What does Michael Greif Have to do to Win a Tony?


This was a question that was recently posed to me during a coffee chat with a theatre friend. To be quite honest, I didn't have an answer. Reason being, it makes no logical sense to me. At this point, I have to believe that there is some sort of dark conspiracy to prevent this man from ever winning a Tony Award. 

Becuase if you look at his resume, it bewilders me how he doesn't have multiple spinning medals already. 

He's directed seven Broadway musicals. Four have been nominated for Best Musical and two have won. Three are considered among the best productions of their respective decades( RENT, Next to Normal, Dear Evan Hansen), two are considered their most underrated(Grey Gardens, If/Then), and one would have been possibly the Tony favorite if it had opened a year later(War Paint). He's been nominated for a Tony four times and lost four times. But why? How? Let's take a look at each of his nominations to try and find an explanation. 

RENT - 1996

Lost to: George C. Wolfe – Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk

This is the first one that doesn't make much sense to me. RENT was a cultural icon and arguably the first industry shifting show since Hair. Yet on Tony night, the show only won four out of its ten nominations(Injustice #1) and Greif walked away empty handed(Injustice #2). 

The award instead went to George C. Wolfe for the tap dance musical, Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk'. While the show was excellent, the true mastermind of the piece was choreographer Savion Glover, who rightfully won for his work. This is where Greif should have won his first Tony. 

Grey Gardens - 2007

Lost to: Michael Mayer for Spring Awakening

While I do believe that Grey Gardens is an underrated piece, Spring Awakening was definitely the better production. Mayer's creative, simplistic and evocative staging was one of those "once-a-generation" types of work. 

Mayer rightfully won the award and in fact, I probably would rank Greif third that year behind John Doyle's work on Company.

Next to Normal - 2009

Lost to: Stephen Daldry for Billy Elliot the Musical

I do love me some Billy Elliot but when compared to the emotional powerhouse that is Next to Normal, there isn't much of a contest. Someone had to be the guiding hand in Alice Ripley's breathtaking performance and that was Mr. Greif. Here is where he should have won his second Tony. 

Dear Evan Hansen - 2017 

Lost to: Christopher Ashley for Come From Away

At this past year's ceremony, I felt this would be the long-awaited coronation for Mr. Greif. Just like Martin Scorsese, Randy Newman and Susan Lucci, after multiple nominations, this would be his year. But alas, Christopher Ashley had to go ahead and spoil everything. 

While this will never ben confirmed, I fully believe that this past year's vote totals much have been the closest in history. While Dear Even Hansen won most of them, I am certain that Come From Away and Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 were all in the mix. While I loved Come From Away there were a bunch of other elements that should have been awarded before Mr. Ashley(cough Irene Sankoff and David Hein for Best Book cough cough). I do believe that of all the creative elements of the show, Mr. Greif was the easiest shoo-in for an award. Needless to say, I was very wrong. 

In closing, the fact that Mr. Greif doesn't have a Tony, or even a Drama Desk, at this point in his career remains a mystery to me. What does this man have to do? Direct the best production of its generation? Because he's already done that at least twice. 

Photo: Joseph Marzullo/WENN