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BWW Blog: The Tony Awards... Yikes

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When the American Theatre Wing announced that the Tonys would be taking place virtually this fall, I had mixed feelings about it.

Awards shows are something, aren't they? The biggest stars in entertainment get to dress up for a night and celebrate their achievements of the last year, and we the fans get to sit back and watch as one star excitedly wins an award, while another forces a smile that hides their disappointment. It's fun!

BWW Blog: The Tony Awards... Yikes
Kristin Chenoweth rehearses
her "losing face" at the
73rd Tony Awards ceremony in 2019.

There's an award show for just about everything imaginable nowadays. That's great, though, because that means there's something for everyone. Music fans have the GRAMMYs. Film buffs have the Oscars. People who think any film made by Happy Madison is great cinema have the Golden Raspberry (or "Razzie") Awards, which is like the Oscars but backwards (Adam Sandler cleans house every time).

And, of course, for those of us who are way too into theatre: the Tony Awards.

2020 has been a crazy year, but that hasn't stopped the awards shows from happening. Before the shutdown, we saw Bong Joon-ho's masterpiece Parasite make history as the first film not in the English language to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Billie Eilish swept the GRAMMYs. Schitt's Creek swept the Emmys. Cats swept the Razzies (remember, the Oscars but backwards).

But we didn't get to see the Tonys this summer.

Considering how condensed this past Broadway season turned out to be, the question of whether or not there would be a Tony Awards ceremony this year was up in the air for some time, at least until recently.

When the American Theatre Wing announced that the Tonys would be taking place virtually this fall, I had mixed feelings about it. I was initially excited, but I soon realized that, given how many shows actually opened during this past Broadway season, the ceremony this year would feel pretty empty. Several potentially amazing shows were so close to opening when the shutdown started, so it would have been nice for the ceremony to be postponed until those shows could be included. The whole thing sort of seems like a slap in the face to those shows.

However, I still had a little optimism about it, and I was excited to hear that the nominations would be announced on October 15, even though I knew there wouldn't be many shows to nominate to begin with.

I went into that announcement hoping to be pleasantly surprised. There were definitely surprises, not all of them pleasant, but there were surprises. Let's take a look at the musicals that are nominated this year, for example.

BWW Blog: The Tony Awards... Yikes
Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge: The Musical,
and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
are the only musicals nominated this year;
all three are in the running for Best Musical.

Only three of the four eligible musicals from this past season are nominated, so they inevitably showed up in just about every category they were eligible for, except... Best Original Score.

It was a season full of jukebox musicals, meaning every nominee for Best Original Score is a play. This isn't the first time a play has been nominated in that category, but it is the first time a play will actually win. And that's cool. Making history is awesome. But it's the fact that the American Theatre Wing chose to fill the category with plays rather than give a nomination to the only other eligible musical that actually had an original score that has people upset.

I'm not very familiar with the shows that are nominated this year; I know Jagged Little Pill to an extent but I couldn't tell you anything about Moulin Rouge or Tina: The Tina Turner Musical. Since plays don't typically get cast recordings I know next to nothing about the plays nominated. So I really have no room to talk.

But I know what it looks like when something isn't given its due, and I agree with the fans when they say that The Lightning Thief was robbed.

BWW Blog: The Tony Awards... Yikes
Kristin Strokes, Chris McCarrell,
and Jorrel Javier in
The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical

Ah, yes. Another musical based on a young adult fiction novel. How cute. Aw, look at the dedicated fanbase. I can't wait to pretend that this never happened.

That was my impression of the Tony voters this year. Did I hit the nail on the head? I thought it was very convincing. If you need me, I'll be here waiting for an email from Ellen Degeneres asking me to come be on her show... Sorry. I'll stop.

The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical opened on Broadway last October for a limited 16-week engagement; this came after two Off-Broadway productions (including a revival that was nominated for three Drama Desk Awards) and two national tours.

Similar to musicals like Be More Chill, a large fanbase (consisting mostly of younger fans) followed this show to the Great White Way. Personally, I haven't taken the time to really get into the musical, but from what I've learned about it from just listening to the cast recording (and word of mouth), it really isn't all that bad; the fans know what's up. I knew it wouldn't be the obvious pick for Best Musical this year, but I definitely predicted it would be nominated for something.

If anything, I was expecting them to treat The Lightning Thief the same way they treated Be More Chill: give them a nomination for Best Original Score, sing a parody of one of the songs without the involvement of the cast or creators, and then spend the rest of the evening pretending it doesn't exist. That would at least give them a chance to nominate a musical in a category dominated by plays this year.

BWW Blog: The Tony Awards... Yikes
James Corden is joined by Sara Bareilles
and Josh Groban in a parody of
"Michael in the Bathroom" from Be More Chill
at the 73rd Tony Awards

But alas, they didn't. And it's a bummer. I can't call myself a fan of the musical, but I understand and completely agree that the fact it didn't receive a single nomination this year is a tad ridiculous and exclusive.

I guess that's just how it goes, though. Even though it's been a weird year, especially for the Broadway community, the American Theatre Wing isn't obligated to make any exceptions and nominate shows they wouldn't typically nominate in a normal season.

Also: Aaron Tveit is the only nominee for Best Leading Actor in a Musical, and yet he can still LOSE? Can you imagine how awkward that would be? I can, and I'd bet it's extremely. That'd be worse than the Emmys this year, when they sent people in hazmat suits to the nominees' homes with the awards in hand, taunting them from outside with an award they may or may not win. I'm sure that would hurt to lose when you're up against other nominees, but when you're the only nominee in the category? I'm praying for you, Aaron.

BWW Blog: The Tony Awards... Yikes
Aaron Tveit received his first Tony nomination
for his performance in Moulin Rouge: The Musical,
making him the sole nominee for
Best Leading Actor in a Musical.

Although I disagree with the decision to hold the Tony Awards this year, I will still be watching. I love award shows, and I love Broadway, and although it's not going to be as exciting as the previous ceremonies, I wouldn't want to miss it. My congratulations go out to the nominees whose shows were able to open in time before the shutdown. To the shows that never saw opening night: I see you, and I can't wait to see you dominate at the next Tony Awards ceremony, whenever that may be.


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