Where’s the Tony Award ticket police when you need them?

Shortly after a show opens on Broadway, all 800 or so Tony Voters are invited to see the show, even if it’s months before the nominations are out.

As many have reported, one of the biggest challenges facing Tony hopefuls is the same challenge that faces our presidential hopefuls:  voter turnout.

I’ve had to work the phones on a few shows, trying to make sure every one of those voters had seen the show I was on at the time.  On Ragtime, the alleged book-cook, Garth Drabinsky, used to call me himself at the end of every day to get an update on the % of Tony Voters who had seen the show (We never broke 70%).

It’s definitely an issue that needs addressing.

But I want to address the opposite issue.  What happens when they do come . . . and it’s not them.

Tony Voter ticket fraud occurs more frequently than Donna Murphy misses shows.  Voters call in for tickets, and then pass them along to their friends, their assistants, and so on.  Sometimes it’s because they’ve seen the show already (opening night, etc.) and other times it’s because they just don’t want to see the show.

I’ve been in plenty of a box offices and watched as freckled-faced AMDA students came up asking for their Tony tickets, claiming to be people I knew that were in their 70s.

What do you do?  Turn them away?  Risk irritating an actual voter?  (I did turn someone away once.)

800 voters.  At 2 tickets each, that’s 1600 tickets or the equivalent of a full house at The Marquis Theater.  That’s about $100k worth of revenue that we give away, or 1% of the capitalization of a 10 million dollar musical.

If we’re taking money out of the pockets of the investors and good locations out of the hands of the public, then we need to insure that the people sitting in those prime orchestra seats are the actual decision makers.

How?  It’s time for all Tony voters to be issued photo identification by the League, just like a college ID, that is updated every year with a “validation sticker” (it’s important the shows are not the policeman on this issue, for fear of voter backlash).  That ID has to be shown in order to pick up your tickets, and those tickets can only be picked up at the box office, 30 minutes prior to showtime.

Will it solve the problem?  No, just like underage drinking, it will probably never go away.  But, required IDs do make it a lot harder for people to get their hands on the good stuff.

Ironically, instituting this policy will cause voter turnout to drop because those already low turnout numbers are counting for tickets used . . .  not valid tickets used.

But let’s let it drop, because then we’ll realize how important that first issue really is.

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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.