What really excites me about this year’s Tony Awards.

In 48 hours, the weeks, months, and years of anticipation for so many will be over.  (That’s right, I said years . . . because who doesn’t come up for an idea of a musical and think, “Maybe someday we’ll win a Tony Award!”)

And I’m more excited for this year’s Tony Awards than I’ve ever been.

Is it because I’m nominated for Groundhog Day?

Sure, that’s exciting, but that’s not what is really tickling my ivories this morning.

It actually has to do with a couple of the other nominees for Best Musical. That’s right, I’m excited about my competition.

I’ve already said it on Twitter and in interviews, but this is one of the most exciting years we’ve had on Broadway, thanks to the incredible array of unique material that went all the way from that light bulb moment one of our artist-repreneurs had years ago, to this Sunday’s Tony Awards.

But more specifically, as Michael Paulson said in his always suspenseful and fun “Who will win?” article published this AM, what has me excited about this year is that two of the musicals vying for the top prize, Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away, are, in Michae’s words, “unlikely subjects for musical theater.”

He’s so right.  Although I would have actually said it a bit differently.

I would have said that both DEH and Come From Away are unlikely subjects for Broadway musical theater.

Before they opened, both had word-of-mouth long lines that would have had most commercial Producers doubling down on their Xanax prescriptions.

DEH was known as the teenage suicide musical.

Come From Away was known as the 9/11 musical.

Of course, once they opened they proved to be so much more than that.

And now, these two “unlikely subjects for musical theater” are in a super tight four way race for Best Freekin’ Musical.

But that’s STILL not what gets me all tingly in my special musical theater Producer place.

What has got me so excited about what the future holds for Broadway and for writers of the theater is that both . . . BOTH of these shows . . . are commercially successful.

Since opening, Dear Evan Hansen has grossed an average of $1,123,553 per week and Come From Away has grossed an average of $927,788 per week.


While neither show has announced recoupment (I’d suspect that DEH has gotten there on paper or is just about to), I’d put my money on both of them going in the “win” column commercially, both on Broadway and on the road.

See, there have been unlikely subjects for musical theater before . . . but two in one year, that are both nominated, and that are both are getting big audiences?

That’s awesome.

So why is this happening?

First, the shows are good

But it goes beyond that.

The success of both shows has to do with something I’m calling the Hamilton Halo Effect.

You see last year along came one of the most original and unique shows that we’ve seen in a decades.  It was a subject matter that people didn’t think could be a musical (especially if you just tried to pick UP Ron Chernow’s tome of a book, never mind tried to read it), told in a musical style that traditional audiences actually turn AWAY from, and cast so non traditionally that on paper it was just plain confusing.

But when performed, it was literally historic.

And audiences so took to it, that their defenses came down about original material.  Their taste buds expanded.  And because of the Hamilton Halo Effect, they are now willing to give unique and original material a show . . . even if it seems like unlikely fare for Broadway musical theater.

So no matter who takes home the big prize on Sunday . . . we’re all winners as a result.  Because it’s common for the Awards committees to embrace “unlikely” fare . . . but when audiences do it, in encourages writers to push our theatrical comfort zones even more.

And that’s where the awesome stuff is.

Good luck to all on Sunday!

(Hear the Producers of Come From Away talk about their journey to Broadway on my podcast, and hear the Producer of Dear Evan Hansen discuss hers here and the authors here.  All are incredibly inspiring sessions with terrific lessons in the guts it takes to produce and create something original on Broadway.)

Oh, and P.S. you may be asking yourself, “Ken, where are your predictions this year?”  Yes, it’s true, every year I usually publicly predict who will win trophies on Tony Sunday.  But, as I find myself involved with more shows as a Producer, and with more shows as this guy’s representative, I found myself a little too conflicted, and I started to get a bit concerned I wouldn’t be 101% honest publicly or that people wouldn’t believe me to be.  And that’s so important to me.  So if you want to know who I think is going to win, you’re gonna have to bump into me in a dark alley somewhere.  🙂

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.