When Is Broadway Going to Start Honoring Replacement Casts the Right Way?
I have the perfect Broadway trivia question for your next party. Throw out the following question to your guests,
"Name a Tony Award that was created but never awarded?"
You might get a multitude of answers but a correct one would be, Best Performance by an Actor or Actress in a Recreated Role.
Yes, back in 2005, the Tony Awards Administration created the new category. However, less than a year later, it was removed and never awarded.
According to Broadway.com,
"The category was instituted on a trial basis, only to be in effect the 2005-2006, 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons unless adopted permanently. The award was to be chosen by the Tony Awards Administration Committee a group comprised of 24 members and winners were required to obtain a minimum of 16 votes to pick up the prize. Fiddler on the Roof's Harvey Fierstein and Dirty Rotten Scoundrel's Jonathan Pryce were contenders, but neither received the necessary votes. Thus, in a controversial move, the Tony Awards Administration opted not to give the award. Pryce publicly stated his displeasure with the process."
Since then, from what I have heard, there hasn't been any discussion to bring back this award. But my question is, why not? Why not award someone who breathes new life into a role and elevates it? Or provides a slightly different take which reveals nuances not seen by the original performer? We do it for revival productions, so why not replacement casts?
It's silly to think that it's impossible for a replacement performer to turn in a better performance than the original. With all due respect to Michael Crawford and Idina Menzel, let's be honest, in the years following their runs ended, there have been better takes on the Phantom(ahem Hugh Panaro) and Elphaba(cough Stephanie J. Block). So why not do something more to honor these performances?
Yes, it would involve an additional adjudicating process from a separate nominating group and the number of those eligible could dramatically fluctuate year-to-year. And yes, it could be a logistical nightmare but with clear cut rules of elgiability, it might work.
It could also bring much-deserved attention to these performers, not to mention help in the box offices of the show they're in. How many more of you would flock to see a long-running musical that has a Tony-nominated performer in it? I would.
At the very least I hope producers will start releasing recordings of signature songs sang by the replacement performers. Not for nothing but I would love to hear Betsy Wolfe's take on "She Used To Be Mine" or Donna Murphy's version of "Before the Parade Passes By". Again, you wouldn't need to go through the expenses of recording an entire album, just a few of the signature songs and then release them digitally. Fans shouldn't have to hope for bootlegs for these types of things.
As short as Broadway runs are nowadays, it would be great for producers to do more for their replacement casts and immortalize what could be some of the best versions of these beloved characters.