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!

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