The Playgoer: Tonys getting less "critical"?

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tonys getting less "critical"?

Time Out's Adam Feldman shares some mail he just received:

“After careful consideration,” begins the letter from Tony Award Productions, “the Tony Awards Management Committee has determined that Tony-voting privileges will no longer be extended to members of the First Night Press List, commencing with the 2009–2010 season.” In other words: Critics are hereby purged from the Tony voting rolls. No official reasons for this decision are given, but the letter goes on to note that critics already get to have their say during the year, and that “certain publications and individual critics have historically pursued a policy of abstaining from voting on entertainment awards in general, to avoid any possible conflicts of interest in fulfilling their primary responsibilities as journalists.”
Yes, good thing those pesky critics' conflicts of interest are out of the way now, to make way for the purer judgments of the rest of the Tony Award electorate--mostly, producers!

Someone upset that Shrek didn't get better Tony treatment this year???

Well I suppose it's true that critics do get plenty of opportunities to judge already, including their own awards. But maybe this should heighten the importance (if awards are still "important" at all) of Drama Critics Circle, for instance, or Drama Desk (of which I confess I'm a voting member myself).

(The OBIES is in some ways critic-driven but the committee every year is comprised of different critics and artists--like Cannes! But it also excludes Broadway.)

While it is a shameless move by the Broadway League and American Theater Wing (who run the thing) to take the Tonys even one step further toward blatant infomercial, maybe such clarity puts the spectacle in proper perspective finally. And maybe we'll develop in theatre a "bicameral" awards season like with movies, where you have the Oscars (voted on by industry folks), then the numerous critics awards (National Board of Review, e.g.).

The question is, with a voting pool something like one-tenth the size of the Oscars' (and now getting even smaller!) what's to stop the Tonys from becoming a regular Politburo of Puffery?

Notice the coincidence that the Oscars just increased their number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten, no doubt a similar impulse that the Tonys have shown in finding some reason to at least telecast (if not nominated) scenes from every musical imaginable, good, bad, open, closed, or road tour.

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