The Top 5 Tony Nomination Surprises.

The 2010 Tony Award Nominations were announced just two-and-a-half hours ago and, as always, they included a few surprises.

Here are my top five head-shakers:

1.  The season’s biggest hit doesn’t get a shot at Best Musical.

Poor Addams Family.  On second thought, with their last week’s gross topping $1.3 million, I think the last word that we can use in the same sentence as Addams Family is “poor.”  However, for the 3rd year in a row, the Tony Nominators snubbed a big, fat (yet original), commercial show that steamrolled into town to less than enthusiastic critical acclaim, but a lot of popular love.  Legally Blonde, 9 To 5 and now The Family.  Honestly, this wasn’t much of a surprise.  What was a surprise was that the jukebox-y Million Dollar Quartet took the fourth spot over Come Fly Away . . . and frankly, I’m still surprised at how both of them were considered more of a contender for this slot than Family, considering that Family is more of a traditional musical than both of them combined.  Let’s face it . . . the nominators officially like the jukebox musical. They embraced Rock of Ages last year, and this year, MDQ.

So, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert . . . fear not.

Two questions come to mind as a result of this surprise:

– Will Addams Family get a number on the show?

– Will their grosses suffer an immediate drop as a result of the snub?

Answers?

– Yes.

– And no.

2.  Stars actually got nominations.

Sometimes the Tony nominators like to tell Hollywood stars to go back where they came from, by overlooking them for a possible Tony trophy.  Not this year. Denzel Washington (who was overlooked in 2005 for his Caesar), Catherine Zeta-Jones, Liev Schreiber, Scarlett Johansson, Kelsey Grammer, Jude Law, Christopher Walken, Linda Lavin, David Alan Grier, and Sean Hayes all got nods for their work on the boards this year.  (Left off the list were our usual favorites, Kristin Chenoweth, Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, but their mantles are doing just fine, I’d say).  The fact that the nominations look like the invite list to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party is a good thing.  Most importantly, all of these stars did fantastic work this year and deserve the kudos.  Now let’s hope this will go a long way in getting more of their brothers and sisters from the Hollywood Hills to come join us for a “limited time only.”

3.  There are four nominees for best score.

We saw this one coming last week, when the Tony Admin Committee announced that both Enron and Fences would be eligible in the Best Score category.  It was a good move, IMHO, because Shubert Alley had been buzzing about the dearth of original scores this year.  I don’t think they need to seat those two scores too close to the podium on award night, but it’s nice to see the category rounded out. And the scores are unique, interesting, and definitely deserving of some love.

4.  Sherie Rene Scott owes Megan Mullally a drink.

Six weeks ago, SRS was looking at an uneventful spring.  Then, MM ups and walks from Lips Together, Teeth Apart, and now, SRS has two Tony nominations to keep her busy!  (Interesting side note:  Sherie Rene Scott replaced Megan Mullally in the Rosie O’Donnell Grease that I worked on back in ’94).  This surprise story isn’t over yet . . . because by my read, SRS has a good shot at taking home a trophy on Tony night.  And all this star-aligning-stuff couldn’t happen to a nicer gal.

5.  The British hit about an American company won’t be Best Play.

You know what the most difficult translation in the world is?  From English to American and American to English.  You’d think it’d be so much easier to predict what works in each of these markets based on the success in the other.  Alas, it ain’t that easy.  Unfortunately, Enron, a British play based on American subject matter, didn’t impress the nominators and failed get a Best Play nom.  Nine months ago, I would have bet big on this one not only getting a nomination but also taking home the top prize.  Just goes to show you, you never know what’s going to happen until that curtain goes up.

How did I do with my predictions?  I scored a 75% overall, missing one show in each of the three categories I predicted (which, coincidentally is exactly how I scored last year).

How did you do?

And stay tuned . . . The Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool will be announced shortly.  We’ve just got to figure out what the prizes are going to be . . .

To take pictures or not to take pictures, that is the question.

I received an invite to Fuerza Bruta‘s “Twitter Night” on Thursday, Dec. 3rd where I would be “encouraged to live tweet with pictures and video.” Benefits to the show, obvious.
I also saw Hamlet last week, and a couple of enthusiastic fans (at least one being from international waters) took photos during the curtain call. She was greeted with a flashlight in the face, and a security guard yelling at her. Damage to the show, obvious.  (It reminded me of the time I got in trouble!)

It was the curtain call, guys.  They weren’t shooting pix during Ophelia’s mad scene.

I had to wonder . . . are the actors really opposed to curtain call photos, or is this just one of those union positions that we’re holding on to that no one is that concerned about anymore?  Wouldn’t those actors benefit from having their mugs on facebook pages and tweeted like the ones at Fuerza Bruta on 12/3?  Could we get a curtain call provision that would allow photos to be taken only then?  It’s not “uncontrolled” because the actors know what they look like, what they are wearing, etc.  It’s much better than a shot on the street, which we can’t prevent.

If the actors are opposed to curtain call photos, then I respect it (Jude has had issues with camera folk before, so maybe he has asked for none to be taken).  But if that really is the case, let’s treat our fans with a little more respect as well and not make them feel like they took a picture of the Mona Lisa (I still have nightmares about those security guards at The Louvre).

I guess I sort of understand the question of, “Do you really want all these flashes going off at the end of a show?  It’ll look like a baseball game!”  Ok, ok, I get it.  But baseball games are exciting.  And when people take pictures, they want to capture excitement so they can reminisce later.  The marketing power of those photos for the show, and for Broadway, is more significant than we could ever muster on our own.

And since we allow the press to take curtain call photos (with or without a flash), why can’t we allow the fans? Nowadays, the fans actually have more distribution outlets than members of the press anyway.

At the end of the day, here is how I saw these two experiences:

Fuerza Bruta is harnessing the power of the fans.

Traditional Broadway has a habit of turning fans away.

 

Thanks to Tom Ray of Woodbridge, VA.

This week’s Entertainment Weekly rag, uh, sorry, I mean mag, had the following letter to the editor:

More theater reviews, please!  I enjoyed this issue but I want – need – more!

– Tom Ray, Woodbridge, VA

Thanks for speaking out, Tom. And thanks for reminding a major media outlet that there are Broadway theater lovers all over the country who are looking for more theater representation in what they read.

With the numbers of mega-stars stepping their star-studded shoes on Broadway stages these days (Jude Law, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig, Scarlett Johannson, Will Ferrell, etc.), we have a chance to break into more mainstream publications.

Let’s hope EW and everyone else listens to folks like Tom . . . and folks like you.

In fact, why don’t we show Tom some support?

Write to Entertainment Weekly at ew_letters@ew.com or snail mail ’em at Entertainment Weekly, 135 West 50th St., New York, NY  10020.

Tell ’em you want more theater.

I’m serious.  Click it.  Tell ’em you agree with Tom.

It’ll take 30 seconds tops.

And tell ’em Ken sent you.  🙂

Oh, and Tom, if you read this, drop me a note. I tried to look you up in the 2009 version of the phone book (aka facebook) but came up empty.  I’d love for you to be my guest at one of my shows the next time you are in town.  We need more and more folks like you.

Advice from an Expert: Vol. IX. A Damn Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

I got a bunch o’ emails after my blog about my experience in the UK a few weeks ago.  One of them was from an actual expat American living and working in London.  Since he has such a unique perspective on what and why things are different in the land of fish and chips, I thought we might all learn from letting him have a post.  So here’s Jason Ferguson . . .

– – – – –

There is so much to say about the
differences in British and American theatre (such as how to spell theater!), but
for my first topic I will respond to a posting Ken did on the popularity of
jukebox musicals in the UK. His opinion was that jukebox musicals thrive in the
West End because of the influx of international tourists that speak different
languages coming from Europe (I should say ‘continental Europe’ but the Brits
don’t consider themselves European). I agree with Ken that this is an important
element to British theatre and the international language of pop music or
anything non-verbal (see Stomp) keeps shows running here that would die a
fast death in New York at the hand of Brantley and company. But there is another
factor less talked about and that I think it takes an American living here to
notice…PANTO!

I admit that on my arrival to London almost three years
ago I picked up a copy of the local trade rag, The Stage, and noticed article
after article about pantomimes. Castings, backstage profiles, interviews with
elder panto stars, and an entire feedback page filled with letters about this
strange theatrical art form. According to Wikipedia, ‘pantomime’ is:

a
musical-comedy theatrical production traditionally found in Great Britain,
Canada, Jamaica, Australia, South Africa, America, Japan, Ireland, Gibraltar and
Malta, and is usually performed during the Christmas and New Year
season.

I don’t know how America made that list; I grew up attending
theatre regularly in Florida, with the occassional NYC family trip, and I never
came across a panto! I encourage you to read the full Wikipedia article to fully
research this phenomenon. The closest you have come to a panto is probably going
with your Aunt Mavis to see Peter Pan. Or some could argue that Into
the Woods
is as much a play on pantomime as it is on children’s literature
(I have heard a couple Brits claim the show didn’t work well here because they
played it too ‘panto-like’).

In short, modern British pantomimes are
generally large expensive shows that play over the Christmas season in most
producing theatres and touring venues. They are usually titles like Peter
Pan, Dick Whittington, Snow White, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk
, etc.
The scripts can change from year-to-year, but usually include standard gimmicks.
For example, every time the villain walks out (and you won’t miss him as he will
be wearing black or some other villain-like clothing) the kids in the audience
will hiss. That’s right…hiss. Like when your more annoying nephew tries to act
like a snake to scare you. Another key element to panto are the celebrity
guests. Your average panto will feature between 3-6 celebrities in just that one
show. I don’t want to offend anyone that I know who perform in pantos, but let’s
just say the level of celebrity is not Jude Law. The big deal last year is that
Steve Guttenberg came over to perform in Cinderella at a theatre in
Bromley, England.

So back to my point. Panto is huge in the UK. Almost
everyone has been to see a panto when they were a child. It is a Christmas
tradition. In America we have A Christmas Carol in various forms, but it
doesn’t come close to the holiday theatrical monopoly that panto holds over the
public. But while many on the snootier side of the theatre industry will roll
their eyes at the mention of panto, it is an important part of the theatrical
tradition here. It has brought children into the theatre in mass and, unlike in
America, if you were to stop the average person on the street in Ipswich (think
Peoria) and ask if they have been to the theatre in the last two years, the
chances are probably good they have. Now you don’t find that in
America!

In conclusion, pantomimes have a large effect on UK theatre
audiences and one of those is that very British thing called ‘class’. By opening
theatre up to everyone at an early age and to people of all socio-economic
backgrounds, the UK theatre is often able to attract a more populist audience to
shows. The discussion over how class background effects theatre is for a whole
other posting, but PC or not these are the facts. The Royal Court may always
fight hard to expose working and lower middle class audiences to the plays of
Wallace Shawn, but the producers of Dirty Dancing seem to have had a much
easier time. In the UK at least.

 

Jason Ferguson is a theatre general manager/tour booker/producer in London. He formerly worked for the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Manny Azenberg and Clear Channel before moving to London where he has been a consultant for general manager Arden Entertainment (Dirty Dancing, Old Vic’s Tunnel 228) and is currently working as an independent tour booker and producer through his company Jason Ferguson Ltd.

You can contact Jason at jason@fergusonlive.com.

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