Okay, I've now seen all the new musicals of 2001-2002, and I suspect the Tony nominees will be Sweet Smell of Success and Urinetown (both of which I liked), Mamma Mia! and Thoroughly Modern Millie (both of which I admired considerably less). But, frankly, I'd like to throw another nominee into the mix: The Full Monty.
I know, I know. It didn't open this season. It's a 2000-2001 show. But it played eight times a week during each week of 2001-2002. Unlike movies, which disappear from theaters in short (or even long) order, it's still here. So why not let it compete?
"But it lost, and that's that!" you argue. Well, Richard M. Nixon lost the presidency in 1960 and he got another chance--and won. I do realize that by bringing Nixon into this argument, I may be doing myself more harm than good. But I do wonder: If losing presidential candidates can run again, why can't losing musicals? If you apply for a grant and don't get it, you simply apply the next year...and the next, and the next, until you get it. The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame has an election each January to see who'll be admitted the following July into its shrine at Cooperstown. If you don't get in the first time, you get a chance for each of the next 14 years before they take your name off the ballot. And we can't give The Full Monty even one more chance?
Aside from the original production of Chicago in 1976 (which, believe me, young 'uns, was about 100 times better than the revival that so many of you love), no more worthy show with so many nominations has even been skunked as thoroughly as Monty. (Remember, last season was the only time in Tony history that one, and only one, new musical won every prize. The only Tonys The Producers didn't take home went to a revival, 42nd Street.)
Many times this season, I saw people shake their heads slowly and say that "If The Full Monty had only opened this year, it would have won the Best Musical Tony." I believe they're right. Hell, if A Class Act or even Jane Eyre had opened this season, either one might have taken home the prize! But, as they say in showbiz, "Timing is everything."
It is, too. How well I remember Andrew Lloyd Webber's announcement in 1994 that he was bringing Sunset Boulevard to Broadway. As I understand it--this is only what I heard, mind you--Big had all its money together but decided to wait a year because it felt it couldn't beat another sure-fire Lloyd Webber smash. But the reception for the British mega-musical wasn't as strong as expected, and I will always believe that if Big had opened that season (instead of the following Rent/Bring in 'Da Noise... season, when it suddenly looked like a dinosaur), everyone would have said, "Oh, how fresh! How American! Give it the Tony!"
Now, a lot of people will say that if we were going to include shows from previous seasons in the Best Musical race, The Producers would win this year, too. And maybe even next. So perhaps the rule should be that once you've won the big prize, you must excuse yourself from competition. (No need to be greedy about it.) As it happens, three musicals that didn't win the Best Musical Tony in their eligible years were on Broadway for the full 2001-2002 season: Beauty and the Beast, Aida, and The Full Monty. There's much to admire in the latter two but I'd immediately eliminate Beauty, for ever since it downsized itself in its move from the Palace to the Lunt-Fontanne, it's a shadow of the show it used to be. And it's not that I like Aida less, but that I love The Full Monty more.
So what do you say? A do-over for The Full Monty? Another chance for Terrence McNally to take a Tony Award for his book? Another opportunity for David Yazbek to be on TV and...no, if he's going to be on camera again and pick his nose, I'd rather see the prize go to Thoroughly Modern Millie!
[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org]