Strippers, Showgirls, and Sharks
"Gypsy." "Follies." "West Side Story." Did you know these three landmark shows did not win the Best Musical Tony Award?
Peter Filichia does and he's fashioned a volume, "Stripper, Showgirls, and Sharks," that looks at these and other titles that were passed over for that award.
Too bad this book is such a disappointing exploration of a fascinating topic.
Had the author given us more on the behind-the-scenes voting process, this revisit of the annual Antoinette Perry Awards in this single category of Best Musical (generally regarded as the most valued) would have been of more interest, but either he hasn't seen the ballots or chooses not to share the scores for the runners up. That tally has always been the mystery many theater lovers would love solved. Did a favorite lose by one vote, or by many?
Instead, Filichia's thesis of why good shows don't win seems more suitable to a magazine article. It's stretching it, really, to have chattered on as he does in his summaries of "Gypsy," Follies," and "West Side Story," and other shows that lost out to others that weren't as good, at least in the minds of those of us who sit in front of the TV groaning when the winner is announced. (The 67th Tony Awards will be held in Radio City Music Hall, June 9.)
So what's his notion? Filichia posits that a show with a story line on the dark side isn't going to be taking home the Herman Rosse-designed medalion given out since 1949 and named for Antoinette Perry, co-founder of the American Theatre Wing, which from the start has staged the ceremony (along with The Broadway League, which is made up of theater owners, producers, and others on the business side of show business).
Filichia's reasoning is that the some 700 voters are looking to fill seats in the Broadway houses with better than 500 seats. They're guessing that people on the town for the night are looking for shows that are happy, not artistically inventive.
"Strippers, Showgirls, and Sharks"
By Peter Filichia
St. Martin’s Press, $26.99