Monday, June 17, 2013

Tony Awards 2013 (Part II: Musical Revivals)

I'm not going to lie, the revivals were AWESOME this year!  In my opinion, we had a stronger set of revivals than we did original shows.  All of these revivals were inventive, creative, and (with the exception of Annie) timely.  They had some brilliant casts, some inspired creative decisions, and some incredibly entertaining performances!  Don't believe me?  See for yourself!

Ok, so, for those of you who were wondering, yes I do have a soul, I'm not a horrible vicious person, and I am beginning to feel a little bad for "hating" on Annie so much.  When I sat down and thought about it and watched Annie's Tony performance, I began to realize that the show really was put together very well.  It was well casted, well staged, and is generally a great show.  I have nothing against any of the actors or creative team, I thought they all did excellent!  The problem is, I just don't feel like there was a need to revive this show on Broadway.  I once read an article that said that, when you take out long-running shows (like The Lion King and "Phantom") and theaters only big enough for plays, there's only around 10 Broadway theaters open for new musicals to perform in.  This means that even good shows have to close prematurely, not because they're not making money, but because the theater is needed for a "better prospect."  With shows like Chaplin and The Mystery of Edwin Drood closing (at least partially) to make room for the next show coming in, I feel like Annie is just taking up space that Broadway doesn't have.  I mean, obviously it's doing fairly well since (as far as I know) it hasn't announced a closing date yet, but I feel like it's not worth the space it takes up.  Now, I actually feel this way about several shows (such as Rock of Ages and Jersey Boys) because I feel like they had their run and now it's time for them to move on.  What's special about Annie is that it's not a long running show, it's a (fairly recent) revival.  So why do I feel like it's "had it's run"? Because it's SO much like the original!!!   And what's more, everybody remembers the original!  It's not like Pippin where they took the show in a COMPLETELY different direction, or like The Mystery of Edwin Drood where they revived a show long since forgotten in the Broadway vault.  8 shows a week they don't surprise anybody and give a performance of the exact same Annie that people have had memorized for years.  Personally, I consider that an injustice, especially when new shows like Tuck Everlasting and Big Fish are being delayed because of theater availability.  Ok, enough ranting about that, onto their performance.  I actually really liked their performance.  I didn't understand why all the orphans had Brooklyn accents (but it's better than randomly giving them cockney accents, which I have seen before and makes even less sense), but aside from that I thought it was a solid performance.  The girls did really good, and then Jane Lynch comes out and blew me away!  I mean, I wasn't sure what to expect when she came out, but she definitely delivered (as soon as the performance I informed all my Tony Party guests "See what can happen when you leave Glee?!").  In my opinion, her performance is a strong argument for adding a "best replacement" category.  I am disappointed we didn't get to see Anthony Warlow (Daddy Warbucks) perform, but aside from that I thought the performance was great!  Do you agree?:
Annie was nominated for 1 Award and it did not win.
  • Best Revival of a Musical - nominated
Let's be honest, everybody kind of knew Annie wouldn't win.  I think the reason it wasn't nominated for anything else was because the categories it was strongest in (Anthony Warlow for Leading actor, Lila Crawford for leading actress, etc.) were all really strong categories.  So, once again, what killed Annie was timing.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood
I think it's no secret that I absolutely love "Drood" and I especially love this production!  They assembled a remarkably talented group of actors, had a really clever creative team, and it's just a darn good show!  I came across the show by watching some nominees in the Jimmy Awards, and I must say it has quickly risen to the status of one of my favorite shows.  The book is just SO clever!!!   The characters are vibrant, the dialogue witty, the plot "twisty" and the music...well, the music isn't the best, but it can still be quite catchy.  But what made this production really shine was the fact that they assembled such a BRILLIANT cast to be in this character driven show.  Ok, I'm going to give a long and wordy cast list, know that I had heard of each and everyone of these actors before they were in this show....that's how good this cast is!  Will Chase [RENT: Filmed Live on Broadway, Miss Saigon (replacement)], Stephanie J. Block [The Pirate Queen, 9 to 5], Jessie Mueller [On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Into the Woods (Shakespeare in the Park)], Jim Norton [The Seafarer, Finnian's Rainbow (2009 Revival)], Andy Karl [Altar Boyz (Off-Broadway), Legally Blonde], Betsy Wolfe [Everyday Rapture, The Last Five Years (Off Broadway 2013 Revival)], and the legendary Chita Rivera [West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Kiss of the Spider Woman].  Are you as impressed as I am?  Well you should be!  This ensemble was freakishly strong and they worked SO well together! I'm so sad the show had to close as soon as it did, but I am really glad that so many of the actors already have new shows lined up.  Unfortunately, since the show was closed and the producer's didn't want to pay for a slot, "Drood" wasn't able to perform at the TONY's (which outraged me).  However, they did give it some tribute by at least playing a highlight montage from the show.  Unfortunately, I can't find that montage on Youtube.  I did find another montage (this one's even a bit longer) but for some reason it wouldn't allow me to post the video on this page.  So just click here to be taken straight to the Youtube Link.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood was nominated for 5 Awards and did not win any.
  • Best Revival of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Stephanie J. Block) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (Will Chase) - nominated
  • Best Direction of a Musical (Scott Ellis) - nominated
  • Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Anna Louizos) - nominated
This is really a tough one, because I kind of agree in every individual category that "Drood" should've lost, but on the whole I'm not happy with the fact that it didn't win anything.  I think the best chance it had was in best supporting actor (because Will Chase did a superb job), but I'm honestly not that disappointed that Gabriel Ebert won.  I wish that this could've been called a "Tony Award Winning Production" because it was outstanding, but the competition was just too high this year.

I'm not going to lie, Pippin is my favorite production of the season.  It is the perfect example of taking good content and making it an even better show.  Obviously a ton of the success of the show can be given to it's original creators (Steven Schwartz and Bob Fosse especially), and of course the cast of this production (led by Patina Miller, Mathew Thomas, and Andrea Martin) share a lot of the credit as well.  But the MVP of this show is without a doubt director Diane Paulus!  She transformed this from a good show into a spectacle and, in my opinion, is the reason this show came out such a big winner at the awards.  I don't know if any plans of a tour have been announced yet (I feel like it'd be hard to tour with a show this huge and complicated) but I certainly hope that it at least runs for a long time, because I think as many people as possible need to see this production!  With all this in mind, it won't come as a huge surprise that Pippin had my favorite show performance of the evening.  I had even seen both of those songs before on various talk shows and I still ate up every second of it!  I just love the way that everything from the sweet solo moments like "Corner of the Sky", to the massive ensemble moments where there's a hundred different things going on like in "Magic To Do", Pippin finds away to be stunning!  I have little doubt you'll love this video as much as I did!  Behold (I apologize for the unfortunate thumbnail):
Pippin was nominated for 10 Awards and won 4.
  • Best Revival of a Musical - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Patina Miller) - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (Terrence Mann) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actres in a Featured Role in a Musical (Andrea Martin) - WINNER
  • Best Direction of a Musical (Diane Paulus) - WINNER
  • Best Choreography (Chet Walker) - nominated
  • Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Scott Pask) - nominated
  • Best Costume Design of a Musical (Dominique Lemieux) - nominated
  • Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Kenneth Posner) - nominated
  • Best Sound Design of a Musical (Jonathan Deans & Garth Helm) - nominated
There were not many surprises here.  Even though the design of the whole show was brilliant, it really would've had a hard time competing with Matilda, Cinderella, and the other powerhouses in the design categories.  I knew that Pippin would win Best Revival and I think everyone (who was paying attention) knew that Andrea Martin would win best Featured Actress.  In hindsight, I should've known that Diane Paulus would win Best Director (apparently everyone else did).  But the one that I think nobody saw coming was Patina Miller.  Everybody knew that would be a tight race, but just about everything I read (including my own judgement) gave the edge to Laura Osnes.  Now, I'm not disappointed that Patina won, I think she was fabulous in the role, but it did make for one of the biggest shocks of the evening!  But something pretty cool came from it, once again, Tony history was made.  This is the first time in history that both a man and a woman have won Tony's for playing the same role (as you can imagine, it doesn't come up often).   So all in all, Pippin came out really well, and I'm really thrilled for that!

Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
I'm afraid that perhaps I didn't give "Cinderella" it's fair due.   Since I never really liked the original Disney movie, and all the live productions I'd ever seen (including one I was in) didn't really do much for me.  However, throughout my Tony research and the Awards themselves have made me think perhaps this is a truly excellent show.  It definitely has a stellar cast (led by Laura Osnes [Bonnie & Clyde, Grease (2007 Revival)], Santino Fontana [Billy Elliot, The Importance of Being Earnest (2011 Revival)], and Victoria Clark [Titanic, Sister Act]) and they have a way (like any good revival) of making even an old score really come alive!  What's more, I'm beginning to see how fabulous the technical aspects of the show are.  The costumes especially are pretty breathtaking (Cinderella's costume change was one of the best moments of the night in my opinion).  So, although I might not just dive into the show, I think perhaps I should give it more of a chance, because it does seem to have merit.  I can definitely say that it's Tony performance was pretty great!  They conveniently chose to do a medley of the only three songs I had heard from the show, so that made me feel nice and I looked more informed than I actually was.  All in all the performance was excellent!  They did a wonderful job of highlighting each of their stars and the show's strengths.  In addition, it included a pretty great ball room dance sequence (that, as my party guests pointed out, includes some look-a-likes to Disney princesses).  I think it's the performance that I like the best without expecting to.  Take a look (sorry about how it begins, you have to skip ahead a bit to get to the performance):
Rodger's + Hammerstein's Cinderella was nominated for 9 Awards and won 1.
  • Best Book of a Musical (Douglas Carter Beane) - nominated
  • Best Revival of a Musical - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Santino Fontana) - nominated
  • Best Performance By an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Laura Osnes) - nominated
  • Best Performance By an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Victoria Clark) - nominated
  • Best Orchestrations (Danny Troob) - nominated
  • Best Costume Design of a Musical (William Ivey Long) - WINNER
  • Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Kenneth Posner) - nominated
  • Best Sound Design of a Musical (Nevin Steinberg) - nominated
So, on the surface, a show that only wins for best costumes is kind of lame, but a) those costumes were spectacular, and b) "Cinderella" was a very serious competitor in at least 3 or 4 of the other categories (especially Leading Actress).  Although it might not have walked home with as many awards as it was maybe hoping for, they succeeded in getting me interested in the show, and isn't that really what it's all about?

As I said before, the revivals kind of blew my mind this year!  I think this is the first year we've had in a while where the revivals were significantly stronger than the original Musicals (in my opinion).  But perhaps some of  you have different opinions.  Did I give too much credit to the revivals?  Was I too harsh on Annie?  Can you think of a recent revival (other than Godspell) that could rival Pippin?  I'd love to hear any comments questions or concerns.  Go ahead and comment below, and be sure to check out the poll in the top left corner.  I'll be going out of town shortly so it might be a couple weeks before I get a chance to release my 3rd installment of the Tony Award series (Plays).  But feel free to do your own research at the Tony Awards Website and then check back in a few weeks to see if my thoughts line up with yours.  Until next time.... 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tony Awards 2013 (Part I: Original Musicals)

Hello fellow thespians!  And welcome to my 3rd Annual Tony Awards recap!  As always, I absolutely loved watching the Tony's last Sunday night!!  There were some stellar performances, heartfelt speeches, triumphant moments, crushing defeats, and Neil Patrick Harris being.....just perfect!  In case you missed it (or you were watching from Atlanta and missed the last 7 minutes) you can watch the entire show here. There was even some history that was made at this years ceremony, but I'll get to that later.  I'll be doing this in several installments (probably 5), but for now let's just focus on the race that everyone really cares about: Best Musical!


Now, I have received some mocking from my friends for liking parts of this musical, so allow me to set the record straight:  Bring It On: The Musical is possibly the best example since Legally Blonde, of how a good creative team can make a bad concept a good musical.  Although I really don't have much respect for the original movie, they put together a pretty brilliant team to make this work, and their rewards was a Tony nomination.  I mean, I don't know who had the idea of putting together the talents of Lin Manuel Miranda [In the Heights], Tom Kitt, [Next To Normal], Amanda Greene [Hands on a Hardbody], Andy Blankenbuehler [Annie (2012 Revival)], and Jeff Whitty [Avenue Q] in one show....but they should be given a Tony Award just for that!!!  Of course, although I think this is a great team and it made for some really great moments, the show isn't really my style.  The characters are a bit too cliche and everything is too "hip" for me.  I don't know if it's because I haven't really had the "standard" highschool experience, but I really couldn't relate to the characters and so the story kind of fell flat to me.  As for the music, I felt like the rapping was just a bit too much like In the Heights and the rest of it didn't do all that much for me (although, admittedly, I haven't heard the whole soundtrack).  The choreography however, was actually very cool.  Everything I've read about in interviews and reviews and seen in videos looked pretty darn impressive, and what's even cooler is a lot of them didn't have much cheer experience before the show.  As for their performance, it was actually a bit of a disappointment.  I mean, they chose a shortened version of my favorite song from the show ("It's All Happening") but, in my opinion, they spent too much time on the rapping and "boring" parts of the song and didn't devote enough of their time to the high flying acrobatics and beautiful harmonies that they began to show towards the end.  If their whole performance had been that good, then I think I would've enjoyed it much better.  See if you agree:
Bring It On: The Musical was nominated for 2 Awards and did not win any.
  • Best Musical - nominated
  • Best Choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler) - nominated
While I'm actually fairly surprised Andy didn't win Choreography, I knew that it had no shot at best Musical. I'm fairly happy with the way things turned out and I think the show has a right to be proud of itself.  I only hope that this team could get together to write a musical with better subject matter.

As I've said before in my nomination post, I love A Christmas Story and I'm so glad it was nominated...but I really didn't expect it to win anything (and it didn't).  However, even if it didn't enjoy a bunch of commercial success, I'm so thrilled that it exists!  I think the idea of making a musical out of the classic movie was a genius idea and I think they did a perfect job of maintaining the magical, fantasy elements of the movie in the stage version.  I'm also beyond thrilled that Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (who wrote the music) got Tony nominations for their Broadway debut!  I've loved their music for a long time, and the fact that the world is getting a chance to fall in love with them as I have is just fantastic!  Of course, this wasn't their best music, and the show itself doesn't really do much for me.  I mean, I love the concept, and I think it was well done, but there's not really anything about it that jumps out and grabs me.  This could be seen in their Tony performance.  Although it was fairly good, I can't say that it was anything really fantastic.  I think they did a good job putting it together (mixing "Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun", one of the better songs audibly, with "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out", probably the best song visually).  They also did a fairly good job of capturing the random, fantasy nature of the show, but it wasn't really that spectacular.  The exception to this is a young man named Luke Spring.  This pint-sized performer completely stole the show with his dancing!  It was some of the most impressive moves I've seen anyone do, and almost definitely the best I've ever seen from someone of his age! Take a look:
A Christmas Story, The Musical was nominated for 3 Awards and didn't win any.
  • Best Musical - nominated
  • Best Book of a Musical (Joseph Robinette) - nominated
  • Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre (Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) - nominated
Once again, I'm not surprised (and not disappointed) that A Christmas Story was dominated by Kinky Boots and Matilda in all of these categories.  But I'm glad that it was nominated and I think that the writers should be very proud of their accomplishment!

Now, I'm not going to lie, I like this show now much better than I did on Sunday.  I mean, I had always thought it wasn't bad, I appreciated the cast and was a fan of Harvey Fierstein's work, but I thought it was kind of cheap to have Cyndi Lauper as the songwriter and I wasn't thrilled by the subject matter.  But after seeing all of the acceptance speeches, watching their Tony performance, and listening to the soundtrack, I can now say that I'm actually a fan of the show.  There are still parts of it that I'm not in love with, but it definitely has some really good music, a great set of characters, a unique plotline, some dazzling choreography, and...let's be honest....some pretty fabulous shoes!  I still don't like it as much as, say, Matilda or some of the revivals, but I'm honestly not disappointed it won best show and I'm glad it's doing well.  As for their Tony performance, it didn't go over super well with most of the guests at my party (as soon as someone said "those are all men by the way" concerning the divas coming down the conveyor belt, there was a general sound of disgust and surprise), but I actually really enjoyed it.  I thought the song was catchy, the choreography inventive, and parts of it were really funny.  I'm not going to say it was my favorite performance of the evening, but it was definitely right up there!  See for yourself:
Kinky Boots was nominated for 13 Awards and won 6.
  • Best Musical - WINNER
  • Best Book of a Musical (Harvey Fierstein) - nominated
  • Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre (Cyndi Lauper) - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Stark Sands) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Billy Porter) - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a  Musical (Annaleigh Ashford) - nominated
  • Best Direction of a Musical (Jerry Mitchell)
  • Best Choreography (Jerry Mitchell) - WINNER
  • Best Orchestrations (Stephen Oremus) - WINNER
  • Best Scenic Design of a Musical (David Rockwell) - nominated
  • Best Costume Design of a Musical (Gregg Barnes) - nominated
  • Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Kenneth Posner) - nominated
  • Best Sound Design of a Musical (John Shivers) - WINNER
All in all, I'm not very surprised by how Kinky Boots turned out.  I expected them to win almost everything they did, even if I don't agree with all the decisions.  My biggest disappointment (that I actually saw coming) was that Billy Porter beat out Rob McClure (Chaplin) for best leading actor.  But, that being said, Billy Porter's acceptance speech was truly beautiful and his performance pretty impressive, so, if Rob couldn't win, I'm glad that Billy did.  It also should be noted, that Cyndi Lauper made history as being the first woman to ever win a Tony for music and lyrics by herself (all other female winners were part of writing teams).  So congrats to Cyndi!

Matilda The Musical
Ok, so I think it's safe to say that, in most categories, Matilda was the favorite at my party.  And why not?  The sets are stunning, the book clever, the music catchy, the acting flawless, the story timeless, all in all it is a fantastic show!  I'm so glad that it came to America and I hope it has a long and profitable run on Broadway!  And even after that, I hope that they release the rights for schools and community theaters to perform it, because I'd love to see all the different takes on it that I'm sure would come!  However, I'm not going to lie, there is a patriotic part of me that kind of resented the fact that it was a London transfer.  I mean, I still love the show, but you know how I get kind of annoyed by musicals that are based off movies, because I feel like there's not as much originality?  That feeling is kind of compounded when the show is a transfer.  There was a part of me that felt like the show got it's awards in England and it shouldn't infringe too much on the Tony's.  Of course, I know that this isn't completely fair because a lot of the actors and designers are different...but still.  As for their performance, I thought it was pretty great.  I wished that they could've used more of Bertie Carvel (although his opening bit was awesome!) and I thought bringing Mrs. Honey out in the middle kind of made the performance lose some of it's energy.  I feel like if they had kept the adrenaline pumping throughout the whole medley (Ala Kinky Boots) then it might've been a bit more enjoyable.  Of course, they did play some of my favorite songs from the show, and they did a good job of highlighting each of the important actors, so I give them props for that.  And, like I said, all in all, I did really like the performance.  See if you agree:
Matilda The Musical was nominated for 12 Awards and won 4.
  • Best Musical - nominated
  • Best Book of a Musical (Dennis Kelly) - WINNER
  • Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre (Tim Minchin) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Bertie Carvel) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (Gabriel Ebert) - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Lauren Ward) - nominated
  • Best Direction of a Musical (Matthew Warchus) - nominated
  • Best Choreography (Peter Darling) - nominated
  • Best Orchestrations (Chris Nightingale) - nominated
  • Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Rob Howell) - WINNER
  • Best Costume Design of a Musical (Rob Howell) - nominated
  • Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Hugh Vanstone) - WINNER
Again, there aren't a lot of surprises in Matilda's wins, and I'm pretty happy with all of the choices.  I think it deserved the two design awards it won (props to Hugh for beating Kenneth on all three accounts!).  I definitely think it deserved best book, and, although I didn't know much about him previously, I think I'm glad that Gabriel won for Featured Actor (his acceptance speech was actually really funny).  There is a part of me that feels bad that the Matilda's couldn't be nominated and that Bertie didn't win for his fantastic performance, but Bertie got an Oliver for the role, and the Matilda's got a "Special Tony Award" so I think that balances things out.  All in all, I think the Tony committee got Matilda right.

Well, there you have it folks.  The 2013 Nominees for best musical.  All excellent shows and all (for the most part) deserving of the awards (or lack thereof) that they received.  At least, that's what I think.  Do you agree?  Do you think I was too hard on a show?  Or gave one a bit too much credit?  I promise I'll read and respond to any comments you post, so feel free to leave some.  And make sure you vote in the poll (top left) and come back to read the rest of my Tony Posts as soon as they're up. Thanks for reading!