The announcement of the Tony nominations happened when I was out-of-state, proving that the theater does go on when I am not here. To recover from this humbling realization, I am getting back in the game by offering you some of my thoughts on the nominations. A week late.
The Addams Family got robbed. That is a rather shocking statement, as usually the only things you read about Addams in the press are negative comments about the production. But I contend that there is no better looking new musical on Broadway. The set and lighting designers should have been front-runners in their respective categories--they didn't even receive nominations.
A more surprising Addams snub was of course Nathan Lane. Often good design is overlooked when a production is detested, but Broadway favorites usually are singled-out for praise come nomination time, no matter the show. This year two of Broadway's favorite children, Lane and Kristin Chenoweth, were snubbed. Chenoweth's omission from the nominations list isn't as shocking as Lane's because even her champions didn't cheer for her performance in Promises, Promises. On the other hand, Lane got raves. Yet no nomination.
I could go on talking about some other major categories, but everyone else has by now. Instead I want to turn your attention to what I believe was the biggest shocker of the nominations. Somehow Santo Loquasto received a nomination for his Ragtime costumes. This nomination on cursory glance would seem unsurprising -- Loquasto's period ensembles received much acclaim. But, the thing is, his costumes were pretty much a recreation of his work on the original production. A production spokesperson said about half of the costumes were new and cited one number that had a totally fresh look. My own examination of photos of the original production versus photos of the revival showed very little difference in the majority of the clothes. But I'm no Ragtime expert, so I went to someone who is more of one. A friend who worked on the revival placed the costumes at 75% recycled. (Note that is his opinion and I do not believe he kept an accurate costume count.)
There is no official rule that says what percentage of costumes must be new in order for the designer to qualify for eligibility. It is another one of those things that falls in the discretion of the Tony Administration Committee. But I wonder if they actually reviewed how many of the costumes were original for this production. There was no official eligibility decision announced about Loquasto. And, even if the Administration Committee did consider it, did the nominators? Officially, a Tony spokesperson would not comment on the nomination process. However one nominator told me, "I based my decision on the costumes as a whole." That's reasonable on the nominator's part, but, the problem is, only new stuff should be eligible.
One of my smartest friends, the genius writer Billy Finnegan, reminded me of a similar situation, the 2004 nomination of Larry Hochman for Orchestrations. Hochman was nominated for his work on the revival of Fiddler on the Roof, for which he provided "additional orchestrations." The production primarily relied on Don Walker's original orchestrations. Who would know the difference between the two? Especially in something like orchestrations, it would be difficult for someone sitting in the audience to separate the two men's contributions. Indeed, getting back to 2010, I am unsure if original Promises, Promises orchestrator Jonathan Tunick did totally/mostly new work for the revival. Yes, he had to deal with new songs, but I do not know just how much of the rest of his orchestrations duplicated the original production. Did anyone involved with the Tonys inquire about this before the nominations? (This represents a separate issue from the controversial Urban Cowboy nomination, which ended up not just including people who wrote original songs for the show, but also Clint Black and others who probably never even saw the production.)
The moral of the Ragtime story -- and many others I have told over the past weeks -- is that there is a need for consistency in the Tony rules and administration of those rules. If Loquasto was nominated for new work that he did for this production, great. If he wasn't, there is a problem.
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