Peter Filichia, the Host with the Most, Strikes Again with Delightfully-titled Strippers, Showgirls, and Sharks
By: Ellis Nassour
It’s Broadway’s big night. The Tonys! The thousand dollar plus seats are filled. The presenters come out and attempt to read the telepromter as they read the nominees. The envelope is opened. The winner is announced and, then, the screeching begins. "Oh no! They gave it to that?"
At the end of a season, just like at the end of this season, another question is, "What were they thinking [the huge committee of Tony nominators]?"
Among the most heard questions in theatrical history is "What? Gypsy didn’t win the Tony for Best Musical?" It has oft come to Peter Filichia, theater critic, writer, wit, raconteur, booster, and, undoubtedly, the one who should win a Tony for Most Accumulated Knowledge of Contemporary [and then some] Theater History, to say, "No! it wasn’t the Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents musical drama, but Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music and Harnick & Bock’s Fiorello. " You say, "A tie, and you mean, Gypsy didn’t even …?" That’s right!
Filichia tackes this age-old [well, almost-annual, anyway] question and so many more in Strippers, Showgirls, and Sharks: A Very Opinionated History of the Broadway Musicals That Did Not Win the Tony [St. Martin’s Press; 288 pages; eight-page B&W photo album; bibliography, index; SRP $26.99; Kindle $11.43], which is akin to Forbidden Broadway on the page.
"When one looks at the seven-decade history of the Tony Awards and its annual Best Musical statuette," Filichia writes, "the results from three years raise the most eyebrows and voices. They involve one show with strippers, one with showgirls, and one with Sharks."
Of course, the best musical doesn’t always win the Best Musical prize. Gypsy had a lot of others to commiserate with: Camelot [not even nominated!], Follies, Funny Girl, Mack & Mabel, Ragtime, Side Show, Steel Pier, and West Side Story didn’t take home the spinning silver disc with the masks of comedy and tragedy – in itself, spinning tragedies.
Filichia looks at many of the 153 previous Best Musical nominees that didn’t win, and discuses the biggest omissions. It was good, but not good enough! And not just snubbed shows. How ab out this? West Side Story’s leading man, Larry Kert, and major female supporting player Chita Rivera weren’t deemed worthy enough.
As is often the case in books such as these, you want more. One thing that’s noticeably missing is more photos.
If you don’t already have it, be sure to get Filichia’s 2010’s Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hit and the Biggest Flop of the Season – 1959 to 2009 [Applause Theatre & Cinema Books]. And don’t expect him not to be opinionated!