Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Sung-Through ... Book? (in defense of Hamilton, as if Hamilton needs my defense)

I've had several friends reach out to me recently to ask me to explain why Hamilton is up for Best Book of a Musical. There's literally only one scene with dialogue - the rest is sung- (or rapped-) through. Even New York Times critic Charles Isherwood (who really should know better - this is his field) said as much on May 3rd:
I do find it slightly puzzling that it was nominated in the book of a musical category, since the show is almost sung-through, but it's the kind of juggernaut that we haven't seen in years.
Suddenly my impatience with past Tony telecasts with presenters pedantically explained what is the book of a musical seems poorly directed. It's time to check my premises - not everyone is the same level of nerd as me.

So let's look at this.

My Anomalously Accurate Tony Predictions

Lin-Manuel Miranda and company in Hamilton
I'm rather disappointed I didn't get to use one of the funny titles I have stocked up for this year's Tony predictions, but I think we all know where the majority of the awards (for musicals anyway) are going this year. My only hope for consistent inaccuracy is to get the play predictions entirely wrong. Let's see how out of touch we are! (or how far my anti-O'Neill bias tends). Previous season predictions here.

It was a strange season for Broadway this year, or at least for new musicals. I began the season thinking we'd have all these massive risk-taking productions, knowing they can't actually contend for the big awards, but wanting to make a splash anyway. And in certain ways, we did get that - we certainly saw a vastly more diverse season this year than, say, Hollywood. But with the premature closings of a number of shows (some deserved, some not), from Amazing Grace and Allegiance in the first half of the season, to the ill-advised Forrest Whitaker Hughie mid-season, and the recently-closed (or imminently closing) Disaster!, Tuck Everlasting and American Psycho, there's a sense that Broadway audiences are less willing to settle for Not!Hamilton - or at least that producers are more willing to cut their losses and get out while the getting's good; usually shows will wait til the awards season is over to announce their closing, but with little to no Tony love for Tuck or Psycho, perhaps I shouldn't be as surprised as I was.

Let's go see how badly I can predict play awards, shall we?