It’s the most exciting day of the year, people. The Tony Award nominations came out for the 2013-2014 theater season and it’s a great mix.
After what I linked/briefly discussed yesterday, I am happy to announce that A Night with Janis Joplin star Mary Bridget Davies is nominated for Leading Actress in a Musical. It’s no consolation for losing out on a “guaranteed” off-Broadway transfer of the musical due to producer ineptitude, but it is a tremendous honor. There’s obviously more to a performance than just vocal impersonation, but Davies NAILS that Janis Joplin style in every video I’ve seen from the show.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to see the updated version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch playing on Broadway. It’s a matter of scheduling and availability. Who knows if they will even cast a replacement for Neil Patrick Harris when his contract ends or if they’ll just shutter the show?
What I do know is that I’m blown away all over again by the imagination of the creative team. It’s been over a decade since Hedwig made her stage debut off-Broadway and that has a huge impact on the timeline of the story. In 1998, it worked out just right for Hedwig to have gone through the botched sex change (hence the angry inch of the title) mere days before the Berlin Wall fell. Arriving on Broadway 16 years later could force the timeline to be tweaked.
The Royal Shakespeare Company has restaged its critically acclaimed repertory run of Twelfth Night and Richard III on Broadway. Each show features the same unit set–oak walls and hallways, two sets of boxed seating onstage, six massive candelabras hung over the stage as the main lighting–and many of the same actors.
Richard III is only being performed twice a week (compared to Twelfth Night‘s six performances a week), which is a genuine shame. The Mark Rylance-led cast of Shakespeare’s wildest History play is doing phenomenal work with a radically new interpretation of the text. Richard III is played not as a ghoulish tragedy but an almost-slapstick sitcom about the rise and fall of one of the most conniving rulers England ever had.
John Cameron Mitchell’s masterful rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch has had a long arc to a Broadway mounting. Since premiering in 1998 in a converted theater space off-Broadway, the show has been performed all over the world. Mitchell adapted, directed, and starred in the feature film adaptation in 2001 that received a Golden Globe nomination and critical acclaim. It helped launch Mitchell as a director capable of getting difficult projects to the screen–Shortbus and Academy Award-nominated Rabbit Hole included–and created demand for a Broadway mounting.
Soon, in 2014, we’re finally going to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. John Cameron Mitchell has been working on changes to the book for years to account for the different space and societal changes since the show debuted.
It’s not surprising that, 16 years later, Mitchell himself will not be playing the title role. That honor goes to Neil Patrick Harris. Harris has previously starred in the Broadway debut of Assassins in an excellent turn as the Balladeer, which is one of the trickier parts in the show. His Bobby in the NY Philharmonic production of Company was strong, as well. I love his work on the recording of the lesser-known Evening Primrose by Stephen Sondheim (TV musical special).
What Harris has is legitimate theater chops. He has a great stage presence. He moves well. And, most importantly, Hedwig is easily in his vocal range. I’m curious to see what Neil Patrick Harris brings to this role.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is, undoubtedly, a strange show. It’s a musical about a young man so desperate to escape the oppression of the USSR’s stranglehold over East Berlin that he has an irreversible medical procedure to pose as a woman and flee as a war bride. As soon as he lands in America, the Berlin Wall falls. His lover leaves him for another man and he starts a rock band. It only gets stranger from there.
Part of the reason Hedwig and the Angry Inch has taken so long to get to Broadway is the rewrite. The current version of Hedwig is an immersive show. It’s a rock concert at a restaurant across the street from a much larger rock arena. Hedwig interacts with the audience, including the infamous car wash gag. There’s a set script with audience and band banter, but Hedwig has to sell it like it’s a brand new experience every night.
John Cameron Mitchell needed to find a way to translate this raw energy into the more formal setting of Broadway. Conceivably, the show could take a page from Roundabout’s Studio 54 and have cabaret style seating rather than a traditional orchestra. They could borrow from Murder Ballad or Spring Awakening (to name two) and have audience members sitting onstage or surrounding the actors, as well.
But I think Mitchell is more creative than that. I imagine the changes to the show make it a period piece rather than a contemporary story as it’s traditionally done. If he shifts the setting, they won’t need onstage seating or even direct interaction. With the right monologues, the spirit of Hedwig will live on Broadway.
That makes the first show I have to see next season. We’re only a few weeks out from the Tony Awards and I’m already looking forward to Spring 2014 shows.
Thoughts on Hedwig and the Angry Inch? Share them.
That’s right! I’ll be live blogging theater’s biggest night here at Sketchy Details. Come for the art, stay for the snark. For all my love of the Broadway community and the great shows they do, I cannot ignore how odd the ceremony can be. Will someone get a concussion this year because they didn’t go to tech rehearsal? Will a high profile star go up on her lines? Will Catherine Zeta-Jones storm the stage and demand 90 seconds of a song go on for 3 minutes with pregnant pauses? Who knows? It’s the Tonys.
Tune back at 8PM EST for the live play by play. The blog is going to automatically update in your browser so you don’t have to click anywhere. The newest bit rises to the top like foam on a latte. It’s magic.
Checking it out after Tony night? Scroll to the bottom and read to the top. Then share your thoughts below.
Though the shows expected to rack up the nominations–Pippin, Matilda, Kinky Boots, and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike–did just that, the 67th Annual Tony Award Nominations were filled with surprises.
The biggest shocker, to me, is that the nominators remembered shows from all throughout the season rather than just the March-April releases that tend to dominate the nominations. They spread the love so far that two long-closed musicals–summer run Bring It On and limited winter/holiday run A Christmas Story–got nominated for Best Musical over smash hit Motown and critical favorite but commercial flop Hands on a Hardbody. They even nominated Rob McClure for Chaplin (closed January) and Carolee Carmello for Scandalous (closed December).
Then there is the absence of one-person shows in the acting categories. The Testament of Mary picked up a Best Play nomination but missed out on Fiona Shaw’s performance. Ann did the opposite, getting in for Best Actress in a Leading Role but missing out on Best Play. Bette Middler’s I’ll Eat You Last and Alan Cumming’s Macbeth got shut out entirely from the Tony race. Rumor has it that the producers of I’ll Eat You Last are no longer honoring complimentary tickets for Tony voters since the show is basically sold out and won’t be winning any Tony Awards; why not focus on maximizing the profit at this point?
Leading Actress in a Musical might seem like it’s missing four little girls at first glance. However, the quartet of performers starring in Matilda the Musical were removed from the category. They will receive a special Tony Award, Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theater, “to recognize their outstanding performances this season.” That basically puts Kinky Boots and Matilda the Musical on equal ground with 13 nominations to 12 nominations and a special Tony Award.
The other odd-looking nomination is Best Book for Rodger + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Douglas Carter Beane was hired to write a brand new book for the classic musical, putting it in the odd spot of being a revival of a musical eligible for Best Book.
Here are all the nominees for the 67th Annual Tony Awards.
The Assembled Parties Author: Richard Greenberg Lucky Guy Author: Nora Ephron The Testament of Mary Author: Colm Tóibín Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Author: Christopher Durang
Bring It On: The Musical
A Christmas Story, The Musical
Matilda The Musical
BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
A Christmas Story, The Musical - Joseph Robinette Kinky Boots - Harvey Fierstein Matilda The Musical - Dennis Kelly Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella - Douglas Carter Beane
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE
A Christmas Story, The Musical, Music and Lyrics: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul Hands on a Hardbody, Music: Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green, Lyrics: Amanda Green Kinky Boots, Music & Lyrics: Cyndi Lauper Matilda The Musical, Music & Lyrics: Tim Minchin
BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
The Trip to Bountiful
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY
Tom Hanks, Lucky Guy
Nathan Lane, The Nance
Tracy Letts, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
David Hyde Pierce, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Tom Sturridge, Orphans
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY
Laurie Metcalf, The Other Place
Amy Morton, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Kristine Nielsen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Holland Taylor, Ann
Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Bertie Carvel, Matilda The Musical
Santino Fontana, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Rob McClure, Chaplin
Billy Porter, Kinky Boots
Stark Sands, KinkyBoots
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Stephanie J. Block, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Carolee Carmello, Scandalous
Valisia LeKae, Motown The Musical
Patina Miller, Pippin
Laura Osnes, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY
Danny Burstein, Golden Boy
Richard Kind, The Big Knife
Billy Magnussen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Tony Shalhoub, Golden Boy
Courtney B. Vance, Lucky Guy
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY
Carrie Coon, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Shalita Grant, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Judith Ivey, The Heiress
Judith Light, The Assembled Parties
Condola Rashad, The Trip to Bountiful
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Charl Brown, Motown The Musical
Keith Carradine, Hands on a Hardbody
Will Chase, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Gabriel Ebert, Matilda The Musical
Terrence Mann, Pippin
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Annaleigh Ashford, Kinky Boots
Victoria Clark, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Andrea Martin, Pippin
Keala Settle, Hands on a Hardbody
Lauren Ward, Matilda The Musical
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Pam MacKinnon, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Nicholas Martin, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Bartlett Sher, Golden Boy
George C. Wolfe, Lucky Guy
BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
Scott Ellis, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots
Diane Paulus, Pippin
Matthew Warchus, Matilda The Musical
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bring It On: The Musical
Peter Darling, Matilda The Musical
Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots
Chet Walker, Pippin
Chris Nightingale, Matilda The Musical
Stephen Oremus, Kinky Boots
Ethan Popp & Bryan Crook, Motown The Musical
Danny Troob, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY
John Lee Beatty, The Nance
Santo Loquasto, The Assembled Parties
David Rockwell, Lucky Guy
Michael Yeargan, Golden Boy
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Rob Howell, Matilda The Musical
Anna Louizos, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Scott Pask, Pippin
David Rockwell, Kinky Boots
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY
Soutra Gilmour, Cyrano de Bergerac
Ann Roth, The Nance
Albert Wolsky, The Heiress
Catherine Zuber, Golden Boy
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Gregg Barnes, Kinky Boots
Rob Howell, Matilda The Musical
Dominique Lemieux, Pippin
William Ivey Long, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY
Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, Lucky Guy
Donald Holder, GoldenBoy
Jennifer Tipton, The Testament of Mary
Japhy Weideman, The Nance
John Gromada, The Trip to Bountiful
Mel Mercier, The Testament of Mary
Leon Rothenberg, The Nance
Peter John Still and Marc Salzberg, Golden Boy
BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Jonathan Deans & Garth Helm, Pippin
Peter Hylenski, Motown The Musical
John Shivers, Kinky Boots
Nevin Steinberg, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
SPECIAL TONY AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN THE THEATRE
Ming Cho Lee
REGIONAL THEATRE AWARD
Huntington Theatre Company
ISABELLE STEVENSON AWARD
TONY HONORS FOR EXCELLENCE IN THE THEATRE
Career Transition For Dancers
The Lost Colony
The four actresses who created the title role of Matilda The Musical on Broadway - Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon and Milly Shapiro
Tony Nominations by Production
Kinky Boots – 13
Matilda The Musical – 12
Pippin – 10
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella – 9
Golden Boy – 8
Lucky Guy – 6
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike – 6
The Mystery of Edwin Drood – 5
The Nance – 5
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – 5
Motown The Musical – 4
The Trip to Bountiful – 4
The Assembled Parties – 3
A Christmas Story, The Musical – 3
Hands on a Hardbody – 3
The Testament of Mary – 3
Bring It On: The Musical – 2
The Heiress – 2
Orphans – 2
Ann – 1
Annie – 1
The Big Knife – 1
Chaplin – 1
Cyrano de Bergerac – 1
The Other Place – 1
Scandalous – 1
What is it that has kept us coming back to Shakespeare again and again for centuries? Is it the masterful wordplay? The colorful characters? The layers of meaning and themes interwoven throughout? The structure that binds each play together?
Alan Cumming teams up with directors John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg to push our understanding of the power of Shakespeare in a new one act adaptation of Macbeth. Set entirely in one room of a mental hospital, Macbeth is reimagined as the paranoid fantasy of a sick man. Cumming carries the show, with Jenny Sterlin and Brendan Titley assisting as a doctor and an orderly in the facility. Macbeth is told with a series of props–surveillance cameras, examination tables, a baby doll, a bathtub, and a mirror, mostly–that defines location and characters.
This production of Macbeth is not something you can easily shake off because it is such a radical and challenging examination of the text. Cumming’s interpretation of the characters onstage goes against tradition at every opportunity. Duncan is a laughable oaf who could easily be eliminated by anyone with enough spare brain cells to spark up an idea. Lady Macbeth is overtly sexual, refusing to let her husband climax until he agrees to her every whim. Macbeth is quiet and relaxed even as fate begins to spin against him. Each character, from the witches to the guardsmen, is not played how you would expect.
Neither are the technical elements of the show. Max Richter composed a shockingly oppressive synth score that turns Macbeth into a brutally dark revenge thriller from the perspective of the criminal. A huge sweeping cadence of ambulance sirens, whistles, and incomprehensible speech swells to mark each act as well as the beginning and end of the show. There is barely a moment of actual silence on stage as the threat of more interference from the hospital staff is always there in the back of the unnamed man’s mind.
The psychiatric ward room is even more experimental than the score. A huge two-way mirror is mounted to the back wall, allowing the doctor and the orderly to just stand and stare at the man as he acts out his fantasy. Three surveillance cameras track his every move on three huge flat screen TVs mounted to the ceiling. A single mirror in the corner is illuminated by an exposed light bulb behind the staircase, blinding Cumming and the audience whenever he examines himself. A large bathtub sits filled in the middle of the stage, long enough to hold his whole body and deep enough to fully submerge himself if he so chooses. An extra passage is hidden behind a second bed and hospital divider that is only used in case of emergency. Each element onstage has a significant purpose in the show without once stretching believability. It’s quite remarkable.
Shifting Shakespeare to a new time period or location is nothing new. Neither is setting Shakespeare in an insane asylum. What Cumming, Tiffany, and Goldberg bring to this production of Macbeth is a keen understanding of the text. Their cuts to the play are effective and do nothing to change its meaning on a surface level.
The context, more than anything else, redefines what Macbeth could be. They have wild ideas that allow the bloodlines and irony to rule the day over characters and storytelling. It’s a masterful work of theater that will upset some theater goers. You can’t reinvent the form without leaving a few people behind and a trip this wild will never please everyone.
Macbeth is playing at the Barrymore Theater in NYC through 30 June 2013. I strongly encourage you to get a ticket if you’re in the area and have an open mind about Shakespeare.
I’ve been obsessed with Carrie: The Musical for much of my life. The ill-fated big budget Broadway adaptation of the Stephen King novel and the Brian De Palma film has perplexed and delighted theater fans for years. The infamous soundboard bootleg from one of the last performances has circulated readily since the late 80s–first on cassette tapes, then CDs, then digital download–and even included demos of the cut songs and interviews about the show. The show is so widely known in theater scenes that, if all the people who swear they saw the Broadway production actually saw it, the show would have lasted more than five performances.
Last year, Carrie: The Musical was revived in NYC. This was the first officially licensed professional production since the failed Broadway mounting. The buzz was huge and the original creative team even came back to revise the book and score. On paper, the show has never been stronger. The new orchestrations are more theatrical than the super-synth/MTV-styled orchestrations of the original. The new songs and lyrics do more to define character and theme than the replaced songs (including my beloved audition song “Heaven”). This is now the official version of Carrie, with a cast recording for sale and everything. It’s really good.
The problem was the infamous Carrie–with all the camp and spectacle–didn’t come with it. The new direction of the show was sincerity and intimacy. The material can handle intimacy, for sure. I dream of a one room adaptation where the entire story is told through the relationship between Carrie and Margaret White with a few moments happening right outside the door: the forced apology, Tommy asking Carrie to the prom, the gym teacher encouraging Carrie to fit in. But camp the story can’t live without. I mean, the revival wanted to do the prom prank scene with a digital projection of blood rather than an actual splash of stage blood onstage. The blood eventually came in but none of the spectacle–the slamming doors, the trap doors, the teenage sexual antics–came with it.
The revival is finally available to license for amateur and professional productions and I will be encouraging people I know to mount productions. There’s a great show here if the right team gets their hands on the material.
One scene from the original production stands out as the embodiment of the potential of Carrie: The Musical. In a scant four and a half minutes, two actors, strong direction, and a brilliant song create such suspense that the audience goes wild.
“And Eve Was Weak” is one of the Margaret and Carrie duets in the show. It happens right after Carrie is humiliated for having her first period in the locker room. Margaret, horrified that her daughter has disobeyed numerous rules, demands Carrie pray for forgiveness. A true Christian worthy of redemption would never receive “the curse of blood” and Carrie has failed her moral duties. Carrie fights back for the first time in her life, demanding an explanation of what she’s actually done and questioning her mother’s take on Christianity.
The two get into a physical altercation onstage. They circle each other and the cellar where Carrie is forced to pray. As Carrie fights back, her mother becomes more frustrated. Margaret drops her daughter down the steps, pushing her deeper and deeper into the hole until she can slam the trap door shut. Then the lights literally burn out in the house and Margaret learns the true meaning of fear.
At its essence, Carrie is a sensationalist show. This stems from King’s own approach to the material. The novel is epistolary, telling the story of a teenager’s murderous rampage through tabloids, news clippings, police reports, school records, and eyewitness accounts of the lives of Margaret and Carrie. The stories told are improbable–rocks falling from the sky, a young girl electrocuting a gym full of people and setting the building on fire, a mother attempting to cast the sin out of her daughter by stabbing her in the bath–but wild enough to make you want to read more.
“And Eve Was Weak,” as staged in the original Broadway mounting, accomplishes that. You can’t believe that this woman is throwing her daughter around for reaching sexual maturity yet it’s happening live in front of you. The daughter, barely able to get off her knees to defend herself, is utterly unprepared for the cruelty of the adult world. Carrie finds a way to fight back, but never finds a way to assert her worth until it is too late. Blowing up the light bulb could have been distraction enough to escape the cellar; instead, she doesn’t find the strength to lash out until she’s already lost the battle. It’s a brilliant visual representation of the power struggle between the characters and functions as narrative-essential spectacle. Who knew an eight foot raked flat could be so horrifying and electrifying?
There is never any doubt that Carrie has powers in the original novel and those powers manifest themselves in increasingly violent ways. You can’t tell this story in shades of gray; it needs the full rainbow of spectacle to breathe and draw the audience in. The first production of this musical to actually focus on the story with the appropriate level of theatricality will be a smash hit. Until then, we have to settle for reconciling the distracting spectacle of the original Broadway production with the subdued but improved exposition of the Off-Broadway revival.
Thoughts on Carrie in any form? Or “And Eve Was Weak” specifically? Share them below. Love to hear from you.