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The 67th Annual Tony Awards Live Blog

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.

67th Annual Tony Award Nominations

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.

67thtonyawardsmusicalshock 67th Annual Tony Award Nominations

Two shows gone by January up for Best Musical

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?

67thtonyawardsspecial 67th Annual Tony Award Nominations

The four Matildas are already winners

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
Kinky Boots
Matilda The Musical


A Christmas Story, The Musical - Joseph Robinette
Kinky Boots - Harvey Fierstein
Matilda The Musical - Dennis Kelly
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella - Douglas Carter Beane


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


Golden Boy
The Trip to Bountiful
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella


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


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


Bertie Carvel, Matilda The Musical
Santino Fontana, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Rob McClure, Chaplin
Billy Porter, Kinky Boots
Stark Sands, Kinky Boots


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


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


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


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


Annaleigh Ashford, Kinky Boots
Victoria Clark, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Andrea Martin, Pippin
Keala Settle, Hands on a Hardbody
Lauren Ward, Matilda The Musical


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


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


John Lee Beatty, The Nance
Santo Loquasto, The Assembled Parties
David Rockwell, Lucky Guy
Michael Yeargan, Golden Boy


Rob Howell, Matilda The Musical
Anna Louizos, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Scott Pask, Pippin
David Rockwell, Kinky Boots


Soutra Gilmour, Cyrano de Bergerac
Ann Roth, The Nance
Albert Wolsky, The Heiress
Catherine Zuber, Golden Boy


Gregg Barnes, Kinky Boots
Rob Howell, Matilda The Musical
Dominique Lemieux, Pippin
William Ivey Long, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella


Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, Lucky Guy
Donald Holder, Golden Boy
Jennifer Tipton, The Testament of Mary
Japhy Weideman, The Nance


Kenneth Posner, Kinky Boots
Kenneth Posner, Pippin
Kenneth Posner, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Hugh Vanstone, Matilda The Musical


John Gromada, The Trip to Bountiful
Mel Mercier, The Testament of Mary
Leon Rothenberg, The Nance
Peter John Still and Marc Salzberg, Golden Boy


Jonathan Deans & Garth Helm, Pippin
Peter Hylenski, Motown The Musical
John Shivers, Kinky Boots
Nevin Steinberg, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella


Bernard Gersten
Paul Libin
Ming Cho Lee


Huntington Theatre Company


Larry Kramer


Career Transition For Dancers
William Craver
Peter Lawrence
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

So what do you think? Share your thoughts below.

Watch: Side by Side by Susan Blackwell: 2012 Tony Winners

Susan Blackwell has really grown to be a great interviewer. For her to take on the monumental task of interviewing all the winners backstage at the Tony Awards is one thing. To do it while maintaining her trademark wit is quite another.

It always feels like Susan is best friends forever with whoever sits next to her. Capturing non-performers right after receiving the highest award in theater is a great way to make them drop their guard. Sure, you find out that Susan actually does know Christian Borle. We already know she’s spent time with Audra McDonald.

But what about getting food for Jeff Croiter or helping Paloma Young dish about high school disappointments? Susan Blackwell’s ability to put seemingly anyone at ease and make them laugh with her is admirable. This video is a must watch montage of super happy people laughing at the absurdity of awards season while being cheered on by a big theater supporter.

And when I said “seemingly anyone,” I meant anyone but Sutton Foster. Not a fan of being licked on the cheek, that one.

Favorite moments from the video? I never thought I’d see Judy Kaye call herself a blithering idiot when she wasn’t in character. Sound off below with your thoughts.

What You Missed: The 66th Annual Tony Awards

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.

Watch: The Music of One Man, Two Guvnors

Part of the fun of following the Tony Awards is digging into the meat of the unusual nominations. A good place to start in recent years is Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theater. See how long and windy the title is? That’s how the Tony nomination committee decided to handle the inclusion of original music in non-musical plays this year.

The nominees for Best Original Score…are split down the middle this year. You have your two original musicals–Newsies and Bonnie & Clyde–which you can easily access by way of original cast recordings. Then you have your play nominees–One Man, Two Guvnors and Peter and the Starcatcher–that you normally have to see in theaters to get a feel for.

One Man, Two Guvnors clearly wants Best Original Score…attached to their play. They released a promotional video on Playbill featuring Grant Olding’s original skiffle songs from the play.

The two songs shown are quite catchy, which is the point. Skiffle is ear candy. It’s proto-rock and roll as interpreted by Brits exploring traditional American music. Who doesn’t like a good washboard percussionist?

If the rest of the songs are like that, there’s a chance that One Man, Two Guvnors could win the category. Newsies has new songs but the best songs are re-orchestrated from the movie. Bonnie & Clyde is a Frank Wildhorn show and NYC doesn’t care for him too much. If voters are willing to award a non-musical here (and the he said, she said gossip that spreads like wildfire around here swings back and forth like a pendulum), One Man, Two Guvnors might be victorious.

Prove me wrong, Peter and the Starcatcher. Put out your own video of your original songs and join in the fun. I mean, I’m going to see you anyway because OMG Celia Keenan-Bolger and Peter Pan and cast doubling as crew onstage! But it would be nice to hear what you’re working with before the Tonys have come and gone.

What do you think? Can a play actually win this category? Or will it take a year with no score nominees from musicals to guarantee that result? Sound off below.

The Surprises of the 66th Annual Tony Award Nominations

The 66th Annual Tony Award Nominations were announced a few minutes ago and they’re filled with surprises. It seems that shows that closed were remembered fondly and shows that are still running but not so good were mostly ignored. Even within that understanding, there are surprises.

The biggest shock has to be Leap of Faith getting a Best Musical nomination. The show was critically panned for being spectacle and nothing more. The producers even had to start running one of the most annoying “here’s what the audience had to say” ads I’ve ever seen to try and drum up business. The musical is an adaptation of the Steve Martin film with the same name. If you trust the reviews, the show lacks a compelling story, good songs, direction that makes sense, and opportunities for the cast to do anything worth noting.

I know the pickings were slim for new musicals this year–Lysistrata Jones, Bonnie & Clyde, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, and Ghost were the only un-nominated options–but it really does feel like people just voted for the last show to open and said “good enough.” I’m happy that the cast and crew of Leap of Faith are guaranteed another month of a job. That’s the nice thing I can say about that. The not so nice thing I could say is that the producers of End of the Rainbow, the Judy Garland play centered around one of her last concert appearances, should feel foolish for not pushing that show as a musical. The reviews were better and it has enough musical performances to feel close enough to a musical.

lauraosnesbonnie The Surprises of the 66th Annual Tony Award Nominations

Look at that. The world did remember you, Laura Osnes.

Coming real close on the shock scale is Laura Osnes being nominated for Leading Actress in a Musical for Bonnie & Clyde. This is not to discredit the quality of her performance. She was very good in the show. The nomination (and Frank Wildhorn/Don Black’s Original Score nomination) marks the first time a performer has been nominated for a Wildhorn show since Douglas Sills was nominated for The Scarlet Pimpernel in 1998. It’s also the first time that a Wildhorn show has been nominated since The Civil War in 2000.

It’s taken over a decade for a Wildhorn property to earn enough votes for a nomination. Could the impressions of his pop/rock theater approach be turning back in his favor? He did have back to back closed in one month flops. Will we ever see Broadway mountings of some of his shows that received career best reviews in Europe or do we settle for maybe a kinder look at future works?

Orchestrations had some pleasant surprises. As underwhelming as some of the original musicals were this season, most of the musicals (revival and new alike) had distinctive orchestrations. They easily could have gone for the folk stylings of Bonnie & Clyde, the synth pop of Ghost, the sugar of Lysistrata Jones, or even the stronger Latin rhythms of the Evita revival. When a bunch of people got mad that the Drama Desk Awards eliminated Orchestrations, it wasn’t because of a strict adherence to tradition. It was because it was a fantastic season–on and Off-Broadway–for orchestrations. There were comparatively tiny, limited run Off-Off-Broadway shows that could have competed against fuller orchestrations in Broadway shows this year.

One thing that did not surprise me was the Orchestrations nomination for The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Deidre Murray did the “music adaptations” for the A.R.T. run in Boston that created a lot of the controversy. She did not orchestrate the Broadway production. William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke did. Regardless of any changes to the book or attempts to “correct” what the Gershwins and Heywards got “wrong,” that score is a beast. If you tame it right, it sounds like the most beautiful music in the world. Clearly, Brohn and Janke did something right.

There was a bit of a surprise during the nominations telecast. Kristin Chenoweth and Jim Parsons announced the nominees. After Best Orchestrations, Chenoweth went off script and said, “I just love that category, don’t you?” I wonder how the “get rid of Orchestrations, no one cares about them. Wait, what do you mean every music director and orchestrator in the NYC+ area signed a petition and went to the media to denounce our awards? Quick, drum up some nominations. We’ll apologize on Monday,” board of the Drama Desk Awards feels right now. Kristin Chenoweth had to stand on a box to reach the microphone and even she’s taken them down for their foolish decision now. Well played, Kristin Chenoweth.

ghostthemusicalprojections The Surprises of the 66th Annual Tony Award Nominations

Critics and Tony Voters agree that Ghost has magnificent lighting effects. Crickets on the music.

Another non-surprise was the lack of nominations for very visual shows. Spider-Man was only nominated for its amazing set and elaborate costumes. Ghost was nominated for lighting design and Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s performance as Oda Mae (now officially a baity role on stage and screen). Leap of Faith is Gospel revival spectacle and only got one nomination. It’s in Best Musical, sure, but that’s it. On a Clear Day, with its forced 1960s op art perspective, only received an acting nomination for Jessie Mueller. Lysistrata Jones relied on the spectacle of basketball to wow audiences and only got nominated for its Book. It’s hard to say the Tony Awards don’t go for pure spectacle because they do in the design categories. You just need to have a strong show surrounding the visuals to get much attention beyond that.

Unless you’re Leap of Faith. Then you get a Best Musical nomination and nothing else.

You can read the full list of nominations at the Tony Awards site.

Thoughts? Love to hear them. I especially love to hear them if they support Once, which is finally getting its due as a brilliant story. It’s more than “Falling Slowly,” good people. I’d also love to see Eiko Ishioka win a post-humous Tony Award, even if it is for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. It’s also quite telling that they do not count Julie Taymor’s masks as part of the costume design. Lots of things to unpack about the Tony nominations this year.

Breaking It Down: Best Original Score at the 2011 Tony Awards

Best Original Score is one of my favorite categories in any awards show. I’ve grown up around music. It’s always been a major part of my life. I love listening to it, performing it, writing it, and analyzing it. So when an awards body like the Tony Awards decide to recognize a composer or composing team for writing the best score in a given year, I’m intrigued.

This year, the nominated scores are about as diverse as they can be. There’s a throwback classic American musical comedy score with some outrageous lyrics, a political score based in the minstrel tradition, a modern pop score tinged with disco flourishes, and a Spanish dance hued score all competing for the big prize. I can easily see any of these scores winning the prize. They’re all incredible. It’s going to come down to personal preference and familiarity on the big night.

So who is nominated, what is the score like, and what are some of the musical highlights of the production?

Breaking It Down: The 65th Annual Tony Awards: Best Musical

Four musicals are vying for the honor of being named the best new musical of the 2010-2011 Broadway season. What are they, who made them, what do they have going for them, and which will win the big prize?

The Book of Mormon

What is it?

The Book of Mormon is an original comedy musical about an oddly paired couple of Mormon missionaries sent to AIDS-stricken Uganda on a mission. The mission will be shut down if they do not get a substantial amount of new baptisms in the near future and their home village will be destroyed by a vicious warlord who believes only circumcising all virginal women can ward off the AIDS epidemic. Perfect Mormon Elder Price does everything by the book, but fails to garner any attention for the cause. His bumbling partner Elder Cunningham is placed in an unanticipated position of power when young village woman Nabalungi convinces her friends and family to give Mormonism a try. Too bad Elder Cunningham is a compulsive liar who never read The Book of Mormon.

Who made it?

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of one of the all-time great movie musicals South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, collaborated with Avenue Q composer/lyricist Robert Lopez to bring this madcap tale of missions gone wrong to life.

What’s so special?

Not only is The Book of Mormon arguably the funniest and most polished original stage musical since The Producers, it’s also the most traditional musical nominated for the big prize. The progression of the story and use of music would place it closer to Rodgers & Hammerstein than Hollman & Kotis (Urinetown). There are copious dance breaks, beautifully hand-painted backdrops, and simple suggestive sets that would be almost impossible to break down. The Book of Mormon has been selling to sold-out crowds since the first preview and you now have to book months ahead of time to get a seat. Finally, the show will be touring starting next year, a feat that some thought was impossible due to the more adult humor in the show.

Catch Me If You Can

What is it?

Catch Me If You Can tells the story of the greatest con-artist you never really knew about: Frank Abangale, Jr. Time and again he talks his way out of trouble by assuming a new identity. From teacher to pilot to doctor to charismatic thief, Abangale, Jr. can convince anyone of anything. Catch Me If You Can starts and ends with his final capture, telling his life story. Carl Hanratty is the FBI Agent one step behind Abangale Jr.’s latest scam.

Who made it?

Terrence McNally, Marc Shaiman, and Scott Witmann collaborated on the book, music, and lyrics of Catch Me If You Can. McNally wrote the books to Ragtime and The Full Monty, while Shaiman and Witmann previously collaborated on Hairspray.

What’s so special?

Spectacle and scale. No other nominee this year is this big and splashy in its presentation. The full orchestra is onstage as a life-size plane is rolled on and off the stage. Chorus lines abound. Popular actors Aaron Tveit and Norbert Leo Butz are living in these dual leading roles tailor-made to their strengths.

The Scottsboro Boys

What is it?

Kander & Ebb’s final collaboration, The Scottsboro Boys, deconstructs the minstrel show to explore the horrible treatment of nine black teenagers falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1930s Alabama. Even after their accuser recounts her testimony, the Alabama legal system will not release the boys. They spend the prime of their lives trapped behind bars for a crime they didn’t commit. The innovative show uses ten chairs and a big open stage to create everything from the train to a nightmare vision of the electric chair.

Who made it?

Kander & Ebb wrote the music and lyrics in full on provocative Cabaret mode. Susan Stroman stepped in after Frank Ebb’s death to help book writer David Thompson and John Kander bring the show to Broadway. There is such synergy between the four collaborators that it would be a shame to not include director Stroman’s creative input on the piece.

What’s so special?

Nostalgia and merit. The Scottsboro Boys limped through a barely 6 week run from November to December despite glowing reviews and the chance to see Kander & Ebb’s last show. It was just too challenging to be run on such a shoestring marketing campaign and needed a much bigger push to last through December. The show is well-remembered and a San Francisco production is happening. A feature film might also be in the works. There’s even talk of bringing the show back for a limited run on Broadway again. Merit wise, it’s sharp, political, highly theatrical, historical, and one of the tightest and most powerful pieces of theater I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing (Off-Broadway, I was waiting to get my tickets for a January performance on Broadway and missed out).

Sister Act

What is it?

Sister Act is an adaptation of the hit Whoopi Goldberg film of the same name about singer Delores von Cartier forced into a nunnery to hide her from the mob. This stage adaptation resets the action to the 1970s, where Delores is a rising disco diva. Every song in the show is original, replacing the classic Motown tracks with Delores’ disco soon-to-be-hits when the nuns start swinging. It’s a madcap comedy with lots of energy and audience appeal.

Who made it?

Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast) and Glen Slater (Love Never Dies, Tangled) wrote the music and lyrics. Cheri and Bill Steinkellner wrote the book.

What’s so special?

Middle of the road audience appeal. Sister Act is a safe show. It’s not going to offend anyone and the score is tuneful without any vulgarities. Its message is one of acceptance, not some highly political stance. It’s a good show that will easily tour and can play for years on the marquee value of the name alone.

Which will win?

The Book of Mormon is the safe choice. It’s still running and the reviews are fantastic. Plus, the show is sold out for months. The Scottsboro Boys can play a spoiler if the Tony voters are particularly nostalgic about Kander & Ebb and remember how powerful and provocative the production was. If it was still running, it would probably win without an issue. Since it’s closed, it’ll be an uphill battle.

Great Moments in Tony History: Dreamgirls

Can you believe the iconic image of Jennifer Holiday physically lifting and throwing down her leg was a safety precaution? It’s true. At the Tony Awards in 1982, there was an extension cord run straight down the middle of the stage. It was covered by a track. To be safe, Ms. Holiday was told to lift her leg over the track to make sure she didn’t trip. The rest is history.

This is how you slay it at the Tony Awards, my friends. Put your best nominated performer out there to sing the highlight of the show and let the raw force sell the tickets. Do you think I’m not going to buy a ticket to a performance this strong because it spoils that Holiday’s character gets fired from the group? No. That’s stupid. You go to live theater for the experience and Dreamgirls sold that in the full context of a scene. It’s brilliant.

It’s no wonder this production won six Tony Awards. If you are wondering what beat it for musical, the answer is Nine, which is a far bolder musical with a score that could make you cry. I think the voters got it wrong giving book to Dreamgirls and score to Nine (reverse it and I’d be happier), but I can’t fault them on rewarding the big prize to Nine in the end.

What the Tonys Missed: Wonderland’s Sound Design

Best Sound Design is the youngest category at the Tony Awards. It was first handed out four years ago at the 2008 ceremony and–much like the equivalent category of Sound Mixing at the Oscars–went to the loudest and most intense sound designs (The 39 Steps for play, South Pacific for musical). The category has only demonstrated one consistency and that is awarding shows with complex layering with the award in the Musical category.

The question becomes how did Peter Hylenski’s work on Wonderland, a musical currently running on Broadway, get passed to see him nominated for his much more subdued work in The Scottsboro Boys? It’s not like the category was opposed to a double nomination this year (Brian Ronan was nominated for both Anything Goes and The Book of Mormon). Is this just a case of recognizing Hylenski for an admittedly better show even if it’s his lesser work in a season?

Here’s how I see it. Wonderland was snubbed for all the awards because it doesn’t do a lot of things right.The book is very loose and the performances aren’t consistent in their attack on the material. The projections are clever but way too cartoony to match the intricately detailed costumes and lighting design. The disparate elements meant that the nominators looking for a cohesive show to recognize weren’t going to leave impressed with anything. Were they really going to give a show a singular nomination in Sound Design of all categories?

Great Moments in Tony History: Patti LuPone’s Second Win

Every week until the Tony Awards, I’ll be digging around for video of some of my favorite Tony Awards moments. Join me for a trip down memory lane. And by memory lane, I’m pretty sure I mean strange occurrences and maybe that Sideshow performance.

You know you’re in for something special when a funny performer like Patti LuPone wins an award. You know you’re in for something memorable when Patti LuPone opens her mouth to say “It is, uh, such a wonderful gift to be an actor who makes her living working on the Broadway stage and then every thirty years or so pick up one of these.” On the one hand, she has consistently done great work in her career and has earned Tony nominations for some challenging roles, like Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. On the other hand, her joy at winning almost reads as a sense of entitlement, especially when she goes all Cuba Gooding, Jr. on the producers and refuses to wrap up her speech when the orchestra kicks in.

And what did she win for? That show where she lectured the audience on manners because someone wouldn’t stop taking flash photographs…I mean, a wonderful performance as Mama Rose in Gypsy. It was a big night for the revival, winning awards for Patti, Laura Benanti, and Boyd Gaines. Here they are performing one of their big numbers at the Tony Awards that year.

Now what happens if Patti LuPone wins this year for her featured role in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown? Judging by the interviews she’s been giving recently, she will lecture the audience on why we need to support our original theatrical composers and writers and give them a chance to actually develop new work on Broadway. And, chances are, she’ll have the audience eating out of the palm of her hand. She commands it with her talent and presence. If only they made more performers like Patti LuPone, we might actually get new projects developed to show off talent like that.

The 65th Annual Tony Awards Nominations: General Thoughts

On Tuesday 3 May 2011, the nominations for the 65th Annual Tony Awards were announced. I have to say that I’m rather happy with the direction the nominators went in. With the exception of Wonderland (more about that later today), all of the major musical productions of the 2010-2011 Broadway season were recognized in categories that fit. For example, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson had a great book and set design and was nominated accordingly.

The big news from the awards is not The Book of Mormon‘s 14 nominations, but The Scottsboro Boys‘ 12 nominations.

Should the Tony Awards Reconsider Special Theatrical Event?

At the most recent meeting of the Tony Awards Administration Committee, Kathy Griffin’s one woman show Kathy Griffin Wants a Tony was deemed ineligible for awards consideration. At an earlier meeting, Paul Reuben’s updated The Pee-Wee Herman Show was deemed eligible for all the play categories. This Broadway season has also seen concerts like Donny & Marie: A Broadway Christmas, innovative mixed song/book/projection/special effects shows like Brief Encounter, and one-person shows like Ghetto Klown.

From 1999 to 2009, The Tony Awards Administration Committee was given the option to categorize non-traditional shows as Special Theatrical Events. Some years, only one show was eligible and awarded, like Dame Edna: The Royal Tour or Sarah Jones’ one-woman show Bridge and Tunnel. Some years, there would be multiple nominees; other years, no nominees. There was no requirement to include the category each year. It was designed to recognize outstanding theater outside of traditional plays and musicals.

After the 2008-2009 Tony Award season, the organization removed the Special Theatrical Event category altogether. There was no official explanation, just a statement saying as such.

Mood Buster: The 1985 Tony Awards

It’s been a rotten day and I need to cheer up.

Ooo…the infamous Sideshow performance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade that still haunts Alice Ripley because the wind was strong enough to push her and Emily Skinner apart. Cute, but not cute enough.