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Despite hype, Drama Desk Awards are strongly biased toward Broadway shows

May 18, 2008 | 12:28 pm

The Drama Desk makes much of its canvassing of the entire New York theater scene, citing the 450-plus shows attended by the members of the nominating committee. However, Broadway shows get a disproportionate share of the nominations and almost completely dominate the winners' lists. Indeed, over the last four years, off-Broadway shows have won only four of the 101 Drama Desk awards bestowed.


This year 84 of the 158 nominations (53%) went to just 18 Broadway shows. So when predicting the winners, you can eliminate almost all of the off-Broadway contenders.

Last year, Broadway shows accounted for 98 of the 158 nominations (62%), but 25 of the 26 winners. The sole exception: Andy Blankenbuehler, choreographer of the off-Broadway run of "In the Heights." Just how bad is this bias in favor of Broadway? Consider the best actress in a play race: Eve Best was the sole nominee appearing in a Broadway production, "A Moon for the Misbegotten," and she won.

For the 2005-06 season, Broadway shows only accounted for 67 of the 144 nominations (47%), but they won 23 of the 25 awards. For 2004-05, Broadway pulled off a clean sweep, winning all 25 awards, with 80 of the 148 nominations (54%). And in Barbara Siegel's first season as chairwoman of the nominating committee, 2003-04, Broadway shows received 80 of the 137 nominations (58%) and won 24 of the 25 awards.

(Photo: Richard Rodgers Theatre)