For years the Drama Desk recognized orchestration while the Tonys did not. It meant so much to me as a young musician to have my orchestration for Sunday in the Park recognized. The Drama Desk was also the first to have awards for sound design. After being in the forefront of recognizing creative contributions and being brave enough to ignore the border between Broadway and off-Broadway, why the sudden retreat?
It baffles me that the Drama Desk would stop recognizing a creative contribution that stays with the identity of a show for many years after the original physical designs are no longer used. We still use Sid Ramin's orchestrations for West Side Story a half century after the original production. We may experiment with new orchestrations for a production, but we will always return to Jonathon Tunick's orchestration of Sweeney Todd. Not to diminish the work of Bernstein or Sondheim in any way, the orchestrations for those masterpieces will always be part of their identity.
Such is the nature of the collaborative art form - when it's done right the pieces meld into a greater whole. Then award programs try to dice and slice that whole into individual contributions. How sad that they think this particular element of making a musical is suddenly of less importance.
I know what I was able to contribute to the shows I worked on this season, Queen of the Mist and Leap of Faith. The highest praise for me is the approbation of my fellow collaborators on a show. But to have that work recognized in an public venue is also an honor and a pleasure. I will have to look elsewhere for that honor now. I am mostly saddened for the young orchestrators in the business whose off-Broadway work will now go without any public honor. They should remember that this action by a few individuals in no way diminishes the wonderful work they do which is heard nightly in theaters of New York.