Tony Voters Speak: The Producer

Illustration by Everett Bogue

All week leading up to Sunday’s Tony awards, we’re polling anonymous Tony voters about whom they’ve cast their votes for and why. This morning we ask a Broadway producer and Tony voter: Who’s on your ballot?

Best Book of a Musical: Doug Wright, Grey Gardens. “The winner of the best book these days is usually the writer who pulls off the best trick. Storytelling and character development are no longer as important to today’s voters — or today’s critics, for that matter. Art has been replaced by cleverness. The mere fact that Wright wrote a role in which Christine Ebersole plays the mom in Act I and the daughter in Act II is enough to clinch it for him, whatever the lack of good storytelling in Act I. And the daughter, Little Edie, is such an original character that he’ll have my vote.”

Best Choreography: Bill T. Jones, Spring Awakening. “Whatever happened to great choreography? Where are the students of the masters of the previous generations — Fosse and Bennett and Robbins? [Jerry] Mitchell’s hopping around [in the choreography for Legally Blonde] is a big disappointment and not nearly as good as the USC cheerleaders. [Rob] Ashford’s “It’s a Business” [in Curtains] may be the best-staged single number of the season, but for the rest of the evening he leaned on clichés. Jones’s dances never take over the show — which is the point. Instead he found an original vocabulary that feels like it’s coming from his characters.”

Best Actor in a Play: Christopher Plummer, Inherit the Wind. “I’m voting for Christopher Plummer, who takes over the theater like a ringmaster and makes sure everyone has a good time and believes every minute. But Frank Langella is going to win for Frost/Nixon because it is the freakiest and therefore the showiest performance. Does it have any of the truth that Liev Schreiber or Brían O’Byrne or Boyd Gaines or the remarkable Plummer brought to their roles? Not an iota. But finding the truth in your character seems to be as much of a lost art as a writer’s finding a character. This is all a result of the Tony voting contingent’s burgeoning in size, because the League of American Theaters and Producers wants to increase membership and dues. The larger voter group is a less informed voter group, and as a result, the awards are not as wise or as significant as they once were.”

Tony Voters Speak: The Producer