2018 Tonys: Who Cares?

A glimpse of some of the theatre from the 2017-2018 Broadway season (clockwise from top left): Harry Potter & The Cursed Child, SpongeBob SquarePants, Mean Girls, and The Band’s Visit. Image via chicagotribune.com

Nearly three years ago, I wrote a blog post about the “death of the original musical.” Little did I know that in 2018, all four of the Best Musical Tony nominations would be completely unoriginal – the most original show being the SpongeBob SquarePants musical, which has an original story, just not characters. The SpongeBob SquarePants Musical. Am I a sorcerer? Or is this just where we’ve ended up?

Don’t get me wrong, I actually super love the SpongeBob musical. I think it’s joyful and creative and I even think there are some Tony-worthy performances in there. But the most high-profile stage in the world should attract the best stories. Now, here we stand with four musicals up for the big prize, all of them adapted from movies or the aforementioned animated aquatic pals: Frozen, Mean Girls, The Band’s Visit, and SpongeBob. Three-quarters of these shows received mixed reviews, so if we’re going by critics’ praise alone, Band’s Visit is destined to be the winner this year.

Over in the play hemisphere, if the award doesn’t go to Angels in America or Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, it will be a surprise, with the exception of Glenda Jackson in Three Tall Women, who just won the once-in-a-lifetime Drama League award. Angels even has a best score nomination – that’s how weak the musicals are this year. So why are we even doing this?

On the surface, the batch this year isn’t the greatest or most original. But it’s this season’s performances that are worth celebrating. Those are hard to share if you can’t make it to New York, but all seven musicals up for Best Musical or Best Revival of a Musical have received or will receive a cast recording – something that doesn’t happen every season.

The Tonys this year are worth celebrating because of the performances. On the surface, this season’s shows may seem unoriginal and un-innovative as a whole, but we have to peel back the vacuum seal packaging to reveal the feast inside. This season, we celebrate Ethan Slater’s ripped real-life SpongeBob. We celebrate the first black Billy Bigelow on Broadway, Joshua Henry, becoming a father during previews and bringing a whole new spin to the “Soliloquy.” We celebrate Katrina Lenk’s incredible “Omar Sherif” in The Band’s Visit. We celebrate Andrew Garfield screaming his lungs out for a collective six hours in Angels as a hilarious and heartbreaking Prior Walter.

It’s difficult to celebrate these performances when you can’t see them in person – so I predict that this Tonys will be one of the lowest-viewed in recent history (they had a slight uptick in 2016, the Hamilton year, but otherwise, they’re generally low to begin with). Despite this, the theatre community quietly persists, knowing it has well-kept secrets. But will they translate to TV? Unlikely.


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Diana Chabai-Booker

Hi! I’m Diana Chabai-Booker and I’m a 24-year-old graphic designer, yarn nerd, and stage manager living in Grand Forks, ND. This used to be a theatre blog, now it’s a general blog. Do you like rambling essays? This is the place for you.

4 thoughts on “2018 Tonys: Who Cares?”

  1. Great article! I am a huge theater nerd, lol. So I saw a lot of the shows you mentioned in your article. I agree it was somewhat of a unusual season. Not very many new musicals opened, it might of been the least amount that I can ever remember opening in a season.

    Although, I thoroughly enjoyed the SpongeBob musical. It was such a delight. Unfortunately, Ethan Slater was out for my performance. His understudy was from a favorite show of mine, Xanadu, so I tried to look on the bright side for his absence. I thought Mean Girls was a really great solid production. I found Frozen to be somewhat disappointing. That was unfortunate cause I was really excited to see that show. I do think The Band’s Visit is the one to win. It’s the kind of show that doesn’t come around every season. I really thought it was an excellent and wonderfully done production.

    I still haven’t yet seen Carousel. Hopefully, at some point I see it because I love the cast.

    Glad to see another fellow theater fan!


      1. Oh, LoL. Yeah, I try to see as many shows as I possibly can, being the Theater Nerd that I am, LoL. I ended up seeing more than I thought I’d get to see when the season first started. I really want to see Angels in America. It just seems like a very special moment in theater to get to see. It’s just really quite long, especially if I see both in one day. I keep hoping PBS will tape it and put it on tv. It seems like a show that should be captured for all of time. I hope to make it to that show at some point if I can.

        Totally agree. With so many shows having longer runs there is less theater availability to go around.

        Sorry, I wrote kind of a lot, LoL. Once I start talking theater talk I tend to babble on and on. Glad to see another fan of the theater!


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