PREVIEW: Tony may prove that Hollywood stars don't sell a show
Jun 14, 2008, 14:31 GMT
New York - Broadway shows in New York have their own laws. Top stars and favourable reviews don't necessarily mean that a show will bowl over the public.
This rule was brought bitterly home this season to Hollywood director Mike Nicols. His production of Country Girl with first class actors like Morgan Freeman, Frances McDormand and Peter Gallagher failed to pull in the expected crowds.
As the final insult, the drama was not nominated for a single category in the coveted theatre awards, the Tonys, which will be presented Sunday in New York.
The benefit of such unwritten laws may fall instead to 'August: Osage County,' by the freshly be-knighted Pulitzer winner Tracy Letts, whose three-and-a-half-hour production with the Chicago theatre group Steppenwolf received seven nominations.
August: Osage County played before full houses despite the harsh themes of drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, ageing, racism and family disloyalty.
The musical category is dominated as usual by sugar-sweet productions such as the roller-disco musical Xanadu and Disney's The Little Mermaid.
But the season sneak surprise show 'In The Heights,' with music borrowed from hip-hop, rap and salsa, could break the mold.
The musical, written by 28-year-old Lin Manuel Miranda, samples the milieu of Latino immigrants in New York's Washington Heights. With a triumphant 13 Tony nominations, including best musical and best direction, the newcomer is given good chances.
The same could be said of the unique rock musical Passing Strange, which portrays an African-American's experiences in Berlin and received seven nominations.
In both cases, the charm and engagement of the composers were key to the celebrated success.
The season seemed headed for a fairly miserable end on Broadway this year. In the middle of high season before the holidays in November, the lights went out: stagehands were on strike for 19 days and producers braced for millions of dollars in losses.
But the losses were not that dramatic. Ticket sales dropped by only 0.2 per cent in the May 2007-May 2008 period, according to the Broadway League, the union of theatre producers. In total, Broadway shows took in 937.5 million dollars, compared to the previous year's record season of 938.5 million dollars.
With those troubles gone, the Broadway League was hoping for another record season. The agenda includes blockbusters such as Billy Elliot, Shrek, a West Side Story revival and Equus - with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe. The upcoming season's playbill has buoyed expectations of the producer league, said Charlotte St. Martin, its executive director.
The Tonys, whose official name is the Antoinette Perry Prize, are to be awarded Sunday evening local time in the legendary New York Radio City Music Hall at a gala event. Whoopi Goldberg is to be the moderator, and appearances by stars such as Glenn Close, Alec Baldwin, Liza Minelli and Harry Connick Jr expected.
The prizes are decided by 795 jury members from the theatre and movie scene.