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!

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