May 14, 2008

The Tony Nominations

It's Tony Awards time, that time of the year to take a look at the theatre world and how women are doing in it. The news as you would expect is mixed to bad. Women still lag very far behind as playwrights -- none of the best play nominees were by women. Only two women figured into the creative teams on the best musical nominees, Heidi Rodewald was nominated as composer for Passing Strange and Quiana Alegria Hudes was nominated for writing the book of In the Heights. The good news is that two out of the four nominees for best director of a play were women -- Maria Aitken, The 39 Steps and Anna D. Shapiro, August: Osage County.

So while women might not be involved enough creatively, we make up a majority of the Broadway audience (62%) and are more likely to make the purchasing decisions (data from the Broadway League) Then why aren't there more women's stories being produced if we are the majority of the theatregoers?

On another note, I heard Elizabeth Vincentelli, the Arts & Entertainment editor of Time Out NY talking on NPR yesterday about the nominations and how we are in a golden age for women in musical theatre. She said "the breadth of the talent pool is staggering." My take is that there has always been amazing female talent available (how about Betty Buckley and Bernadette Peters?) There's just never been enough vehicles to display their talents.

Two musicals which I have not seen A Catered Affair and Gypsy boast two generations of talented women. Patti Lupone as Mama Rose with Laura Benanti in Gypsy; and Faith Prince and Leslie Kritzer in A Catered Affair. Fun fact: Lupone who is nominated this year last won a Tony 28 years ago in Evita.

Other nominees:
Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Play
Eve Best, The Homecoming
Deanna Dunagan, August: Osage County
Kate Fleetwood, Macbeth
S. Epatha Merkerson, Come Back, Little Sheba
Amy Morton, August: Osage County

Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Musical

Kerry Butler, Xanadu
Patti LuPone, Gypsy
Kelli O'Hara, Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific
Faith Prince, A Catered Affair
Jenna Russell, Sunday in the Park With George

Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Play
Sinead Cusack, Rock 'n' Roll
Mary McCormack, Boeing-Boeing
Laurie Metcalf, November
Martha Plimpton, Top Girls
Rondi Reed, August: Osage County

Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Musical
de'Adre Aziza, Passing Strange
Laura Benanti, Gypsy
Andrea Martin, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Olga Merediz, In The Heights
Loretta Ables Sayre, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Thoughts from Martha Plimpton on her nomination:
(Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Play, Top Girls): "I haven't had my coffee yet, so I'm a little bleary-eyed, but I'll tell you this...I'm really delighted and surprised, to be perfectly honest, and just very proud that I get to represent the ladies in our show at the big party. What an awesome year for women! Let's hope every season from now on is as lush with great women doing their thing." (Variety)