It was a very exciting evening when The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee did so very well at the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards in Vancouver. Our show was honoured with an Outstanding Direction award for Michael Shamata at the Belfry, an Artistic Achievement award for Best Ensemble and Best Production, Large Theatre. The latter award was such a thrilling surprise!
The next day brought a bit of a surprise for me. An article in the Vancouver Sun criticizing the Jessie jury for choosing Spelling Bee in the Best Production category, a variety of tweets seeming to criticize the results and a few facebook posts questioning the rationale as well. Peter Birnie at the Sun was surprised our show would beat out some of the work at Bard on the Beach or Death of a Salesman at the Playhouse which was overlooked even in the nomination process. The hangover had sunk in pretty quickly.
The Jessie board, for some bizarre reason, feels that it diminishes musicals to put them in their own set of categories. How so? I’ve never heard someone feel that way about the winner of a Best Musical Tony award!
Musicals are different beasts than plays, and the professionals that have worked their entire careers towards creating great musical theatre deserve to be acknowledged every single year. There are MORE than enough musicals happening in this city every year to justify the additional awards. This season alone the Playhouse is producing two musicals, the Arts Club has 6 musicals! That isn’t counting what independent shows or co-ops will be coming along as well.
Those of us who work in musical theatre are required to do three times as much work if we’re to be successful. We need to be great actors, singers and dancers to even make ends meet in this crazy business of show. Our productions employ larger crews, musical directors and choreographers who are also being left in the dark. Certainly the artistic achievement categories allow for acknowledgement, but not every year.
TYA productions are honoured separately, a huge bonus for a company like Carousel Theatre who produces the lions share of TYA shows. Often times they are the only company nominated in the categories and they usually win them all. So why can’t we have a few musical categories?!
Do you believe musicals should be acknowledged separately at the Jessies? Comment below!