The Broadway musical Fun Home scored a significant upset last night at the Tony Awards, winning not just best musical and best direction of a musical but also best original score, best book and best actor in a musical. It was quite the cheering, underdog victory for a show that has no star and no big theater names attached to its creative team. An American in Paris, which has the Dallas Summer Musicals‘ director Michael Jenkins as one of its producers, went in as the popular favorite — with twelve nominations (tied with Fun Home), a George Gershwin score adapted from a beloved Gene Kelly movie and acclaimed dance work from renowned British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon (who premiered his own version of the Can-Can for the opening galas of the Winspear Opera House in 2009).
But Wheeldon’s win for best choreography was one of the few bright spots for American. It won three other Tony Awards in categories like best orchestration — categories that don’t typically cause stampedes on the box office. Not the way the ‘best musical award’ traditionally has done, at any rate.
Doesn’t matter. At all. Really. Not when it comes to the future of An American in Paris. The fact is Fun Home — the musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s moving, graphic novel of growing up a lesbian with a closeted gay father, living in the family funeral home — it needed that best musical win for its financial future more than American. Despite its boundary-pushing material, Fun Home is doing well at the box office. And once it got those twelve nominations, the show got a national tour set up. In other words, the safe and predictable world of theater tours has changed and expanded — after Kinky Boots and The Book of Mormon did so well (and continue to do well). But don’t expect Fun Home to do that kind of business or play much beyond the biggest cities.
In this regard, it’s worth noting that Fun Home is selling very well in New York, but it’s playing at Circle in the Square, one of the smallest Broadway houses, ever, with only 623 seats (the Wyly Theatre has 600).
In contrast, as the DSM’s Michael Jenkins pointed out in a phone call this morning from New York, not only are the box office sales for American doing extremely well at Broadway’s Palace Theatre (with 1,740 seats, it’s almost three times the size of Circle in the Square), the show has already lined up a national tour of more than 73 cities (it comes to Dallas in 2017). On top of all that, Jenkins added, ticket sales for American actually went up during the Tony Award telecast itself.
So no need to feel bad about the DSM’s loss of the big prize. American‘s financial future is very secure.
The other big North Texas connection at the Tonys was known beforehand and has been noted elsewhere: the fact that Wichita Falls native Tommy Tune won a lifetime achievement award, having won nine regular Tonys already.
But there were two other Dallas links among the Tony winners that have been overlooked. Natasha Katz won her fifth Tony Award for lighting design — for An American in Paris. Throughout the ’80s, Katz was the Dallas Theater Center’s ‘house lighting designer’ under artistic director Adrian Hall. And Michael Cerveris, who won his second best-actor Tony for his performance in Fun Home, played Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream under visiting director David Petrarca at the DTC in 1991 — two years before his Broadway career lifted off in the title role of The Who’s Tommy.
Hear Michael Jenkins this Thursday chat about An American in Paris and the Dallas Summer Musicals’ 75th anniversary in a radio conversation. The DSM opens Cinderella tomorrow at the Music Hall at Fair Park.