Monday, June 14, 2010

Five Plays that Did Not Win the Tony Award

Did you watch the Tony Awards last night? No, me neither. I started to, but since I'd spent a big chunk of the day at the first dress rehearsal of Gaslight's summer musical, Bells are Ringing, I'd already had my recommended daily allowance of musical theater. Besides, Duck Soup was on Turner Classic Movies.

I always have mixed feelings about awards, and awards given by members of an exclusive group to other members of the same exclusive group bug me most of all. It's been a while since I went to New York, and even longer since I've seen any theater there, because it's so absurdly expensive that it's no longer an art form for the many. I understand why it costs so much; I don't have any good ideas about how to make it cheaper. But I still object.

Awards are always a little random. These are five plays that did not win the award for Best Play, when they were nominated.

1. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams, 1956. It won the Pulitzer in 1955. The original Broadway cast was Barbara Bel Geddes as Maggie, Ben Gazzara as Brick, and Burl Ives as Big Daddy, with Elia Kazan directing. Bel Geddes and Kazan were nominated for Tonys, too. That year's Best Play winner was The Diary of Anne Frank, by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.

2. Look Back in Anger by John Osborne, 1958. The play debuted in London in 1956, and most of that cast traveled to Broadway with director Tony Richardson. It was Alan Bates' Broadway debut, and Mary Ure was nominated for Best Dramatic Actress in the role of Alison. That year's winner was Sunrise at Campobello by Dore Schary.

3. The Odd Couple by Neil Simon, 1965. Comedies almost never win the Best Play award; a rare exception was Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead, in 1968. The original Broadway production of The Odd Couple starred Art Carney and Walter Matthau, and was directed by Mike Nichols. It lost to The Subject was Roses by Frank D. Gilroy, which was the Broadway debut of a young Irish/Spanish-American actor named Martin Sheen.

4. Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley, 1982. It won the Pulitzer for Best Play in 1981, along with the New York Drama Critics Circle's Award for Best American Play. Cast members Mia Dillon and Mary Beth Hurt were also nominated for Tonys. Fellow cast members Peter MacNicol and Lizbeth McKay won Theatre World Awards for their roles. That year's winner was the eight-hour epic The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, adapted by David Edgar from the Charles Dickens novel and directed by John Caird and Trevor Nunn.

5. Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet, 1984. Another Pulitzer winner that lost the Tony, this time to Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing. Joe Mantegna won this production's only Tony; the all-star ensemble included Robert Prosky, Lane Smith, and J.T. Walsh. David Mamet has never won a Tony. His only other nomination was in 1988, for Speed-the-Plow; M. Butterfly won that year.

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