Sunday, July 14, 2013

2013 Tony Awards (Part V: Other Tony Moments)

So, it's no secret that the best part of the Tony Awards are the shows.  Whether it's through performances, or interviews, or the final award tally of the night, the shows are the reason we watch the Tony's.  But that doesn't mean that there are some wonderful moments in the ceremony that really doesn't have much of anything to do with one specific show.  Some of them were the planned performances by guest stars, some of them were touching acceptance Speeches, and most of them involved Neil being awesome!  So, without further Ado, the "other" great parts of the 2013 Tony Awards!

Other Performances

They made it bigger!
The Tony's have some geniuses working on their show.  Like, seriously, this is probably my favorite opening number yet, largely because they made some really smart decisions.  Since injecting Neil into Book of Mormon (the 2011 Winner) worked so well last year, they did the same thing to Once (the 2012 Winner).  Then they incorporated performers from all of the major nominated musicals to show the community of Broadway and remind the audiences who the major characters of the night will be.  They added in some clever jokes about the Shia LaBeouf Scandal, all the kids on Broadway this year, and, yes, even the Les Miserables Movie.  Then they had Neil bust out all of his best stunts including hopping through that Pippin hoop and making himself disappear.  And then they had my favorite line of the night: "There's a kid in the middle of nowhere sitting there, living for Tony performances singin' and flippin' along with the Pippins and Wickeds and Kinkys, Matildas and Mormonses. So we might reassure that kid and do something to spur that kid. Cause I promise you all of us up here tonight.  We were that kid!"  AT LEAST NEIL PATRICK HARRIS GETS US!!!  As soon as that line was said, my whole Party pretty much applauded through the next 30 seconds of the song!  SOMEBODY MAKE THIS A T-SHIRT OR SOMETHING!!

Swingin' in Hitsville U.S.A.
So, as you'll know from my previous posts, I'm not a huge fan of Motown, but they actually did have a really good Tony Performance (better than some of the nominated shows in fact).  They did a good job of highlighting so much of their talented supporting cast, they did memorable songs that everybody would recognize, and they never let the energy die for a moment.  Despite the fact that I didn't like the show, I think they should be proud of their performance.

"Whatever Happened to my Part"?
No, the Lady of the Lake did not appear in this year's Tony Awards, but she may as well have, because we did have some guest appearances from some big Broadway/TV stars that shared her lamentations.  In the middle of the telecast, Andrew Rannells [Broadway: Book of Mormon, TV: The New Normal], Megan Hilty [Broadway: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Tv: Smash], and Laura Benanti [Broadway:Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, TV: Go On] came on with a parody medley of some of our favorite Broadway tunes.  It was a great way to appeal to the audiences who came to see the Tony Awards because of TV and it gave Neil a chance to gloat.  In my opinion, it was one of the more enjoyable portions of the evening.  Take a look:

Aren't you a little old to be performing rock songs on the Tony Awards?
If you're talking about Angela Lansbury, then heck no!  If you're talking about "The Rascals" then yes.  Most definitely.  I don't know whose idea it was to let these guys play at the Tony's, but it wasn't a good idea.  At first it looked like it was going to be a tribute the the plays of the year (which was tragically left out of this year's telecast), but after a minute or two, it was just a video of old guys who didn't seem to know they were old singing songs that weren't show tunes.  And, let's be honest, does anybody really want to see/hear that?
He's There!  The Phantom of the Opera!!!!
That's right, amid the slew of new musicals, the oldest show on Broadway managed to squeeze in a performance and remind the world why it's been running for over 10,000 performances!  In what I think was a recreation of the performance the Phantom cast did all those years ago at their own Tony Awards, the current Broadway cast performed Andrew Lloyd Webber's hauntingly beautiful song for the world to hear.  I loved it!  It was so beautiful and I am so glad that old shows like this get a chance to make it onto the Tony's.  However, I had forgotten how many people had never heard the Broadway version of the show's title song.  I would hope that all of my readers have, but in case you have only heard the movie soundtrack, it's important that you know that they had to lower the Phantom's part A TON for Gerrard Butler to be able to sing it.  Micheal Crawford (and, to my knowledge, all subsequent Broadway Phantoms) have to sing his songs significantly higher than poor Mr. Butler could manage.  I think this higher key makes the character more haunting and beautiful, but if you hadn't heard it sung that way, it can be a shock.  That being said, I am disappointed that a large portion of the attenders at my party accidentally made "ewww" noises instead of saying "Oh my goodness, this guy sings beautifully"!  I even heard one misinformed attendee speak the blasphemous words "Gerrard Butler was better".  Needless to say, I was about to whip our my "magical Lasso" on her, but I showed restraint.  Needless to say, this is the GOOD version of the song, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

Try to Remember
I was glad to see that, after it was tragically forgotten last year, they included an "in Memoriam" song at this years Tony Awards.  I didn't particularly care for Cyndi Lauper's song, but I still enjoyed the moment (which was occasionally spoiled a bit by people applauding when someone they recognized appeared on the screen.  Which made me wonder, is that ok?  To clap for someone's death?  What's the etiquette there?).  As usual, I didn't recognize most of the people featured in the video, but there were a few, most notably Marvin Hamlisch.  His death was truly a tragic event for the Broadway community, and I hope that he's resting in peace secure in the knowledge that he has left a legendary legacy!

Whovians watch the Tony's for ONCE.
Yes, it's true, two groups of "superfans" collide as Arthur Darvill, most well known for playing Rory Williams on the BBC Fantasy show Doctor Who has made his Broadway debut as Steve Kazee's replacement in Once.  Not one to shy away from star power, the Producers decided to feature this new casting on the Tony Awards this year by performing of Guy's songs.  Unfortunately....I didn't like "Rory" as much as "the other Guy".  I mean, not to sound mean, but Arthur just kind of screamed incomprehensibly into a Microphone.  And since there was almost no lyrics and absolutely no dancing, there was nothing to do but sit there and listen to him wail gibberish.  To be honest, I was more entertained by the squealing Whovians we had present than the performance itself (and by the sudden interruption of the performance, which I'll get to later).

NPH and Audra McD "rap" things up
So, it seems that Lin Manuel Miranda has been working overtime to fit a rap into as many Tony Awards as he can!  And, contrary to what I learned from Commentary the Musical, Neil can really rap!  Since they already did a straight rap (2 years ago) this year they spiced up the closing number by parodying an actual (non-Broadway) song called "Empire State of Mind."  This meant they needed a female vocalist to back Neil up and they couldn't have picked anyone better than the youngest 5-time Tony Award Winning Actress Audra MacDonald.  Her voice was beautiful and I felt like the two of them meshed pretty well.  However, that being said, I didn't think this was one of the better closing numbers (in my opinion, none have compared to the first one I saw Neil do back in 2009).  Never the less, it's cool that Neil got to sing again, and it was a great way to end the show.  If nothing else, it's worth watching the video to see Neil hitting a low harmony (possibly the first time in his life), Lin Manuel Miranda playing Piano in the background,  and Audra "out-gangster" Neil in the last second.

I know that, generally speaking, the speeches are the most boring part of the telecast, and, with the exception of the Rascals' performance, that is still true.  However, there are always a few that stand out, and this year was no exception.  Whether it was something really funny like the annual American Theater Wing commercial (which I unfortunately can't find a video for), or really touching like Cicely Tyson's heartwarming speech, these are the ones that I think are worth seeing.

Mr. Microphone guy...YOU HAD ONE JOB!!!

From Dreamgirls to Dreams coming true

Cicely Tyson gives the classiest response to "Wrap it up" in the history of the Tony Awards!


Lions and Spiders and Newsies, Oh My!
For some reason, something snapped in the Tony Award committee and they started making an effort to involve long running shows into the Tony Awards more this year.  The biggest way they did this was by having characters (not actors) from other Broadway shows introduce the performances.  Velma Kelly, Simba, Sandy the Dog, Jack Kelly, and Peter Parker were just a few of the characters that made an appearance at this years awards.  To be honest, I thought it was pretty cheesy, but it was cool to see the old shows getting to do something.  Here's some clips of the Chicago cast making introductions (I think something was amok with the teleprompter on the second one).

Everyone loves a good Playsical in the summer!
NPH does these "suggestions to producers" every year (part of me thinks he writes them himself).  I'd recommend you looking up some of the ones he's done in the past (I'm too lazy to track down links), some of my favorite of his suggestions have included "presidential musicals", and "scratch and sniff playbills"!  But this year I think was one of his finest!  Playsicals!!!!  Enjoy:

Neil gets some puppy love
I don't know why, but this really freaked out everyone at my Tony Party.  Personally, I think it's just one more thing that proves Neil will do anything for the sake of the show.  So here he is "bonding" with Broadway's favorite pooch (sorry the video quality isn't better):

We interrupt this broadcast because...WE HAVE NO SOUL!!!!
Ok, so this only applies to my fellow Georgians.  CBS Atlanta made a MASSIVE mistake and almost caused a riot at my house!  Right in the middle of Once's performance (told you I'd get back to it) and before the Best Musical was announced, the show just stopped.  Out of nowhere everything cuts to a news room and away from our precious TONY Awards!!!!!  We found out later that some human error was made and, for one reason or another, they thought the show was done.  After I, and I'm assuming several hundred others, wrote Emails of complaint to the station, they released a formal apology and said that they would run the final 7 minutes of the Tony's to kick off the news every night that week.  While it was a meager offering, at least they recognized their mistake and tried to fix it.  But I must say, there was a few hours of scrambling where plenty of mistakes were made, like this reporter who obviously knew absolutely nothing about the awards:

And that does it for this years Tony Awards!  It was a phenomenal year and culminated in an equally phenomenal night!  If you've stuck it out and read all five of these posts then I congratulate you!  Feel free to to leave a comment in the box below with any questions or comments you have about my posts or the awards themselves.  And be on the look out for my next post (I have a few "Luke's Top 10's" in the works). Thanks so much for reading!  In the words of the legendary Neil Patrick Harris, "Go see a Broadway show!"

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tony Awards 2013 (Part IV: Other notable Shows)

So, if you've read my past three blog posts, you know about most of the "powerhouse shows" of this year's Tony Awards.  I don't know the exact statistics, but it does seem that every year that the sixteen shows I blogged about earlier (the nominees for best musicals/plays) often leave with the majority of the night's awards.  But of course they're not the only shows eligible this season.  Some shows end up with several awards, and others without even a nomination.  I'm going to talk about all the ones that I find interesting (If I miss one of your favorite shows, feel free to tell me in a comment and I'll add it to this post).  So here we go, let's start with the Plays:

Notable PLAYS
As I said before, this was not a great year for plays.  There were very few that really excited me and that I found particularly groundbreaking.  However, there was theme that connected almost every single play that opened on Broadway this year: Movie stars.  It's possible that this happens every year, but this year specifically I found that almost every single show featured someone who is renowned for their movie or television career.  Some (Like Sigourney Weaver and Tom Hanks) are making their Broadway debut, and some (like Allen Cumming and Al Pacino) are well-worn veterans who are as comfortable on the stage as they are on the screen. Don't don't believe me?  I'll break it down by show:
  • The Anarchist - Debra Winger [Terms of Engagement, An Officer and a Gentleman]
  • Ann - Holland Taylor [The Truman Show, Two and a Half Men, Legally Blonde]
  • The Assembled Parties - Jessica Hecht [Sideways, Dan in Real Life, J. Edgar]
  • The Big Knife - Richard Kind [A Bug's Life, Argo, Spin City]
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's - Emilia Clarke [Game of Thrones]
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - Scarlet Johansson [Lost in Translation, The Avengers], Benjamin Walker [Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer]
  • Dead Accounts - Katie Holmes [Batman Begins, Phone Booth], Judy Greer [13 Going on 30, The Descendants]
  • An Enemy of the People - Boyd Gaines [Funny Games, Fame, One Day at a Time]
  • Glengarry Glen Ross - Al Pacino [The Godfather, Scarface]
  • Golden Boy - Tony Shalhoub [Monk, Galaxy Quest]
  • Grace - Paul Rudd [I Love You Man, Role Models], Michael Shannon [Man of Steel, Take Shelter], Ed Asner [Up, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Elf]
  • Harvey - Jim Parsons [The Big Bang Theory, The Muppets]
  • The Heiress - Jessica Chastain [Zero Dark Thirty, The Help], Dan Stevens [Downton Abbey, Hilde], David Strathairn [The Bourne Ultimatum, Lincoln]
  • I'll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers - Bette Midler [For the Boys, Hocus Pocus]
  • Lucky Guy - Tom Hanks [Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, Big]
  • Macbeth - Allan Cumming [The Good Wife, Spy Kids, Tin Man]
  • The Nance - Nathan Lane [The Birdcage, The Lion King, The Producers]
  • Orphans - Alec Baldwin [30 Rock, Beetlejuice]
  • The Other Place - Laurie Metcalf [Roseanne, Toy Story trilogy, The Big Bang Theory]
  • Picnic - Sebastian Stan [Captain America: The First Avenger, Black Swan], Maggie Grace [Taken, Lost]
  • The Trip to Bountiful - Cuba Gooding Jr. [Radio, Jerry McGuire, Ironman], Condola Rashad [Steel Magnolias, Smash], Cicely Tyson [The Help, Fried Green Tomatoes]
  • Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike - David Hyde Pierce [Frasier, A Bug's Life], Sigourney Weaver [Alien, Avatar, Galaxy Quest]

Crazy right?  Out of 25 Plays premiering this season, 22 of them had big name movie/tv stars.  Like I said, it's possible this has always been happening and I'm just now noticing it, but regardless it's pretty amazing.  We just need to hope that shows don't feel like they "HAVE" to have Hollywood stars to make a successful show.  I'm all for adding a little star power to a show, but it better be able to stand on it's own as well!  And now, onto the 3 plays that I found the most interesting this year (not including those already mentioned in the previous post):

So, this show looked really interesting and I'm a bit saddened it wasn't recognized at all come award season (I expect that was largely because of how long it had been closed).  However, I think if it had come out later, it might have had a good shot.  It had some phenomenal actors, rich characters, interesting story telling, and  an unusual premise.  The show follows a young Christian couple who have just moved to Florida with dreams of building Christian themed hotels (Most plot synopsis just say "with plans to profit off of their faith", but I think that I read this was how they were going to do that).  In their building they meet an irritable, disfigured neighbor who has hardened himself against God and the world, and a hilarious old exterminator (both who are non Christians).  Naturally, the couple try to witness to these men, but as time goes on, it begins to become less clear who is influencing who.  You see, by the end of the show, everybody is dead, struck down by a mass murder/suicide by the husband.  And before you get all upset with me for letting loose spoilers, this is no secret, it's also how the play begins.  The opening scene is this act of violence, and then the corpses rise from the ground and begin to re-enact the events leading up to this tragedy.  Exciting right?  With tension like that, a stellar cast (I can almost guarantee that Micheal Shannon would've been nominated for best Supporting Actor if the show had been running when the nominations came out), and clever writing, I really wish this show could've been more recognized.

I have seen this show once, and I didn't get it.  I could only kind of follow most of the story, and most of the really classic lines, I didn't even catch until they had already happened.  So when Alan Cumming announced that he was performing The Scottish Play in a way that was even more confusing and hard to follow, you'd think I'd want to run the other way.  Not so!  You see, Alan Cumming [Cabaret (1998 Revival), Annie (1999 Movie)] performs this Shakespearean classic completely by himself!  How does he accomplish this?  Well, his character is a man in an insane asylum without a clear understanding as to why he's there, with his only clue being some scratches along his chest.  As a coping mechanism, his troubled character reenacts the Scottish play (in the original English I might add) by playing all the park and is only interrupted occasionally by two orderlies (who have no lines) who come in to restrain him when he gets to wild.  As his decent in to madness progresses, the audience begins to see that the circumstances of this disturbed man are not that different from those experienced by the characters in his play.  Now you begin to see why this show caught my attention?  What's so amazing to me is that this script finds a way to tell both of these stories without having to edit the dialogue at all.  True a few moments of Shakespeare's monster of a show have been cut, but absolutely no lines have been added!  Through clever blocking, a security camera that provides a live feed to three onstage screens, a terrifying doll, and a bathtub (that apparently comes with chilling effect where it looks like Alan has drowned), the creators of this show have reached a new level of creative story telling!  I'm honestly shocked that this play didn't get nominated for anything and I think that it is a darn shame!  Especially for Alan, his lack of a nomination was, in my opinion, the worst snub of the season.

The Nance
If Alan Cumming's lack of a Best Actor nomination was the biggest snub of the season, then The Nance's lack of a Best Play nomination is the second.  This show looked so spectacular and I really can't fathom why it was passed over.  The show is about a burlesque actor by the name of Chauncey who is the local "Nance" at the club where he works.  Now, "the Nance" is an archetype (like "The stooge") of a very effeminate man, and was almost always played by a straight man (largely because it wasn't very safe to be openly homosexual at that time, so there weren't many gay actors).  However, Chauncey is in fact homosexual, and this show gives insight into what the life of a closeted (and the eventually, outed) gay actor of that time would be like.  From what I've seen of the show, it is a real masterpiece that is alternatively hilarious and very powerful.  But what really makes this show something special is the performance by Nathan Lane.  Now, Nathan Lane is a legend on Broadway already and already has several Tony Awards under his belt, but everything I read said that this was the best performance of his career!  The character of Chauncey has such duality (which is no easy task for an actor) that Mr. Lane captures perfectly!  We've all seen him play the funny man (like his Tony Award winning runs as Max Bialystok [The Producers] ad Pseudolus [A Funny Thing...Forum]), and while there were certainly elements of that in this show, he also pulled out his deeper side and had some heart-breakingly powerful moments.  I'm glad that this show was recognized with 3 Tony Awards (all in the Costume, Scenic, and Sound Design), but the ones that it really should've won (Best Actor and Best Show) it couldn't hold on to, which is a crying shame.  However, the show is still running strong (Take that testament of Mary!) and I hope that it will be remembered as the powerful, important piece of art that it is.

Play Conclusion
All in all, the plays were alright this year.  True, the nominating committee missed a few gems and made some mistakes, but the plays themselves (for the most part) were pretty good.  Hopefully everyone realizes that the reason these plays were so good had something to do with the Hollywood talent that performed them, but mostly it was the smart writing, the creative designers, and the magic of Broadway!


Out of all the shows that opened this year, this was one of the few that I was following the entire way.  As I said in a previous blog post, I've wanted to play Charlie Chaplin even before this musical existed, so I was thrilled when it came out and I loved every minute of the show!!!  The music was catchy, the story moving, the effects stupefying, the style unique, the acting incredible, and every other aspect of the show you can think of was just awesome....except the script.  Of course, I don't have access to the script, but most of the reviews that I read seemed to think that the show was good, but couldn't be great because the plot line of the show was too confusing and didn't rise and fall correctly.  I'm afraid that it was this weak story telling that made the show close as tragically early as it did, which is a real shame.  Because it closed so early, it didn't do very well when awards season rolled around.  True, Rob McClure did land a nomination for Best Actor (which I'll talk about in a moment), but I had hoped that it would also snag nominations for best supporting actress (for Jenn Colella), Best Musical (I personally think it beat both Bring it On and A Christmas Story), and at least a few design awards.  But the biggest injustice of this show is the fact that Rob McClure walked away from the ceremony without a trophy.  I mean, yes he was nominated, and yes, I love Billy Porter, but Rob should've won!  I even saw a few critics who said that if Chaplin was still running he probably would've won.  So, shame on the producers for closing the show, and shame on the Tony committee for choosing the wrong winner for Best Actor in a Musical.

Hands on a Hard Body
I really like this show for several reasons (not the least of which being the faces people make when you tell them the title before you explain the plot).  I love how character based the show is ('cause let's be honest, the plot-line doesn't really go anywhere), I love the cast they assembled (Hunter Foster [Urinetown, Little Shop of Horrors (2003 Revival)], Allison Case [Hair (2009 Revival)], Jay Armstrong Johnson [35MM (New York Premiere), Working: A Musical (Off-Broadway)]), And I like most of what I heard of the music. I see why the show didn't win anything, and I see why it had to close, because the show certainly did have it's problems.  But nevertheless I think it's a cool show, I'm so glad it made it to Broadway, I think it's a very "American" show, and I honestly wish it would've gotten a nomination for best musical (in my book it beat Bring it On and A Christmas Story).  They haven't released a full soundtrack yet (but I'm pretty sure one is coming) and the videos I saw weren't particularly helpful, so it's hard to know much about the show.  That being said, I've watched plenty of behind the scenes stuff, and I've read all the reviews I can, and I really want to see more.  I'd love to see this show live because I feel like there's a character for everyone in there and, while, I'm sure it can be a bit preachy at times, it's full of great comedy and touching moments.  But most of all I love the bond that the cast seems to feel.  If you remember, I gave these guys my "Best Ensemble" award because they all just seem so in sync with each other and the whole of them is definitely worth more than the sum of it's parts.  I hope that it has a life after Broadway (although I find it kind of unlikely), but even if it doesn't I think it's a "nice little show".

Jekyll & Hyde
So, there was plenty of surprise when the nominees for Best Musical came out (A Christmas Story and Bring it On surprised everyone), but I expect literally nobody was surprised when the nominees for best Revival of a musical came out.  There were only 5 revivals this year and four slots (explains how Annie got nominated, doesn't it?).  So, in reality, the nominations weren't naming the four best shows, it was naming the worst, and everyone kind of knew that was Jekyll & Hyde.  Now, don't mistake this for me hating on the show, if you read my Frank Wildhorn post, you'll know that I love Jekyll & Hyde, but that doesn't mean that I like everything they've done with it.  The original show was good.  It had good music, good characters, a thrilling story, all in all, good show.  Then they put David Hasselhoff in the filmed version.  I didn't like that, but at least the piece didn't change, so I let it slide.  Then they came out with "Jekyll & Hyde Resurrection" which is all the same songs completely rearranged to make it more like a Rock album.  I didn't like that either.  It ruined beautiful moments and made the show more of a horror show than it should've been (and what I hate is they got some excellent Broadway stars to sing on it too!  They wasted those beautiful voices!!!).  Unfortunately, this show seemed to stray closer to that than the original incarnation, as I knew they were going to.  As soon as I heard that Constantine Maroulis had been cast, I knew that they were going to take this song in the wrong direction.  They problem is they focused too much on Hyde.  All the commercials, all the press, heck, even the poster shows Hyde.  Now, don't get my wrong, I LOVE Hyde, he is by far my favorite of the two, but the show isn't about Hyde, it's about Jekyll.  It's about how a nice, respectable man who couldn't hurt a fly if he wanted to, becomes a monster.  When you cast someone like Mr. Maroulis in the role, he fits in better as Hyde than as Jekyll, then the thrill of the transformation is gone.  That's why this version didn't work, the darkness and grit of this musical is it's best part, but the awful irony is if you puff it up too much, the show crumbles.  Like I said, this version didn't work, but that's not why it wasn't nominated for anything.  The reason it wasn't nominated was because of the Curse of Frank Wildhorn (don't know what I'm talking about?  Click the link).  And you know what?  I'm ok with that.  I've decided that I don't even want there to be a successful Jekyll & Hyde on Broadway.  I love the fact that it's a cult classic, that it's the show that Broadway rejected but America loved; part of me thinks we could use more shows like that.

A lot of people thought this show was one of the most snubbed of the season, but not me.  Why?  I didn't like it.  I thought it was cheap.  Granted, I've never been much a fan of this style of music, and I haven't even listened to the whole soundtrack, but the show just wasn't good to me.  It felt like the writers were more concerned with cramming in as many iconic songs as possible (I think they hit around 50!) than they were with making a good story.  The result?  They compiled a very talented cast.  They did some very good impressions.  And I imagine if you were a fan of Motown music, it would make for a very entertaining and enjoyable evening, and that's why I'm not upset that it was on Broadway.  I think it has a place on Broadway.  But I wouldn't call it a work of art.  I'm honestly glad that it isn't a "Tony Award Winning Musical," it's just another Jukebox Musical that went on Broadway, gave people some great memories and (hopefully), went on it's way (Of course, despite my protestations, Broadway still has yet to get rid of Mama Mia and Rock of Ages, so maybe this Jukebox musical will outlive my expectations as well).

This is the show that I knew the least about privy to reading this blog.  So, once I decided I wanted to write about it, I listened to a few of the songs I had heard were the best.  As it happens, I started right after listening to some Leap of Faith songs.  You guys remember Leap of Faith?  Last year's big budget musical about a "quirky" evangelist that built it's marketing around the fact that it had a big name star playing the lead (namely, my buddy Raul Esparza) and although people love that star they agreed that the show itself lacked a little bit in plot and while it had a few catchy tunes there really wasn't anything that made it memorable?  Yeah....I remember it too, but apparently whoever decided to put Scandalous on Broadway didn't, because it fell into all the same traps.  Sure, it has some good music, and Carolee Carmello [Parade, John & Jen (Off Broadway)] gave a stellar performance, but the show just isn't interesting enough.  The story follows a woman who wanted to be a preacher and really defied a lot of the religious leaders of her time (I think it might be based off of a true story).  But to be honest, aside from Ms. Carmello's voice, there's not much of an appeal to this show.  Maybe her and my buddy Raul should do a show together! (for those of you wondering how I became "buddies" with THE Raul Esparza, check out this video where we chatted together).

Musical Conclusion:
This was a good year for Musicals.  With the exception of Jekyll & Hyde and maybe Scandalous, all of these shows are pretty good.  There weren't many musicals, but quality should come before quantity.  I hope we can keep the standard this high in coming years!

General Conclusion:
BROADWAY IS AWESOME!  That should be the conclusion of every blog I write.  Regardless of the good or bad things I have to say, each and every one of theses shows are special and the fact that they are on Broadway is awesome!  Even though the shows mentioned here maybe didn't get as many Tony nominations as I think they should've, they're awesome because they were on Broadway!

And thus concludes my review of the 2012-2013 season.  I have one more Tony Award post about the aspects of the telecast that weren't show specific (acceptance speeches, opening numbers, Neil's best jokes, etc.)  Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Tony Awards 2013 (Part III: Nominated Best Plays)

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the bard wrote "The play's the thing"....obviously he was not referring to the Tony Awards.

As much as I love going to plays, acting in them, and helping with them (and trust me, I really do love plays), they just don't seem to be as exciting as their musical counterparts come award season.  All the attention seems to be focused around the musicals, and you can kind of see why.  I mean, the musicals are more expensive, they're (usually) flashier, they run for WAY longer, and they tend to be in the news more.  However, plays are important too.  Plays have a realism and a depth that musicals often have trouble capturing.  Although I think that this year's plays were a bit of a step down from last year's, there were some great ones worth talking about.  Here are the 8 plays nominated for best Original Play and best Revival:


The Assembled Parties
This play does intrigue me some, but the concept is just a little bit too bland for me.  I mean, as best as I can tell, act I is about a friendly holiday dinner party, and Act II is the same two family's in attendance and how their lives are crumbling because of the events of that night.  While that is kind of exciting, there are no monsters or mermaids, no crazy people, no murders, no ghosts, etc.  There really isn't much you can do with the show except sit around a table and talk.  Of course, some of the most popular plays in history have consisted entirely of people sitting around talking (12 Angry Men comes to mind) and I'll agree that there are some shows like this that are wonderful (a few of which have also been nominated), but The Assembled Parties just didn't seem to have any kind of "hook", you know?  Now, to be fair, it did have a fairly good cast led by Judith Light [Lombardi, Other Desert Cities], Jessica Hecht [Harvey (2012 Revival), A View From the Bridge (2010 Revival)], and Jeremy Shamos [Clybourne Park, Glen Gary Ross (2013 Revival)].  But there just wasn't enough about the show to interest me.
The Assembled Parties was nominated for 3 Awards and won 1 of them.
  • Best Play - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Judith Light) - WINNER
  • Best Scenic Design of a Play (Santo Loquasto) - nominated
I'm really incredibly apathetic about this show.  I'm glad it wasn't nominated for much, and I'm not disappointed that it won where it did (there were no GREAT supporting actresses in plays this year).  But let's get some more crazy plays on Broadway!!!

Lucky Guy
I just don't really get what all the hype about this show is.  I mean, Tom Hanks is cool, and Nora Ephron has her moments but...the show itself is just...boring.  I mean, I guess it's a political show or something and maybe that's why I don't get it, but there's just nothing in it that interests me.  I'm sure it's better live and that I can't fully grasp it by the small clips I've been able to see...but I just don't get it.  Now, this isn't hugely surprising, I don't get a lot of plays.  But it does mean that, like The Assembled Parties, I don't really have much of an opinion either way on this one.  If anything, think this a bit lower than "Assembled" because at least that had an interesting story structure (the 20 year Intermission and such).  There just seems to be nothing about Lucky Guy (except for putting Tom Hanks on the stage) that is remotely groundbreaking or even unusual.  As much as I love seeing Hollywood stars discovering that Broadway is better, I feel like this show is more about Tom Hanks than it is about the show (I mean, just look at the poster.  He isn't in his character's costume!!!!) and that just saddens me.
Lucky Guy was nominated for 6 Awards and won 2 of them.
  • Best Play - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play (Tom Hanks) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (Courtney B. Vance) - WINNER
  • Best Direction of a Play (George C. Wolfe) - nominated
  • Best Scenic Design of a Play (David Rockwell) - nominated
  • Best Lighting Design of a Play (Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer) - WINNER
I'm honestly a bit disappointed Lucky Guy won what it did.  I'm SO glad that Tom Hanks didn't get leading actor (which I was kind of afraid he was going to), and I'm also really glad it didn't beat out "Vanya" for Best Play.  As for the featured role, I had kind of hoped Tony Shalhoub would win, but I didn't have strong feelings about any of the nominees.  And as for the lighting team, I still kind of think pretty much all the design awards should go to The Nance...but that's just me.

The Testament of Mary
I really don't have any good things to say about this show.  It came out of nowhere and I really don't know why it was nominated for anything.  There is no reason for it to be nominated above of The Nance.  The show is strange, doesn't make a lot of since, is rather offensive and I just don't see why it even made it to Broadway, much less nabbed a best Play nomination!  I mean, I get being edgy and "off-beat", but this show just seems to be controversial for controversy's sake, and I don't appreciate that.  It doesn't help that there are literally no videos of the show on the Internet (that I could find), so I don't even know whether or not I can be simultaneously impressed and offended.  So I'm just upset with it.
The Testament of Mary was nominated for 3 Awards and it did not win any of them.
  • Best Play - nominated
  • Best Lighting Design of a Play (Jennifer Tipton) - nominated
  • Best Sound Design of a Play (Mel Mercier) - nominated
It lost it should.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
This is by far of the best original play nominees.  I'd be disappointed to learn that any of the other nominees came close to beating "Vanya" (The Nance is the only one who I would think would have a shot).  Not only is it the only one of the nominees that seems genuinely funny, but it also has a STELLAR cast.  Of course, what makes the show for me is the presence of comedy idol David Hyde Pierce [Spamalot, Curtains], but the show also includes the talents of movie star Sigourney Weaver [Aliens (movie), Galaxy Quest (movie)], Kristine Nielsen [Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, A Street Car Name Desire (2005 Revival)], and Billy Magnussen [The Ritz (2007 Revival)].  With a cast like that, you almost don't need anything else, but "Vanya" does!  It's perfect in that it has the author Christopher Durang infused the script with high-class, mature humor (such as all the characters being named after famous "Anton Chekhov" characters they resemble) and the low-brow physical comedy (performed brilliantly especially by Pierce and Magnussen).  It has incredibly rich and developed characters, fast, witty writing, colorful costumes/sets, the whole package!  When it comes down to it, of all the plays that played on Broadway this year, I think this is the one that I would most want to buy a ticket to, and that's really what it's all about.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike was nominated for 6 Awards and won 1 of them.
  • Best Play - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play (David Hyde Pierce) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play (Kristine Nielsen) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (Billy Magnussen) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Shalita Grant) - nominated
  • Best Direction of a Play (Nicholas Martin) - nominated
I am definitely thrilled that this one best play (partially because it's a great show, and partially because I just don't like any of the other nominees).  As for the rest of the awards, I really kind of agree with what the nominators decided as well.  I mean, the fact that it got 4 acting nominations is AWESOME and I think it deserved each and every one of them!  But in every category, the competition was just a bit too high, and so I'm not surprised it didn't win any.  But I do congratulate this show on it's victory and on being one of the longest running plays of the season!


Golden Boy
I really like a lot about this show.  For one thing I like the cast, which includes Tony Shalhoub [Lend Me A Tenor (2010 Revival), Monk (Television)], Danny Burstein [The Drowsy Chaperon, Follies (2011 Revival)], Daniel Jenkins [Big River, Mary Poppins], and Seth Numrich [The Merchant of Venice (2010 Revival), War Horse)].  In addition to a killer cast, the show has a really good story.  It's about this guy who is both a skilled boxer and a talented musician.  He has people pulling him towards both professions and has to make a decision as to which passion he'll follow.  Throw in a love interest, a couple of scary "loan shark" types, and some New York accents and you get an exciting show indeed!  I've really enjoyed reading and following this show from as it progresses and I'm really glad it was nominated for so much despite it's tragically short run.
Golden Boy was nominated for 8 Awards and did not win any of them.
  • Best Revival of a Play - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (Danny Burstein) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (Tony Shalhoub) - nominated
  • Best Direction of a Play (Bartlett Sher) - nominated
  • Best Scenic Design of a Play (Michael Yeargan) - nominated
  • Best Costume Design of a Play (Catherine Zuber) - nominated
  • Best Lighting Design of a Play (Donald Holder) - nominated
  • Best Sound Design of a Play (Peter John Still and Marc Salzberg) - nominated
It's almost always sad when a show is nominated for this many awards and doesn't win any of them.  Unfortunately, Golden Boy just couldn't quite make it in a lot of the categories.  I get the feeling that if it wasn't for The Nance, Golden Boy would've won for a lot of the design awards, and I have to think that Tony Shalhoub was at least close to winning best supporting actor (the videos I've seen of him in this role are wonderful, plus...TONY SHALHOUB!).  However, as much as I would've liked Golden Boy to win at least one (maybe the committee should have given them sound design just for the heck of it because nobody really cares about that anyway), I think that for the most part the right call was made for these awards.  But, like I said, it was a great achievement for Golden Boy to earn so many nominations after running for such a short time, so I think it can be proud of itself.

I really don't know much of anything about this show.  I know that there was a heck of a lot of drama when Shia Labeouf quit the show (in a very unprofessional way that kind of made a lot of the theater world turn on him), and that people were excited about Alec Baldwin being on stage and that's really about it.  The show seems to be interesting enough, about two orphans who are taken in by one man who ends up not being a very nice guy and they kind of have to escape from the man who practically raised them.  The plot line sounds really good and, to be honest, I'm not sure why I didn't hear more about it.  I mean, if it really did have a good cast and a good story, why wasn't everybody talking about it?  To be honest, I wish that the nominations Orphans got (Revival and Leading Actor) both went to Macbeth, which, to me, was just a better show, or at the very least had a better marketing team, because I heard great things about it all the time!
Orphans was nominated for 2 Awards and did not win any of them:
  • Best Revival of a Play - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play (Tom Sturridge) - nominated
As I said, I don't really thing that this show deserved either of it's nominations (especially when there were snubbed shows like Macbeth, Picnic, Harvey, and Glengarry Glen Ross on the table) so I'm glad it didn't win anything.

The Trip to Bountiful
I wish there was more information about this show out there.  There seem to be lots of wonderful aspects of it and yet I can't find a single video of the performance on the Internet.  It's shows like these that make me want to talk to whoever runs the marketing for shows like this, as fan, it doesn't matter how many good reviews you get or big stars you have, if we can't see bits of the show, we can't fall in love with it.  But I digress.  The show is about an elderly woman who lives with an angry daughter-in-law and a son who won't stand up to her.  Eventually, she (the elderly woman) decides to run away from from their life in Houston to go back to her birthplace "Bountiful".  The play is about the "trip" she makes and the people she meets along the way.  The show is performed by an almost entirely African-American cast of superstars like Cuba Gooding Jr. [Jerry Maguire (Movie), Radio (Movie)], Condola Rashad [Stick Fly, Romeo and Juliet (2013 Revival)], Vanessa Williams [Into the Woods (2002 Revival), Sondheim on Sondheim], Tom Wopat [Sondheim on Sondheim, Catch Me If You Can], and Cecily Tyson [Trumpets of the Lord, The Corn is Green] and is sprinkled with uplifting hymns that have actually accidentally caused several audience sing-a-longs.  I've read mixed reviews on the show, but everyone agrees that Mrs. Tyson gives a stellar performance and that there is a truly beautiful spirit about the show.  I'm really glad they chose to revive it and I think they really put on a wonderful production!
The Trip to Bountiful was nominated for 4 Awards and won 1 of them.
  • Best Revival of a Play - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play (Cicely Tyson) - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Condola Rashad) - nominated
  • Best Sound Design of a Play (John Gromada) - nominated
I'm quite not surprised or disappointed by any of these awards.  I'm glad Ms. Tyson won for best actress, if nothing else just so that the world could hear what is, quite possibly, the most touching acceptance speech I have ever heard!  She seems like a really neat lady and after all she's done I'm so glad that she has finally been rewarded with a Tony Award!  As for the other nominations the show received, I think it's right that it lost best revival (as much as I liked it) and I really don't know enough to have an opinion on Sound Design.  I like Condola Rashad better than Judith Light (who ended up winning Featured Actress) but even she wasn't my favorite to win.  So all in all, I think the Tony committee did a fairly good job with this show.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Now THIS is a play!  I really wasn't super familiar with the show before this revival, but I knew that it was a classic and that it was an "intellectual work."  What I learned is that I have to find a way to go see this show.  It has everything that I look for in a non-fanciful play in that it is character driven, there is plenty of movement, it's thought provoking, there are unique relationships with all the characters, there's a good mix of comedic and dramatic moments, and it has a bit of a twist ending.  It is so intellectual and so subtle that I feel like it not only entertains, but it also challenges the audience to try to keep up and catch all of the passive aggression and foreshadowing and hidden motives.  Now, since I really didn't know much about the original production, and since this is the first cast I've seen, it might just be me, but I feel like the revival did a great job of keeping the material fresh and new.  I think it was BRILLIANTLY casted (hence, 75% of the cast was nominated), cleverly directed, beautifully designed, all around just well done!  Because of this production, I want to find a group doing this mammoth of a show (I think it's around 3 hours) and drink in every moment of it!
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was nominated for 5 Awards and won 3:
  • Best Revival of a Play - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play (Tracy Letts) - WINNER
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play (Amy Morton) - nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Carrie Coon) - nominated
  • Best Direction of a Play (Pam MacKinnon) - WINNER
As you've probably guessed by now, I couldn't have been happier about this show winning best Revival and (although I didn't mark it on my prediction ballot) I'm really glad Ms. MacKinnon won for Director as well.  I see why Ms. Morton lost to Ms. Tyson, and I honestly wish Carrie Coon had beaten out the rest of her competitors for Featured Actress.  The one I have mixed feelings about is Tracy Letts.  Because I really loved his performance and I thought he was absolutely perfect for this role.  In addition, Mr. Letts makes history by being the first ever Pulitzer Prize winner (he wrote a play called August: Osage County that is currently being turned into a movie staring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Abigail Breslin) to win a Tony Award for acting.  So you might ask, "Luke, if you love this guy so much, how could you possibly have 'mixed feelings' about his victory?"  Well, I'm glad you asked, the answer is two words: Nathan Lane.  I've loved Mr. Lane's work for a long time and he has won multiple Tony awards (which he absolutely deserved!).  So when I read that his work in The Nance was possibly his best performance yet, I knew it had to be stunning.  And it was.  All the videos I saw with him in it was just so perfect!  He, like Mr. Letts, absolutely nailed a very complicated, layered character.  I honestly think that both of these men's performances could have beaten the winners of the past 4-5 years!  However, in times like these, it's probably best not to dwell on what might have been and congratulate Tracy Letts on his spectacular performance, and his hard earned Tony Award.

So, all in all the plays were a little bit of a let down this year.  True, there were a couple of true gems (mostly in the revivals) but on the whole, most of the original shows disappointed me a little.  I also noticed that the plays seemed to get less time on the Awards ceremony themselves this year (there were no performances, and the slide show was kind of horrible).  What do you think?  Are the plays getting slowly smothered by the Musicals?  Is that a good thing?  Who wants to see the plays get more air time on the Tony's next year?  Feel free to answer these questions and more in the comments below.  And be sure to look for the final two installments of my "Tony Award series" within the next week or two.  Also, I should note, the Jimmy Awards happened just a few nights ago, so as soon as the videos are posted, you can look forward to seeing my post about some of the most talented kids our country has to offer!  So, stay tuned for all of that excitement!