Should the Tonys Start Nominating Off-Broadway Productions?


Over the past couple of months, I've heard from more than one person that they are concerned that the over-commercialization of Broadway will mean that less "artistic" and original musicals will be recognized by the Tony Awards. 

While I think they're overreacting, I don't think their concerns are completely unfounded. After all, this past year, there wasn't a single musical that wasn't based on a movie or TV show or that wasn't a jukebox collection. 

Next season is a little more promising with original stories "Gettin' The Band Back Together" and "The Prom" both opening and with "Hadestown"(based on Greek myth of Orpheus and Persephone) planning on opening in 2019. 

But one idea I've heard floated around is that in order to ensure that original work keeps being promoted, is for the Tony Awards to start including Off-Broadway shows for award consideration. 

While it would certainly be a radical idea, it should be noted that the Tonys are the only New York City theatre awards that don't award Off-Broadway shows. The Outer Critics, Drama Desks and NY Drama Critics Circle all do.

By opening up the nominations to Off-Broadway productions this year, those worried about the quality of nominees would have been probably relieved to have seen the likes of critically hailed "Miss You Like Hell", "K-Pop" or "Desperate Measures" mixed in with "The Band's Visit" or "Spongebob Squarepants". 

While eligibility rules would certainly have to be changed, including Off-Broadway shows for consideration would certainly help promote original shows and give many Off-Broadway properties some much-needed box office boosts that other awards typically don't. 

So while I think the panic that Broadway is going to just become a theme park is a bit of an overreaction, considering Off-Broadway shows for Tony Awards might not be a bad idea.