Here’s to Them and Here’s to You: The EGOT Club

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Julie Andrews, queen of my life, with her Best Actress Oscar for Mary Poppins in 1965. Image courtesy OperaGloves.

The theatre world is filled with tons of awards, more than are even known to the public — the Tony Awards, the Olivier Awards, Drama Desk Awards, Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards, Drama League Awards, Theatre World Awards… the list goes on. But the most-prestigious and least-often-gained award is not just one statue, but four. Less than twenty people are members of the EGOT club.

To become a member, you must win the four most important awards in the North American entertainment industry: an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. In the last fifty-three years, only sixteen people have managed to do that (and four of them have honourary awards. Sorry, Babs.) The list, beginning with Richard Rodgers in 1962, has names on it like Audrey Hepburn, Mel Brooks, Whoopi Goldberg, Liza Minnelli, and James Earl Jones. The most recent additions to the list were both in 2014: Harry Belafonte with an honourary humanitarian Oscar, and Robert Lopez, co-composer of The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q, and Frozen, who won his Oscar with his wife for the princess tale.

Some artists are close to becoming part of the club. Lin-Manuel Miranda is only an Oscar away (he mentioned it in his BET freestyle) and he’s composing the score for Disney’s latest princess story Moana.

One surprise? Julie Andrews isn’t part of the club yet. She famously turned down her Tony nomination for Victor/Victoria when the rest of the show wasn’t nominated, and since then, she’s only earned the EGO, no T. One can assume she’ll earn an honourary Tony soon, but Playbill thinks she’d be great in a play. Same, Playbill. Same.

Some other people that are close include Cher (yet to earn a Tony), Elton John (no Emmy), Stephen Sondheim (!!!!!!!) (also no Emmy), Dick Van Dyke (no Oscar), and Jeremy Irons (no Grammy). Neil Patrick Harris is two away (no Oscar and no Grammy) and so is Patti Lupone (no Emmy, though she has been nominated, and no Oscar). Jennifer Hudson has an Oscar and a Grammy — but she could add a T to her collection as she gears up to star in The Colour Purple on Broadway next month.

What does the EGOT club actually get you? Bragging rights only. There’s no special trophy or ceremony, but you get the satisfaction knowing that you’re a quadruple threat.

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Gentleman’s Guide and the Death of the Original Musical

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Lisa O’Hare, Bryce Pinkham, and Catherine Walker star in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder on Broadway. Image courtesy GGLAM website.

I should begin this post by saying yes, I am aware that Gentleman’s Guide was adapted from a book. Now we may continue.

There’s a reason that there’s no separate categories for Best Original Book and Best Adapted Book at the Tony Awards — that is, it is very rare that a fully original musical makes it to the stage (for you musical newbies, a “book” is the actual dialogue spoken and script, as opposed to the “score,” which is music and lyrics).

Recently, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder announced that the Best Musical-winning show will be closing its doors on January 17. The show has been suffering financially (you can view its grosses on Playbill Vault), bringing in the most dough during and after 2014 Tony season. For those not familiar with the show, it follows Monty Navarro as he discovers that he is an heir to the Earldom of Highurst and there are only a few measly family members standing in his way. So he decides to murder them (this is not a spoiler, it’s in the title). As heavy as the content may seem, it’s a lighthearted comedy and a fun, original story. It’s a musical lover’s delight, but unfortunately, the industry of Broadway does not revolve around musical lovers. It revolves around tourists who want to see Phantom of the Opera.

If/Then, which opened the same season as Gentleman’s Guide, was an original musical which ran for a year on Broadway. It was nominated for original score and its star, Idina Menzel, got an acting nom as well. It won neither. Something Rotten! is the only original musical currently running. Though it was nominated for ten Tonys, it only won one — Christian Borle won Featured Actor for playing Shakespeare in a show about hating Shakespeare.

Shows like The Book of Mormon, released four years ago, could mark the end of an era — even innovative shows, like Hamilton, are adapted from nonfiction works.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that revivals or adaptations are bad musicals. Sometimes revivals can even give new life to a story. Take Chicago for example. The original Broadway production ran for only two years, but the revival has been running for almost two decades. It means that we’ll have to rethink how we analyze and how we watch shows. We have to decide: does the originality of a work make it more valuable than recycled material?

Gentleman’s Guide has a North American tour starting September 19. You can view the dates and purchase tickets here. If you are planning a trip to New York, you can buy tickets for the remaining Broadway dates here.