Immediately following the Tony Award nominations, Broadway producers sprang into action.
With brief pauses for celebration Tuesday, producers and the marketing teams behind their shows were planning how to best capitalize on their nominations in order to sway Tony voters but also bring in new audiences. For some producers, that strategy included balancing several competing shows and artists.
After receiving 12 Tony nominations, “SpongeBob SquarePants,” was quickly ready to put up signage celebrating the show’s success, including other critical nominations, at the theater’s prominent Times Square location.
“Our front of house should be changing this afternoon,” said Susan Vargo, executive producer of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” “If not this afternoon, tomorrow morning.”
That speed is possible because the show’s advertising agency had already been planning for several Tony Awards scenarios, as had been discussed the previous week and had been somewhat predestined by the show’s choice of which nominees to put forward. By midafternoon Tuesday, Vargo had already spoken with representatives from the Tony Awards about the show’s performance during the telecast.
But even with weeks of planning and strong odds for their shows, some producers had jitters about the day. Because “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” had already garnered nine Olivier Awards in London, producers Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender felt that the stakes were high on Broadway.
“Bringing the piece to New York, outside of anything else I’ve brought to New York, we felt exposed,” Friedman said.
In the end, “Harry Potter” received 10 nominations, including Best Play.
However, Friedman was not just concentrated on “Harry Potter” Tuesday, as she is also a producer on “Mean Girls,” “Travesties,” “Farinelli and the King” and “1984.” All together, those shows received 32 nominations.
With the 32 nominations, several of her shows are inevitably up against each other in the same categories. Though Friedman says she “loves everyone equally,” she was spending part of her day Tuesday navigating between comforting those who were not nominated and congratulating those who were, in addition to promoting the nominated shows.
“It’s about spreading myself around as much as I can,” Friedman said.
It was a multi-tasking day for many producers. Speaking while biking to rehearsals for his other show “Gettin’ the Band Back Together,” Ken Davenport, a lead producer of “Once on This Island,” said his show would be pushing out marketing that emphasized the eight nominations it had received.
“We try to get that message out to the world,” Davenport said. “There is strength in numbers when it comes to nominations for sure.”
Additionally, “Once on This Island” will put forward the vision of Tony-nominated director Michael Arden, in the hopes of differentiating the musical from the idea of a traditional revival, said Hunter Arnold, co-lead producer on the show.
However, Davenport noted that commercial producers in particular cannot just focus on campaigning for Tony Awards, as they still have the responsibility of filling the theater and reaching new audiences.
That’s the goal at “The Band’s Visit,” nominated for Best Musical and in 10 other categories, where many in the cast and on the creative team found out about the Tony nominations while filming a segment on The Today Show.
Though “The Band’s Visit” has nominations in the double digits, it will be working to make the quiet musical heard in a category that includes big brands such as “Mean Girls” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
“It’s my responsibility to put the artists out there and really tell their story,” said Orin Wolf, lead producer of the musical. “We’re standing up on a platform with all these major huge shows with huge voices.”
Still, as Jordan Roth, a producer on “Angels in America” and owner of the theaters where the nominated “Frozen” and “Mean Girls” are playing, says, the Tony Awards serve as an opportunity to promote all of Broadway.
“I’ve always felt that this period of six weeks of Tonys is really a celebration of the whole season and everybody that’s part of it,” Roth said.