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What's New on the Rialto

V.J. vs. Fergus, Round 1
The Tony Awards

In our last column we announced the Tony Award nominations and our resident critic's picks for the winners of each category. While I agreed with Fergus McGillicuddy in many of the categories, I thought I'd give him a call and ask what his reasoning was for some strange picks.

V.J.: Fergus, it's me V.J. Before I get into the Tony nominations, just who are the people who vote on show nominations?

F.M.: There are just over 800 Tony voters. They are members of the American Theatre Wing and The League of American Theatres and Producers, industry professionals, and various media types. A person who votes in any category certifies he or she has seen all the nominees in that category.

V.J.: I can't believe that all 800 see every show, so it's safe to assume that they wouldn't vote in certain categories, sort of like the honor system?

F.M.: Integrity is a given. It would be difficult to find a more honest, incorruptible group of people. I know several of the voters, and they take the responsibility very seriously.

V.J.: I hear the Pope is nominating a few of them for Sainthood too. Well, then just how important is a Tony Award? And, please, we all know that sometimes Awards are not always given to the "best," if you will.

F.M.: How important is an Oscar or a Pulitzer? You can make a case that they ultimately mean everything or nothing. (Depending, I assume, on whether you've just won or lost.) I think most of the problems arise from how each individual defines "the best." It's all subjective. Take any of the acting categories, for example. An actor voting for another actor probably values technique and talent above everything else. On the other hand, a theatre owner from Chicago - who may book the play the actor will be touring in - would naturally place more importance on how well an audience responds to that actor. After all, that's what the theatre owner is qualified to judge. (And, sadly, there are more than a few highly talented actors, respected by their peers, whose performances are almost inaccessible to a lay audience.)

V.J.: Fair enough. Let's talk about Frank Wildhorn.

F.M.: Oy!

V.J.: Why this anti-Wildhorn sentiment that you read so much about? I mean, the guy has three shows on Broadway and it just seems to me theater fans and the theater community just won't give the guy a break.

F.M.: Have you seen Jekyll & Hyde and Pimpernel I & II? He deserves everything he's gotten for those shows.

V.J.: Civil War? Only two nominations and yet you think it's going to win the big prize, Best Musical?

F.M.: Yes, I do. The only competition is Parade, a badly executed experiment in meaningful musical theatre which happens to have had a decent score. Civil War is successful in what it set out to do on all counts. It's much the better show.

V.J.: The way people are talking now, after the fact, is like Parade was the greatest thing since chopped liver. I imagine it's because the CD is being received so well. So, we'll give you that. But, why not Fosse for the big prize? It's got potential on the road.

F.M.: Why not Fosse for Best Musical? Because it's not very good. And, outside of a few sophisticated venues like Chicago and San Francisco it will die a painful death on the road. Fosse's choreography, like Cole Porter's music, works in the big city, but not in the rest of the country.

V.J.: Well, The Civil War is going out on the road. You think outside the big city, they're going to like a cantata?

F.M.: I doubt very much of most of The Civil War's potential audience has ever even heard the word "cantata," much less knows what it means. But they have heard of the Civil War - especially in the South. And they will have seen Gone With the Wind - several times. The bloody show is virtually presold across the nation just on those two points alone.

V.J.: Dance is a universal language. Why do you think CATS is running all these years? You don't need to understand anything, just watch the pussycats dance and you get it? CHICAGO is hot and generation X has discovered Fosse. Anyhow, dance, yes, cantata? I don't think so. And speaking of the road tour possibilities, do you think this has any influence on how Tony voters vote, specifically, in this category?

F.M.: I would imagine it has crossed the minds of the bookers and theatre owners. Whether that will be the determining factor in their votes we'll never know. Just remember, this cottage industry we call the Broadway Theatre took in more money from the road last year than it did from all the shows in New York city combined.

V.J.: That's why Salesman is going out on the road. There's money in them thar hills! And a play is much cheaper to produce. Speaking of plays, let's go there. David Hare. What happened? Three plays and no nominations for Best Play. Surely Amy's View should have been nominated.

F.M.: I fail to see what the problem is with Mr. Hare not receiving a nomination in this category. He's one of the best playwrights we have, but Blue Room and Amy's View are simply poor efforts, neither of which deserve a nomination, and Via Dolorosa simply isn't a play.

V.J.: And what about Lonesome West getting a nomination which one of our astute forumners called "Erin Go Blah!"

F.M.: Beauty Queen was difficult enough to appreciate the first time around. I'm surprised that its testosterone drenched sequel made the cut.

V.J.: You picked Not About Nightingales for Best New Play. It's written by Tennessee Williams. He's very dead, I think, for a long time. Wasn't this written a thousand years ago?

F.M.: More like 60. It's not his best work by a long shot. But, even early Williams is better than the competition.

V.J.: Better than Closer and Side Man? I really think Side Man is the dark horse here. Did you see Side Man? It's great and Frank Wood's performance is brilliant. Why give an award to an inferior play written by a great playwright who even had the sense not to produce it in his own lifetime. Blow out your candles Fergus!

F.M.: Closer is very much of this moment in time, too ephemeral. It addresses issues which have been dealt with more effectively in other recent plays. Side Man is indeed the dark horse. I very well may have picked it had it had a better, stronger production.

V.J.: Okay then. You pick The Civil War, I pick Fosse. You pick Not About Nightingales and I pick Side Man. You're Irish, aren't you?

F.M.: Yes, and so are you. Why?

V.J.: Know what Blarney is?

F.M.: Yes.

V.J.: Well, that's what I think of your picks.

F.M.: Know what I think of yours?

V.J.: No. What?

F.M. Erin Go Blah!

Join us Thursday as Fergus and V.J. have a go at the Best Revival of a Musical and Best Revival of a Play.

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