Thursday, January 24, 2008

The saddest thing in life is wasted talent

When Playbill first reported that eligibility decisions would be made on January 17, I wrote it down like any oddly obsessive theater freak. This weekend, when there was still no word on what those decisions were, I asked around, with the majority of people I asked assuming that the meeting had been postponed. But it had not been postponed, it’s just that no one had reported the results. Please take a moment to absorb that and then to laugh.

Done? Ok, moving on. This week there were a bunch of stories announcing decisions—on the websites and in Variety. They reported about the August actresses—a decision I’m happy about—and a bunch of other actor things. But they missed the major story, that A Bronx Tale is somehow eligible for Best Play.

Is He Dead? is also eligible for Best Play, but that is not perplexing to me. Sure, some thought it would be a revival because Mark Twain wrote it and he, well, has been dead awhile. But it was just discovered and no one had ever heard of it, so, I can see the Best Play thing. Not so much for A Bronx Tale. I believe the decision about A Bronx Tale proves how the rules are so vague and hard to understand that we maybe should bother trying.

1) Why is A Bronx Tale not Special Theatrical Event?

Anyone? I have written before about how weird I think this category is. See:
The rule states: “A "Special Theatrical Event" shall be any production in an eligible Broadway theatre that is, in the judgment of the Tony Awards Administration Committee, a live theatrical production that is not a play or musical.” So, basically, it says it is about the people in that room. But, we, as fans, have hoped that it would be about more than just that—that there would be some kind of pattern to the decisions. As I said in that previous post, that has not come to pass. Basically, as I said in that last post, in the past it has appeared that productions that could possibly be considered iffy get whatever they request. Some productions, like Bridge & Tunnel, wanted Special Theatrical because they knew that was a guaranteed win. Others that were borderline have chosen to be a play or a musical in order that their cast and creative team could be nominated. In this case, now Chazz Palminteri has a good shot at a Best Actor nominee... But I don't think this was a strategic choice by the Bronx Tale team--I think it is more likely that A Bronx Tale simply forgot to ask to be Special Theatrical Event. Or the other possibility is that there simply won’t be enough Special Theatrical Events to have a category and, knowing that, the Tony peeps opted to make it a play rather than toss it a Bridge & Tunnel-esque random special award or exclude it from any chance at anything. Both of these explanations I offer are reasonable. Not fair, but reasonable. So, let’s move on to my second, more major issue with this ruling…

2) Why, if A Bronx Tale is not a Special Theatrical Event, is it being considered a NEW play and not a revival?

Really, this is where I lose it. I am sure someone reading is going to think: “Well, because it was never on Broadway before.” But, um, remember that good ol’ classics rule. This rule states: “A play or musical that is determined by the Tony Awards
Administration Committee (in its sole discretion) to be a "classic" or in the historical or popular repertoire shall not be eligible for an Award in the Best Play or Best Musical category but may be eligible in the appropriate Best Revival category, if any, provided it meets all other eligibility requirements set forth in these Rules.” That rule is the reason Broadway productions of shows like Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune and Little Shop of Horrors have been considered revivals in recent years. Both of those had only been off-Broadway in the past, but both had movies and were considered in the “popular repertoire.” Sounds like A Bronx Tale, no? Now, someone out there is going to argue that “historical or popular repertoire” means a show that has either been done a lot in the past, or is currently done a lot, throughout the country and A Bronx Tale isn’t that. That is about the only argument you can come up with to explain why this is not a revival. It’s not a horrible argument either, it’s just one I worry about. This is 100% a very familiar title. It’s just as, if not more, familiar than Frankie and Johnny. So—if we’re saying it’s not familiarity, if it instead has to be something that tons of people do… That is a fair interpretation of that wording—but who draws the line? Because it’s often pretty clear if something is famous or not… If we asked 100 people on the street would the majority know what the hell we were talking about? But, when you say it needs to be done in places across the country. How many places? Is there a cut-off line? And maybe that is indeed what they are basing it on (if there is any thought that goes into these decisions) -- Three Days of Rain was considered a revival a couple of years ago – which is a show that has no movie and no huge widespread title familiarity, but is done by a good amount of regional theaters. How many? Well, I guess enough for it to be considered in the “popular repertoire.” I mean—is anyone else seeing how ridiculous this is? I could go on and on with examples and counter-examples and maybe come up with some reasoning behind the choices, but, eventually, it’s just going to be pointless. Actually, I think we’re already there.


mcquest yb said...

You are right.

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

CaraJoy, I'm totally with you on each count. The rules seem to have been made only to be broken, but this is from the same people who flirted with having an award for Best Performance in a role they didn't create on the Broadway stage. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

A Bronx Tale may have been a movie, but it is NOT in the theatrical popular repertoire, as Frankie & Johnnie... and Little Shop... most certainly are. That is the sense of the rule in question. To that point, I've never heard of a production of A Bronx Tale that didn't star Mr. Palminteri, and this is the first time he's brought his play (which he wrote and performed first as a play, then as a screenplay) to Broadway, or even (I believe) to NY. It is not a widely performed play in the theatrical canon. I don't think he's even made the rights available for performance - it is his vehicle, and he's saved it for himself. Having been a film does not make a property part of the THEATRICAL canon, and so is not relevant to whether it is a new play on Broadway - had On The Waterfront been better, it would have been nominated in the Best Play category!

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