Question for those who have been involved with a show that was a Tony contender...

Theaterfan555
Chorus Member
joined:6/22/06
This question is inspired by SMASH.

Are people - producers, performers, creative team - usually very outspoken about their desire for Tony nominations (and possible machinations to achieve them)? The folks on SMASH keep saying out loud to anyone who can hear how much they want a Tony. Not just Anjelica Huston but the "artists" involved. Like, in the most recent episode, Jeremy Jordan's character wanted to improve Hit List so it will win a Tony "for Kyle." And earlier in the season when a new book was finished, Derek calls Karen and says something like "Get ready for every award that's given."
I've found this rather off-putting -- it's so craven, and it certainly doesn't say much about any of these characters' artistic integrity. But I'd think people would be more discreet about their Tony ambitions. They certainly would think about it, perhaps talk about it to close family or friends. But to blatantly express a desire for it, over and over.
So, just looking for insight from anyone with firsthand experience in such a situation...
Yero my Hero
Broadway Legend
joined:3/27/05
Nobody admits they really, really want an award to justify (not really the right word, but I'm blanking at the moment) their art, but everybody really, really wants an award to justify their art.

Here is an example. Not personal, but a good one. I have heard of multiple conversations where Raul Esparza has stated that, during COMPANY, he had been expecting to win the Tony, and when he lost, he realized that he had actually wanted it more than he admitted and he was devastated. The day after the Tonys, after his big song, he received a standing ovation for a full minute, and when he finally exited the stage, he collapsed into the stage manager's arms in tears and said, "That was my Tony."
Nothing matters but knowing nothing matters. ~ Wicked
Everything in life is only for now. ~ Avenue Q
There is no future, there is no past. I live this moment as my last. ~ Rent

"He's a tramp, but I love him."
Yero my Hero
Broadway Legend
joined:3/27/05
Producers (like Anjelica Huston's character) are much more opaque about wanting Tony Awards, because it often boosts sales, particularly for new musicals.
Nothing matters but knowing nothing matters. ~ Wicked
Everything in life is only for now. ~ Avenue Q
There is no future, there is no past. I live this moment as my last. ~ Rent

"He's a tramp, but I love him."
wonkit
Broadway Legend
joined:9/30/08
I have always been told that the "Tony Effect" on ticket sales is pretty temporary if the show has not already found an audience.
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Everybody in the world wants a pat on the back!

But I had the same reaction as the OP: SMASH makes the Tony race seem even more craven and corrupt than it really is.

This is just my gut reaction, since I've taken no surveys, but I think the way SMASH is portraying the Tonys is based more on movie melodramas about the Academy Awards than the way real theater professionals respond to nominations. Only Best Play or Best Musical really boosts sales much, so for everyone else, we're talking ego, not hit or flop.

Sure they want to win. But nobody wants to look like a fool by appearing to want too much and then losing.

(FTR, I admire Raul Esparza for his candor in telling the Tony story above. But even he admits he didn't realize how badly he wanted to win; IMO he was protecting himself by suppressing the desire.)
Updated On: 5/14/13 at 08:06 PM
all that jazz
Broadway Legend
joined:4/5/12
Wasn't there some major campaigning from the producers of Avenue Q to win best musical? I think I read somewhere that their box office was decorated to look like a campaign headquarters and they even gave away buttons.
winston89
Broadway Legend
joined:6/18/06
For Avenue Q, yes. They even recorded a song called "Vote Your Heart." The set up was that Rod wasn't sure who to vote for for the president of his rotary club. Thus the cast tells him to "vote your heart." It was clearly pandering for the tony votes. However, Avenue Q wasn't the first show to do something like that. Sure, they may have been the most obvious and visual but for the longest time it wasn't uncommon for producers to get gifts (usually theme related for the show) in order to get the Tony. However, since Avenue Q, the League changed their rules on what they will accept as gifts.
"If you try to shag my husband while I am still alive, I will shove the art of motorcycle maintenance up your rancid little Cu**. That's a good dear" Tom Stoppard's Rock N Roll
MaddieBB12
Broadway Star
joined:11/1/12
Anyone know what the voters will accept as gifts?
CapnHook
Broadway Legend
joined:5/12/03
Tonys are desired for MONEY, primarily, and "recognition," secondarily.

For individuals, it could be written into their contract that if they win a Tony, they are given a cash bonus and/or an increase in salary. Also, being a Tony winner can affect your salary for future work.

For the show, Tony wins & noms can give your show more attention from press, and "award-winning" can be a description in your advertising.
"The Spectacle has, indeed, an emotional attraction of its own, but, of all the parts, it is the least artistic, and connected least with the art of poetry. For the power of Tragedy, we may be sure, is felt even apart from representation and actors. Besides, the production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet."
--Aristotle
Dollypop
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/03
I am fairly good friends with a multiple Tony winner and, although he feels that the award is a great honor, he doesn't value the actual awards very much. He doesn't even keep them. Instead, he sends them to his mother.
"Long live God!" (GODSPELL)
billis2
Chorus Member
joined:3/22/13
From the OP:
"But I'd think people would be more discreet about their Tony ambitions. They certainly would think about it, perhaps talk about it to close family or friends. But to blatantly express a desire for it, over and over."

Remember, in the world of Smash, the conversations that we're seeing ARE between friends. Derek is talking to Karen on the phone in a private conversation -- it's just being broadcast to millions of people. Or maybe a million people. Or maybe a million at the beginning of the season but now a few hundred thousand. . . At any rate, on Smash, the only person who is blatant about wanting the Tony is the producer. Everyone else is more discreet. But not so discreet that the show would be boring to watch. Or, more boring to watch.

I would think that having producers putting on Tony campaigns but no one else being that outwardly covetous would be similar in real life.
JohnyBroadway
Broadway Legend
joined:4/10/12
broadwaydevil
Broadway Legend
joined:2/16/11
Tonys are desired for MONEY, primarily, and "recognition," secondarily.

Yes, 100% accurate. Producers wants Tonys because they will boost sales and serve as free advertising with obviously Best Musical being most important, though let us not forget the huge ticket spike Venus in Fur got after Nina's win and The Normal Heart's huge spike after its several awards.

Everyone on the creative side: composers, lyricists, actors, directors, set and costume designers, orchestrators, etc. want Tonys for the sake of their career. It's much easier to get future jobs in any of those fields when you can be billed as "Tony winning _______." It also gives you better leverage since you become something of a name in terms of contract/salary negotiations.

Furthermore, in fields like lighting design, a field I'm quite familiar with, the pool of premiere people hired to do Broadway shows is incredibly small and one of the only ways to get into that pool and stay there is to have multiple Tony nominations and a win or more under your belt.


Sorry if this sounds cynical to anyone but from my experience this is just reality. Yes, validation of work is incredibly nice and most of these people love what they do and feel incredible joy at being recognized and appreciated for it, but these are peoples' careers and lives and it's not exactly a surprise that making sure you have enough money to pay rent and buy groceries (or buy another penthouse if you're a producer) takes priority over appreciation.
Scratch and claw for every day you're worth! Make them drag you screaming from life, keep dreaming You'll live forever here on earth.
frontrowcentre2
Broadway Legend
joined:2/20/05
SMASH is likely exaggerating it for dramatic effect, but it's probably not to far off the mark.

Producers have been known to scramble to open their show the last possible date for eligibility. (There was a general feeling for a while there that the latest season opener would usually win. Not true of course, but one that made prediction rounds for quite a while as a "factoid.")

It's easy to be cynical about any awards (Oscars in particular) but the PR value of the annual Tony telecast is not to be underestimated. In 1990 GRAND HOTEL - The Musical was a leading contender but suffering from inconsistent weekly sales. After leading off the telecast with a dazzling number ("We'll take a Glass Together") lines started forming at the theatre box office and the show's attendance jumped to near sell-out status. This despite not winning the Best Musical award that year. (That year's winner CITY OF ANGELS was already regularly selling out.)

I am more cynical about out of town presenters holding so much control over what wins, when most of them do not bother attending all the nominees, and only vote for productions they want for their markets regardless of quality.

Cast albums are NOT "soundtracks."
Live theatre does not use a "soundtrack." If it did, it wouldn't be live theatre!

I host a weekly one-hour radio program featuring cast album selections as well as songs by cabaret, jazz and theatre artists. The program, FRONT ROW CENTRE is heard Sundays 9 to 10 am and also Saturdays from 8 to 9 am (eastern times) on www.proudfm.com

Yero my Hero
Broadway Legend
joined:3/27/05
(FTR, I admire Raul Esparza for his candor in telling the Tony story above. But even he admits he didn't realize how badly he wanted to win; IMO he was protecting himself by suppressing the desire.)

I think you are right. I was relating the story as he told it.

Anyone know what the voters will accept as gifts?

Having worked for a few Tony voters (and thoroughly enjoyed the perks), they received cast recordings, copies of scripts, souvenir programs, things like that. Occasionally there will be some fun bonus disc, maybe with some cut songs or backstage footage or something. They are obviously for the purpose of voting (listening to the nominated scores, etc.) but they are also enjoyed as souvenirs. In the three years I worked for Tony voters, I put the entire season of new cast recordings on my iTunes. It was wonderful.

I have seen many producers receive gifts for their own nominations, but I personally have not witnessed a gift arrive for a Tony voter that was not show merchandise.
Nothing matters but knowing nothing matters. ~ Wicked
Everything in life is only for now. ~ Avenue Q
There is no future, there is no past. I live this moment as my last. ~ Rent

"He's a tramp, but I love him."