'Mamma Mia!' was snubbed five times at the Tonys, but — oh, sweet revenge! — it's still running on Broadway
"Mamma Mia!" premiered at the Winter Garden Theatre in October 2001 and has remained open since then, often playing to SRO. At the 2002 Tony Awards it reaped five nominations: best musical, lead actress (Louise Pitre), featured actress (Judy Kaye), orchestrations and book of a musical.
It never had a prayer to win best musical. On one hand it wasn't considered seriously as art, since it was flimsily constructed using pre-existing ABBA songs. Secondly, it wasn't nominated for best director, which is usually a requirement of a best-musical winner even if its helmer loses.
"Mamma Mia's" nominations were clearly just Tonys' acknowledgment of a huge Broadway hit that was destined to become a successful touring show too. Thus "Mamma Mia" lost all five of its bids to a show that was considered to have more substance, although, frankly, not that much more. Pitre bowed to Sutton Foster and Kaye to Harriet Harris, both stars of "Thoroughly Modern Millie," which claimed the prize for best musical.
But, alas, even if Tony didn't adore "Mamma Mia!" average Joes and Janes still do. After nearly 2,800 performances, it's still running all these years later, unlike any of its three rivals for best musical: "Sweet Smell of Success," "Urinetown" and, of course, "Millie." Even with a half dozen Tonys, "Millie" managed to run only two years and spawned only one national tour while the stage version of "Mamma Mia!" has played the world, grossing over $2 billion to date.
(Photos: Winter Garden, Marquis Theater)