YOU MAY CATCH MORE FLIES WITH HONEY, as the old saw says, but if it’s Broadway theatergoers you’re after, a jot of vinegar might be just the ticket. At least that’s what seems to be working for Julie Andrews. On May 8, Andrews, 60, announced to the matinee crowd at Victor/Victoria that she was declining her Tony nomination as best actress in a musical because everyone else connected with the $8.5 million production, directed by her husband of 26 years, Blake Edwards, 73, had been “egregiously overlooked.” No sooner had she vented her outrage than ticket sales for the already popular show soared like Mary Poppins, jumping 30 percent the next week. “The support has been phenomenal,” says Tony Adams, one of Victor’s producers. “There are more flowers than on opening night.”
But not everyone is applauding the dramatic move by Andrews, who became the first major star ever to turn down a Tony nomination. (Amazingly, she has never won the award, though she was nominated twice before—for My Fair Lady and Camelot.) “This public sulking makes you look like just another Broadway prima donna,” wrote the New York Daily News’s Howard Kissel. Other observers shared the puzzlement of New York Post critic Clive Barnes, who said he was “shocked to petrifaction” over some of the choices, including the nomination of two already closed shows for best musical. But, he wrote, this didn’t make Victor/Victoria—which got mixed reviews—any more to his liking.
Some Broadway watchers think the Tony nominators have behaved no more capriciously than usual. Says former New York Times theater critic Frank Rich: “They always make choices that are good, bad and indifferent.” Still, by snubbing Victor, they may have benefited not just the show but the Tonys themselves. Will viewers tune in to the awards telecast on CBS June 2 to see whether Andrews, whose name remains on the ballot, has won? If she has, will someone be there to accept? “Because of the position Julie Andrews has taken, there has been a lot more than the usual interest,” says Tony spokesman Keith Sherman. “If that translates into more people tuning in, that’s for the benefit of Broadway.”