EXCLUSIVE: The 71st annual Tony Awards may be the site of a Broadway rebellion.
On Sunday, the Tonys — a joint venture of the American Theatre Wing and Broadway League — is seeking to end the practice of dozens of producers rushing the stage at Radio City Music Hall when their show wins. Just six producers will be permitted onstage to accept each major award — for play, musical and play and musical revival — according to an email from League President Charlotte St. Martin and Tony Award Productions that was obtained by Broadway Journal.
In recent years, the number of credited producers has ballooned along with Broadway budgets. Some in the industry maintain that when scores of fundraisers take the spotlight, it diminishes the contributions of the artists and lead producers who do the heavy lifting.
But the prospect of being denied their moment of Tony glory, which is broadcast on CBS, has many fuming. “They need us to put on their shows,” said an active co-producer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I had so many people say, ‘this is so disrespectful and a slap in the face,’ and they’re not going to continue raising money.”
One earns billing by raising and/or investing above a certain threshold, which varies. Co-producers can be involved in other aspects of a show, with the lead producer having final say.
Howard Kagan, the lead producer of Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, wrote to his co-producers that the musical would abide by the new Tony rule. That’s probably moot, as Comet is considered a long shot to win. The teams behind Dear Evan Hansen (with about three-dozen names above the title) and Come From Away (nearly 60) are waiting to see how many smiling faces are onstage behind Scott Rudin when Hello, Dolly! is crowned top musical revival. It’s regarded as a lock in the category. (Best new musical is the last award of the evening and Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away are the favorites.)
If many of the 30 names above the title of Dolly! take the stage — and many of the 25 of A Doll’s House, Part 2, should it win for new play — all bets are off. “If anyone breaks the rule, I’d expect everyone to break the rule,” said a lead producer of a nominated musical.
Shawn Purdy, a spokeswoman for the Tonys, didn’t return emails for comment.
Rudin is on record as being opposed to the rule change. “They should all get to be up there,” he told Deadline.com’s Jeremy Gerard, who first reported the new onstage limit on June 6. The powerful producer noted that the same people who backed Hello, Dolly! backed the plays Glass Menagerie and Doll’s House. “This is how Broadway shows get financed,” Rudin said in the Deadline.com interview. “People are with you when it’s easy and when it’s hard, and they deserve to be up there!”
When The Book of Mormon was named best musical in 2011 at the Beacon Theatre, which is smaller than Radio City, co-producers were relegated to the side of the stage. The Mormon writer, director and producer Trey Parker mischievously referred to the group — who included Roy Furman, Roger Berlind and Stuart Thompson — as the “circle of doom.”
But at least the circle of doom got their 10 seconds of airtime. That’s a perk to which Sunday’s co-producer contenders believe they’re entitled.
Editor: Alice Scovell