A Tony for Wednesday Addams?

Krysta Rodriguez did not receive a Tony nod for her performance as Wednesday Addams in the stage version of The Addams Family, but her counterpart from the 1990s film version might. Christina Ricci, currently making her Broadway debut in Time Stands Still, is very likely going to be Tony eligible. Those of you who remember Time Stands Still on Broadway last season may wonder how this is so. Let me explain.

Time Stands Still
the show isn't eligible for a Tony. However there is a Tony rule that states that even if a show isn't eligible, elements of the production that do not "substantially duplicate any prior presentation of the play or musical" can be eligible. Or at least that was a rule last year. I asked a Tony spokesperson for the rules for the 2010-2011 theatrical season and she informed me that they were not available because the Tony Awards Administration Committee can change them at their meeting in December. No matter that by then the season is over half complete.

For the sake of this discussion, let's assume the rule remains unchanged, as no one I know has heard differently. This rule is the reason the White Christmas actors were eligible last year. Now, in some ways White Christmas had a better case than Time Stands Still. With that production, all four leads were new, which means there was a good argument that they formed their performances as a fresh unit. Here, it is only Ricci. That said, in some ways Time Stands Still has a better claim for eligibility. White Christmas was in the same theater, Time Stands Still switched theaters and added producers. Regardless of these semantics, the point is, under the rule as written, Ricci should be eligible. She is definitely a new element. The Time Stands Still producers have petitioned accordingly and I suspect the Administration Committee would come under some fire if the rule remains in place and yet Ricci is deemed ineligible.

While Ricci will likely be eligible under the current guidelines, we are in a season where Elaine Stritch will be ineligible under them. What is the difference in what each of these ladies is doing (besides the obvious)? Both are essentially replacement actresses (like many other replacements, including Stritch's ineligible costar, Bernadette Peters). Sure, Time Stands Still took a six month break and A Little Night Music took only a three week one. But should it matter? The Broadway League's own website has only one listing for Time Stands Still, despite the hiatus, seemingly recognizing the fact that this is essentially the same production. Ricci is, for all intents and purposes, a replacement actress. Which is fine, except the Tony Awards do not recognize replacement actors. See the problem?

I have never been quite sure why the Tony Awards do not recognize replacement actors alongside actors "originating" roles. There was that poorly executed Best Replacement award that never went to anyone, but there has not been a movement (in the last decade at least) to treat these actors as if they are doing something original. I would applaud such a movement. The Olivier Awards allow replacements to be given a nod. For example, in the case of the Cameron Mackintosh My Fair Lady revival, the first Eliza, Martine McCutcheon, won in 2002 and then, the following year, so did her replacement, Joanna Riding. An Olivier Awards spokesperson said these matters were dealt with on "a case-by-case basis." Why can the Tony Awards not do the same thing? The nominators should be able to handle the additional work load. Of course, I reached one by phone who said the change would make his "life ridiculous." After all, he said, he would "have to attend each time another Roger took over in Rent." Letting go of the fact that Rent closed years ago, I still find this to be questionable logic. Firstly, most shows don't change their leads all that often. Secondly, we have a system currently set up where the producers petition for eligibility. I doubt, if Nala in The Lion King changed five times a year, Disney would petition for every Nala.

With all this in mind, I call upon the Tony Awards Administration Committee to reconsider their rules. Allowing replacements to be nominated would add some excitement to the season. It would also do away with the logical inconsistencies caused by this bizarre new element regulation. Oh, and, Tony people, also please, in the future, try deciding the rules before the season begins. People like to know the rules of the game before taking to the field; it's only fair that they have a playbook to guide their maneuvers.