Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tony Awards 2012 (Part I: Original Musicals)

Greetings readers.  As I'm sure you all know, last Sunday was arguable the most important day in theater since, well, the Tony Awards last year.  It was a night filled with orphans, cripples, con artists, and, of course, Neil Patrick Harris.  As always, I loved every minute of the awards (even though a lot of them didn't go my way).  In case you missed the awards, you need to see them while you still have the chance ( but if you don't want to spend that kind of time, then I'll try to give you the "brief" recap.  So, let's talk about the four original musicals nominated for best musical (I'm going to try to have 5 installments, but that didn't work out last year, so we'll see).  There was a lot of good shows this year, as you will soon see.


Coming into this years awards Newsies was the musical I was picking to win most everything.  It might just be the crowd I hang out with, but it seemed like the buzz was overwhelming.  For a show that came out of nowhere they received a ton of nominations.  The show is based off of the 1992 Disney movie of the same title about a bunch of "scrappy newsboys" who band together and show the newspaper tycoons of New York the power of the underdog.  Although the original movie was a box-office flop, it was adopted by a cult following (including myself) and people everywhere have been waiting years for this to come to Broadway.  The journey this show took is really a rather miraculous one.  At first they were just going to copy and paste the movie onto the stage to make a production good enough for highschools to perform, then Alan Menken (the composer of the original film, and a recipient of several TONY's) convinced Disney to let him make it a real show.  They figured they'd change some things around in the plot line, hired Harvey Fierstein (A TONY winning actor) to write the script and gave it a trial run at New Jersey's Papermill Playhouse and had such a great reception that a Broadway transfer was announced.  Then the got to perform on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and what was a limited engagement became a TONY nominated open run.   Fittingly, the underdog show did what is hardly ever done.    And it almost went all of the way. It boasts the talent of Broadways newest discovery Jeremy Jordan, fan favorite Andrew Keenan-Bolger, and a host of young men making their Broadway debut. As for their TONY performance, I had seen it before, this song was performed on the View before the show opened, and I've listened to the soundtrack countless times, so I wasn't blown away this time, but if you haven't seen it before, then I think you will be because it's pretty amazing:

Newsies was nominated for 8 Awards and won 2:
  • Best Musical - nominated
  • Best Book of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Original Score (Music and/or lyrics) Written for the Theater - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Jeremy Jordan) - nominated
  • Best Direction of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Choreography - WINNER
  • Best Orchestrations - nominated
  • Best Scenic design of a musical - nominated
The Awards it won didn't really surprise me much.  It was a shoe in for best Choreography, and didn't have much competition for best score (it was either them, a play, or a Frank Wildhorn show, which would've just killed to nominators to choose).  What surprised me more was what it didn't win.  I thought it had a good shot at best book (because it was SUCH an improvement from the movie) and leading actor (because Jeremy Jordan definitely has all the teenagers going crazy).  And it was honestly my pick for best musical, because I felt like it was the most well rounded show out there.  But, to be honest, I'm not that disappointed. I'm still proud of how far it came, and I'm sure it will be a fan favorite on Broadway for a long time yet.

Once had the most nominations of any show this year, which usually means it has the best likelihood of taking everything home.  And that's pretty much what happened.  It was based off of the 2006 indi-film of the same title about the "healing power of music".  This movie was also an underdog story (going from an unknown film to winning an Oscar for best song) but the Broadway production was a favorite.  What caught the eye of the nominators was predominantly its unique staging.  In the show, the actors and the orchestra are  one and the same.  Now, this has been done before (Company 2006 revival and Sweeney Todd 2005 revival) but what made this interesting is there was a reason for the instruments to be there.  The actors/musicians didn't just fade into the background as they played; their characters were musicians so they played in character while taking part in the story telling.  This coupled with it's emotional songs, it's understated, touching story line, and it's talented cast led it to become the biggest winner of the night.  The song they performed at the TONY's happens to be my favorite from the production (it's always nice when that happens).  It's a beautiful song exceptionally sung, but the part that I liked the best was the stomp at 2:36 and the dude who danced with a Cello.  That's impressive!  Take a look:
ONCE was nominated for 11 Awards and won 8 of them:
  • Best Musical - WINNER
  • Best Book of a Musical - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Steve Kazee) - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Cristin Milioti) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Elizabeth A. Davis) - nominated
  • Best Direction of a Musical - WINNER
  • Best Choreography - nominated
  • Best Orchestrations - WINNER
  • Best Scenic Design of a Musical - WINNER
  • Best Lighting Design of a Musical - WINNER
  • Best Sound Design of a Musical - WINNER
I must say that I'm actually ok with ONCE's wins as well.  What I didn't like about the show was the score (which wasn't even nominated) and I wasn't a big fan of Ms. Milioti.  With this in mind, I think it deserved most every award it one.  I kinda wanted a few of the technical awards (Lighting, Set, and Sound design) to go to other shows, but those weren't a really big deal.  This is the show I left wanting to see the most.  Because, like Billy Elliot in 2009, I know it's great, but not for the Soundtrack; which means I need to see it live.  Although Mr. Kazee was actually my third pick for best actor (sorry Steve) it was a really REALLY close race, and his acceptance speech was so good that I'm now glad he one.  As I said, I wouldn't have piked it for best musical, but whenever score and musical go to separate shows, then that means that there's something that I haven't seen that makes the show great, so I'm at peace with that too.

Nice Work If You Can Get It
I don't get it.  I just don't know why this show was nominated for so much!  It looks to me like a campy comedy with dramatic, ill fitting music.  And, although I love Mathew Broderick, it was creepy seeing him as a 60-year-old playboy.  I feel like it had some good aspects, but they seemed to be arranged wrong.  The show's score is a collection of songs by George and Ira Gershwin, and that's one strike against them from the start.  Not that I don't appreciate the Gershwins, but I far prefer music written for a specific show than a "jukebox musical" as I've heard them called.  Not that there haven't been several successful shows like this (Rock of Ages, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia, and American Idiot just to name a few), but I always thought that they were a bit cheap and shouldn't really count.  I get how it's a "tribute" to the musicals of old with the high-kicking, scantily clad showgirls and such, but I have a secret I LIKE THE NEW MUSICALS!  In my eyes, the raw emotion of In the Heights, Next to Normal, and RENT far surpasses anything that Rodgers and Hammerstein could crank out.  I feel like this show was kind of like a Disney channel movie: preying upon peoples love of certain actors, songs and settings to take their money without giving them a legitimate show. Now, I haven't seen the show yet, nor even listened to the entire soundtrack, so I'm certainly no expert, but nothing I've seen of the show compels me to to become one.  Including their TONY performance (although the log rolling thing was kind of cool...I wanna try that):
Nice Work If You Can Get It was nominated for 10 Awards and won 2 of them:
  • Best Musical - nominated
  • Best Book of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Kelli O'Hara) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (Micheal McGrath) - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Judy Kaye) - WINNER
  • Best Direction of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Choreography - nominated
  • Best Orchestrations - nominated
  • Best Costume Design of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Sound Design of a Musical - nominated
Despite it's massive amount of nominations, Nice Work didn't really win much.  The two who did win weren't my first choices, but they weren't in particularly competitive categories, so I wasn't that broken up.  Honestly most of my picks for best Featured actor and actress (such as Melissa Van der Schyff [Bonnie & Clyde], Lindsey Mendez [Godspell], and Patrick Page [Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark]) weren't even nominated, so I didn't have high hopes for those categories either way.

Leap of Faith
Leap of Faith is the show I want to know about.  I can't find a soundtrack (although I know one was recorded), and it's already closed, so it's really tough to find much info about it.  But I am a fan of Raul Esparza (a good friend of mine), Alan Menken, and I'm getting to like young Talon Ackerman as well.  Even though it really got snubbed when it came to nominations (it got more than Godspell but less than Bonnie & Clyde), and the reviews weren't particularly positive, I believe that it might have been a bit of a diamond in the rough.  Once someone posts the soundtrack on the Internet I'll have more of an opinion, but as of now, I remain simply intrigued.  Their TONY performance, although not spectacular, was one of the best of the night.  It showed that this show too was well rounded with great actors, good songs, impressive choreography, and gripping subject matter.  I feel that this performance, though not exceptional, proved that they deserved to be nominated.  See for yourself:
Leap of Faith was only nominated for 1 Award and it did not win.
  • Best Musical - nominated
What can I say?  It probably wasn't good enough for best musical.  But I'm glad it was nominated, and I wish it could've been nominated for a bit more.

All in all, not bad.  Once and Newsies were the best shows, and they had the most wins...can't really complain.  I felt that of the four TONY Awards I've seen in their live, this was 3rd (Better than 2010, but not as good as 2011 or 2009).  What do you think?  Is ONCE really not that great?  Is "Nice Work" better than I gave it credit for?  If you comment then I will read it and I promise to respond.  Also, be sure to vote on the poll in the top left and tell me what you think.  On that note, you voted Newsies the performance you most wanted to see perform.  Did it live up to your expectations?  I'll post the rest of the info about the TONY's in the coming days.

Until then,

When first I appear I seem mysterious, but when explained I'm nothing serious!



  1. Which Tony win (besides Newsies) were you most dissapointed about?

  2. Well, as I said, Newsies didn't really crush me because I do love ONCE as well. I think the biggest disappointment of the night to me was Clybourne Park winning best play. I wasn't shocked, (the Pulitzer it had won earlier kind of tipped me off that it might win) but I would've loved to see Peter and the Starcatcher win. And it would've been cool if Bonnie & Clyde won best score, but I knew it wasn't going to, so my hopes weren't up on that. And, to be honest, Newsies might have deserved it more.