Broadway performers Cynthia Erivo, Ben Platt, Rachel Bay Jones, Katrina Lenk and Ari’el Stachel are all just one award away from becoming EGOTs. They all need to win an Oscar and they will have completed the grand slam of major show-business awards.
Good for them. But the way they got there raises questions. Each won a Tony, a Grammy and a Daytime Emmy for their work in, and in support of, a single Broadway show.
Platt won a 2017 Tony for best actor in a musical for playing the title character in Dear Evan Hansen. Then he won a Grammy for best musical theater album as one of that show’s eight “principal soloists.” Then he and his castmates won a Daytime Emmy for outstanding musical performance in a daytime program for a spot on NBC’s Today.
I’m all for talented performers winning awards, but this seems a little much. The Tony? Absolutely. A Grammy for the cast album to the same show? Sure, though giving awards to eight principal soloists from one show might be overdoing it. An Emmy for basically promoting the musical and the cast album on morning TV? That seems excessive.
But this is the way the game has been played since the Daytime Emmys introduced that category — formerly known as outstanding musical performance in a talk show/morning program — in 2016.
Platt’s Dear Evan Hansen co-star, Jones, also won all three of these awards. Her Tony was for best featured actress in a musical for playing Evan’s mother, Heidi Hansen.
The year before, Erivo won all three awards. She won a 2016 Tony for best actress in a musical for her role as Celie Harris Johnson in The Color Purple. She won a Grammy as one of the three principal soloists (the number varies from album to album) on the cast album. She and the cast won a Daytime Emmy for a spot on Today.
Lenk and Stachel also won all three awards. Each won 2018 Tonys for their performances in The Band’s Visit. (Lenk won best actress in a musical for her role as Dina; Stachel won best featured actor in a musical for his role as Haled.) Each won a Grammy as one of four principal soloists on the cast album. Each won Daytime Emmys for a spot on Today.
There’s nothing wrong with this, per se, but it distorts the meaning of achieving an EGOT when you can be three-quarters of the way there for your work on one show.
It speaks well of the talent on Broadway that Broadway performers have won in that daytime Emmy category in three of the four years it has been presented. (The first year it went to pop star Rachel Platten for a performance of her top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit “Fight Song” on ABC’s Good Morning America). But should you win an Emmy for a promo spot on a daytime show? The TV industry hands out Emmys like they’re Halloween candy.
The Grammys also should tighten up the definition of “principal soloists.” In 2011, the Grammys started giving awards in the best musical theater album category to performers — in addition to the show’s composer(s) and the producer(s) and engineer(s)/mixer(s) of the winning album. From that first year to 2014, they quite reasonably singled out one or two principal soloists per year from the winning album. In 2015, when Hamilton: An American Musical won, awards went to a whopping 10 principal soloists. Since then, the number has ranged from three to eight.
The Grammys used to give album of the year Grammys to every featured artist on the winning album. They wised up and tightened the rules. Now, featured artists win album of the year only if they are featured on “at least 33% playing time of the album.” A similar restriction should be put in place on musical theater albums. Winning a Grammy — or any of the EGOT-qualifying awards — should be a tremendous achievement.
There’s another way that the rules that govern show-business awards are making the achievement of winning an EGOT less singular than it was meant to be. Artists can win EGOT-qualifying awards as one of a platoon of producers on a project.
The three newest members of the EGOT club — John Legend, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice — clinched their EGOT status by winning Primetime Emmys as three of 10 (!) executive producers or co-executive producers of NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. This is the second time that Legend been won an EGOT-qualifying award as one of a pack of producers. He won his only Tony (to date) in 2017 as one of eight producers of a revival of August Wilson’s Jitney.
Legend isn’t alone. Whoopi Goldberg clinched her EGOT status in 2002 by winning a Tony as one of 13 producers of a musical adaptation of Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Winning as one of a gaggle of producers just isn’t as singular or special as winning on your own or with a limited number of partners.
The EGOT is a wonderful concept — versatile performers reaching the pinnacle of four different fields of endeavor. That’s why the concept has captured so many people’s imaginations. It would be a shame if it became so easy to attain — and/or so many people attained it — that it lost its meaning.