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People Who You’re Glad Won a Tony, But for That? Really?

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    Jeffrey Kare
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    As Katharine Hepburn once said, “The right actors win Oscars, but for the wrong roles.” To this day, I continue to see a number of people on the internet complaining about how actors win for a certain role despite it possibly being their worst nomination. Common examples they’ve used are Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8 (who thankfully made up for that by going on to win for her best nod in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), Paul Newman in The Color of Money, and Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman.

    However, I’m interested in hearing if anyone thinks there’s a specific performer (or creative individual) who you’re glad won a Tony, “but for that? Really?”. I have a feeling that we’re going to get at least couple more this year, but I’m asking for past examples.

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    Awardsfan1990
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    Bernadette Peters won her first Tony for Song & Dance, an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that most people seem to forget exists. How much better it would have been if she had been nominated and won for Into The Woods. Now THAT would have been a great first Tony win for her.

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    Jeffrey Kare
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    Then again, there is the question of had she been nominated in Lead, would she have beaten Joanna Gleason? Or would they have both split the vote? Though I think when Bernadette won for Song & Dance in 1986, that may have partially been due to goodwill she had from her previous nomination for Sunday in the Park with George two years prior. She probably could’ve won then had it not been for Chita Rivera’s overdue narrative, which catapulted her to her first win for The Rink.

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    Awardsfan1990
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    I would’ve been happy if she won either way. The Witch is one of her most iconic characters.

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    Jeffrey Kare
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    Speaking of which, I guess another good example of this would be Chita Rivera winning her first Tony for The Rink. Nowadays (pun intended), that show is seen as one of the more forgotten Kander & Ebb musicals. I’m sure in hindsight, people would at least have preferred Bernadette Peters to win that year for Sunday in the Park with George.

    As for what would’ve been a more exciting first victory for Chita, maybe she could’ve won in 1961 for her performance in the Best Musical winner of that year, Bye Bye Birdie, had Tammy Grimes not been in contention for The Unsinkable Molly Brown. 1976 is a tricky one because while Chita was nominated for playing Velma Kelly (a role that went on to win awards for Bebe Neuwirth and Catherine Zeta-Jones) in Chicago, her co-star, Gwen Verdon was also in contention there for her role as Roxie Hart. Plus, the winner, Donna McKechnie, had the stand out part of Cassie in the juggernaut of that season, A Chorus Line. Though nowadays (again), that character would be eligible in a featured category just as Charlotte d’Amboise was for the revival in 2007. Had McKechnie gone featured for the original production, I’m not sure who would’ve won Best Lead Actress in a Musical in 1976 because it’s very possible that Gwen and Chita both could’ve cancelled each other out.

    Of course, there’s also the very first iconic role on Chita’s résumé, Anita in West Side Story. That character has gone on to win Rita Moreno an Oscar for the 1961 film adaptation and Karen Olivo a Tony for the 2009 revival, yet Chita Rivera wasn’t even nominated for the original Broadway production. Maybe if the Tony Awards didn’t have the rules back then of only having those billed above the title compete in lead and those billed below the title compete in featured, Carol Lawrence (Maria) would’ve been nominated in lead along with the eventual winner, Barbara Cook in The Music Man (as Marian Paroo is the female lead of that musical). Therefore, Chita likely would’ve been nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, and probably could’ve won.

    Then again, had the industry waited to award Chita Rivera until 1993, I don’t think anyone would’ve complained about her one Tony Award win being for Kiss of the Spider Woman.

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    adamunc
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    Bernadette got raves for Song & Dance. Plus, she was basically the whole show. I think it’s a very fitting first win for her.

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    Ms. Trunchbull
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    Stephanie J. Block. Love her, but for a Cher Jukebox musical? Really?

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    Jeffrey Kare
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    For a while, I had my doubts about her chances of winning throughout the season given the whole industry bias against commodity shows coupled with the fact that it can very difficult to win Best Lead Actress in a Musical for a production that wasn’t nominated for Best Musical (nor Revival). I also never bought into this whole “she’s overdue” narrative because she had only been nominated twice before and she wasn’t like considered to be this industry titan who had been working on Broadway for decades (like André De Shields).

    I guess despite being up against performances from shows with more snob appeal, there apparently just wasn’t a good enough case for any of them to win. Eva Noblezada may have been in the Best Musical champion, Hadestown, but she probably didn’t have enough moments in it to make her a force to be reckoned with. Beth Leavel may have had a very showy part in The Prom, but that show never really took off at the box office (even after getting nominated for Best Musical). We’ve seen in the past how Tony voters don’t usually like to waste any major awards on a production that’s been struggling. Caitlin Kinnunen may have been the heart and soul of The Prom, but her nomination was a surprise (I also don’t know how much vote-splitting between her and Leavel may have been a factor). Kelli O’Hara may have been doing what she does best in the most recent revival of Kiss Me, Kate, but since she had finally won on her previous nomination for The King & I, voters didn’t really have pressure on them anymore about giving her a Tony.

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