So it irks me when honest to goodness experts make certain things crystal clear and make broad declarations before all of the evidence of something is presented. It is especially hard to take when it is an expert whom I personally look up to and respect. In this case, I'm talking about Peter Filicia, who writes a thrice weekly article/commentary/blog for Theatermania.com, is a critic for a New Jersey paper, a published author on the subject and, above all, a true theatre fan. 99% of the time we agree; it's that 1% that has reared its ugly head for the first time in some time.
Today's column, "Welcome Home, Ragtime!" is an unabashed valentine to that show which opened yesterday at the Neil Simon Theatre. It is abundantly clear that he is a huge fan of both this version and the original, and that he has great disdain for The Lion King, which he cleverly never names, but quotes and barbs at throughout the piece. I enjoyed The Lion King and was vastly disappointed in the original Ragtime, feeling that the Tonys it got were the ones it deserved and nothing more. (Oddly enough, the man I rarely agree with, Ben Brantley of the New York Times, described my feelings for the original production almost verbatim from my head, in his review of the revival.) But that is not where Mr. Filicia disagree - I can understand his points about the Disney show.
Toward the end of his article, he writes, "Ragtime will be one of the six of musicals that first lost the Best Musical Tony but eventually won the Best Musical Revival Tony. (Sweet Charity, Gypsy, Chicago, Into the Woods and Hair are the others.) I’d say it’s the revival of the century, but there are 91 years to go." While he is clever in incorporating a play on the lyrics of the opening number, I take exception to his declaration that it will win the Tony.
It may very well do just that. But we aren't even half way through the 2009-2010 season. True, if Ragtime's only competition were the only other musical revivals to open so far, the critically ravaged Bye Bye Birdie, and the well-reviewed but hardly spectacular Finian's Rainbow, it would probably be a no-brainer. But there are at least two more major revivals to open this season: the critically acclaimed London import A Little Night Music - never count out Trevor Nunn, Stephen Sondheim, Angela Lansbury or the Broadway debut of a major star (Catherine Zeta-Jones) separately, let alone together like this - and what could be the little engine that could of the season, Promises, Promises starring America's sweetheart, Kristin Chenoweth.
Now, I haven't seen Ragtime yet. And I'll be seeing Finian's Rainbow this week, so I 'll have a little more knowledge on the subject. And whether I love or hate it, and I will have my say about it, I still won't say anything more that what I've said before: "I wouldn't be surprised if X gets a Tony nomination from this." And it really isn't in Mr. Filicia's character to be so decisive and smug. Maybe he's right. Maybe not. But it hardly seems fair to declare the race for Revival Tony glory over before every show gets its day.