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An insider's view of the Tony Awards

Ralph Malachowski

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posted by Ralph Malachowski on Jun 7, 2018 10:30am | comments

   


The 72nd Tony Awards hosted by Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles will be broadcast this Sunday evening. This year, five plays (mostly musicals) have nearly 60 Tony nominations. I had the opportunity to chat with Frances Egler, who is the Tony Awards voter for the Kimmel Center. She also negotiates and plans what we in Philadelphia will see for Broadway Philadelphia. We discussed the Tony Awards, The Kimmel Centerís Broadway Philadelphia seasons, and gained some insider insights from a sharp and knowledgeable expert. What follows is a bit of what was a 45-minute conversation which rushed swiftly by.



Ralph Malachowski: Frances, can you tell the audience something about the Tony Awards and what part you play as a voting member representing the Kimmel Center?



Frances Egler: The Kimmel Center is a member of the Broadway League. There are 800 voters and we have a vote for the 30 productions under consideration. The Broadway League is part of the American Theatre Wing which presents the Tony Awards. The Broadway League is a group of producers and presenters, and since the Kimmel Center presents a season, we have a vote.† The Kimmelís representative is required to see all the productions under consideration during the season, which in this case covers the period from June 2017 to April 27, 2018. In the case a play or musical closes, there is an archival film of each production at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts, so that the production could at least be seen on film. Preferably, everything should be seen live. For example, The Boys in the Band will be considered for next yearís awards, since it is the first Broadway show to open for the new season.



RM: In your opinion, do shows suffer from opening early in the season as opposed to later? For example, both Mean Girls and Harry Potter opened recently to great acclaim. Could The Boys in the Band suffer because it opened so early?



FE: In the case of The Boys in the Band revival, there were reasons for it opening when it did. For example, Jim Parsons might not have been available later in the season because of his television commitments, and the other actors might also have been available only now.



RM: With Mean Girls and Spongebob Squarepants having a dozen nominations each, followed by 11 nominations for Angels in America, Carousel, and The Bandís Visit, we will be hearing a lot from those five productions on Sunday. There are other plays which, to be honest, I havenít heard much about. Whatís your opinion of some of the nominations from Best Play?



FE: Harry Potter, of course, is one of the nominees. Farinelli and the King was a limited run from the London stage.† Some of the plays were part of a season of such groups as Manhattan Theatre Club, The Roundabout, or Lincoln Center, which have Broadway credentials.† The Children was a hit play from London which was presented by the Manhattan Theatre Club. Junk was presented at Lincoln Center. John Leguizamoís Latin History for Morons was another of his one-man shows.



RM: Thatís funny, since when I saw the title, I assumed Latin History for Morons was about the Roman Empire. I do remember Junk. It was written by Ayad Akhtar, whose Disgraced was a stunner. The McCarterís recent presentation was thrilling. Changing the topic, do you have an opinion about the Best Choreographer nominees?



FE: Justin Peck is a new talent, Carousel is a hit, and Broadway always likes new talents. However, Christopher Gatelli is nominated for his work for both My Fair Lady and Spongebob Squarepants, both totally different in so many ways. It is a testament to his versatility to be sure.



RM: Can you tell us which play or musical was your personal favorite, and, by extension, which show do you think could have fared better?



FE: (Laughing) I canít do that! As a voter, I am obligated to keep my vote confidential. Since I took my niece to see Harry Potter, she enjoyed seeing it and how skilfully the production created something from hundreds of pages of text. As for surprises, maybe The Children should have been more popular. But, one never knows.



RM: Frances, what can you tell us about what we will be seeing at the Kimmel in the future?



FE: We are currently in negotiations for the 2019-2020 season. We look at every production which announces a tour, and we negotiate. We are looking at announced tours for Frozen, Mean Girls, perhaps Spongebob Squarepants, even Dear Evan Hansen. For the 2018-2019 season, we tried to get Tony Award-winning shows both older and new, so we have Cats, Rent, Miss Saigon, as well as Hamilton. Itís a great lineup.



RM: There was a fine production of Chess in Washington D.C. recently with a knock-out cast. Any chance it may come to Broadway Philadelphia?



FE: Yes, that was a great show with a fine cast. If it has a tour schedule, we would definitely consider it.



RM: Frances, you are so knowledgeable and such a great raconteur, you should have a radio show, a channel on YouTube, or a spot on local TV. Have you ever thought about that?



FE: (Laughing) No, I havenít, not at all. But thank you for the compliment.



You can subscribe to Broadway Philadelphiaís 2018-2019 season at https://www.kimmelcenter.org/events-and-tickets/ticket-deals/broadway-201819-season/




NOTE: Opinions are those of the author, and not necessarily those of PhillyGayCalendar.com or of any organization or business that the author is assosciated with.





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