Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Old Man Nederlander Busts a Gut on How to Fix the Tonys

OMG! After spewing all this to Page Six in today's Post about the Tony Awards and how to fix it, I hope they gave Jimmy Nederlander oxygen.

Here are the salient parts of what he said:

In 2012, the Nederlanders mark their 100th year in the world of Broadway. James Nederlander owns houses all over - the Palace, Marquis, Minskoff, Gershwin, Nederlander, Brooks Atkinson, 46th Street - nine in New York. Three in London, two Detroit, four Chicago, two L.A., including its most famous, the Pantages. His father owned theaters before him. A longtime big-time Broadway producer who began in 1940 earning 25 bucks a week working the Shubert box office in Detroit, in terms of legit Jimmy ain't what you call an amateur.

So? So the man wants to off the Tonys. Not shake them up. Drop them, dump them, lose them, forget them. He says:

"They're old hat. Boring. Tired. Their telecast's lost all viewership. I'd get an outside producer, like a Lorne Michaels, who's experienced in TV, knows show business and razzmatazz and how to put on a big-time spectacle and what's needed to pull ratings. Not just a goddamn stale thing where somebody walks out and says thank you. A real show. It's crap the way it's run now. And if anybody's angry with me for saying this, I don't care. I'm too old to worry about it.

"I'd tie up top dress designers like Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, the biggest American fashion names so women would tune in to look at the clothes. I'd stick a reality show right in the middle like letting people try out for a particular part in a future musical. Have a major poll while we're on the air. I'd give Broadway history dating to the turn of the century. Anyone know how the Shuberts began? The brothers came from Syracuse without a dime and, as one once put it to me, "My crazy brother Lee bought all these joints like the Booth and Plymouth at a bankruptcy sale from the Astor estate.

"The Tonys have no imagination. How about bringing the road, which is theater in America, onto TV. Bring the stage to the whole country. Put up a few different cities each season, pipe in what they're doing. With everyone getting involved, everyone tunes in.

"And what the hell does 'Tony' mean anyway? The name's been around a long time so 'Tony' does have value, but that's owned by the American Theater Wing not us. We could have our own so-named awards. Call them the Broadway Theater Awards. And make new rules. If there's eight great dramas, then vote on eight. Why shut some out because nominators arbitrarily decide only five should be in contention? Get a new board of nominators. Nominators don't give the awards. Voters do.

"Everybody's afraid to step on toes, but if I get hurt I don't care. I care only for the theater."

Personally, I think Nederlander's on the money about a couple of things. Ignoring regional theatre is just dumb, and even though the American Theatre Critics Association recommends one theatre every year to receive the Regional Theatre Tony (yes, I vote on it), the presentation of the award is usually about 12 seconds or, like this year, barely televised. I think the whole comment about making the award show interesting to women by having them look at haute couture is a little, um, what's the word? chauvinistic?, but overhauling the nominating and voting process is a smart move. And if the Tonys had any guts at all, Off- and Off-Off-Broadway would be included. We know that'll never happen because both the League and the Wing is, in large part, composed of Broadway snobs, and there is, in addition, far too much money sloshing around for Broadway to leave itself vulnerable to work that is actually better actually winning an award or two.

As far as the name of the awards go, give me a break. Does anyone worry about who Oscar was?

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