Last week the theatre community was abuzz with talk about the Drama Desk and Tony Award nominations, celebrating those who were honored and shaking their fists for those who were overlooked. To the surprise of many, the short-lived revival of Ragtime received a lot of love from both nominating committees, with eleven and seven nominations, respectively. There was much rejoicing, especially for the ardent fans of the revival (myself included).
Well, that was last week. In the last two days, both organizations rescinded nominations for the revival. First it was the Tony committee who revoked the Costume Design nomination since designer Santo Loquasto had reused much of his work from the 1998 production. Then today, the Drama Desk honchos withdrew two nominations: Loquasto’s and one for William David Brohn’s orchestrations.
The Tony Awards Productions had the following to say:
“Yesterday, it was affirmed to Tony Award Productions that Santo Loquasto’s designs for the revival of Ragtime are predominantly those from the original 1998 production, and therefore do not meet the Tony rule which states, work that ‘substantially duplicate(s)’ work from a prior production is ineligible. We learned this too late to remove the costumes from consideration by the nominators, but feel that we cannot allow the designs to remain in contention this year, and we must regretfully withdraw them from consideration as a nominee in the Best Costume Design of a Musical category.”
Following on the heels of that decision, the Drama Desk Awards released the following statement:
“The Drama Desk makes its own decisions. But when the Tony Awards withdrew its nomination for the Ragtime revival’s costumes because they were not sufficiently different from the original production and when the lead producer and nominated costume designer Santo Loquasto did not disagree with the decision, we revisited the issue. The Drama Desk concurs that the excellent costuming was not sufficiently new to make it eligible. Therefore, the nomination will be removed from the ballot in the Outstanding Costume Design category.
“We have also determined that the nomination for Ragtime for Outstanding Orchestration [William David Brohn] should not be on the ballot because the highly regarded orchestration was not different enough from that of the original production to be eligible.”
I understand that there are a lot of shows to be considered when doling out nominations at season’s end. But I cannot understand how both nominating committees let these gaffes slip. I’m surprised there aren’t any interns or research assistants on hand to help the ladies and gentlemen in charge make informed decisions.
The information has been well established since the regional production played at the Kennedy Center last spring. I recall reading last summer that the production was using the costume design of Santo Loquasto (who was always open about what was new and old in this production from the get-go) and the press release also cited “original orchestrations by William David Brohn.” Revisions were made to both for this more intimate revival, but the work from both artists remained fundamentally the same. For the record, Loquasto remains nominated for his work on the revival of Fences.
The one that really surprises me here though is the Drama Desk nomination for Best Orchestrations, which I admit I missed when the nominations came out last Monday (or I would have already called them out on this). Brohn actually won the 1998 Drama Desk (and Tony) for his Ragtime orchestrations. How that nugget slipped by is beyond me. The fact of the matter remains that the nominations should never have been given, and never made public.
The producers, Mr. Loquasto and Mr. Brohn have put up no disagreement in regards to the decision, but putting these esteemed gentlemen in this spotlight, especially since they had nothing to do with these decisions. I only hope that next year they take this a bit more seriously and save all involved parties from the inherent embarrassment.