Should we have more than 4 nominees for Best Musical?

The Academy Awards went ol’ school this year when they went back to their roots of having 10 nominees for Best Picture, a practice that was discontinued sixty years ago.

Why’d they do it?

The President of the Academy, Sid Ganis, said, “Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going to allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize.”

That’s certainly true, but there are other reasons for widening the field, including making the run for the gold more suspenseful (and making it more likely for an underdog to win) and giving more films additional marketing power.

So, should we do it?  Should the Tonys widen their field of Best Musical and Best Play nominees to five?

The answer is Yes.

Sometimes.

The Tony Committee should have the authority to widen their choice of Best Musical and Best Play nominees to more than four should they feel that the season demands it (especially since they nixed the Special Event Tony – where are all those folks gonna go?).  We’ve all seen snubs in the past four years that just didn’t make sense, and this would be a way to recognize shows on the fringe, give them the marketing power of the Tony Award (plus the performance on the telecast – which is what the audience tunes in for), and make it more of a nail-biter of a race.

Awards are about two things: recognizing excellence, and marketing the industry that they are awarding.

Right now, we’re not taking full enough advantage of either.

How To “Sell Dreams” by four of Broadway’s best.

The American Theatre Wing is one of the most resourceful institutions that no one knows anything about.  Yeah, they created The Tony Award, but they didn’t stop there. They do a whole bunch of stuff including handling an industry-wide internship/networking program, supervising the Jonathan Larson Grants, and producing one of the greatest hidden treasures for people looking to pursue a career in the theater:  the Working In The Theatre video series.

There’s a Working In The Theatre discussion on just about everything, from theatrical design to cast albums.  There’s even one about Off-Broadway hidden deep in the vaults that includes a spirited conversation between me and some other Off-Bway folks.

But none of them compare to the most recent panel about . . . you guessed it . . . marketing.

ATW put four of the best pitch people on Broadway in the same room and grilled them on what it takes to sell a show.

Tune in to hear the esteemed John Barlow (John Barlow), Damian Bazadona (Situation Interactive), Nancy Coyne (Serino Coyne), and Drew Hodges (Spotco) talk about how they design a campaign, what they say to clients when they don’t like their shows, and yes, why marketing Broadway is like “selling dreams.”

Oh, and you’ll also hear one of my favorite new phrases, “It’s like buying a Big Mac in Berlin.”

Thanks ATW, and thanks to the four participants and their moderator, (Variety reporter Gordon Cox) for putting it all out there.

Click here to watch.

After you’re done, come back to the blog, and tell everyone what you agreed with . . . and what you didn’t.

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.

Favorite Quotes Volume XVII: The buck stops. Period.

There are a number of great quotes in this Variety article about how Broadway Producers will go about building productions both physically and creatively during the economic mudslide we’re in, but my favorite is from Legally Blonde and Catch Me If You Can Producer Hal Luftig.

Hal also produced Thoroughly Modern Millie (which I company managed), and with his partners, staged one heck of a comeback to win the Tony Award for Best Musical, despite a poor NY Times review that had us all worried that the toe-tapper wouldn’t last the summer.
When discussing how he was keeping a tighter rein on the economics from day one, Hal had this to say to possible critics of his current policies:

“Inexpensive doesn’t mean cheap.”

Hal is right.

It’s easy to be cheap.  And it’s lazy to be lavish.
But finding a way of doing something of the same value for a lesser price is an art.  And in this climate, it’s a necessity.
Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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