a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

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TONY Awards Predictions! Part One

TONY Awards Predictions! Part One

Dear readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of theatre, it’s FINALLY that time of year again! The Tony Awards are upon us! Tomorrow night at 8pm on CBS! Can’t hardly wait!

And who’s going to win? Well, in a very competitive year, some awards have turned into slam dunks already on the awards circuit, and some, a few, well, maybe only one, are up in the air.

The undecided winner is going to be a real nail-biter, because it’s also the last award of the night. A very LONNNNG night for the nervous nominees.

And that of course would be Best Musical. The one Tony award that really carries real box-office clout. And that is a down to a photo finish between “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” which has the leading number of nominations with 10.

And it’s main and very threatening competitor is “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”

If we were to go, like we Oscarologists always do, by the precursor awards, IOW, the other relevant awards that occur BEFORE the Tonys themselves, I would have to say it going to be “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”. It won the Outer Critics Circle Award and also the prestigious Drama Desk Award. And it lead the Drama Desks with seven wins just this past Sunday.

So it’s all over in the category. Isn’t it? Well, no.

The OCC and the DD as they are abbreviated are voted on solely by press and critics. And a few years back, the Tonys dumped nearly all their critical, review-writing journalistic members. And now their membership of nearly 800, consists mainly of Broadway producers. And their mind-set is very, very different from that of the critics, who they rightly or wrongly consider their adversaries.

And pundits keep mentioning that frightening one hundred or so stat that represents the road producers. They are the members who are scattered across the country and whose houses host Broadway shows that are touring the country.

The received wisdom is that they might favor a show that would be easier to tour. Hence the rise of “Beautiful:The Carole King Musical” in pundit consideration. It is a great show. And you are ALREADY humming the music BEFORE you go in, because they are all the great songs that one of America’s greatest song-writers, Carole King wtote.

We grew up on these songs. Well, I did anyway, and I love them all. It’s perhaps the greatest juke-box musical ever written. Or it’s right up their with “Jersey Boys,” the most successful juke-box musical of all time that is soon to be a Clint Eastwood directed film, opening in two weeks.

So, will familiarity trump orginality? “A Gentleman’s Guide…” is a totally original work, although iit is based, somewhat, on the great Alec Guiness movie “Kind Hearts and Coronets.” I love that movie. And I love “A Gentleman’s Guide…” I voted for it. And think the Tony voters are going to honor it, too.

It may even sweep. I think, like at the Drama Desk Awards, it will win Best Director of a Musical, the wildly inventive Darko Tresnjak, who also incidentally won the Drama Desk Award.

I had the honor of interviewing Mr. Tresnjak, and also his collaborators in ” Love and Murder” Steven Lutvak, who won Best Lyrics at the Drama Desk. Along with his co-lyricist Robert L. Freedman. In Parts Two and Three of my Tony predictions on this blog, I’m going to post the interviews I just did with all three at the various Drama Desk festivities. Stay tuned!

Sasha Stone’s Brilliant Tribute to the late Ronnie Chasen

Sasha Stone of www.Awardsdaily.com has just written one of the most brilliant pieces on the Oscars and how they work and the people behind them, as embodied by the late Ronnie Chasen, who was shot to death in  a car, Mercedes, in Hollywood last week. Reasons and assailants unknown.

It’s called “Why They Matter” and Sasha convinces us that yes, they do. The “they” being Press Agents.

As she carefully elucidates just what it is that the best publicists do, she is illuminating all our Oscar-obsessed lives, and the life of a great lady, who seemed to be respected, if not beloved by all who knew her.

I did not know Ronnie Chasen. She worked on the Left Coast and I do not. But we both work on the Oscars. Me, as press, and she as a press agent, and Sasha knew her very, very well.  And dealt with her on nearly a daily basis.

Sasha excerpts a very elegantly phrased email she received from Ms. Chasen, who was horribly murdered in L.A. last week, for those of you who live under a rock.

The whys and wherefores of her being so savagely gunned down in her own car, no less, are unknown and baffling to all who knew her.

Sasha, a deeply moral person, takes the high road and tries to describe to all her readers just what it was that made Ms. Chasen so good at what she did, which was getting her clients Oscar nominations and sometimes the Oscar itself.

So she spends most of her time, in her carefully worded and thoughtful piece, describing what press agents, specifically OSCAR press agents do.

Yes, they, are a breed apart, and it’s a specialization. To know how to get their client the nomination, then to get their client the award. If they can. And they do have to use, us, the press, just as much as we use them.

It’s their job. It’s essential, in this media-saturated age. And yes, as Sasha so succinctly puts it, “It’s their job to put the right film in front of the right people at the right time.” And it’s not as easy as it looks.

And there’s MILLLIONS of dollars spent on each major Oscar campaign. And there’s millions of dollars to be made at the box-office for the films that get those nominations and those awards. Lately  one has to include the Golden Globes in that mix, too.

And as much as people like to read about it and debate about each and every thing online, I can’t EVER remember one single piece of writing that puts it altogether so completely.

And press agentry is something that the average movie-goer, someone who is not in”The Biz,” really doesn’t understand. Perhaps it is too much information. But for me, whose life is nothing but hot-and-cold running press agents, this piece on Chasen, was elucidating.

People who think about Press Agents, if they ever think about them at all,  think of J.J. Hudsucker and Sidney Falco in “The Sweet Smell of Success.” Well, that was a different era. And it was depicted as awful. Very dark.

Sasha is showing us in her beautiful way, the OTHER side of what a press agent’s life is like. It’s a brilliant piece of writing. ANOTHER one. Sasha does it every day! And I find myself on a daily basis, saying “Bravo, Sasha!” You’ve GOT to read “Why They Matter.”

And Ronnie Chasen I guess symbolized for Sasha who knew her so well, just what that is.

R.I.P. Ronnie Chasen

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