didn’t expect it to win, I mourned the loss along with everyone else who didn’t march to the podium that night.
But you can’t mourn forever, and as I look back on Fun Home‘s win, I can’t help but reflect on the reasons why its victory is a positive thing for Broadway overall, even if it wasn’t so great for me personally.
Here are five reasons why Fun Home‘s win is great for all of us:
1. TWO, TWO, TWO HITS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE
An American in Paris grossed 1.3 million dollars last week. And over a million the week before. Its financial future was already bright. I’m sure tours and international productions were already being planned. And I’m sure those sexy ballet dancers and those Gershwin tunes they showcased on the telecast sold buckets of tickets. It was already a hit. Fun Home? Well, maybe. Grosses were going up. But was a tour locked up with this subject matter? Would it recoup? Would tourists want to see it without the Tony? All of those were big questions until Sunday night. Not anymore. Their box office surged to 5x their normal volume on Monday. In other words, they were not a hit. Had they not won? Who knows. So, now, we have two hits on Broadway, instead of just one. And hits help everyone.
2. WHAT ROAD VOTE?
I wrote this in my wrap-up on Monday but it bears repeating. For years, Tony handicappers have tried to argue that the award was swung by the presenters all over the country who voted for what they thought their subscribers would like to see on the road. Nail. Meet coffin. That argument is dead. And frankly, it was never alive in the first place (Hello Avenue Q?). In my opinion, when the voters are all alone, staring at their ballot, they vote for what they think is “best,” which is what moved them the most . . . moved them to tears, to laughter . . . but whatever moved them the most.
3. YOU’LL NEVER HEAR THIS AGAIN
Here’s something you’ll never hear a Producer say ever again . . . “Oh, that idea can never be a musical – and certainly not a Broadway musical.” Can you imagine pitching Fun Home to someone? It’s about a lesbian cartoonist and her gay father who kills himself. Fun Home proves that any idea . . . that’s right . . . any idea . . . successfully executed can raise the money, get a theater, sell tickets, and win a g*ddamn Tony Award. Remember that when you’re working on your next project.
4. IT AIN’T ALWAYS ABOUT SPECTACLE
Fun Home takes up residence in one of Broadway’s smallest theaters. It has a tiny cast, a tiny orchestra, and hardly any costume changes. In fact, of the last four winners, I’d qualify three of them as non-spectacle shows (FH, Gentleman’s Guide, and Once). And all of them were produced in “play houses.” Our audience’s appetite for size and spectacle is waning. Now they just want good.
5. BRING ON THE RISK
When shows like Fun Home win awards and achieve commercial success, investors start to have a stomach for more risk. Producers raising money for shows will be able to point to it as a show with a non commercial idea that can break through and make money. And more risk leads to the expansion of the art form. And that’s when things get really exciting.
Oh, and one more . . . perhaps the most important . . .
6. FORGET A BOTTLE, THERE’S A MESSAGE IN A MUSICAL
More people will see Fun Home now than if it had not won the Tony Award, both on Broadway and beyond. There will be more subsidiary productions. There will be more community theater productions. More people will read it, study it, learn it. And that means its incredible message of tolerance, acceptance, and being who you are, no matter how different that may feel, will be spread to all corners of the globe. You see, the theater is the best spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. And its medicine is oh so important. The world will be just a little bit better thanks to the message of Fun Home.
Broadway gets lambasted all the time for being a theme park, a place where only jukebox musicals or star driven revivals can survive. And sometimes these critics are its own fans (how many chat board threads have you read about the lack of anything with integrity on Broadway?). And sometimes I’m even one of them!
Fun Home‘s win silences them all.
And that’s why even though I didn’t benefit personally from its win on Sunday night, I think as an industry, we all won.
(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)
– – – – –