Tony Awards disappointing for Brits

With 30 Tony nominations this year, you might have been forgiven for thinking that not only were British artists and productions dominating Broadway, but that they might lead the way when the awards were announced.

Two West End hits were up for Best Play (Rock ‘n’ Roll and The 39 Steps) and two were in the running for Best Play revival (Boeing-Boeing and Macbeth). Of the five nominations for Best Actor, four were British actors (Ben Daniels, Mark Rylance, Rufus Sewell and Patrick Stewart). Best Play Actress (Eve Best and Kate Fleetwood) and Best Play Direction (Maria Aitken and Matthew Warchus) both had two British names/productions in the running. It’s a less glamorous category, but Best Sound Design of a Play was utterly dominated by Brits.

Sadly, far too few Champagne corks were popping on this side of the Atlantic when the winners were announced last night, as old favourites and firmly American–centric plays and musicals triumphed. The big winners were the revivals of South Pacific (above)and Gypsy, with the latter’s Patti Lupone scoring as Best Actress 28 years after her last win (for Evita). New musical In the Heights also did well – Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the music and lyrics, rapped his acceptance speech.

Recommended videos for you

There was no surprise that August: Osage County dominated the drama awards – it’s already won most of the other theatre awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for drama. There was a little UK joy here as Boeing-Boeing carried off Best Play Revival and Best Leading Actor in a Play for Mark Rylance (above). I saw the show in the West End and thought it one of the funniest things I’d seen in ages, and the Broadway cast looked equally strong (including the sublime Christine Baranski).

But why the strength of British productions on Broadway? Producers – and audiences – are inclined to look favourably on something that’s proven to be a hit, especially in London. And as it costs so much less to mount a production in the West End than in New York (Boeing-Boeing cost £300,000 in London and £2.7 million in New York and it’s by no means a design-heavy production), and audiences will still go to see a play rather than an event, as is the trend on Broadway, UK producers can afford to take more of a chance and be more experimental. Plus, our productions come from a scene with a strong background of regional theatre and subsidy, the validation of these award nominations proving that the Government should be looking to increase funding in the arts – particularly for smaller, regional theatres – than reducing it.