Stage Left

Tony Awards look to Off-Broadway for excellence.

<!>Avenue Q fans are wearing their "It Sucks to Be Me" buttons with new flair now that the adult puppet show has won the Tony for Best Musical. At the production's post-Tony bash, company members were spinning the show's victory over Wicked as "the little musical that could." But the producers mounted a cutesy campaign to influence voters, with special promotional buttons ("Don't Suck, Vote Q") and a daffy "fundraising" pizza party at John's. Did the Harvey Weinstein–lite tactics charm voters into realizing that Wicked's a cheesy bore?

One thing's for sure: It clearly doesn't suck to originate Off-Broadway. Not only did the Vineyard's Avenue Qnab the evening's biggest prize, but Playwrights Horizon's I Am My Own Wife walked off (deservedly) with Best Play and Best Actor (for the multitudinous Jefferson Mays).

One downtown production didn't fare so well: The Public's Caroline, or Change left with only a single statuette (for featured performer Anika Noni Rose). How could the season's most ambitious musical go home nearly empty-handed? As one Broadway pundit explained to me, "Tony voters really couldn't get too enthusiastic for a work they respected but didn't necessarily enjoy."

That's showbiz. The Times' public editor recently intimated that the Tonys are a crass marketing tool. (Say it isn't so!) But when acting honors go to Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald, and Brìan F. O'Byrne, even hardened cynics can momentarily believe.

 
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