“Springsteen on Broadway” is a certified hit, with a long string of sold-out shows to prove it. It has also been critically acclaimed: New York Times theater critics Ben Brantley and Jesse Green, for instance, both included it among their “Best Theater of 2017” selections, with Brantley calling Springsteen, in the show, a “latter-day equivalent to the paternal Stage Manager of Thornton Wilder’s ‘Our Town’,” and Green writing that “there has been nothing like it since Lena Horne’s ‘The Lady and Her Music’,” which ran on Broadway in 1981 and 1982.
One question remains: Will Springsteen win a Tony?
And the answer has to be another question: How could he possibly not?
Tony voters and organizers will want to honor something that has been such a critical and commercial success, and will certainly want Springsteen to be prominently featured in the awards show (taking place on June 10 at Radio City Music Hall, with a live broadcast on CBS television).
So the next question to ask is, will “Springsteen on Broadway” — which is scheduled to run through June 30 — win Best Musical?
I can’t say definitively, but my assumption is, no. I’ve looked over 42 pages of Tony Awards rules, and nowhere does it state exactly what a musical is. But I don’t think “Springsteen on Broadway,” which does not have things like characters and a plot, is it.
I asked Tony publicist Shawn Purdy, in late November, for some clarity, and Purdy responded, via email: “The Tony Awards can not comment on eligibility about a show until the Tony Awards Administration Committee meets to discuss it.”
I then asked when that would be, and got this response: “There are 4 meetings throughout the season – the next 2 meetings will be held after the new year and then another the week before nominations.”
The first meeting was held on Nov. 9, with the determinations made specified here. Either “Springsteen on Broadway” wasn’t discussed, or no determination was made. No further updates have been announced, so presumably the next two meetings haven’t taken place yet.
So we’ll just have to wait. Nominations will be announced on May 1, by the way.
Even if “Springsteen on Broadway” wins Best Musical, though, Springsteen would not get the actual award. It would goes to the producers, and he’s not one of them; the show is being co-produced by Jon Landau and George Travis, with Barbara Carr serving as associate producer.
As the writer and star of the show, though, Springsteen could be up for awards such as Best Book of a Musical and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical, but that’s, of course, contingent on “Springsteen on Broadway” being considered a musical. And I don’t think that will happen.
According to articles in The New York Post and Variety, it is also not clear if enough of the 850 Tony voters were given the opportunity to see the show, to give it a chance of winning one of these awards.
There is, however, also something called a Special Tony Award, which, according to the Tony rules, honors “a live theatrical event that … does not fit into any other category of Tony Award to be awarded for the current season.”
This is a non-competitive, honorary award. In other words, potential honorees do not have to win approval of the 850 voters, but are simply approved, or rejected, by the aforementioned Tony Awards Administration Committee.
I think this is the category where Springsteen will get his Tony. That’s where Horne got a Tony for “The Lady and Her Music,” after all; where Judy Garland was honored for her enthusiastically received shows at the Palace Theatre in 1951; and where, more recently, non-traditional Broadway fare such as “Dame Edna: The Royal Tour,” Sarah Jones’ “Bridge and Tunnel” and “Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam on Broadway” has been honored. Furthermore, the award could go to either the production or the star, so Springsteen could be honored directly.