Story at a glance
- Only 18 productions out of a potential 28 were eligible for the Tony Awards due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- ”The Lightning Thief” was snubbed, not receiving a single nomination.
- Despite a limited pool of eligible candidates, the nominees are more diverse than in previous years.
The American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League have not yet announced a date or any other details regarding the 2020 Tony Awards, but they have announced this year’s nominees. Out of the few options available during a global pandemic, it's the one they left out that’s getting most of the buzz, however: The Lightning Thief.
I know that the Tonys aren't participatory awards, and I know most theater people didn't care for The Lightning Thief on Broadway, but what kind of message does it send to not even recognize the one (1) original musical-theater score written for the theater that opened this year?— Dr. David Gordon (@MrDavidGordon) October 15, 2020
"The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical" was eligible, beginning a 16-week limited run on Broadway last September that ended on Jan. 5 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The musical, based on the 2005 novel of the same name by Rick Riordan, received positive reviews from critics off-Broadway, but its Broadway reviews were not as kind.
"It is both overblown and underproduced, filled with sentiments it can’t support and effects it can’t pull off," wrote New York Times critic Jesse Green.
But with the theater industry effectively shut down in 2020, it was one of only four new musicals eligible for the awards and the only one with original music and scores. Fans' hopes were dissipated, however, when the show wasn’t nominated in any category, even for Lead in a Musical, which only has one nominee.
Some questioned why the Tonys were being held at all, with the theater industry being one of the most hard hit by the pandemic and thousands of theater workers unemployed.
And it goes without saying but with basically 100% of the theater industry out of work, every single dollar spent to do a Tonys right now is a dollar wasted.— Casey Mink (@Casey_Mink) October 15, 2020
The Tonys, like many other entertainment awards, have also been criticized in the past for a lack of diversity — although to a lesser degree than other genres of the entertainment industry. Netflix's "The Forty-Year-Old Version," released earlier this year, chronicles the racism in the industry through the journey of one playwright.
"For a long time I had no idea why so many theaters told me, after reading three or four of my plays, ‘We love your work, but we can’t produce it. What else do you have?’ I heard that over and over again; it was so frustrating and made me doubt myself. What I think they meant was, ‘Do you have any plays with white people in them? Or will help our white patrons feel better about being white?’” writer and director Radha Blank told the Los Angeles Times.
This year's nominees were more diverse than previous years. "Tina – The Tina Turner Musical," which chronicles the life of an iconic Black artist, and "Slave Play," which explores race through three interracial couples both got 12 nominations each and are nominated for Best Musical and Best Play, respectively. Still, nearly two-thirds of roles were filled by white actors on Broadway in the 2017-18 season, according to a recent report, and about 94 percent of directors were white — compared to 20 percent of shows created by people of color.
The study also found that Off Broadway theaters invested as much as six times as much in white actors as they did in actors of color, raising concerns about the wage gap in an industry where value is often subjective. And it is worth noting that during the coronavirus pandemic, BIPOC workers are bearing the brunt of the burden.
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