Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Where Will the Tonys Have ROOM?

Will ROOM be a musical or play for the Tony Awards? And who decides?

This edition of Industry Trends appeared earlier in BroadwayWorld's Industry Pro Newsletter. Want to be the first to know about the latest industry trends? Click here to sign up!

Sometimes seasons go by without any truly perplexing questions for the Tony Award Administration Committee. This will not be one of those seasons. As I wrote last month, there are close calls on what will be considered a new play versus a revival and now thrown into the mix is the play or musical decision involving ROOM.

How Tony eligibility works is it starts with a letter from the production. A lead producer submits a letter regarding the producer's position on categorization--that includes play versus musical and if the production believes anyone should be categorized differently than their opening night title billing would indicate. The producer also submits answers to a questionnaire regarding original or replicated elements. The Administration Committee does the rest. What the production requests is not public, but sometimes leaks out. Therefore, we know the 24-member committee does not always follow producer requests. For example, Scott Rudin pushed hard for SHUFFLE ALONG to be considered a revival, but it was ruled eligible in the new musical category. (Read here for more detail about the eligibility process.)

With regard to what is a musical versus a play, the lines are usually clear. However, there is the tricky "play with music" genre. Within that genre there are pieces like IMAGINARY FRIENDS that seem like plays despite some added original songs. Then there are the ones where the line is fuzzier like END OF THE RAINBOW or LADY DAY AT EMERSON'S BAR AND GRILL, both of which were considered plays but could have gone either way. In a letter sent to the Tony Administration Committee in 2014 arguing why LADY DAY should be considered a play, its producer wrote: "There is no set-in-stone definition of what makes a musical a musical and a play a play. Traditionally, however, the line between musicals and plays with music has been drawn based on the music's function within the show. In a traditional book musical, songs are integral to the plot, blended seamlessly with the dialogue and used to advance situations or to express emotion too powerful for the characters to speak. In LADY DAY, on the other hand, the musical numbers exist only as performances within the larger work."

ROOM--which will star Adrienne Warren, a Tony winner for Best Actress in a Musical--is seemingly close to the play/musical line for viewers. The songs in ROOM obviously don't exist only as performances, but quantity and context also matter in the categorization determination. J. Kelly Nestruck, theater critic for Canada's The Globe and Mail, called ROOM a "play with music" (which is how it was characterized by producers in other mountings) in one piece he wrote and an "unorthodox musical" in another.

Time will tell what producers petition for when ROOM hits Broadway. Part of this is strategy. The Administration Committee is finally meeting on January 31 and that meeting will partially decide how crowded the play field is. But even if all the questionable new-ish plays are deemed revivals, which is highly unlikely, the Best Play category is still more packed than the Best Musical category and insiders are expecting one more play announcement.

With ROOM not opening until April 17, the Administration Committee decision will not be made until the last meeting of the season.

Related Stories
Industry Pro Newsletter: Jujamcyn Ruling in Covid Suit Photo
Dance news, lawsuits, and J.J. Abrams is coming to the stage all featured in this week's newsletter, along with a surprisingly strong report on the state of the creative economy in California. If California is any indication, there is reason for hope even as the bounceback is slower in other parts of the country as we re-emerge from the pandemic.

Dueling ANNE OF GREEN GABLES Musicals Head to Court Photo
Theater fans are used to seeing multiple shows with the same name. We all know about the dueling WILD PARTYs. Yet the producer of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: A NEW MUSICAL has felt the need to go to court to ask the court to declare the show legally entitled to keep its name.

Industry Pro Newsletter: Cherry Lane Acquired Photo
A24 is entering the live theatre realm - the revered production and distribution company has acquired the Cherry Lane Theater. We’ve long seen media companies make their way toward Broadway, but A24 entering the off-Broadway space comes after Audible successfully did so a few seasons ago.

Industry Pro Newsletter: Antisemitic Protests at Parade Photo
The growing threat of antisemitism in our culture spilled onto Broadway last week as a group of neo-Nazi’s protested outside preview performances of Parade. Cara Joy David dives into that, and how it fits into the wider cultural conversation and what we should be doing in our day to day lives to further combat this alarming growth of antisemitism.

From This Author - Cara Joy David

BroadwayWorld's Industry Editor Cara Joy David is a New York-based entertainment journalist who has been covering the theater industry for over a decade. Her features have appeared in The New Y... (read more about this author)

Dueling ANNE OF GREEN GABLES Musicals Head to CourtDueling ANNE OF GREEN GABLES Musicals Head to Court
March 13, 2023

Theater fans are used to seeing multiple shows with the same name. We all know about the dueling WILD PARTYs. Yet the producer of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: A NEW MUSICAL has felt the need to go to court to ask the court to declare the show legally entitled to keep its name.

Court Rules on Jujamcyn Theaters' Fight for Covid-Related Insurance CoverageCourt Rules on Jujamcyn Theaters' Fight for Covid-Related Insurance Coverage
March 7, 2023

Jujamcyn Theaters’ fight for Covid-related insurance coverage has suffered a mighty blow. A Court in the Southern District of New York, which is a federal court, decided against Jujamcyn in its lawsuit against Federal Insurance Company and trimmed Jujamcyn’s case against another insurer, Pacific Indemnity Company.

WOLF PLAY's Wall of Free PropsWOLF PLAY's Wall of Free Props
March 6, 2023

When walking into MCC Theater to see Hansol Jung‘s WOLF PLAY, you are greeted by very little on the floor where the action will take place—a couch, a table, some balloons—but yet an entire wall chock full of stuff. Where did the stuff come from? Some came from part productions the team members have worked on, but much of it came from NYC.

PARADE Protesters Bring Growing Antisemitism to the StreetsPARADE Protesters Bring Growing Antisemitism to the Streets
February 27, 2023

In some ways, it was a surprise that antisemites took to the streets last week to demonstrate outside of PARADE. We don't see that sort of thing outside a Broadway show. We don't typically see it at all in New York City. But, if you were paying attention--and, as a member of an Anti-Defamation League NextGeneration Advisory Board, I have been--you would know that antisemitic sentiment is increasingly spilling onto the streets.

Broadway Producing Heavyweight Hal Luftig Company Declares BankruptcyBroadway Producing Heavyweight Hal Luftig Company Declares Bankruptcy
February 20, 2023

As last year wound to a close, the Hal Luftig Company, Inc. (which I'll call the 'Company' for short), well-known producer Hal Luftig's theatrical production company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In layman’s terms, the goal is to come out of bankruptcy with a payment plan which will enable the Company to pay off its debts on a set schedule. Meanwhile, Luftig continues to produce.