The Tony nominations, in short, have become an exercise in ratifying the obvious -- and how could they be anything else? Broadway consists of 39 houses, four of which are run by Lincoln Center Theater, the Manhattan Theatre Club and the Roundabout Theatre Company, a trio of nonprofit outfits that are marginally more adventurous than their commercial counterparts. As for the remaining 35, they're so costly to operate that anyone who dares to bring a new show into one of them is all but begging to throw his money away....Terry Teachout, keeping it real in the WSJ.
All this explains why the Tonys have grown so lackluster in recent years: Their unsurprising nature merely reflects the safety-first institutional culture of Broadway. Of the eight new shows nominated in the Best Play and Best Musical categories this year, only one, Stew's "Passing Strange," is truly out of the ordinary.
One might add that the only reason to open a show on Broadway today is the possibility of a Tony nomination. After all, if only 8 musicals open and 4 get nominated....gotta like those odds! For someone with money to throw around, is that in itself worth the investment? ("Tony-nominated producer" doesn't look too shabby on the resume. Or on your corporate letterhead.)
This all becomes even more ridiculous and pathetic when you realize that the Oscars also nominate a handful of nominees in each category (usually 5)--but out of hundreds of films released! (Both major studio releases and "indie" flicks.) Under such circumstances it plausibly is "an honor just to be nominated." At the Tonys it can be downright embarrassing not to be.