Professor Emeritus Joseph Robinette earns Tony Award nomination
Rowan University Professor Emeritus Joseph Robinette reached a new pinnacle in his career when he earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical for his work on the holiday hit, A Christmas Story: The Musical, it was announced on Tuesday.
Robinette, a Richwood resident who retired from the university in 2005 after 34 years on the faculty, wrote the libretto for the musical adaptation of the beloved Jean Shepherd story and 1983 film. The stage version was a sell-out hit during its holiday season run in November and December of last year. The show is already scheduled to play Boston, among other cities, at the end of this year and a possible return to Broadway is under consideration.
The nomination puts him in contention with Douglas Carter Beane (Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella), Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots) and Dennis Kelly (Matilda, The Musical). A Christmas Story also received nominations for Best Musical and Best Original Score.
“I’m kind of overwhelmed by it,” Robinette states. “It’s pretty exciting. There are always high points along the way (in a long career), but getting recognized in this way makes you proud and humble.”
Robinette wrote his first play nearly 50 years ago and A Christmas Story is his 56th published work. Among his numerous awards are the Charlotte Chorpenning Cup, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education’s best dramatization of the year prize and the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America medallion for his body of work. His plays have been seen in all 50 states, translated into foreign languages and produced everywhere, from Lincoln Center to the BBC.
Dramatic Publishing, which publishes Robinette’s work, approached him with the idea of turning an existing dramatization of the story into a musical not long after he retired. Following a few years of work, including productions of ever-changing versions at renowned theatres in Kansas City (2009) and Seattle (2010), a team of producers put together a short tour in 2011. The show drew audiences, but the process continued, with re-writes and changes at every juncture. During the summer of 2012, Robinette got a call that the next home for the musical would be New York.
Among the rave reviews, The Associated Press praised Robinette for honoring the spirit of the original film “while adding zaniness” in addition to calling the show “a charming triumph of imagination.”
The Tony Awards will be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 9, 2013.