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How About Daytime Tonys?

Here's a novel idea: Daytime Tonys for stars of the matinees.

By New York City

John Dossett
John Dossett
So I see that today, May 17, the Daytime Emmys will be given out for the 29th consecutive year. Good luck to Eden Riegel of All My Children, of whom I've been a fan ever since I saw her in a worthy new musical called Spittin' Image in New Jersey several seasons ago. Good luck also to such current Broadway performers as Alicia Silverstone, such ole timers as Hume Cronyn, and such recent replacements as (you knew her name was coming up, didn't you?) Susan Lucci.

But I've been thinking: Given that there's such a thing as Daytime Emmy Awards for those Not Ready for Prime Time Players, can't we have Daytime Tony Awards, too? After all, there are some performers who solely do matinees of shows, allegedly because the roles are too demanding for anyone to tackle them eight times a week. Playing a role two or three times a week--and being relegated, perhaps, to the chorus or the dressing room for the other five or six performances--can't be an easy fate. Here's a way of assuaging the hurt. A Daytime Tony could also be a nice halfway house, a stepping stone to greater glory. (Did you know that Terrence Mann was once a matinee Barnum?)

There are many people out there who adored Rob Evan as Jekyll & Hyde (including that woman who saw him do it more than 500 times) and, even though he did assume the role when Robert Cuccioli left the show, Evan was not eligible for a Tony. A Daytime Tony would have placated him, I'm sure. I never heard a good word about Sebastian Bach, either as Jekyll or Hyde, but I sure did about Joseph Mahowald when he got the chance to do the show. If he was that good, maybe he should have snagged two Daytime Tonys--one for Jekyll and one for Hyde.

So what do you say? John Dossett for Best Actor in a Play for spelling Kevin Bacon in An Almost Holy Picture? Adrienne McEwan for Best Actress in a Musical for portraying Christine in The Phantom of the Opera? (Lord knows how many Christines would have already won this award--and how many matinee Kims in Miss Saigon, too.) Brad Oscar isn't eligible for a Best Actor in a Musical Tony for The Producers even though he has now taken over the role of Max Bialystock on a full-time basis, but he would seem to have been a shoo-in for a Best Actor in a Musical Daytime Tony for all those matinees when he went on in place of Nathan Lane. If he's accomplished enough to have won the part for good after all that Sturm und Drang at the St. James, he has to be worthy of a Daytime Tony win.

Had there been Daytime Tonys 35 years ago, Phyllis Newman might have received one. She could have placed it next to the "Nighttime Tony" she won in 1962 for Subways Are for Sleeping, when she beat out both a Barbara with three a's in her name (Harris) and a Barbra with only two (Streisand). Four years after that victory, Newman was playing matinees of The Apple Tree; she began subbing for one of her Tony victims, Barbara Harris, after that lady announced that her assignment was too strenuous for her to fulfill it twice on Wednesdays and Saturdays. (An aside: Jeff Hochhauser, the very talented book writer and lyricist of the all-too-underrated Theda Bara and the Frontier Rabbi, once told me that when he was growing up in the 1960s, his parents would only allow him to brave the big bad city during daytime hours. That relegated him to matinees but, given that they were less expensive, he didn't complain--until Harris announced her six-performance Apple Tree schedule. Well, Hochhauser loved and admired Phyllis Newman, but he was not settling for anything less than the heavenly creature who had so entranced him in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. After a battle royal with his folks, he got his way).

Let's open up the Daytime Tony competition to include the intrepid casts of those shows that go into our schools around the nation. Theatreworks/USA may have started slowly in 1961 with Young Abe Lincoln--a musical with lyrics by Senator Jacob Javits' daughter Joan, who wrote of her subject, "His Gettysburg Address. You've heard of it, I guess...when he said 'All men are equal,' people said, 'My, don't he speak well?'" But their productions have advanced by leaps and bounds since then. Allan Knee's adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, and A Charles Dickens Christmas with book by Robert Owens Scott, music by Douglas J. Cohen, and lyrics by Tom Toce, are fond theatrical memories for me. I saw them both on mornings when auditoriums full of kids were so thrilled to get out of class that they were whooping and screaming and carrying on--until the show started. What these authors accomplished, not to mention the cast members who made those kids stop and listen, is certainly worthy of Daytime Tony Award recognition.

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[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at pfilichia@aol.com]


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