I’ll admit it. I really like Shakespeare in Love. I think it’s a clever and entertaining spin on Shakespeare with a great cast. The only Oscar victory I disagree with is Gwyneth Paltrow winning Best Actress, but that takes nothing away from the quality of her performance. I just preferred Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth.
Now, in London, you can see a live adaptation of Shakespeare in Love that looks like a lot of fun. Disney Theatricals teamed up with Sonia Friedman Productions to adapt the popular romance into a stageplay.
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.
In my day to day life, I don’t need to do a lot to justify my obsession with Shakespeare. I music direct/teach educational theater year round. There’s always an excuse to preach the good word of the Bard.
But, theatrical criticism has started to take a turn, at least in NYC. A great production of a safer Shakespeare–a Macbeth or a Twelfth Night–will easily get raves. A great production of a more problematic play–a Richard III or A Midsummer Night’s Dream–will receive far more mixed reviews. Context is important, and it’s becoming more common now to force 21st Century readings onto 16th/17th Century plays.
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.
Today, my students I’ve been working with since the end of September start their one weekend run of The Philadelphia Story. The singers and a student piano player are performing my original arrangements of 1930s/40s standards as varied as Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash’s “Speak Low,” George/Ira Gershwin’s “Nice Work (If You Can Get It),” and Louis Atler/Sidney D. Mitchell’s “You Turned the Tables on Me.” It’s a strong group of young female singers, so I coached them to pull inspiration from Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, and Ella Fitzgerald. The director wanted Frank Sinatra and I spun that to the abilities of the young performers.
Sadly, their prerecord of “Cheek to Cheek” for the curtain call didn’t work out, so we’re stuck with using one of the big inspirations for the program instead.
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.