Friday, June 24, 2011

Tony Awards!!!!! (Part IV: Plays)

Generally, the plays are less exciting than the musicals.  This is still true, and therefore I shall try to fit all the plays into one post.  Comming into this year I was actually relatively excited about the plays.  I had heard of several of the revivals, a few movies I liked were being made plays, and lots of great actors were getting in on it.  I thought this would be a great year for the plays...I was right!

Arcadia is the first show to be talked about (because alphabetically it makes sense).  Unfortunately I have little to nothing to say about Arcadia.  I know that it's a show about Victorian era England that was nominated for best revival, but that's about it!  We barely even heard of it the entire night.  When we saw it was nominated for best revival it was a "Wait...what?  Where did that come from?" moment.  My guess is only a few revivals were done this year so it wasn't actually a real candidate for best revival.  I may be wrong, because there are plenty of good shows that don't get nominated for much.  But at it's core, this show just seemed boring!

Arcadia was nominated for 2 Tony award and didn't win either of them:
Best Revival of a play - nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (Billy Crudup) - nominated

Good People looked a bit more interesting.  As many popular plays, this show has a small cast and tells a modern story.  The plot of the show looked like nothing special.  Just one more show about a lower class person wallowing in his/her struggles when a rich guy comes in and drama ensues.  So with a concept as normal as this, it is left to the actors and writers to make the show worth seeing.  And apparently they did just that.  Since I didn't get to see the show and there's less about plays online, I can't know for sure but it looked interesting enough.  They did win an award (with one of the more exciting speeches I might add) for best leading Actress, so I was glad.  Although they didn't win best play, I suspect (as confirmed by Mrs. McDormand's speech) that the show will bounce around small professional theaters for quite some time.
Good People was nominated for 2 Tony Awards and won 1 of them:
Best Play - nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play (Frances Mcdormand) - WINNER

The Importance of Being Earnest has been one of my favorite plays for quite some time now.  I loved the book when I had to read it in school, and to this day I concider it one of the wittiest funniest shows ever to grace Broadway's stage.  So, needless to say, I was excited to see that they were reviving it this year.  In fact, I believe that this revival is being filmed and will be coming out in movie format in a few years (like Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George and many others).  The show is a hillarious farce about four young people (two guys and two girls) who are in the craziest love triangle type confusion.  If you like quick wit and dry humor then this show will be the best thing since....well, since the show came out the first time!  The other interesting fact about this show, is that the character of "Lady Bracknel" the spinster old lady of the world, is played by director Brian Bedford.  Yes, a man does play the role of Lady Bracknel.  That's Broadway for ya!
The Importance of Being Earnest was nominated for 3 Tony Awards and won 1:
Best Revival of a Play - nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play (Brian Bedford) - nominated
Best Costume Design of a Play - WINNER

Jerusalem was not at all like what I expected.  By the name I thought it was going to be some heartfelt story about Israel's struggles.  Then I saw the picture (see below) and thought it might be about a marathon runner or something.  I WAS WRONG!  It ended up being a really strange show about a band of misfits, led by a man who's lived in the woods for 30 years, who are protesting the demolition of the forest.  Now, there are plenty of great shows out there about a band of outcasts (RENT, "Spelling Bee" etc.) but this show seemed diferent.  From the looks of it it's one of broadways many MANY "R-rated" shows.  I kind of picture it like the comic strip Non Sequitur's "B.E." series.  Just a bunch of crude guys who live in the middle of nowhere with no since of purpose or responsibility but an "ample supply of drugs and alchohol".   I'm sure it's a funny show, but it doesn't look like it's for me personally.  However, it did ok in the awards.
Jerusalem was nominated for 6 Tony Awards and won 1 of them:
Best Play - nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play (Mark Rylance) - WINNER
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (Mackenzie Crook) - nominated
Best Scenic Design of a Play - nominated
Best Lighting Design of a Play - nominated
Best Sound Design of a Play - nominated

The Merchant of Venice happens to be the only Shakespeare work that I have read (unless you count West Side Story...which most people don't).  I love it because once you get past Shakespeare's language, you find a few comedic moments, but mostly a band of absoultely fantastic characters.  So this show I was already excited about, but then I saw the cast!  With Al Pacino (Micheal [The Godfather]) reprising his film role of Shylock, Jessie L Martin (Collins [RENT]) playing Antonio's lovestruck friend Gratio, and the hysterical Christopher Fitzgerald (Boq [Wicked], Igor [Young Frankenstein]) playing the only comedic role in the intire show: Launcelot Gobo.  This show was nominated for more awards than any other play, but unfortunately didn't do as well as I had kind of hoped.  It two had it's thunder stolen by The Normal Heart.
The Merchant of Venice was nominated for 7 Tony Awards and didn't win any of them:
Best Revival of a Play - nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play (Al Pacino) - nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play (Lily Rabe) - nominated
Best Direction of a Play - nominated
Best Scenic Design of a Play - nominated
Best Costume Design of a Play - nominated
Best Lighting Design of a Play - nominated

The Mother ****** with the Hat was not my favorite show after just hearing the title!  I did find it funny how every time it was in the media it had a different name, the one I chose was as conservitive as I could get it without calling it "The Mother with the Hat" (like the Tony Awards did) and thereby confuse people.  The show does have some big names such as Chris Rock (popular TV guy, I know him from his voice of Marty in Dreamworks's "Madagascar"), and Bobby Cannavale (Who we know from dating Sutton Foster) star in this show.  It looks like it might be an interesting show about life in a bad part of town.  From what I can tell its kind of like RENT except without any epic music, talented actors, or good plotlines.  (ok that might have been a bit harsh, but I'm just explaining that I'm pretty sure RENT was better than this).  I suppose if someone wasn't offended by language or "adult themes" this would be a relatively enjoyable show, but it's not for me.
The Mother ****** With the Hat was nominated for 6 awards and didn't win any of them:
Best Play - nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play (Bobby Cannavale) - nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (Yul Vázquez) - nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Elizabeth Rodriguez) - nominated
Best Direction of a Play - nominated
Best Scenic Design of a Play - nominated
The Normal Heart was the talk of the night.  It won the first two awards of the night and then went on to dominated the revivals for most of the ceremony.  One interesting thing that I noticed was that every single Tony recepiant from The Normal Heart always mentioned the message of the show.  They obviously felt really strong about the moral of this story.  It wasn't until the final speech of theirs that we got to see what that moral is.  Apparently it is about people (or more specifically one person) dealing with HIV/AIDS.  It definately looks like a heartfelt show that really would move people.  And the cast seemed pretty close, there's not very many of them (as in many plays) but they certainly appeared to have a bond stronger than the other nominees (but that's just by judging the speeches and crowd reactions, which isn't that reliable).  I'm not surprised this show did as well as it did, it looked like a real quality show.  Another fun fact about this show is that it was co-directed by Joel Grey (Wizard [Wicked], Emcee [Cabaret]).  So it was pretty cool that he won both best revival of a play, and revival of a musical!
The Normal Heart was nominated for 5 Tony Awards and won 3 of them:
Best Revival of a Play - WINNER
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play (Joe Mantello) - nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in Featured Role in a Play (John Benjamin Hickey) - WINNER
Best Performance by an actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Ellen Barkin) - WINNER
Best Direction of a Play - nominated

Warhorse was the spectacle of the evening as far as the plays were concerned.  It had the highest percentage of wins in the play catagory, and was the coolest to watch throughout the whole ceremony.  Heck, the Handspring Puppet Company (who worked on the show) won an award especially designed for them!  The show sounds like it's a relatively mediocher plot: A boy loves his horse; horse goes into the military; boy enlists to find horse; horse saves boy's life.  So it (Like Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark from what I hear) relied on visual spectacle instead of quality plotline to carry the show.  The puppetry for the horses were just amazing!  They were lifesized, sturdy enough to be ridden upon, moved much like a real horse, and each took three people to control.  It was really no surprise that it was going to win best play because it just stole the show everytime it was nominated...LITERALLY!
 War Horse was nominated for 5 Tony Awards and won 6 of them (I know it's crazy!):
Best Play - WINNER
Best Direction of a Play - WINNER
Best Scenic Design of a Play - WINNER
Best Lighting Design of a Play - WINNER
Best Sound Design of a Play - WINNER
Special Tony Award (Handspring Puppet Company) - WINNER

Other Notable Plays:
One big trend in this year's plays was the hollywood presence.  The major ones not mentioned above are: Jim Belushi (Born Yesterday), Vannessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones (Driving Miss Daisy), Ben Stiller (The House of Blue Leaves), David Hyde Pierce (La Bete).  THAT'S ALOT!  Add to that the ones that were mentioned above (Al Pacino, Chris Rock etc.) and you can see that once again Hollywood actors are realizing that theater is better!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tony Awards!!!!! (Part III: Other Notable Musicals)

Other Notable Musicals

Most of the major awards tend to go to the big shows (nominated for best musical) but there are always a few that go to the slightly more obscure shows.

The People In The Picture was a show that I thought would do better than it did.  I heard lots of good things about this show so I was surprised that it was only nominated for the one awards (best leading actress in a musical) and that it didn't win that.  The show stared Donna Murphy (I know she's been in a lot, but I know her best from her role of Mother Gothel in [Tangled]) and Chip Zien (Baker [Into The Woods]).  It's a really heartfelt show about the life of a Jewish lady recollecting her memories of the Holocaust.  Though I don't know too much about the show, it certainly appears to be a diamond in the rough.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown sounds like a fun show after just hearing the title.  It also didn't win any of the three awards it was nominated for (best score, best featured actress (Patti LuPone), best featured actress (Laura Benanti)).  Once again the thing that caught my attention was it's impressive cast.  Sherri Rene Scott (best known for her roles of Amneris [Aida], Kathy [The Last Five Years], Ursula [The Little Mermaid], and many more shows), Pattie LuPone (Rose [Gypsy: Revival]), and Brian Stokes Mitchell (Coalhouse Walker Jr. [Ragtime]) were the big names that caught my eye.  Despite the shows exciting concept and stellar cast, it didn't win anything either.  I doubt it will become the next great classic, but it looks like a generally fun show.

Wonderland: A New Alice.  WHY WASN'T THIS SHOW NOMINATED!?!  Granted I never saw the show, but I absolutely loved the soundtrack.  If you read my earlier post on Frank Wildhorn you know that I found the soundtrack to this show to be superb, so I was crushed when I saw that it wasn't even nominated.   I would like to again suggest to anyone who hasn't yet to go listen to the soundtrack of this show!  It's an amazing show!!!!!

Well, collectively that's my thoughts on the musicals of this year.  I had a blast watching all the performances and such.  As soon as I can I'll get my post on the plays uploaded.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tony Awards!!!!! (Part II: Revivals of a Musical)


This was a relatively good year for revivals.  There were only two put on all year (which is unusual) so there weren't four that performed as they usually do.  But the two that were nominated were fantastic and actually pretty similar.  They both had big stars in them, they both were dance intensive, and they both have had multiple revivals.  There performances were fantastic and the shows look like they are really fun.

How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
This looked like a fun show.  I had to opportunity to see Pebblebrook do it this January but didn't end up taking advantage of it, a choice that I now regret.  It's a fun idea of the underdog conquering all odds to become a great success.  The nice thing about revivals is that the whole soundtrack is available, and having listened to most of the soundtrack, I find that the music itself isn't really show stopping, but that's not really surprising since, from what I've seen, the strength of this show lies in it's choreography (unfortunately the same can be said for Anything Goes, which took the award).  I was nervous about Daniel Radcliffe playing the lead role, because sometimes I think that the movie stars sometimes get the role/award simply because they're so famous (I'm convinced that this is what happened to Cathrine Zeta Jones last year).  But from the few clips I've seen he really did do a good job.  Once I saw that he earned it I began to really root for him because I'm always excited to see talented movie stars who realize that theater is better (like Denzel Washington and Julie Andrews).  "How to Succeed" got to perform first at the ceremony and they really started the show off well:
How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was nominated for 8 awards and won 1:
  • Best Revival of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (John Larroquette) - WINNER
  • Best Direction of a musical - nominated
  • Best Choreography - nominated
  • Best Orchestrations - nominated
  • Best Costume Design of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Lighting Design of a Musical - nominated
After the ceremony, this was the first show I went to look up because it strikes me as a generally fun show.  I think it's one of those shows that seeing it is way better than just hearing the soundtrack because it is marketed as a (relatively) visually stunning show, so if you have the chance to go see it I would suggest it.

Anything Goes
I had heard a lot of songs from this show without even knowing it.  It is one of the most famous shows that I didn't really look into (mainly because I kept confusing it with South Pacific, which I didn't like).  So from the songs that I had heard I knew that it was a fairly good show, but what really caught my attention was the idea of Sutton Foster (possibly my favorite Female actor ever!  Known for her roles of Fiona [Shrek], Millie [Thoroughly Modern Millie], Janet [The Drowsy Chaperone] and many, many others) and Joel Grey (Emcee [Cabaret] & The Wizard [Wicked]) in the same show!  Once I looked deeper into the show, I was a bit surprised that it wasn't written specifically for Sutton Foster, it really complements her singing, dancing, and character talents.  It's always a joy to see Sutton in whatever role she's in, and this show was no different. However, I was disappointed that Joel Grey didn't have as large of a role as I had originally thought, but it was still an enjoyable show. Anything Goes had the last performance of the evening, and it was a ton of fun to watch.
Anything Goes was nominated for 9 awards and won 3:
  • Best Revival of a Musical WINNER
  • Best Leading Actress in a Musical (Sutton Foster) - WINNER
  • Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Adam Godley) - nominated
  • Best Direction of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Choreography - WINNER
  • Best Scenic Design of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Costume Design of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Lighting Design of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Sound Design of a Musical - nominated
As I hinted above, this show was strong in many of the categories that "How to Succeed" was strong, but in each category they were just a little better so that they won.  I must say that I was elated win Sutton Foster won best actress and not really surprised when the show won for choreography and best revival.  All in all, it was a good night for Anything Goes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

TONY AWARDS!!!!! (Part I: Original Musicals)

IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!!!!! The other night was my the most anticipated TV program all year (for me at least).  THE TONY AWARDS.  For those of you who don't know.  The Tony Awards is like the the Academy Awards except for Broadway plays and musicals.  It should be noted that people (such as Elton John) who appeared in both the Tony's and the Oscars, said that the Tony's were far superior. (IN YOUR FACE MOVIE LOVERS!) Sunday night was the 65th Annual Tony Awards, and it was a blast!

  (I need to warn you, this post will be REALLY REALLY LONG!  I'm gonna try to break it up into pieces to make it easier to read. But this will likely be the longest)

As always, the highlights were the musicals.  The four shows that are nominated for best musical get to perform a song/medley from their show.  So I will start with the four shows nominated for best original musical.



This show was based off the 2002 movie with the same title.  Unfortunately the soundtrack hasn't hit any of my favorite music sites yet, so I've heard very little of the soundtrack (only two or three songs), but it looks really good.  This show (like many shows this year) has a stellar cast!  It stars the fantastic Aaron Tveit (Gabe [Next to Normal]), the always entertaining Norbert Leo Butz (best known for his roles as Fiyero [Wicked], Jamie [The Last Five Years], Freddy [Dirty Rotten Scoundrels] and many more), and the talented Kerry Butler (Peggy [Hairspray] & Audrey [Little Shop of Horrors (revival)] ).  It's a show I don't know much about but would like to know more.  I really want to see this show!  I would love to hear Tveit's mesmerizing smooth voice mixed with Butz's wild one.  May I point out that the writers are the same people who wrote Hairspray, so you know that this show is something special.  Their Tony performance wasn't the best, but it was really good:

Catch me if you can was nominated for four awards and won one.

  • Best Musical - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical - WINNER
  • Best Sound Design - nominated
  • Best Orchestrations - nominated

I was glad that Butz won, because, although I couldn't actually see him in the role, I know he is amazing!  For the second time, I'm shocked and disappointed that Aaron Tveit wasn't even nominated for anything.  As far as I'm concerned both his role in this and in Next to Normal deserved AT LEAST a nomination.  I was kind of pulling for it in best musical, but (as the presenter said) we all really knew who was going to win that.

This is the show I knew the least about going into things.  A friend of mine had posted a Facebook status about it or something, but other than that it never even entered my radar until I saw the nominations.  It's based off of the many trials of nine negro boys who were accused of raping two young women.   We now know that they were completely innocent, but they didn't then.  So this is a great tale of racial injustice.  The writers decided to write it in the format of a "minstrel show".  This surprised me (and, I have learned many others) because a minstrel show is generally thought to be degrading to African American people.  In fact, in November, there were actually protesters parked outside of the theater who were offended by this unusual style.  But when the writers were interviewed, they made it clear that the purpose of the shows unorthodox setting was to inflate the injustice and show the story's truly evil nature.  It was later realized that of those protesters, the vast majority of them hadn't actually seen the they might have been a bit premature.  Their performance at the Tony awards wasn't that great to me.  Of course the actors and songs were really good, and it's definitely a great show worth watching, but compared to the Tony presentations I've was just kind of boring.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it and I hoped it would win more than it did, but I just thought it could have been better if they maybe chose a different song.
The Scottsboro Boys was nominated for a whopping 12 awards, but unfortunately didn't win any.
  • Best Musical - nominated
  • Best Book of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Original Score - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Joshua Henry) - nominated
  • Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Forrest McClendon) - nominated
  • Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Coleman Domingo) - nominated
  • Best Scenic Design of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Lighting Design of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Sound Design of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Choreographer - nominated
  • Best Director of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Orchestrations - nominated
Although it wasn't my favorite show, I did really want it to win something, I think it's a good show and I will be quick to listen to the entire soundtrack as soon as it become available online.  It's really sad to see a good, down to earth show beaten out by the flashy other shows, as I think happened to "The Scottsboro Boys".

The Book of Mormon
I had heard about the show but didn't really want to know much about it (because I highly doubted that I would like a show from the makers of Avenue Q and Southpark good friend of mine did some research and showed me a few songs, and I began to warm up to the show.  Granted, I wasn't thrilled by the concept, but I liked the music.  I was almost ready to give the show a chance when I heard another song.  This song basically spit in the face of anyone who believed in God at all.  It is possibly the most offensive song I've heard in my life (Of course, I am fairly sheltered so that might not be saying much).  So I had officially decided that I hated the show and hoped that it would lose as many Tony awards as possible.  Of course: it didn't.  It actually did very well (as I kind of expected).  When it came time for it's performance, I was ready to fast forward if it looked like it was going to go south, but it ended up being really good.  I'm a bit ashamed to say it, but it was a really good performance.  As I was listening to it I found that I could connect with it, and it was really well written.  Sure they made a few crude jokes, but it was one of the best performances of the night actually.
What I did find, is that (on it's surface) Mormonism appears to be similar to Christianity.  I think I'll look into it in the future to figure out what exactly they believe because I'm not actually sure.  But It certainly appears that they follow the same God, which means every time they insult the God of the Mormons they insult the Christian God (my God) at the same time.  What urks me the most about this show is that they take every opportunity to insult everyone they possibly can.  They poke fun at ALL religions and all sects and groups that they can possibly find.  Not surprisingly, my dislike of the show is not shared by the rest of the world.  It seems that The Book of Mormon was the best selling album in itunes history.  And of course out of all the original shows nominated it's one of the only ones with the entire soundtrack available to listen to online.  Now, I do agree that this show has the right to go on, I'm just disappointed that shows like this and Avenue Q remain so popular largely because of their offensive nature while other shows (such as Wonderland and Aida which were never nominated for much of anything) have to go unnoticed.  There are shows that I really like (such as RENT and Next to Normal) who also have bad language and some "adult themes" but these are merely vehicles for the plot and weren't added for the specific purpose of shocking people (as is the case with Avenue Q and Book of Mormon).
The Book of Mormon was nominated for 14 awards (the most of the year) and won 9:

  • Best Musical - WINNER
  • Best Book of a Musical - WINNER
  • Best Original Score - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Josh Gad) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Andrew Rannells) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (Rory O'Malley) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Nikki M James) - WINNER
  • Best Scenic Design of a Musical - WINNER
  • Best Costume Design of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Lighting Design of a Musical - WINNER
  • Best Sound Design of a Musical - WINNER
  • Best Direction of a Musical - WINNER
  • Best Choreography - nominated
  • Best Orchestrations - WINNER
All in all (as I expected), The Book of Mormon cleaned up at the awards.  But surprisingly, the part that I was actually really impressed with, the leading actors, did not win.  The production team did much better than the cast as far as awards are concerned.

I had heard about this show while it was still in London, but never looked into.  The movie was OK and I expected that they could make a good show out of it, but I didn't know if they were going to or not, so I waited.  In case you don't know, it's based off of the movie with the same title starring Whoopi Goldberg.  The premise is: a Vegas showgirl witnesses a murder and is put in a convent by the witness protection program.  She ends up teaching the nuns to sing "Vegas style" and her street skills end up advancing the convent and drawing attention to herself (she apparently doesn't understand the concept of the witness protection program).  The show ended up being one of the better performances of the evening and an all around cool show.  But we didn't hear from it much. It was only nominated for a few awards and it too didn't win any.  Honestly, except for it's performance and the nomination for best actress (which I believe they would've won had it not been for Sutton Foster), we kind of forgot that it existed.  It would probably be a good show, but it's appearance at the Tony Awards didn't really command my attention enough to look into it very much.
It was nominated for five Tony Awards but didn't win any:

  • Best Musical - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Patina Miller) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Victoria Clark) - nominated
  • Best Book of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theater - nominated
I'm glad Allen Menken is still doing shows, but this one seemed kind of drowned out by the rest of the shows (even the plays) that seemed more interesting.

And that is all the original shows.  Personally I thought that this was a very good year for original musicals.  Certainly better than last year.  It wasn't quite as good as the year before that (because it's hard to compete with Next to Normal, Billy Elliot, and Shrek at the same time), but it was still a really fun year.  All of these shows (except Book of Mormon) I would suggest to anyone (Book of Mormon is only for those not easily offended). 

If you have any thoughts on the Tony Awards that I left out be sure to let me know about it and we can chat about it. And remember to be on the look out for the other installments of my Tony Award rant.