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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Tony Awards: UPDATE: The Anatomy of a Best Musical Tony Award Nomination

Matilda Should Have Won
Last April, before the 2013 Tony Awards nominations were announced, I did a little research into what kinds of shows were being nominated for best musicals of the past 10 years.  (Re-read that blog HERE.) This year, with the added possibility of five nominees instead of four, that look has become perhaps even more salient.  The fact that a fifth wasn't chosen is probably more interesting, and the subject of much discussion over the past recent weeks, including on this blog.  Nonetheless, I thought I'd update what I did last year with an analysis of last season's and this season's nominees.

 I have found that, more or less the shows can be divided into 5 categories, with the understanding that many shows have characteristics that make them overlap categories.

  • The Traditional: Singing, dancing, book scenes.  Comedy, a little drama, with an emotional component, and elements of spectacle.
  • The Artistic Boundary Pusher: Often the musical that people say belongs "off-Broadway," is usually a critical, not commercial success, that has most agreeing that it has pushed the art form into a new, challenging direction.
  • The Jukebox: Whether it is a biographical trip down memory lane or an original story has been crafted, this type includes a songbook of popular music .  Often critics and passionate fans jump on the lamenting the death of originality bandwagon, but the truth is, about half the time, the shows work.
  • The Family Show: Again, fans seem to automatically dismiss these shows... "too Disney" blah, blah, blah,  BUT when these shows offer both an emotional quality and stunning spectacle, the crowds keep coming.
  • The Crowd-Pleaser/Spectacle:  These shows are often described as "critic proof."  And more often than not, there is one big element that is the draw despite a wholesale dismissal for the rest of the show.  And nearly 100% of the time, these shows are a triumph of style over substance.

For the 2013 season, the winner is in red.  An astrix (*) indicates which show I thought should have won.  Here's a chart for your consideration:

Kinky Boots did win
SEASON/
SHOW TITLE
PRIMARY
TYPE
SECONDARY TYPE
NOTES
2013



Bring It On: The Musical
Traditional
Crowd-Pleaser
A truly fun, interesting musical, with amazing cheer stunts; Already closed at Tony time
A Christmas Story: The Musical
Traditional
Family Show
A faithful recreation of the classic holiday film, with all the right things added to make it worth musicalizing
Kinky Boots
Traditional
Crowd-Pleaser
Very much what you’d expect from a Harvey Fierstein/Jerry Mitchell collaboration, but not really anything more
* Matilda: The Musical
Family Show
Traditional
Artistic Boundary Pusher
It is really aimed more at the adults in the audience, but the staging is pure theatricality at its finest; so smart, too!

A Gentleman's Guide... probably will win
SEASON/
SHOW TITLE
PRIMARY
TYPE
SECONDARY TYPE
NOTES
2014



After Midnight
Jukebox


Spectacular dancing, great singing and the best orchestra on Broadway today.
Aladdin
Family Show
Crowd-Pleaser/Spectacle
Lots of Disney Magic without all the excess; Just enough like the movie to bring in the crowds, enough of a departure to feel fresh
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Jukebox
Traditional
Great songs, great cast, but as dull a book as you can get…
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
Traditional

It revels in its old-fashioned-ness!  Very funny and super interesting, but like Chinese food, you are hungry again an hour after it is over.

Which show will win seems likely at this point, but I can honestly say that none were my favorite, but I can live with three of the four winning...

Jeff
5.180

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