September 11, 2020 at 9:46 am #1203698839
The first thread seems to have some sort of technical glitch.
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.September 11, 2020 at 10:03 am #1203698865
It seemed to me that for a while, voters decided that by giving one show Book and Score, that would let them off the hook so they could spread the wealth by giving the top prize to something else. When it comes to Best Musical, there is the question of are Tony voters basing their votes more on the material or the overall impact of the production. Especially given that there’s already separate categories (Book and Score) that acknowledge the material unlike Best Play where the playwright accepts the award along with the producers.
The year of Crazy for You vs. Falsettos, it seemed that the industry was much more behind the feel-good musical as opposed to the more challenging one. The year of Fosse vs. Parade, the latter show flopped, thus closing a few months before the 1999 Tonys. The last time that a closed show won Best Musical was Hallelujah, Baby! back in 1968. Meanwhile, Fosse was a hit, and was respected by the industry as a great tribute to the legendary director/choreographer. In those days, Tony voters pretty much voted with their wallets regardless of whether or not they thought the show itself was great. The year of Thoroughly Modern Millie vs. Urinetown, it was the first Tony Awards to have taken place post 9/11. When the World Trade Center collapsed (19 years ago today to be exact), the whole world (including Broadway) took time to fully recover from that tragedy. By the time Thoroughly Modern Millie opened, it was just the gift audiences were looking for as it was a feel good musical comedy that also happened to have been a love letter to New York City.
Regardless of whether or not people think any of the outcomes mentioned here were correct, I think what should at least be appreciated is that Tony voters were able to decide which musical was the writing achievement and which was the staging achievement.September 11, 2020 at 3:05 pm #1203699428
Into The Woods and The Drowsy Chaperone should have won Best Musical in their respective years because in my opinion, they were both better written AND better staged than The Phantom Of The Opera and Jersey Boys.September 11, 2020 at 7:39 pm #1203699753
As for the year of The Lion King vs. Ragtime, people seem to forget that while the latter show has been considered to be a masterpiece since its debut, the original Broadway production still received mixed reviews from critics, with complaints that the enormous physical production overshadowed the problems they had with the book. It’s kind of similar to what happened with the original production of West Side Story in 1958 as it lost Best Musical to The Music Man. While critics respected the former show at the time, they still had some problems with it. Though no one could’ve predicted West Side Story‘s influence 60+ years later.
For an even broader comparison, when Citizen Kane was first released in 1941, it not only didn’t receive instant acclaim, but it was also plagued with controversy. When the movie won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay the following year, the whole audience at the Biltmore Hotel in Hollywood yelled “BOO!”. Yet, 79 years later, Citizen Kane is viewed as a masterpiece, with many people calling it one of the greatest movies ever made, if not, the greatest.September 12, 2020 at 2:47 pm #1203701890
Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a really charming and well structured show, so it definitely deserved the Tony.
1992 is an upsetting year for the Tony’s. Falsettos was the show we all needed, but the vote went to the big, flashy production. This seemed to happen a lot in the 90’s. In 1991 The Will Rogers Follies won over The Secret Garden, Once on This Island and Miss Saigon (the last of which was never going to win based off of spectacle after all the controversy). Similar things happened in 98 and 99.September 18, 2020 at 6:58 pm #1203717061
I’m under the impression that the voters go for the show that’s easier to market so they can bill it as a Best Musical winner. So they go for the spectacles like PHANTOM, FOSSE and LION KING, or the feel good shows like MILLIE, CRAZY FOR YOU and KINKY BOOTS. Also there are three cases of three different shows winning these awards:
Book: James Joyce’s The Dead
Book: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Score: The Light in the Piazza
Musical: SpamalotSeptember 19, 2020 at 4:35 am #1203717421
I’m under the impression that the voters go for the show that’s easier to market so they can bill it as a Best Musical winner. So they go for the spectacles like PHANTOM, FOSSE and LION KING, or the feel good shows like MILLIE, CRAZY FOR YOU.
Given how long business on Broadway had struggled, it seemed that for a while, Tony voters championed the big blockbusters as they were keeping the industry alive. Though since business on Broadway has improved a lot in recent years, Tony voters have been feeling that the big hits like Newsies, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and An American in Paris don’t need the Best Musical award because they can be marketed just fine without it. Therefore, shows like Once, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, and Fun Home were able to get longer shelf lives than they probably would’ve gotten had it not been for the Tonys.
It’s also worth noting that for a while, it was believed that a majority of Tony voters were out-of-town producers who present national touring productions at their venues. Though a few years ago, it was revealed that the road vote only makes up about 10% of the voting bloc.September 20, 2020 at 12:12 pm #1203720671
While Jersey Boys showed how to write a bio-musical, The Drowsy Chaperone was certainly more witty and humorous, using an original story within a story that appeals to theatre lovers.
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