To celebrate Sunday’s arrival of the Tony Awards, we’ve reposted Performing Arts Fort Worth President & CEO Dione Kennedy’s blog about her 15 years as a Tony Awards voter. From 2013:
As a member of the Broadway League, the organization that represents the Broadway industry both in New York and on the road, I’ve been a Tony Awards voter since the 1998-99 season. As a Tony voter – and as part of my role here programming Broadway shows – it is important for me to see as many shows as possible each season on Broadway. With this year’s Tony Awards quickly approaching, I spent a little time looking back over the winners since I’ve been a voter, and thought I would share with you some performances that are memorable for me; some were Tony winners, others not.
1999: It was truly an honor to have the opportunity to see Brian Dennehy as Willy Loman in DEATH OF A SALESMAN, and he won the Best Actor nod that year. Another highlight for me was CATHY RIGBY IS PETER PAN. The show was produced by several industry colleagues and I was thrilled for their success with the production. Cathy was nominated for Best Actress that year. What a thrill it was to have her here at Bass Hall this past March before she, once and for all, hung up her green cap and retired from the show.
2001: The most Tony-decorated show ever (12 wins), Mel Brooks’ musical THE PRODUCERS was a laugh-out-loud night in the theater. The hilarious image of the old ladies tap-dancing with their walkers to the incredible Susan Stroman choreography, the zany characters, and in-your-face songs and jokes made this an evening to remember.
2002: This season introduced another unique musical comedy, URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL, one of my favorite nights of musical comedy ever. I love satire – musical theater is so juicy to spoof and this show hit perfection. However, I knew it wasn’t right for every road market and ultimately it never achieved the mainstream success of THE PRODUCERS from the previous year. The Best Musical winner this year was THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, a fun, old-fashioned musical that was successful on the road, but not nearly as successful as the other title it beat out that year, MAMMA MIA!
2003: MOVIN’ OUT, the musical that combines Billy Joel’s music with Twyla Tharp choreography, burst onto the scene this season before hitting the road to huge success. I love Billy Joel’s music, but what a way to listen to it! Watching dancers that were classically trained flawlessly execute the incredibly complicated Tharp choreography was breathtaking. I was so riveted it was hard to blink for fear of missing something in the intricate moves. However, the Best Musical Tony that year went to HAIRSPRAY, another great title and fun evening in the theater.
2004: This season saw the adult puppet show, AVENUE Q, take the nod for Best Musical. For me it was a jaw-dropping, I-can’t-believe-they’re-doing-that-with-puppets, laugh-till-it-hurts, musical. But like Urinetown, not for everyone’s taste. One of the other competitors for Best Musical that year was WICKED. It just goes to prove that even if a show doesn’t win the Tony, it can still be really, really successful.
2005: MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT took the Best Musical prize this season; it has played here twice. Seeing the original cast with Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce and Frank Azaria was a treat, but the show was every bit as funny and magical here in Bass Hall.
2006: THE COLOR PURPLE compelled Oprah Winfrey to join the Broadway ranks as a producer. The creators knew that having her name attached to the show would help attract audiences. It is a beautiful production in its own right, but her name did help entice mainstream America to see it. When it played here at Bass Hall in April 2010, our audiences loved it. But it didn’t win the Tony Award on Broadway. That honor went to the incredibly successful show about the 60’s rock band Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, JERSEY BOYS. When will we see this huge hit play Bass Hall? Stay tuned.
2007: This season saw SPRING AWAKENING, the period piece about teenage angst in 1890’s Germany, set to a rock score with adult content, take the Best Musical award. It was an interesting juxtaposition to the family-friendly MARY POPPINS, which scored seven nominations that year and one award for best scenic design. Both of these titles played Bass Hall in the last two seasons to very strong success.
2008: The memorable standout this season for me was a play, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, which went on to win the Tony for Best Play. The dark comedy is about a dysfunctional family (and what family isn’t?) in a small Oklahoma town. When a beautifully well-written show is impeccably cast, you can feel like you’re actually in the moment, experiencing every bit of tension and heartache with the characters; that was my experience with this show.
2009: Musicals were back strong this season with BILLY ELLIOT taking the Best Musical Tony. Two other titles from this season have recently played Bass Hall to great accolades, SHREK THE MUSICAL and IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS. My New York experience with Shrek is a special memory because my daughter, who was 4 1/2 at the time, was with me to see her first musical on Broadway. She has seen numerous shows since, but Princess Fiona from Shrek will always be one of her favorites.
2010: The incredible musical, MEMPHIS, won the Tony this season. For those of you who had the joy of experiencing this show at Bass Hall this past February, you know this win was well-deserved. It is a powerful story with a message of acceptance and hope, combined with great music – it had to be a hit!
2011: This season saw WAR HORSE take the Tony for Best Play. What an experience to see live horses on stage – alright, they were puppets, but it was easy to forget that with these remarkable creations. This one is chalked up as the most-tears-shed-in-a-theater in all my years of seeing shows. On the opposite spectrum, the incredible new musical comedy, THE BOOK OF MORMON, took the Best Musical prize. From the creators of South Park, the adult comedy show is not for everyone. But if you enjoy South Park humor and you can accept explicit language (sometimes directed at God), you will likely be among the masses of people, like me, who find the show outrageously funny. Another outstanding musical that came from this season was SISTER ACT, which is great family fun and will be on our stage this June. Don’t miss it.
2012: This season will be best remembered for its mix of remarkable plays including PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (winner for Best Play), OTHER DESERT CITIES, CLYBOURNE PARK and VENUS IN FUR. The winner for Best Musical, ONCE, based on an indie film of the same name, is a beautiful but ultimately heartbreaking story, as the central characters, an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant who seem destined to be together, ultimately decide to return to their previous relationships. The musical is memorable for shunning flashy sets and costumes in favor of simplicity and lovely music.
2013: What will make lasting memories this year? At this writing, I just returned from a trip to New York to catch up on the numerous shows that have opened in the last few months. Next time I see you at Bass Hall, I’ll tell you all about them.
See you at the theater,