If you listened carefully, you could hear a collective sigh of relief emitting from Shubert Alley this month.
This was the Tony Awards committee reacting to the arrivals of Matilda and Kinky Boots to Broadway, as there were finally two shows to give the 2013 Tony best musical category some credibility.
In fact, Matilda’s producers should perhaps already be writing their acceptance speeches. Kinky Boots got a mixed reception out of town, but its writers Cindy Lauper and Harvey Fierstein are beloved among the US public which should help make it a popular “tourist ticket” even if it gets a similar critical response on Broadway.
Matilda already has a few Oliviers and a slew of good notices under its belt, but that does not mean a guaranteed hit on Broadway. Still, the family market whom have already seen Annie, Wicked and The Lion King should help it along nicely.
What the Tony committee will be all too aware of is that they cannot have a repeat of the 2012 fiasco where Leap of Faith was nominated in the best musical category despite only 20 regular performances. This was seen by many as a deliberate move by voters to block Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, whose own backstage sagas had riled various voters from across the Broadway and out-of-town industry who make up the voting committee.
[pullquote]This is undoubtedly a lame year for the Broadway musical[/pullquote]
Based on last year’s experience, the Tony committee will do all they can not to see the lukewarm Chaplin or ill-fated Scandalous nominated for best musical, although its respective leads Rob McClure and Carolee Carmello may get nods in the acting categories.
Hands On A Hard Body, another new all-American musical opening this month and at present something of a sleeper, could – with good notices – see it fly at the Tonys, or perhaps there will be recognition for Motown, or Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which has been lobbying for representation in the Tony best new musical category as a premiere on Broadway adapted from the 1957 TV film.
Then there is Bring It On, a touring musical and quick-filler at the St. James Theater for the disastrous On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. Its lyricist Lin Manuel Miranda already has a Tony for In the Heights and is a familiar face around town. A best musical nomination could be popular and tactical with out-of-town voters knowing this is already a successful touring property and such a nod only helps with regional box offices sales.
Leap of Faith had an only slightly longer run than the RSC’s last foray onto Broadway with a musical -the 1988 production of Carrie. As originators of Matilda, they can at least be assured of a more fruitful experience this time around.
Nonetheless, this is undoubtedly a lame year for the Broadway musical and makes a rather worrying comment on the current state of the original new American musical on Broadway.