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.
No one can touch Lotte Lenya on “Pirate Jenny.” Is it fair to compare other performances of the song to one of the original actors/collaborators the show was written for? Strangely enough, it is. Despite Lenya becoming known for being Bertolt Brecht’s wife and muse (thereby making her a muse to composer Kurt Weill, as well), her original role in The Three Penny Opera was Jenny. It is Polly (originatde by Roma Bahn) who got to sing the original “Pirate Jenny.” Lenya performed the mezzo-soprano role of Jenny, performing “Solomon Song” and “Tango-Ballad.”
But, of all the songs Lenya became known for and her wide variety of roles in international theater, her performance as Jenny in The Three-Penny Opera is the most iconic largely because of her “Pirate Jenny.” The long-running 1956 revival changed the book of the show (far softer than the original language, perhaps even gentler) and reassigned many of the songs to different performers. Polly lost “Pirate Jenny” and “Barbara Song” to Jenny and Lucy (Bea Arthur, singing a soprano role as a tenor) and the show just flowed better.
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.
Jayne Houdyshell was nominated for Featured Actress in a Musical at the Tony Awards for her performance as Hattie Walker in the Follies revival. That character gets to perform one of the more cheerful and upbeat numbers in the show, “Broadway Baby.” In context, while the four leads star to relive their past relationships, the rest of the company takes turns recreating their big moments. Hattie busts out her showstopper “Broadway Baby.”
It’s an intentional disconnect with the material. You have an older performer singing a song about dreaming of being a big star on Broadway when her career is already over. She flirts with the audience and approaches the material in a way that worked when she was 40 years younger, but not now. Houdyshell really played this up to great effect in the production.
A cast recording of the Follies revival has been available for a while. However, “Broadway Baby” is preserved in the same format as the show. Reprises of “Ah, Paris” and “Rain on the Roof” pop up at the end.
This did not serve the needs of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum is compiling a collection of showtunes set in NYC and wanted Houdyshell’s “Broadway Baby” without the other songs. So, Jane Houdyshell graciously went into the studio and recorded a new version of “Broadway Baby.” It’s sensational.
It is available to download for free right now. Thank Playbill for letting us all know about it.
There’s been rumblings about a revised Side Show for a couple years. The cult musical about Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twin side show performers, has a beautiful score. It’s a rare school year if a few of my theater students don’t ask me if I know Side Show. It’s rarer still when they don’t follow that up with “Do you have the score? I want to sing ‘I Will Never Leave You.’” Suffice to say I have the song memorized at this point.
The Henry Krieger/Bill Russell musical is coming back. Playbill reports that La Jolla Playhouse in California and The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. will be hosting the updated version of Side Show next season. This is quite exciting. There’s so much to this story and so many ways to go about telling it. Who know what ideas director Bill Condon came up with to restructure the show?
And not to get ahead of ourselves, but The Kennedy Center and La Jolla Playhouse have a history of transferring productions to Broadway. La Jolla hosted Memphis, Jersey Boys, and Thoroughly Modern Millie before their Broadway runs. The Kennedy Center did the same for the recent revivals of Follies, Master Class, and Ragtime. Could Side Show really be coming back to New York? A guy can dream.
In conclusion, here’s Alice Ripley’s most rage-inducing stage failure. Watch for when the wind during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade knocks her out of sync with Emily Skinner. Flames on the side of her face, people.
There’s an odd trend popping up on Broadway that I’m getting a kick out of. Shows that recently closed on Broadway are coming back a year or two later for limited sit down engagements. This is not to be confused with cash grab moves like staging a revival of Rent in a smaller Off-Broadway theater or testing out material just long enough to be eligible for Tonys ala Bring It On.
No, this is referring to touring productions taking a Broadway house for a few weeks over the summer. Playbill announces the newest beneficiary of the trend is Fela!. This was one of my favorite new shows a few years ago when it popped up off-Broadway. The musical recreation of a Fela Kuti concert where he tells his life story while announcing his retirement (due to political opposition) is a thrilling show.
It didn’t exactly set Broadway on fire the first go around. It felt like the show was kept open to keep it in the Tony voters minds and then dragged along after a post-awards glow till the end of the year. I was happy as it meant being able to get discount tickets to see it a few times. However, where is the audience for another run of this?
The Hair revival that won all the Tonys a few years back did the same thing after it closed. I seem to recall the box off receipts weren’t that great, either. The show hadn’t even been closed for two years and the same production was thrown back on the Great White Way.
These rumors pop up occasionally but don’t always come through. There was hope of this happening last year with The Scottsboro Boys and this year with the Follies revival. And we’re still waiting for that limited return of the Ragtime revival.
I understand the business of it. You have a tour that can go anywhere in North America. A theater is vacant for the summer in NYC. You can easily squeeze in a three, four, five, or six week run in between longer sit downs without much effort. Your tour is selling well enough to allow you to take the hit if the Broadway stop doesn’t sell out. I just question what it does for the brand of the show in NYC if it comes back and doesn’t sell well.
Thoughts on this phenomenon? Love to hear from you. Sound off below.
The 66th Annual Tony Awards were held last night and it was a great night if you were connected to Once or Peter and the Starcatcher. These two shows picked up the lion’s share of the statues last night. Once in particular cleaned up, winning eight of their 11 nominations. Peter and the Starcatcher was close behind with five wins out of nine nominations.
Unlike last year, the 2012 Tony Awards ceremony was very unpredictable. The musical prizes were going to mostly be swept by either Newsies or Once depending on who you talked to. Both had huge support from the community after a season that started off on very shaky ground.
Play categories were even more unpredictable. There seemed to be a scenario where–tech categories aside–any of the nominees in the categories had a good chance of winning. How do you choose between Stockard Channing as a tortured mother, Cynthia Nixon as a cynical cancer patient, Linda Lavins as a woman slowly losing her husband to cancer, Tracie Bennett singing, dancing, and acting as Judy Garland eight shows a week, and Nina Arianda vamping her way through the is it or isn’t real S&M fantasy of a scholar? This was a strong season for play productions and the voters had a wealth of great shows to choose from.
Here are some of the highlights that you might have missed out on last night.
Steve Kazee wins Best Actor in a Musical for Once
Steve Kazee had a rough go with Once. For all the critical and commercial success, Kazee had far more pressing issues on his mind during the run. His mother was battling cancer back home in Kentucky. She passed away a few weeks after the show opened. Suddenly, Kazee was starring in a musical about love, loss, and regret while grieving the loss of his mother.
He still went on eight shows a week and gave himself to the audience in a very powerful role. Glen Hansard, the original Guy in the film, made my Best Actor shortlist in 2006. It’s a deceptively simple role that could so easily swing into boring if the performer doesn’t grab you. Kazee does. He deserved this on the merits of his performance alone. That he was struggling with such a tremendous loss just proves how committed he was to this role.
Plays Get Major Stage Time
You know what’s almost impossible to do? Showcase a straight play in the context of an awards show. Plays, by their nature, are meant to be seen in full. You can get a feel for a musical production by playing the sheet music selections or watching a video of a song. You can’t get a real feel for a play with a random out of context scene or even reading the text on the page.
The 66th Annual Tony Awards came very close to a workable solution for that. With the Best Play nominees, back-lit tableaux took the stage. Venus in Fur showed a man and a woman in a power struggle over a couch. Other Desert Cities showed a family circling each other in a living room. Peter and the Starcatcher showed a strange and wondrous contraption made of people and a bit of rope. Clybourne Park showed two couples, separated by time in the same living space. Jim Parsons read brief synopses of each nominee as the actors in the tableaux came to life and demonstrated the connections between characters. It was a really clever way of handling a big Tony problem.
However, three of the nominated shows lent themselves to isolated performances onstage. Peter and the Starcatcher is a silly fantasy with song, dance, and curious staging. They did a little montage of gags involving a trunk, a razor, and a man in a mermaid costume. One Man, Two Guvnors is a farce with music. Now Tony winner James Corden performed a big showy monologue with lots of physical comedy to the delight of the audience. End of the Rainbow is a show all about one of Judy Garland’s last concert appearances, backstage and onstage. Tony nominee Tracie Bennett performed selections frmo two Judy standards. These performances were used to break up a well-cut video montage of all the plays that performed on Broadway this season.
It was a good night to be a play for once. That hasn’t happened since they built elaborate dioramas of the sets ten or so years ago.
Neil Patrick Harris is Neil Patrick Harris
I’m warming up to Neil Patrick Harris as a Tony host. His Jimmy Fallon-like laugh at your own jokes presentation actually worked for me this year. I wish they had more time for his index card gags. Only one made it to air and it was great. I think his “My Left Footloose…think of the choreography” joke got the rest pulled.
That’s a minor blemish on a grand series of songs and gags. The absolute highlight was his post-opening number song about imagining a world that was like more like theater. The song was cute, the staging clever, and the guest appearances worth raving about. Sure, it was nice to see Amanda Seyfried camp it up onstage. Steffanie Leigh got to fly in as Mary Poppins for a Tony audience.
But where else will you see Patti Lupone push a lawn mower and say how much she loves the audience? Only in scripted theater. Not since she shook her tush while playing the tuba.
Audra McDonald Breaks Through as a Lead
It’s amazing to think that someone could win four Tony Awards, practically be a household name, and not have picked up a win in a leading category. That has been the story of Audra McDonald’s amazing Tony history.
She’s won five of the seven Tonys she’s been nominated for: Carousel, Master Class, Ragtime, A Raisin in the Sun, and now The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. However, despite stellar work carrying Marie Christine and 110 in the Shade, the leading actress category had not been kind to her.
Who knew it would take playing one of the most iconic roles in the canon of musical theater to get McDonald an award for carrying a show on her shoulders? Her speech was kind and gracious. And no, she didn’t make a rape joke. Calm down, Internet. No one trivialized sexual assault victims last night. If thanking a scene partner for making an extremely upsetting moment in a script a pleasure to perform is considered a joke, we’re all in trouble.
Here are all the winners.
What were your highlights from last night? Any category you wish went to someone else? Sound off below. I love to hear from you.