Friday, May 25, 2012

Luke's Reviews: Finding Nemo

Generally speaking, I don't review professional shows because I don't have enough to critique.  After seeing Wicked at the Fox, or Into The Woods at the Alliance, I knew I couldn't write an interesting review because it would just be finding a different way to say "THIS WAS SO AMAZING I'M SO GLAD I SAW IT I'M ABOUT TO DIE FROM SHEER AWESOME-NESS" every time.  But a few days ago I got a chance to see a professional show that I did LOVE but I left with several critiques, so I figured I'd review it to educate any readers who might have a chance to see it.  So without further ado, here's my review of Disney's Finding Nemo: The Musical:

ABOUT THE SHOW:
Finding Nemo: The Musical came to my attention through the internet.  Kate Wetherhead (star and co-writer of Broadwayworld.com's web-series Submissions Only and friend of blogger extraordinaire Andrew Keenan-Bolger) was a part of the original cast, so I knew it existed and had seen a few very impressive video clips.  For those of you who don't know (don't feel bad, almost nobody knows about this show), Finding Nemo: The Musical is a forty minute musical show that runs several times a day at Disney's "Animal Kingdom" in Orlando Florida.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to be seeing an original Disney musical (seeing as I've heard and loved the entire soundtrack of every show they've ever put on Broadway), so I knew it was going to be one of the highlights of my vacation.  I wasn't disappointed.  I loved every minute of it and proceeded to walk right out of the theater and buy the cast album (featuring Kate Wetherhead and Stephanie D'Abruzzo [Avenue Q & I Love You Because]) which (as my family can attest) played non-stop in our van for the remainder of our trip.  The show was marvelous, entertaining, fun for the whole family, and a "must see" for any musical lover who finds themselves in Disney World.  But that's not to say that it's perfect.

SHOW SPECIFICS:

  • Got No Strings To Hold Them Down-- Like many other shows Disney has produced (especially Lion King), the best part about it was the visual spectacle it provided.  All of the characters were portrayed as puppets, which was an excellent choice for this show.  Since the whole show takes place underwater, having the characters virtually floating in mid air proved to be a splendidly lovely effect.  Of course, there were rods attaching them to their handlers, but it didn't take long for the audience to become completely oblivious to these "anchors".  I also really appreciated the variety of the puppets used (no, there were no marionettes).  These ranged from what looked like an umbrella painted up to look like a puffer fish, to a monstrous Sea Turtle that took a team of people to control, to magnificently beautiful Jellyfish created with poles and ribbons.  The versatility in the puppetry rivaled that of even The Lion King,
  • Their Strongest Suit--I also liked how all the puppeteers were in costume.  Like in Avenue Q, (Broadway's less family friendly puppet show) you found yourself watching the puppeteer as much as the puppet because they were acting through both mediums simultaneously.  Their costumes matched the vibrant colors of the fish they were representing and helped carry the magic of the story to the next level.
  • Under The Sea--The set was just about as spectacular as the costumes and puppets were.  There wasn't much that was permanent, because the majority of the stage was filled up by the puppets that the cast brought on and off frequently, but the general build of the stage provided a set in itself.  The stage was outlined by "bubbles" with television screens in them that they used to entertain the younger audience members before the show (giving them the chance to "find Nemo" as he swam in one "bubble" and out the other) and help set the scene during the show.  The screen that made up the backdrop of the show was convenient occasionally, but I saw it as  a bit of a crutch that they sometimes leaned too heavily on.  I understand them using it to continue a scene that they had already set up on the stage (such as making the sharks' field of "balloons" seem endless), but when they used it to make up an entire set, or, even worse, to show an entire character and thereby reduce the show by one puppet, I was disappointed.  But they made good use of the aisles of the theater, and got to play with platforms (which I always love), so all in all it was a pretty OK set.
  • Music Of The Night--I have mixed feelings about their score.  On the one hand, it tells the story and was good enough to be stuck in my head for several days after seeing it.  On the other hand, it really only has one or two real songs in it.  So many of the songs were under a minute long and felt more like a poem being spoke to music.  There were "lyrics" that barely rhymed and didn't follow a clear melody.  The creative team did a good job deciding which moments to set to music and which to leave to dialog, but with only 40 minutes, they didn't really have time to create real musical numbers.  This is the main reason that the show (as it is) couldn't succeed on a larger stage, like Broadway.  The score is so choppy, and so unrefined that it leaves anyone who knows what good musical theater should sound like feeling empty.  As Lt. Frank Coffee would say: it's "kinda lack luster.  It lacks.........luster".  The one exception to this disappointing trend is Crush the turtle's show-stopping number: Go With The Flow.  This is one of the few songs that the song writers saw fit to flesh out in it's completion.  And, although I believe with more time the song could be improved upon to make it even better, the song itself has a wonderful quality to it.  It's the kind of song that's so impressive you can't sing it (because it takes a crazy good singer to pull it off), but so catchy you try anyway (other songs like this include "Heaven On Their Minds" from Jesus Christ Superstar, and "Oh Bless The Lord" from Godspell).  Suffice to say, my parents are sick of me playing it on repeat in the car, but I still can't get over it.  Unfortunately, "Go With The Flow" is the exception, and not the rule.  Although there are pieces of songs that show potential, such as "Big Blue World" and "We Swim Together", in their current state, they're not ready to be considered real musical theater songs.
  • Just Like You--There have been many movies that made the jump to Broadway shows, and the most successful ones are not the ones that try to copy and paste the movie onto a stage, but instead try to take inspiration from the story and tell it in a whole new way.  This was not one of Nemo's strong suits.  I know they wanted to make a lot familiar to the young audiences they were playing to, but it just felt like every single scene was directly ripped from the movie and occasionally had identical dialogue.  Since they were crunched on time I see why they did it this way, but if they want to make the jump to Broadway, then they really ought to consider adding some diversity.
  • The People In The Picture--Unfortunately, Disney did not provide us with a program to the show, so I don't have a cast list and thereby can't systematically run through the cast in painstaking detail like I usually do (I know you're all very upset, but don't worry, the Tony's are coming up and you can read my long, rambling, boring posts then).  So I will attempt to cover the cast as briefly and completely as I can.
    • Marlin was really well done.  He didn't get a chance to let his voice really shine, but his acting was right on and he was a good rock that the audience could turn back to.  I've officially decided that as soon as George Salazar leaves Godspell on Broadway (which I hope he never will), he needs to play this role.  His voice, and even his appearance are so much like the character it's scary.
    • Nemo was played by a young woman in her mid twenties.  But even this wasn't that obvious (I wasn't sure until she hit some of those high notes later in the show) because of her childlike acting and some clever costuming.  She seemed inclined to lean on her falsetto or "head voice" a bit more than I would like, but I feel like she captured the essence of Nemo well, and that's what's important.
    • Dory was hysterical.  She was brilliantly casted and did a fantastic job!  I didn't watch the puppet very much for Dory because the range of emotions she has to express is just too vast to be displayed on the fixed face of a puppet, but the actress did an excellent job of conveying the emotion through her body language and her voice.  Her comedic timing and general carefree air  were really a highlight of the show.
    • Crush the Turtle was AMAZING!  He definitely had the best song in the show, so that made it sound like he had the best voice (whether he did or not I'm not really sure).  Crush's puppet was kind of boring, it was really big and therefore didn't move much, but I just couldn't get over this guys' voice!  Definitely the best moment in the show.
    • Bruce the Shark did a really good job actually.  He was another one of those actors where you could look at the puppet or the actor and be equally entertained.  His line delivery was good, but sometimes I wished he'd take some more risks, his lines sounded like a complete copy from the movie.
  • They Swim Together--As can be expected, the ensemble was spectacular.  There was a lot of double casting, so you didn't really get to connect with any of the characters other than the ones I mentioned above, but all of the actors did a great job.  The show was at it's strongest when the stage was full and the audience was overwhelmed by the spectacle of it all.  The ensemble made that happen, so they get loads of credit.
CONCLUSION
The show is really something special.  It's based off of one of the most beloved animated movies of our time, and shows great potential.  If a full length version ever does come out and they remember to stray from the movie, then I imagine it will be a big hit (at least as much as family shows ever are) on Broadway.  If any of you ever go to Disney World in Orlando be sure to stop by Animal Kingdom and catch this remarkable show, and then come back and tell me what you thought about it.  I'd love to hear your opinions.  Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tony Awards 2012 Nominations

As the years progress, I get more and more proactive in my following of the Tony Awards.  From 2009 when I just happened to hear they were on the day before, to last year when I looked up the nominees about a month in advance, to this year, where I woke up early and didn't study for my Calculus final to watch live as Kristin Chenoweth and Jim Parsons announced the nominations.  And (although we'll see when I get my Calc grade back) I think that this was a great decision and will become a tradition.  But since I'm assuming most of you didn't feel like waking up early to watch, I will give you my "completely unbiased" assessment of this years nominations by category (instead of by show).   So here they are (my favorites will be in bold):



Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play:
Linda Edmond --Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Spencer Kayden--Don't Dress for Dinner
Celia Keenan-Bolger--Peter and the Starcatcher
Judith Light--Other Desert Cities
Condola Rashad--Stick fly

Peter and the Starcatcher is one of my new favorite plays ever to appear on Broadway.  It's absolutely hysterical, wonderfully inventive, and has some amazing talent.  I fell in love with Celia when she was in "Spelling Bee" (Olive Ostrovsky), and it was cool to see her play a little kid again.  I sincerely hope she wins.  I've also seen videos of Stick fly and Don't Dress for Dinner, so I know that those actresses did a pretty good job.  But (at least from what the videos showed) neither of them had much to do, and therefore weren't in the highlights much.  Although I'm sure they had a strong performance, I'll be disappointed if one of them takes it instead of Celia.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play:
Christian Borle--Peter and the Starcatcher
Micheal Cumpsty--End of the Rainbow
Tom Edden--One Man, Two Governors
Andrew Garfield--Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Jeremy Shamos--Clybourne Park

Christian Borle is one of the funniest humans on the planet.  He was good in Legally Blonde (for which he was also nominated), but he absolutely tears down the house in Peter and the Starcatcher.  I hope Celia wins best actress, but I KNOW that Christan will take best actor.  I haven't seen much from the other nominees (Jeremy Shamos and Tom Edden were pretty good in the videos I saw), but I just can't imagine anyone being able to top Christian!  If anyone else wins, I will not only be disappointed, I will be justifiably angry!

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical:
Phillip Boykin--The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
Michael Cerveris--Evita
David Allen Grier--The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
Micheal McGrath--Nice Work if You Can Get It
Josh Young--Jesus Christ Superstar

This category was really a disappointment to me.  I would've liked to see Claybourne Elder nominated for Bonnie & Clyde, or one of the several fantastic men in Godspell (Nick Blaemire and Wallace Smith come to mind), or one of the newsies (Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Ben Frankhauser), or even Patrick Page for "Spiderman".  That's not to say that there aren't some talented men here, but I was just a bit disappointed.  My pick is David because he was pretty good in the highlight video and I've read interviews and stuff and it sounds like he really captured his character well.  I'm a fan of Micheal Cerveris from his work in Sweeney Todd and Assassins (he does like his revivals), but his work in Evita just didn't do much for me.  And Josh Young has got a lot of hype on line (so I wouldn't be surprised if he won), but his Judas just wasn't as impressive as many of the others that I've seen.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical:
Elizabeth A. Davis--Once
Jayne Houdyshell--Follies
Judy Kaye--Nice Work if You Can Get It
Jessie Mueller--On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
Da'vine Joy Randolf--Ghost: The Musical


Once again, I was disappointed by the distinct lack of Godspell nominations (a theme you will see throughout this entire post), There is little doubt in my mind that Lindsey Mendez deserved a nomination for her performance.  I'm almost as disappointed that Melissa Van De Schyff wasn't nominated for her performance in Bonnie and Clyde.  Her and Claybourne (her husband in the show) were so much fun to watch./listen to together, and Broadway.Com's pre-nomination picks got my hopes up before watching them crash down.  There's also a lot of people wondering why Elaine Page wasn't nominated for her role in Follies; for a show with so many nominations, a lot of it's favorites didn't do very well.  That's my rant on who wasn't nominated, as to who was, there were some surprises here too.  Jessie Mueller was the only one nominated from her show, and from what I read, she deserved the nomination.  Elizabeth Davis's nomination came as a shock to everyone!  The thing about Once (much like Godspell actually) is that it's so ensemble based, you wish you could nominate the entire cast as a supporting actor/actress (The TONY's REALLY need a best Ensemble category).  So the fact that Elizabeth was plucked out of that ensemble (she doesn't even have a solo in the show as far as I know) is a bit dumbfounding.  I'm voting for Da'vine because she definitely does have a good voice, and she's super funny in her line delivery (at least the ones you can hear from the soundtrack).

Best Direction of a Play:
Nicholas Hytner--One Man, Two Governors
Pam MacKinnon--Clybourne Park
Mike Nichols--Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Roger Rees and Alex Timbers--Peter and the Starcatcher

Roger and Alex get my vote for this show because they're staging is so inventive and unusual.  The way they took a (relatively) normal script and turned it into a one of a kind spectacle is really outstanding.  I have a tough time seeing any of the other nominees wining.  I have no doubt that the directing was good (at least the clips of the shows I've seen are all excellent), but there's just not as much room for creativity in those kind of shows.

Best Direction of a Musical:
Jeff Calhoun--Newsies
Kathleen Marshall--Nice Work if You Can Get It
Diane Paulus--The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
John Tiffany--Once


I'm voting for Once for the same reason I'm voting for "Starcatcher".  Even though I think Newsies is the better show (as is Godspell), the staging for Once is unique and inventive, and deserves praise.  I feel like any director who's willing to break out of the mold and do something dangerous, and then succeeds with their risk, deserves to be rewarded.

Best Choreography:
Rob Ashford--Evita
Christopher Gattelli-Newsies
Steven Hoggett-Once
Kathleen Marshall--Nice Work if You Can Get It

There's really no contest.  I will be absolutely astounded if Newsies doesn't win this.  This is probably the best choreography to come to Broadway in YEARS!  There have been critics who said that the sharp and occasionally classical style of some of the dances don't fit in with the rough, dirty characters of the newsies, but even they can't deny that Gattelli's work is a true thing of beauty!

Best Orchestrations:
William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke--The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
Bill Elliot--Nice Work if You Can Get It
Martin Lowe--Once
Danny Troob--Newsies

This was a tough one for me.  I feel like, of these nominees, Newsies made the best use of the voices (harmonies, singing on top of each other, etc.), but I don't know if that counts as orchestrations or not.  In the end I gave it to the show I thought used their literal orchestra the best, and that is Once.  It should be noted however, that Godspell really should have been nominated this one too.  It's orchestrations were significantly different from the previous versions and I loved each and every one of the new renditions.  Even if it's revival status meant it wasn't up for best soundtrack (because it wasn't new) I think it should have been nominated for best orchestrations.  But the real story here is that there's someone who works on Broadway named Bill Elliot.......Who wants to bet all of his friends call him Billy?

Best Scenic Design of a Play:
John Lee Beatty--Other Desert Cities
Daniel Ostling--Clybourne Park
Mark Thompson--One Man, Two Governors
Donyale Werle--Peter and the Starcatcher


This was a bit of a tough one (between "Starcatcher" and "One Man").  You see, if you've seen any of the videos for Peter and the Starcatcher then you know that it's not a conventional set.  It's so unusual that I don't know what to make of it.  If this counts as a set then it gets my vote, if not then I'll vote for One Man, Two Governors because I felt like it had the most seamless transitions from place to place (Clybourne Park took place in one room the whole show).

Best Scenic Design of a Musical:
Bob Crowley--Once
Rob Howell and Jon Driscoll--Ghost: The Musical
Tobin Ost and Sven Ortel--Newsies
George Tsypin--Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark

This category is much more interesting than usual.  I have no doubt that if most of these shows were in a different year, they would win hands down, but this has just been a year of inventive sets for musicals.  Once had a cool kind of circular set, Newsies made good use of scaffolding, but the front runners for this are by far "Ghost" and "Spiderman".  Both of these shows pulled stunts never seen on Broadway before, both are billed as visual spectacles.  Both shows were wonderfully impressive, and honestly should be recognized, so I cheated and voted for both of them.  "Spiderman"'s aerial acts (check out videos to "bouncing off the walls") and "Ghost"'s video magic (yes, he walks through a train) are pretty both pretty revolutionary.

Best Costume Design of a Play:
William Ivey Long--Don't Dress for Dinner
Paul Tazewell--A Streetcar Named Desire
Mark Thompson--One Man, Two Governors
Paloma Young--Peter and the Starcatcher


I know you're probably tired of seeing me choose Peter and the Starcatcher for everything, but it's because it is just so different.  And, this actually follows a legitimate trend.  On the whole, fantasy shows (such as "Shrek", who won in 2009) have had more success in this category than the ones that take place exclusively on  regular old earth.  Every other show in this category is restricted by what actual human beings would wear, so they don't have the option of putting a 250 pound man in a mermaid costume made of beer cans and mustard bottles (I'm not even joking) like "Starcatcher" did.

Best Costume Design of a Musical:
Gregg Barnes--Follies
ESosa--The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
Eiko Ishioka--Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark
Martin Pakledinaz--Nice Work if You Can Get It

Again, no contest.  Although some of the villains had costumes that were a bit over the top, it is still ridiculously impressive stuff.  We all should've known that Julie Taymor can't do a show without spectacular costumes, and I would be pretty shocked if Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark didn't win.

Best Lighting Design of a Play:
Jeff Croiter--Peter and the Starcatcher
Peter Kaczorowski--The Road to Mecca
Brian MacDevitt--Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Kenneth Posner--Other Desert Cities

Here's one that I don't really have strong feelings for, because for the most part, lighting design is very boring.  There is very little in this years shows that I would call new, or even unusual.  I ended up giving my vote half-heartily to The Road to Mecca because of it's use of candlelight.  Obviously, the stage is illuminated by stage lights, but seeing as light is a symbolic theme of the show, the stage is covered with them, which (when not drowned out by the stage lights) produces an, if nothing else, interesting effect.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical:
Christopher Akerlind--The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
Natasha Katz--Follies
Natasha Katz--Once
Hugh Vanstone--Ghost: The Musical


I chose "Ghost" because the lighting was almost as much part of the visual special effects as the set was.  By playing with lights, they skewed perceptions on transparency, and reality.  Obviously, since stage lighting can only do so much, it was more symbolism than anything else, but I think, considering the relatively boring alternatives, it deserves the TONY.  But, I must give props to Natasha Katz for being nominated twice...that's pretty cool!

Best Sound Design of a Play:
Paul Arditti--One Man, Two Governors
Scott Lehrer--Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Garret Owen--End of the Rainbow
Darron L. West--Peter and the Starcatcher

I honestly don't know what this award is for.  I know that soundtrack is a different category, so I can only assume that this is for sound effects and stuff.  Unfortunately none of the videos I've seen or article's I've read mention the sound design at all, so I have absolutely nothing to go on.  So, since I voted for two shows for "Best Scenic Design of a Musical", I'll just not vote for this one.

Best Sound Design of a Musical:
Acme Sound Partners--The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
Clive Goodwin--Once
Kai Harada--Follies
Brian Ronan--Nice Work if You Can Get It

Once again, I have no idea what this is for.  But apparently Acme Sound Partners has been working Broadway shows for years and hasn't one yet (although it was nominated for In the Heights and the most recent Hair revival), so I thought I'd let it have the Tony this time.

Best Book of a Musical:
Douglas Carter Beane--Lysistrata Jones
Harvey Fierstein--Newsies
Joe DiPietro--Nice Work If You Can Get it
Enda Walsh--Once

Because the Soundtrack is my main window into these spectacular shows, It's hard for me to choose who gets best book (so this isn't one of my more informed decisions).  But I do know that all of these (with the exception of Lysistrata Jones, which I really don't like the premise of) are adaptations from previous works. With that in mind, I feel like Harvey Fierstein did a great job of keeping the story of Newsies, but fixing many of the things that made the movie flop (changing Denton to a girl, making Jack an artist, giving Crutchie more of a role, etc.).  I haven't had a chance to see enough to know much about the book of the other shows, but since I have the information about Newsies, I think that's the one I'm most impressed with.

Best Original Score Written for the Theater:
Frank Wildhorn & Don Black--Bonnie & Clyde
Alan Menken & Jack Feldman--Newsies
Grant Olding--One Man, Two Governors
Wayne Barker & Rick Elice--Peter and the Starcatcher

Generally speaking, the best score usually has the same nominees as the best Musical (because I feel like a score has a LOT to do with a show's success).  However, this year, only one show made it into both categories (four guesses as to which show that was).  Obviously Newsies was a shoo-in, but I thought there was a rule in the Tony Awards guide that said Frank Wildhorn couldn't be nominated.  I hope they're finally appreciating what is definitely one of his best scores in a while (but I doubt he'll win).  But what's even more shocking to me is the inclusion of Peter and the Starcatcher and One Man, Two Governors which, if you've been paying attention you know, are plays.  I know that plays always have a backing track for set changes and stuff, and I even knew that both of these plays had songs in it (and with Peter and the Starcatcher's musical lead cast, I'm not really surprised), but the idea that the one or two songs in these shows could beat out the full blown musicals like Once and Leap of Faith (OR GODSPELL!!!!  Just kidding, I don't think they're eligible for this one......but they should be!) boggles my mind.  I gave it to Newsies because, although I love the Bonnie & Clyde soundtrack, and the Peter and the Starcatcher cast, Newsies really did have the best score.  It's arrangements, harmonies, lyrics, melodies, all of it is quality work, and I'm excited for it to be recognized.

Best Revival of a Play:
Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Gore Vidal's The Best Man
Master Class
Wit

All of these shows are good, but I give the award to Wit because I feel it has the better writing.  I know many theatrical purists will feel offended that I don't give Death of a Salesman credit for the classic that it is, but I'll tell you a secret, I don't generally like classics; they tend to bore me.  But Wit was sharp, and quick, obviously witty, and, like all of the nominees, brilliantly acted.  The Best Man had an all-star cast, but just seemed pretty boring, Master Class was probably pretty good, but I feel like the premise of the show just didn't pack the same punch as Wit.

Best Revival of a Musical:
Evita
Follies
The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
Jesus Christ Superstar
Godspell

Just kidding.  Godspell wasn't *sniff* nominated (BUT IT SHOULD HAVE WON!!!!!)  as it is, none of these nominees did much for me, mostly because none of the original shows did much for me.  Even though "Superstar" is my favorite show out of the four of them, I didn't really like the actors they got for the roles this time around (which is huge) and, as for the other three, I just don't like the shows that much.  I'll probably give my real pick to Porgy and Bess because, if you can get past the operatic singing, you can see a truly emotional performance from the entire cast.  All three of the top shows were packed with big names (Ricky Martin, Bernadette Peters, Audra McDonald, etc.) so I can't even base my decision on that.  And those big names continue onto the composers list.  Obviously the Gershwins are legend, but the rest of the nominees are from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Steven Sondheim.  I think it's wonderful that their music is still finding a voice in today's theaters.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play:
James Cordon--One Man, Two Governors
Phillip Seymour Hoffman--Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
James Earl Jones--Gore Vidal's The Best Man
Frank Langella--Man and Boy
John Lithgow--The Columnist

This was a really difficult choice to make.  Made harder by the fact that there was one very important name left off of this list:  Norbert Leo Butz.  Even though I'm not a huge fan of the show he was in this year (How I Learned to Drive), his character was terrifyingly real, and his performance was chilling. My previous bias tells me to vote for James Earl Jones (Darth Vader) or John Lithgow (Dick Solomon/Lawrence Jameson).  But James Cordon was pretty hilarious in One Man, Two Governors.  I feel like I probably enjoyed Cordon's performance the most, but that might be because I enjoy comedic writing, there definitely were parts of Cordon's acting that I would've done differently.  However, Jones (I read) just didn't do very well, and Lithgow had such subtlety in his character it's hard to be really impressed by just a highlight reel.  In the end, I went with my gut reaction, which was Cordon.  His physicality, and the delivery of his lines (once I got past his completely genuine accent) were inspired.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play:
Nina Arianda--Venus in Fur
Tracy Bennett--End of the Rainbow
Stockard Channing--Other Desert Cities
Linda Lavin--The Lyons
Cynthia Nixon--Wit


This one was between Cynthia and Tracy.  They both did excellent in their biographic portrayals of real women, and I believe that both were key to their respective show's success.  Both got rave reviews, but from my own personal viewing I enjoyed Nixon's performance more.  Something about the tone throughout the show was so....different.  Almost rebellious.  I don't know, I encourage my readers to watch a video (I'd suggest Broadway.com or Broadwayworld.com) and see if they can explain it to me.  But it was different, and I award different.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical:
Danny Burstein--Follies
Jeremy Jordan--Newsies
Steve Kazee--Once
Norm Lewis--The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
Ron Raines--Follies

All of these men are fantastic, so it's hard for me to just choose one of them.  I was already a fan of Lewis for his role in A Little Mermaid, and I thought he was stellar in Porgy and Bess, he made something that wasn't my style (opera) appealing to me.  Jeremy Jordan has such a killer voice that can't be ignored, but sometimes I wonder if he hams it up a bit too much, His accent is really heavy and some of the emotion in "Santa Fe" seems a bit contrived.  Steve Kazee has such a rich, soulful voice, but I have no clue how he acts.  And as for the Follies boys......well I haven't seen much of them on the highlights reels...so I'm going to assume they weren't that good compared to their co-stars.  I personally think their spots should've gone to Raul Esperanza [Leap of Faith] and Hunter Parrish [Godspell].  I finally gave my pick to Jeremy Jordan, because he was the one who played the role I couldn't see anyone else playing.  The quiet power of Porgy could be played by a Brian Stokes Mitchell, and the sultry crooning of Guy could be played by a number of Broadway's leading men (Hugh Jackman comes to mind), but I can't see anyone else pulling off the emotionally charged, dynamic character of Jack Kelly.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical:
Jan Maxwell--Follies
Audra MacDonald--The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
Cristin Milioti--Once
Kelli O'Hara--Nice Work if You Can Get It
Laura Ones--Bonnie and Clyde

Again, a pretty incredible lineup.  Everything from the quiet voice of Cristin, to the belting operatic power of Audra, from the seductive crooning of Laura, to the playful joviality of Kelli (once again, Follies didn't do much for me).  However, even with all of these fantastic ladies, there were some big players who were left off of this list.  I would've liked to see Kara Lindsey [Newsies], Jenifer Damiano [Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark], and if anyone was going to be nominated for Follies, I think it should've been Bernadette Peters.  All of the four ladies that I'm considering (Sorry Jan, you just landed in a show that doesn't appeal to me) had performances that relied SO heavily on the chemistry with their leading man, so it's hard to separate my love of the dudes (Norm Lewis, Steve Kazee, Mathew Broderick, and Jeremy Jordan) from this decision.  I especially want to congratulate Laura and Cristin from coming out of practically nowhere.  Audra and Kelli are already relatively accomplished actors, but no one had heard of Laura or Cristin before these performances.  Although I loved all of these performances, I gave the edge to Audra MacDonald.  I say this because she probably has the best voice in the group (barely in front of Laura Ones) and the emotion that oozes from her as she sings is breath taking.  But I will call Laura out as a runner up.  Her performance was pretty varied (she showed a wide range of emotions) and her and Jeremy probably top my list of favorite onstage pairs of the season.

Best Play:
Clybourne Park
Other Desert Cities
Peter and the Starcatcher
Venus in Fur

Betcha didn't see that one coming :)  I've said it before and I'll say it again, I've never seen anything like Peter and the Starcatcher!  It's writing is hilarious, it's staging is awe inspiring, it's cast is brilliant, even it's music is wonderful.  There is literally nothing not to like about this cataclysmaly fabulous production!  I'd probably give the distant second to Clybourne Park because, while being pretty funny itself, it has probably the strongest message of all of these shows.  PETER AND THE STARCATCHER ALL THE WAY!!!!

(and now the moment we've all been waiting for) Best Musical:
Leap of Faith
Newsies
Nice Work if You Can Get It
Once

Let me just point out that three of these for shows came out within the last month or so.  At the beginning of the year when Newsies wasn't on anybodies radar and we were still going on about Ghost: The Musical and Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, I don't think anyone could've seen this one coming.  But out of nowhere,these tremendous shows wowed everyone and sprang to the head of the pack.  Now, you haven't heard from Leap of Faith This entire post.  I can't tell you how unusual that a nominee for best musical is nominated for literally nothing else, but I guess that just goes to show you how competitive this season was. I've been able to hear some of the music from Leap of Faith and, as always, Raul Esperanza is brilliant, and Alan Menken's music complements him wonderfully.  I for one am glad it got the nomination.  Once also was a great addition to this season.  Although I have not yet seen the movie, I know that the music in this show is really hypnotizing, and, from what I can see, the energy on the stage is simply electric.  The cast seems very close (almost as close the cast of Godspell) and the magic the make on stage is a small scale kind of beautiful that you don't see in live theater too much.  Nice Work if You Can Get It is also a really great show.  I hadn't thought much of it for a long time (I thought it was a Revival for a long time), but I've come to appreciate it for it's quality acting and clever writing.  However, I just don't like the music and, for a musical, that's kind of a deal breaker for me.  This all leads up to the big winner that is Newsies!  I have been on the Newsies bandwagon almost before it existed!  When I first read the article that there was a workshop a few years ago I thought, "wow that'd be awesome!  I really hope that happens", and then I read that they were going to Papermill and I though, "THIS IS FANTASTIC!  Now in just a few years they should be on Broadway", and when they made the Broadway jump I began to jump up and down joyously and thought, "Look at me, I'm jumping up and down joyously".  I've had a blast watching this show progress all the way up here and I'm so glad that it's reached the top.  Everything from the brilliance of the movie, to the joy of Papermill, to the familiarity of the cast (I had already loved Jeremy from Bonnie & Clyde, Andrew from "Andrew's Blog", Jeff Calhoun from everything, and by a freak coincidence, I even know someone, who knows someone, who knows Ryan Bresling (apparently he used to live around here) which is awesome!), to their Macy's performance, to their Broadway opening I've been following like an obsessed fan-girl all the way through and, as cliche as it sounds, I'm truly proud of this show.  I know that their TONY performance will be electrifying, and I sincerely hope they win Best Musical and show the world that dreams do come true.

LUKE'S RECAP


Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman:
The critics seemed to like this show more than Luke did.  He found it kind of drab.  7 nominations. No "Luke's Choice"

Bonnie and Clyde:
Luke actually liked this more than the critics.  He was disappointed that the supporting actresses weren't nominated, but glad to see it get the nominations it did.  2 nominations.  No "Luke's Choice" (but was runner up both times).

Clybourne Park:
Luke thought that this show was "pretty funny" and had "the strongest message" of all the shows nominated for best plays, but it couldn't quite compete with Peter and the Starcatcher.  4 nominations. No "Luke's Choice" (but was runner up once).

The Columnist:
Luke thoroughly enjoyed John Lithgow's performance, but didn't think it could quite beat his competitor's because he "had such subtlety in his character it's hard to be really impressed by just a highlight reel".  1 nomination.  No "Luke's Choice" (but was runner up once).

Don't Dress For Dinner:
Luke liked the show and said he was sure the actors did a good job, but felt that it was confined in the box of realism and therefore wasn't as good as the more fanciful nominees.  2 nominations.  No "Luke's Choice"

End of the Rainbow:
Although Luke praised Tracy Bennet's performance, there wasn't enough about it to capture his attention.  3 nominations.  No "Luke's Choice" (but was runner up once).

Evita:
Luke praised members of the cast but claimed he just doesn't like the show that much.  3 nominations.  No "Luke's Choice"

Follies:
Luke didn't seem to like this show near as much as the critics did, this could be seen by his lack of intrigue from the show, even claiming that some of it's nominations were more deserved by other shows.  8 nominations.  No "Luke's Choice"

The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess:
Luke praised the all-star cast, but claimed that the operatic style didn't do much for him, but it was a strong contender in all of it's categories.  10 nominations.  4 "Luke's Choice".

Ghost:  The Musical:
Although Luke agreed that it shouldn't have been nominated where it wasn't, he felt that "Ghost" was strong in all of it's categories.  3 nominations.  2 1/2 "Luke's Choice".

Godspell:
WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?   *SOB* THIS SHOW DESERVED A MILLION NOMINATIONS!!!!!!!!!  0 nominations.  1 "Luke's Choice" 10,000,000 "Emily's Choice"

Gore Vidal's Best Man:
Although Luke praised the star presence of the cast (and questioned Angela Lansbury's lack of nomination), he found James Earl Jones performance underwhelming and implied that the show didn't do much for him.  2 nominations.  No "Luke's Choice"

Jesus Christ Superstar:
Although Luke is a fan of the show, he was disappointed with the shows cast, and that was enough to steal the award away to Porgy and Bess in all the nominated categories.  2 nominations.  No "Luke's Choice".

Leap of Faith:
Although it wasn't nominated for much, Luke felt that it deserved the nomination it received and then some.  1 nomination.  No "Luke's Choice".

The Lyons:
Unfortunately, what Luke saw of this show wasn't polarizing enough (in either direction) to compel him to comment on it.  1 nomination.  No "Luke's Choice".

Lyristata Jones:
Luke stayed away from this show stating that he "really didn't like the premise".  1 nomination.  No "Luke's Choice".

Man and Boy:
Luke was rather bored by his research into Man and Boy and therefore didn't feel that it warranted any mention.  1 nomination.  No "Luke's Choice".

Master Class:
Luke said of the show that it was "probably good, but just didn't pack the same punch" as some of it's fellow nominees.  1 nomination.  No "Luke's Choice".

Newsies:  
Newsies was one of Luke's favorite musicals out there winning some of the most key awards, and , in several places Luke felt, deserving some nominations that they didn't receive.  8 nominations.  5 "Luke's Choice".

Nice Work If You Can Get It:
Luke thought "Nice Work" was cute, and was impressed by it's cast, but just thought the show lacked any real power (to make laugh or cry). 10 nominations. No "Luke's Choice".

On A clear Day You Can See Forever:
Although Luke had heard good things about the show's featured actress, Miss Mueller, that wasn't enough to make the show a success for him.  1 nomination. No "Luke's Choice".

Once: 
Once led the Tony's this year with the most nomination, many of which Luke found they deserved.  He was impressed by their cast, their stage, their orchestrations, and everything in between.  11 nominations. 2 "Luke's Choice".

One Man, Two Governors:
One Man, Two Governors was one of the few shows that dared to challenge Peter and the Starcatcher with some success; it's star James Coden, Is what really carried the production.  7 nominations.  1 "Luke's Choice" (but was the runner up twice).

Other Desert Cities:
This show generally bored Luke, possibly because there's no really good, revealing videos of it on the Internet that he could find.  5 nominations.  No "Luke's Choice".

Peter and the Starcatcher:
"Starcatcher" is probably Luke's biggest winner of the night, from it's cast, to it's set, to it's direction, "there is literally nothing not to like about this cataclysmaly fabulous production"!  9 nominations. 6 "Luke's Choice".

The Road To Mecca:
Although the show itself didn't really do much for Luke, he agreed that the lighting was pretty cool, so it won it's nomination.  1 nomination.  1 "Luke's Choice".

Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark:
Although stating it's surprise (and slight disappointment) that "spiderman" wasn't nominated for more than it was, Luke rewarded it for the nominations it did have.  2 nominations.  1 1/2 "Luke's Choice".

Stick Fly:
Although Luke genuinely enjoyed everything he saw about the production (from the famous cast to the sharp writing), it wasn't enough to conquer "Starcatcher".  1 nomination.  No "Luke's Choice.

A Streetcar Named Desire:
This show was only nominated for best costumes......what does that tell you?  1 nomination.  No "Luke's Choice".

Venus in Fur:
Although Luke enjoyed parts of the show, and thought it deserved it's nominations, it wasn't a serious adversary to some of the other plays this year.  2 nominations.  No "Luke's Choice".

Wit:
Cynthia Nixon's performance in this show, coupled with the sharp and witty writing, was enough for it to sweep all the categories it was nominated for in Luke's eyes.  2 nominations.  2 "Luke's Choice".

CONCLUSION:

So all in all I have high hopes for this Tony Award season.  This years Awards will be absolutely magical (as always)  with Ballet dancing news boys, zany pirates, and (most importantly) NEIL PATRICK HARRIS!  Be sure to tune into CBS on Sunday June 10 at 8/7c to watch the awards unfurl, and then check back with me a few days later to see my thoughts on it.  If you have any disagreements with one of my picks, or think I didn't give someone a fair shot, feel free to comment; I'd love to learn of a great performance I missed.  Oh, and check the poll on the top right of the screen, thanks!