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Questionable Tony Category Placements

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  • Beau S.
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    #434172

    Somebody in another thread brought up Leland Palmer being nominated for the leading actress Tony as Fastrada in Pippin, even though the role is unquestionably supporting.

    This bring me to ask: Why were…

    Mary Beth Peil as Anna Leonowens in The King and I (1985)
    Alyson Reed as Sally Bowles in Cabaret (1988)

    …nominated in the featured actress in a musical category even though their roles are unquestionably the leads of their shows? 

    Are there any Tony category placements you question? 

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    dude93
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    #434174

    Certain category placements were made especially in the olden days, because the Tonys have a rule that anyone billed below the title of a production automatically is considered featured, anyone above the title is considered leading. The producers of each show then have to petition to the Tony nominating committee each season if they want a particular performer to be eligible for the opposite category. For example, in 2011, Joel Grey was above the title for Anything Goes, but the producers petitioned him in featured because it was a star in a supporting role. It didn’t pay off anyway, as Grey was snubbed. But this explains the early placements of Mary Beth Peil who was below the title in King & I in 1985 and Alyson Reed who was also below the title in the 1988 revival of Cabaret. Both of these productions gave star billing to Yul Brynner and Joel Grey, both of whom originally won Tonys in the featured categories for their performances in their respective roles the first time ’round. For the original production of Guys & Dolls, Isabel Bigley who played Sarah Brown, was put in featured simply because she was below the title. In the old days, producers were probably reluctant to alter any category placements. I don’t know why. 

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    Actriz
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    #434175

    Peil was nominated as a featured actress because the lead actress category was eliminated that year. It’s a shame too because it ruined Anna Leonowens’ perfect track record at the Tonys.

    Had the lead actress race been less competitive that year, the producers probably would’ve petitioned for Reed is the lead category. She wouldn’t have stood a chance in the LuPone/Gleason bloodbath. 

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    Anthony
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    #434176

    Yes, as it has been mentioned, the early days of “Above the Title/Below the title” ruling made for some bizarre nominations and wins, such as Tom Bosley winning in Featured for Fiorello or Dick Van Dyke winning in Featured for Bye Bye Birdie….or how William Daniels (valiantly) refused his Featured nom for 1776 because he was the clear and only lead in that musical.

    Here are others I find strange:

    Susan Browning/Elaine Stritch being in Lead for COMPANY…..I can see why one may give Stritch a pass as she leads two songs and is such a powerful presence but to me, it was clearly an ensemble supporting role. Susan Browning played April, who has a big section of Act Two devoted to her and Bobby (the butterfly monologues, Poor Baby, Barcelona) and she is part of the Girlfriend Trio, but her being in Lead is baffling. No one in COMPANY is a lead except Bobby.

    Leland Palmer in Lead for PIPPIN….Fastrada has one song (not counting chorus solos) in Act One and doesn’t appear in Act Two accept for the finale….she was a clear Featured character.

    George Rose WINNING Lead Actor for My Fair Lady playing Alfred, especially when you had Jerry Orbach in that category.

    Joanna Gleason/Bernadette Peters for INTO THE WOODS….Peters was snubbed but had been nominated at DD as Lead while Gleason was in Featured….and then Gleason won in an upset over Patti LuPone in Lead. You could argue which one is more lead, especially with Gleason’s character getting killed halfway through Act Two, but I think they both belonged in Lead, but both are borderline.

    More to come….

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    SkyLight
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    #434177

    Was Christian Borle a borderline lead for Peter and the Starcatcher?

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    adamunc
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    #434178

    I’ve always thought it was shady that Daisy Egan was considered featured in The Secret Garden. I mean, if Mary isn’t a lead in that show, who is? I don’t recall if there was ever any consideration given to her being a lead, but then no one stood a chance against Lea Salonga that season anyway.

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    Anthony
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    #434179

    Oh yes, Daisy Eagan was a very prime example of a lead being in Featured.

    Also, you have Donna McKechnie for A CHORUS LINE. She won in Lead over the Chicago gals and Vivian Reed….sure, she has (arguably) the biggest section of the show devoted to her but NO ONE in that show is leading in my opinion. In the recent revival, Charlotte d’Amboise was nominated in Featured for it as should anyone who is nominated for the show.

     

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    Nate
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    #434180

    Yeah, the lead/supporting placements seem to have been a lot stricter years ago. Tammy Grimes won in featured for playing Molly Brown in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, as did Tom Bosley for playing Fiorello LaGuardia in Fiorello! and if those parts in those show arent leads, then nothing else could be, but it was because of the billing. And Rita Moreno famously denied that she was featured when she won for The Ritz, saying that the only thing that she supported was her beads.

    But even in modern times things get tricky, like Bertie Carvel’s placement in lead last year or Brian Bedford’s placement in lead a few years before.

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    dude93
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    #434181

    It boils my blood to the core that those stupid Matilda producers petitioned Carvel as a f@cking lead when he should have a featured actor Tony on his mantle right now. How could they not see that voters would go for Billy Porter’s over the top leading actor performance? … Now, Gabriel Ebert has a Tony and Carvel doesn’t. Both would have been nominated anyway, but Carvel would’ve walked away with that one in the featured category. No competition that year.  

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    Tony Ruiz
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    #434182

    Until very recently, the rule was that if your name wasn’t above the title, you were in the featured category regardless of the importance of your role.  That’s why Tom Bosley won featured actor for playing the leading title role in Fiorello.  The Joel Grey/Chicago thing still bothers me…he was the perfect featured performance that year, and got screwed out of a Tony.

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