Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tony Awards 2012 (Part II: Musical Revivals)

The revivals this year all though more numerous, weren't as impressive as last years in my opinion.  They were chalked full of fabulous actors, but the shows themselves (content and staging) didn't do much for me.  However, they gave some great performances TONY night and helped create some of the best moments of the night, so I shall try to give them their due.  So, without further ado:

I honestly just don't understand the hype that has surrounded this show.  It was called by many one of the best revivals to hit Broadway stages in years, it had a talented star-studded cast (including Bernadette Peters), it was big and elaborate and flashy and..........boring.  To be fair, I don't know much about it, but that's because what I have read/seen just didn't interest me at all.  As I've said before, revivals have a bit of a disadvantage to me because I would much rather see a modern work than an old one, but often times revivals are some of my favorites because they find a way to make them new and relevant.  Follies was nominated quite a bit (8 times) and in my opinion stole their win and several of their nominations from more deserving shows (*cough Godspell cough*).  Even their performance was just boring.  It wasn't bad, but after hearing about all the glitz and glamour of the show, I was shocked to see them just throw out one balding man doing an average vaudeville number.  Not that he didn't perform it well, he did excellent, but the material was just hard to follow and (in case I haven't said it enough) boring.  Don't believe me?  See for yourself:
Follies was nominated for 8 Awards and won 1:
  • Best Revival of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Ron Raines) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Danny Burnstein) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Jan Maxwell) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Jayne Houdyshell) - nominated
  • Best Costume Design of a Musical - WINNER
  • Best Lighting Design of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Sound Design of a Musical - nominated
I was really disappointed to see Follies clogging up the nominations for their actors and actresses especially when people like my buddy Raul Esperanza  deserved it more.  The one award they did win (Costumes) I was convinced was going to Spiderman, and I'm honestly pretty shocked that it didn't.  Follies has closed already showing that it probably wasn't as popular with the fans as many of the others, which begs the question, did the TONY committee get it wrong?  I think so.

Jesus Christ Superstar
Now this show I feel exactly opposite as I do about Follies.  I felt like the material was good (Webber rarely makes a bad show) and it had the potential to be really great, but something about the actors and creative team just didn't click with me.  Their use of the video screen was pretty confusing (and a bit creepy) and their entire modern take on the show just didn't really work (for me at least).  Even their performance was a disappointment.  Judas obviously had a good voice, but he sounded too refined to play the role.  Some of the best Judas's (namely Carl Anderson and Ben Vereen) had this edge to their voice that let you hear Judas's passion, and this guy just seemed control.  I kind of liked the choreography of the backup singers, but catchy hand motions isn't enough to make the song successful.  I applaud their boldness in taking a classic show and putting a new spin on it, but unfortunately it just didn't work for me.  But maybe you'll feel differently, check out the performance:
Jesus Christ Superstar was nominated for 2 Awards and did not win either of them:
  • Best Revival of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role (Josh Young) - nominated
I'm glad that this show is being shown to a new generation, but I'm also glad that it didn't win either of its awards, because I don't think it deserved them.

The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
This show was strangely appealing to me.  Being based off old music, an opera no less, I didn't really want to like it very much.  And, at first I didn't, and then I saw Norm Lewis.  I saw how much he was putting into his character from the limp, to the singing, to the emotional acting and it made me want to pay attention.  Even Audra McDonald, although I couldn't understand a word of her singing, I felt the emotion and the power of the score.  The more I looked the more I began to love the entire cast with the comical David Allen Grier and the terrifying Philip Boykin.  Even though I find Opera a bit repelling, I still found a way to enjoy the show and the TONY performance.  If nothing else, there's nothing like seeing Audra McDonald deafen another child on stage (for those of you who don't get it, go watch a video of Audra in "Wheels of a Dream" from Ragtime). The costumes, choreography, talent, and subject matter all became so engaging and I truly enjoyed myself.  Let's see if it draws you in as much as it did me:
The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess was nominated for 10 Awards and won 2:
  • Best Revival of a Musical - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Norm Lewis) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Audra McDonald) - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (Phillip Boykin) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (David Alan Grier) - nominated
  • Best Direction of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Orchestrations - nominated
  • Best Costume Design of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Lighting Design of a Musial - nominated
  • Best Sound Design of a Musical - nominated
I am so glad that Audra won for best leading actress.  She now ties Julie Harris and Angela Lansbury for most Tony's held by an actress and none could be more deserving.  I'm certainly glad that Norm was nominated, and I feel like in another season he would've had a good chance, but I'm afraid the competition was just too great this year.  All of the other nominees I kind of understand (I don't like the fact that "Nice Work" won best Featured Actor, but I'm assuming McGrath deserved it).  So I think Porgy and Bess has plenty to be proud of and I'm pretty happy with its results.

I don't know why, but this has been one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's shows that I really don't know much about.  I've vaguely liked every song I've heard from it, but I've just never taken the time to really look into it much.  For that reason, I was excited to see the revival performance; it wasn't quite what I expected.  For one thing, Ricky Martin did a pretty good job, he had to follow some big names and I was worried about his movie star status landing him an undeserved role. But he actually did really good.  I felt that Evita really did deserve its nomination, and it was probably my second favorite (after Porgy and Bess) revival.  Despite my relative ambivalence towards the actual show, I got the impression that this was a really good production.  And a fantastic production of an ok show still makes for a great night on Broadway.  As for their TONY performance, I didn't really get the point of the song they did, but I suppose that's the hazard of listening to the music before learning the plot.  I would've liked to see Micheal Cerveris perform, just because I like most of what he's done before (He's known for playing Sweeney Todd and John Wilkes Booth in the Sweeney and Assassins revivals), or at least see Evita sing SOMETHING, but c'est la vie.  Here's the performance:
Evita was nominated for 3 Awards and did not win any of them:
  • Best Revival - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Roll in a Musical (Michael Cerveris) - nominated
  • Best Choreography - nominated
I feel like this show deserved all of its nominations, and was probably in the top two or three in all of them, but just couldn't quite take it home.  I feel like the TONY committee actually gave Evita exactly what it deserved.

So, not much of a year for the Revival's in my opinion.  They weren't horrible, but there was nothing there that really caught my eye.  A couple of fantastic actors, but not a lot of really good material in my opinion.  Next year I know we're getting Annie, Jekyll and Hyde (which might get snubbed because it's Wildhorn), and certainly a few other good shows, so I'm staying optimistic.
Do you think I was fair?  Did you like JC Superstar?  Can you explain to me the appeal to Follies?  Feel free to comment below.  And make sure you check out the poll in the top left and keep your eyes open for the rest of this year's TONY posts.

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