As I looked back on shows that have won the Best Score and Best Book Tonys, but did not win Best Musical, I realized it has happened more times than I initially realized. This has happened in eight different years:
Book & Score: On the Twentieth Century
Musical: Ain’t Misbehavin’
Ain’t Misbehavin’ obviously wasn’t eligible for Score; I’m not familiar enough with it to know whether it had an eligible book or not, but it wasn’t nominated. Perhaps this was just a case where a show was an overwhelming favorite, but wasn’t eligible in the Book & Score categories.
Book & Score: Woman of the Year
Musical: 42nd Street
I think Woman of the Year was considered a lesser Kander & Ebb effort even at the time, but there was zero competition that year and this was likely a default win. Though it’s a little curious that it won Book over 42nd Street, which was nominated and was a hit show.
Book & Score: Into the Woods
Musical: Phantom of the Opera
Probably the most famous example of this phenomenon. I think Harold Prince’s masterful presentation of Phantom and the sheer spectacle carried the day over Woods, which has its flaws. But voters were anxious to deliver a smackdown to ALW’s pretensions to operatic grandeur in the score category.
Book & Score: Falsettos
Musical: Crazy for You
I call BS on this one. I didn’t care for Crazy for You, which was almost entirely a choreographic achievement. Falsettos perhaps just fell victim to not being “big” enough, particularly during the mega-musical age.
Book & Score: Ragtime
Musical: The Lion King
I guess voters just went for the staging and design elements over the writing this year when it came to the big prize. I would have voted for Ragtime without hesitation, but the outcome isn’t particularly surprising here. This is the one I’m most curious to know how close the vote was.
Book & Score: Parade
Were voters so against awarding the top prize to a Lincoln Center art piece? Or is it just that they felt Parade was the best of a weak lot in the Book and Score categories?
Book & Score: Urinetown
Musical: Thoroughly Modern Millie
I will always be convinced that the voters just didn’t want the name Urinetown listed in the pantheon of Best Musical Tony winners, lol.
Book & Score: The Drowsy Chaperone
Musical: Jersey Boys
Jersey Boys was obviously a runaway hit. So it seems curious to me that Chaperone would win in the Book category when JB was eligible. If there was a bias against bio-musicals, why wouldn’t that have also come out in the vote for the top prize? As I recall, there was a general consensus that the book for JB was a model for writing a bio-musical.
Which years do you think voters got it right and which did they get it wrong? Why do you think some of these happened? I tend to be biased towards writing; maybe others don’t weigh it as heavily.
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