Tony Awards

Remembering Hal Prince

Collaborative

From David Culltion: Processing the Loss of a Legend

I was at work when Hal Prince’s death was announced on the morning of July 31st. At first I couldn’t believe it. “Hal Prince is dead?” I thought to myself. “That’s not right, he’s supposed to be immortal. This is actually impossible.” I know these thoughts sound hyperbolic, but when I first heard of his passing I truly couldn’t fully grasp the idea that he was gone. Hal Prince’s creative handprints are all over many of the musicals that I hold close to my heart, and a world without him means one where no other extremely lucky piece of art will ever get his golden touch again. Almost two weeks later, this is still a concept that’s difficult to grapple with. Perhaps this blog is my way of coping with it this far down the line. Perhaps, dear readers, it might help a few of you as well.

Hal Prince’s projects have always been bold and innovative in some way. He was never the kind of man who simply played it safe, every show he worked on brought us some sort of theatrical innovation straight out of his head. It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that the Hal Prince projects that mean the most to me are his collaborations with Stephen Sondheim. From swooping in at the last second to produce West Side Story (ensuring Sondheim’s launch into his highly successful professional career), to his daring directorial work on shows as experimental as Company and Merrily We Roll Along, and of course his brilliant vision for the original production of Sweeney Todd (my favorite musical of all time for those who haven’t read my blog on the show), I think these projects are some of the best reflections on just how revolutionary Prince was throughout his decades-long career. Of course, that’s not to say that his projects outside of Sondheim were anything to shrug at. Hal Prince was the mastermind behind smash hit megamusicals like The Phantom of the Opera as well as less mainstream thought provokers like Parade. Hal Prince helped shape some of the greatest musicals of all time, each one leaving a mark on the world of theatre in its own unique way. The shows that were produced and/or directed by him in his career are seminal works of art that I and many others find influential in our own work. When I directed The Lion King Jr. last summer, keeping in mind Prince’s bold thematic work helped empower me to give my production a unique aesthetic to try to get at a core meaning of the show. If it hadn’t been for him giving Sweeney Todd a heavy industrial revolution aesthetic to highlight its core message, who knows if the thought would have even occurred to me that I could do The Lion King without making it look like a lame Taymor clone? If he hadn’t taken risks like he did with Merrily We Roll Along, I’m not sure if I would EVER feel like the crazy theatrical ideas that pop into my mind could ever work. Without him to keep leading us into the theatrical future, it’s scary to think what bold moves of him I could be missing out on to bolster my own creative thinking. Now that he’s gone, we’re what’s left…

But… maybe that’s not as bleak a thought as it first feels.

We are now living in a post-Hal-Prince world. As hard as that can be to swallow, that is a reality that we just need to accept. But until society as we know it collapses, we ARE still living in a world where his work will endure long after his passing. West Side Story is getting a widely publicized second film adaptation followed by a Broadway revival, his Sondheim collaborations are still regarded as some of the greatest musicals of all time, and The Phantom of the Opera is still running its original productions on Broadway and in the West End with no end in sight after over 30 years. These are stories that continue to inspire theatregoers long after their inceptions at Prince’s hands. With his work enduring far past his own lifespan, I believe that the best way for us to fully process the loss of such a monumental figure is to make sure that the stories he helped bring to life are preserved, and that the creative inspiration he gave to the modern theatrical scene does not go unutilized. After I got home from work on the day of his death, I immediately started listening to songs from Sweeney Todd and I suddenly felt a little better. I think that’s because a little part of him survives in each show he works on. Now that Hal Prince’s gone, it’s in our hands to ensure that these stories keep getting told in new and exciting ways, just as I’m sure Prince would’ve wanted them to be. Hal Prince left behind the legacy of a visionary, a legend whose brilliance breathed inimitable life into stories that have already become timeless classics. These stories exist to be interpreted and dissected and spun in new directions by the surviving visionaries that Hal Prince left behind, not only on Broadway but all over the world in every city where the spark of theatrical creativity can shine.

Hal Prince’s death is both an occasion to mourn and an event in which to find inspiration. Hal Prince is gone, we’re what’s left, and we have the power to continue to change the face of theatre in its honor, telling timeless stories in bold ways so we can in turn inspire those who come after us to do the same in ours, etc.

A bold theatrical tradition in the making, all thanks to a theatrical Prince who loved to dare to dream.

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From Michael Kape: Remembering Hal

A few weeks ago, I exhorted people to give tribute to the living legends still among us. In passing, I noted the larger-than-life presence of Harold S. Prince—little realizing how prescient that exhortation might have been. On July 31, we lost Hal, a one-of-a-kind-never-to-be-seen-again Broadway legend.

Others have already remarked on his most notable achievements in musical theatre, and they’ve done it better than I ever could. I cannot tell you how many hours I spent watching shows produced and/or directed by Prince (maybe days or weeks might be better than hours when all the time is added up). Shows like A Doll’s Life, Grind, Merrily We Roll Along, Silverlake, Bounce, Diamonds, Parade, or Some of My Best Friends. Legendary. Oh wait, you say, those were all flops. Yes, and that’s notable just as much as his big achievements were. Why? Because he dared to try. He didn’t always choose the safest or most commercial pieces. He defied the expected and explored the surprising. Sometimes, the surprising worked (and those shows are rightly celebrated). Sometimes, they failed. Others have explored the hits in depth. Being contrarian, I’d like to look at the shows others have mostly forgotten.

Yet much has been written about Merrily in particular. The concept behind the show was all Hal Prince’s idea—to have a group of young performers be onstage in a musical version of the Kaufman and Hart play (which itself was not a hit, but I digress). The problem is Prince got lost. In his book, Contradictions, Prince talks about always having a visual image he used to guide his direction (the most famous being the picture of Gloria Swanson amidst the ruins of the Roxy as guidance for Follies). In Merrily, the image was bleachers in a high school gymnasium. It wasn’t good. The production wasn’t good. The direction, frankly, wasn’t good. By opening night (I was there with my BFF), it had all fallen apart. It was a crying shame.

Ibsen’s A Doll’s House is a classic realistic proto-feminist drama, ending with a flourish as Nora slams the door on her conniving and controlling husband. Prince dared to ask what happens after the door slams. The result was A Doll’s Life. It was painful. Poor Betsy Joslyn, who was a notable replacement Joanna in Sweeney Todd, was forced to carry an entire production on her shoulders. She was talented enough to be up to the task, but she was done no favors by the script, the score, or Hal Prince’s visual guide (The Scream by Edward Munch). My BFF and I debated at intermission whether to stay for Act II. We stayed. We were sorry. But the thinking was right—what really did happen to Nora after the door slammed (a concept more successfully explored many years later by Lucas Hnath in A Doll’s House, Part 2). 

(Not long after, I had somehow managed to win tickets to the opening night of the opera house version of Candide. It was Prince’s reimagined version reimagined once again for New York City Opera, and it was brilliant. He and Steve Sondheim were seated directly behind my BFF and I, and we nodded our hellos before the curtain rose.)

And sometimes, Hal Prince just did it for the money—as we’ve all had to do at times. Probably his most out-of-character and least successful Broadway show was a pedestrian drawing room comedy/star vehicle for Ted Knight (coming off his time on The Mary Tyler Moore Show). He didn’t like the material. He wasn’t fond of his leading man. He couldn’t find anything to hold his interest. The show (mercifully) closed after four performances and universally scathing (and richly deserved) reviews for everyone attached.

Not even Hal Prince could save a show—even one by Steve Sondheim—with an inherently flawed problem. Sondheim had wanted for years to write a musical about the Mizner Brothers. At various times, it was called Wise Guys, Gold, Bounce, and finally Road Show. The inherent flaw (and a surprising one since he once told a friend to put this very thing in a show he’d written) was a lack of conflict between the brothers. In Chicago, Prince tried valiantly to fix Bounce. He tried all his best tricks (and every director has a bag of tricks; with Hal you could tell a show was in trouble when the leading lady showed up in a red dress—see A Doll’s Life), but nothing worked. Still, if you ever have the chance, listen to the Bounce cast recording, which is the best version of the Mizner story in my opinion.

At least Hal Prince tried. He was usually successful (let’s face it, without Prince’s sweeping direction, Phantom of the Opera would not be the longest running Broadway show). And sometimes he wasn’t. But he always tried, and for that he deserves all the praise we can give him.




From Sabrina Wallace: To Work and To Experiment

On July 31st, 2019, the lights of Broadway dimmed to honor Hal Prince. That night, the world learned that our community lost a creative genius, an ally to the arts, and a theatrical legend. Mr. Prince gave us masterpieces like West Side Story, Chicago, The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, Parade, and The Phantom of the Opera, among many many others. His Broadway career spans over several decades in a multitude of roles, from producer and co-conceiver to director. His work will forever inspire generations of producers, directors, writers, and actors, to create and deliver musicals that can be enjoyed by theatre lovers all around the globe. 

 

Hal Prince conceived, directed, or produced some of the best musicals in the history of Broadway, many of which won various Tony Awards. One of the most beloved pieces among his shows is Parade, the tragic, true story of the trial and lynching of a man wrongly accused of murder. When asked by Playbill why he wanted to do a show about such a difficult story, he simply said “What I’ve learned over the years is that the impossibly difficult ideas are the best ideas. The challenge is to unlock them. It’s the easy, can’t-miss ideas that are always a problem for me.” Hal Prince wasn’t afraid to bring to the stage musicals that told stories that mattered. This is evident in his repertoire, his legacy. One of his most famous quotes sums up his approach to Broadway and inspires me to continue to support new content in musical theatre.  “The idea is to work and to experiment. Some things will be creatively successful, some things will succeed at the box office, and some things will only - which is the biggest only - teach you things that see the future. And they're probably as valuable as any of your successes.” — Hal Prince 

Broadway will miss you Hal but Heaven just got a little more theatrical! 




ATB Reviews the Tonys

Collective Article, Put Together by Sabrina Wallace

James Corden As Host

By Amelia Brooker

 Still reeling in the success of hosting the 2016 Tonys, James Corden returned on Sunday evening to resume his hosting duties three years later. Many speculated if Corden was involved enough in the Broadway community to serve as host, especially with such a stacked year for both musicals and plays. Clearly, he had his work cut out for him. Would he be able to live up to his past performance? Would he struggle to follow last year’s team of hosts? Or would he flop like Kevin Spacey?

In the end, he prevailed. His opening number, while perhaps not among the greatest of all time, was inventive and exciting. Corden was smart to capitalize on his TV success, comparing live theatre to entertainment through screen in his number “We Do It Live”. Multitudes of cast members were featured, filling the entire stage and leaving Corden with a look of pure joy as it ended. Corden’s segments throughout the show were memorable as well, perhaps the most being his “James in the Bathroom” spoof from the nominated show Be More Chill. Having Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles return was a delight, with a special appearance by fan favorite, four-time host Neil Patrick Harris.

 

James Corden marks the nineteenth person to host the Tonys multiple times, and for good reason. He lived up to his previous experience, made everyone laugh with hilarious segments, and ultimately added his own personal flair to the show. I don’t doubt he’ll return for a third time in the future, having set a standard for years to follow.

 

 A Non-theatre Nerd Response to the 2019 Tony Awards

By Elizabeth Bergmann

 I watched the Tony Awards with my family, and since they haven’t followed the season as closely as a lot of us theatre fans have, here’s a quick look at some of the things that were said during the show, in no particular order:

 “It’s weird that he [James Corden] isn’t singing in a crosswalk.”

“That’s a lot of people raising their hands. Have there really been that many dead people on Law & Order?”

“Oh, Radio City must be happy they’re showing off their hydraulics so much tonight. They talk about that a lot in the tour.”

“That’s a lot of Temptations.”

“Since when is Scout Finch an adult?”

“Kristen Chenoweth’s face doesn’t match her neck. If I were her, I’d have it out for whoever did my makeup.”

“I’ve used that bathroom. It’s a nice bathroom.”

“That’s Neil from White Collar?”

“She’s Ado Annie? She’s got a voice on her.”

“Ooh, I’m glad Bob Mackie won!”

“Catherine O’Hara was in Beetlejuice?”

“Oh, Ado Annie won! That’s exciting!”

“I’m sorry, but he [Santino Fontana] is way too pretty as Dorothy Michaels.”

“Oh, you wanted this actress [Stephanie J. Block]  to win, right? It’s just like watching Cher instead of an actress playing Cher.”

“I thought you said Jeff Daniels was the winner.”

“What’s this play about?”

“What’s this musical about?”

“MRS. MAISEL IS BLONDE?”

“I thought you said this wouldn’t be like last year where one show was winning everything.”

“Wow is that King Kong segment impressive. And the cast of Moulin Rouge! Talking about it fits ‘Spectacular Spectacular’.”

“This is the show [Hadestown] you thought would win, right?”

 

A Night At The Tonys

By Sabrina Wallace 


Sabrina Wallace’s Tony ticket. Photo Credit: Sabrina Wallace

Sabrina Wallace’s Tony ticket. Photo Credit: Sabrina Wallace

 

I’m the jeans and t-shirt kind of gal so wearing a full-length gown and 6” heels was a monument event on its own. When I put on my shinny ball gown and 6” heels on Sunday evening, I walked into a dream. I say a dream, because there is no way, this was all real. Radio City Hall was buzzing with the excitement of everyone involved. We walked around and took pictures at the foot of the stage, peaked at the big celebrities of the hour. Adam Driver (Burn This) in a classic black tux, Lilli Cooper (Tootsie) in a gorgeous blue dress, our dearest Beth Leavel (The Prom) in a gorgeous sparkling gown, and Caitlin Kinnunen (The Prom) in a Kenneth Cole pant suit that was wicked sleek. André De Shields (Hadestown) was a rock star sporting Hermes-type golden shoes with wings! 

 

The event started at 7pm EST. During the non-televised first hour of the show, Aaron Tveit, Danny Burstein, and Karen Olivo presented the Creative Arts Awards that were later shown for TV audiences between takes. Attendees took turns to go get drinks and meet and greet with friends and fellow artists. I got to see Eva Noblezada and Reeve Carney walking down the stairs together. Carney helping Noblezada with her dress (such a cute moment between co-stars). His outfit was something for sure, top hat and all. Eva Noblezada looked lovely and fresh! 

At 8pm James Corden showed up and the live portion of the show started. I personally loved every little bit of it (except not winning of course). All in all, it was a great evening for the industry and the celebration was the reason why we do this thing called theatre! The commercial breaks were so much fun. I don’t think I can watch this from my home ever again and not be there in person enjoying the electricity and the warmth that emanates from each artist or supporter of the arts in that room. It is exhilarating! 

 

During commercial breaks, Ben Platt performed “Tomorrow" from Annie, Anthony Ramos and Chris Jackson sang “96,000” from In the Heights and Billy Porter brought down the house with a spectacular rendition of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy. Who wouldn’t love him in that outfit and with that voice!  There was also a silly little stunt about how nice Broadway people are - which is actually true - until Laura Linney and Audra McDonald gave James what he wanted, a fake feud! Corden was on fire, joking with the audience at all levels of appropriateness. Everyone was in a good mood, so it was an entertaining evening. 

 

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James Corden and Ben Platt doing Karaoke. Photo Credit: Sabrina Wallace

My own little secret to share. My partner and I were sandwiched between the production team of Tootsie and Hadestown, but the electricity of the evening was contagious. We held hands during the Best Musical announcement and briefly embraced each other tight when our show wasn’t called. We still stood up and honored the winners. That is how this it’s done. We need to celebrate each other! Not knowing this, our daughters were doing the same up in the Mezzanine. They cried a little bit too. It wasn’t because we didn’t win but because they were so proud of our show and what it brings to this world that they couldn’t hold the emotions any longer.  

 

Empty handed but filled with pride for my cast and crew, we left the event to go to the Gala at the Plaza. We met some of the winners and the rest of the nominees there. The food was amazing, there were people performing at a cabaret style show hosted by Feinstein’s/54 Below, and happiness all around. I got to meet Aaron Tveit, André De Shields, Laura Donnelly and my all-time favorite star Ms. Kelli O’Hara, who is beyond gracious and sweet! 

 

THE PROM at the Gala  From left to right, co-producers James and Sabrina Wallace, composer Matthew Sklar and co-producer Laura Galt. Pc: Sabrina Wallac

THE PROM at the Gala

From left to right, co-producers James and Sabrina Wallace, composer Matthew Sklar and co-producer Laura Galt. Pc: Sabrina Wallac

After the Plaza, we made our way to our own party and celebrated with our lovely cast and co-producers before calling it for the night. The cast was in good spirits and we congratulate them all for having such a great performance. We think The Prom gave one of the best performances of the evening, and hope audiences got to appreciate what our show has to offer “love, understanding, equality, and a place where everyone is accepted no matter who they happen to love!” If you haven’t seen it click here: https://www.cbs.com/shows/tony_awards/video/dhEZWsB___ccJ3vJD6iW66OmHBjR6liY/the-cast-of-the-prom-performs-tonight-belongs-to-you-it-s-time-to-dance-at-the-2019-tony-awards/?fbclid=IwAR1F_79I8kXKsYRNiiiUX17Uj7R9trWFahWN1WIa-amDUkzSbR4v3bL27hE

 

I woke up from my dream Monday morning and went back to reality! Life moves on ….  For my husband and I, this is a business, but we do this because we love theatre, we love putting shows out there that can have an impact on people’s lives. Our cast talks to people at stage door after every show and the stories they hear are heart wrenching and heartwarming at the same time. They hear from kids whose parents don’t know they are gay, and the show gives them the courage to open that door. There are adults that never felt they belonged anywhere, but the show makes them feel embraced. Or parents that come to understand that their kids cannot choose who they love, and the show gives them a way to start having an open dialog about their own lives. Overall, this is a show that opens hearts, widens horizons, and embraces the uniqueness in each and every one of us. Even those that don’t like the show, come to appreciate it for what it tries to convey, a message of acceptance.  In the words of our genius lyricist Chad Beguelin, "Build it now, make people see how the world could one day be, it might come true if we take a chance” — (“It’s time to dance!”) Take a chance at The Prom, take a chance at each other. Make the world a better place for everyone!

 

Finally ….

 

“Let Us Entertain You”- Reviewing the performances at the 2019 Tony Awards

By David Culliton

 

Opening - Probably the best way to describe the majority of James Corden’s opening number this year is “cute.” First off, it unfortunately didn’t measure up to his opening at the 2016 Tonys. “That Could Be Me” (as I’m going to slightly carelessly assume its title to be) was one of the best openings the Tonys has ever seen in my opinion. It was tight, it was funny, and it was a beautiful love letter to the theatre and all its participants. This year felt a little more atonal and given some pretty tired jokes and weird amount of shilling for network television and streaming services While “Live!” (see last parenthetical) didn’t pack the same punch how the show opened three years ago, that doesn’t make it a bad number. Corden, of course, gave it his all to some pretty great effect, showing off an acceptable singing voice filled with enthusiasm and some dancing/moving ability that always catches me off guard in how good it is. I appreciated the opening looking pre-recorded only to reveal itself as a set in Radio City, the magically appearing (and very talented) ensemble dancers, and even the little callback to Corden’s “Law and Order” bit from 2016. And, of course, ending the number with another heartfelt address to the world’s greatest art form from Corden while every single cast member from every nominated musical that night AS WELL AS the Tonys’ own hired performers danced and sung up on that Radio City stage was an ending unparalleled by any opening number that’s come before it. That was what really made this opening number- a showcase of ambition that continues to grow on Broadway year after year and of the artists who help that ambition come to life. “Live!” may not have been a perfect opening to the broadcast, but it was a damn good way one; a fun, heartfelt, cute way to start the show!

 

Ain’t Too Proud - Ain’t Too Proud’s medley, for reasons that are no fault of its own, is a performance that I simply don’t have much to say about, likely because I don’t really have any connection with The Temptations. But what I do have to say is good. The medley was tight, providing a brief history of the group and showcasing some of its hits with no unnecessary fluff. The (now Tony-winning) choreography was, of course, awesome, and helped to keep the energy of the number up even for someone who doesn’t know all that much about the group the show is based on. The singers were all phenomenal (special shout-out to that awesome bass who sang the “I can make it rain whenever I want it to” line). The big band playing at the end was the cherry on top. It was generally just a great showcase of the show overall that works for newcomers and Temptations fans alike. A MORE than worthy entry this year, even if I don’t have a whole lot to say about it.

 

Tootsie “Unstoppable”- Another number that I would classify as “cute.” Ultimately, despite a somewhat catchy refrain I find this song kind of unforgettable, which is a condition that you usually can’t fix, no matter how good those performing it are. And these performers are very good. While I do think that Santino Fontana looked a little out of it for a lot of the number, he was still giving as good as a performance as I imagine he possibly could after doing rehearsals, a matinee, and ceremony prep all in the same day after a full week of performances in such (a) demanding role(s) as Michael/Dorothy. He had a SOLID ensemble backing him up, decorating the stage with Tootsie’s relentlessly Broadway choreography. And, of course, the Michael-Dorothy quick change got showed off toward the end of the number, which never ceases to be an impressive feat of costume engineering and backstage wizardry. I had fun watching it once, but once was really all I needed. Good efforts all around, I just wish this performance had more to show for it.

 

Oklahoma! “I Cain’t Say No/Oklahoma”- First of all, Ali Stroker absolutely KILLED IT and showed us all why she deserves the ever-loving goodness out of her Tony. Her sultry belt and defiant attitude are a surprising fit for Ado Annie, but one that works EXCEEDINGLY well for Daniel Fish’s inventive revival. Speaking of defiance and reinvention, the cast’s rendition of the title song in the back half of the performance was a brilliant showcase of how this revival takes a well-known classic and spins it on its head without changing a word: a new attitude. We got to see the intimately staged fighting spirit of this genius revival in all its glory, and it was honestly really cool. Little touches like Ali Hakim spraying beer at the audience members seated onstage for the number, the camera circling around the cast, and the close ups of Rebecca Naomi Jones giving us a face that screams “Not Your Father’s Laurie” just added to what a great performance the cast of Oklahoma! put in on Sunday night. It lacks a certain je ne sais quoi for me to call it the best of the night, but it was up there for me. You’re doing more than fine, Oklahoma! (Okay I’ll see myself out)

 

Mid-show number - I know Be More Chill has been a divisive show this season. I myself don’t particularly care about it one way or the other, but I’m happy that a new generation is getting their own version of the Little Shop of Horrors myth that can speak to their niche experiences in a relatable way. While a performance from a show with only one nomination wasn’t necessary, given that said nomination was for the score, Corden’s mid-broadcast trio with Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban to the tune of “Michael in the Bathroom” was a pretty good compromise. This is another one I don’t have much to say about, other than: yeah, it was a lot of fun. The lyric re-writes were funny and didn’t ever feel forced, last year’s hosts popping up midway through was a fun surprise that gave the number just what it needed to finish out strong (with Neil Patrick Harris’s last second appearance one last little fun Easter egg to top it off), AND it was generally awesome to see the return of a mid-show host song, which hasn’t really happened since NPH’s medley with Andrew Rannels, Megan Hilty, and Laura Benanti several years ago. Everything about the number was a welcome, happy surprise. Not show stopping, but it wasn’t supposed to be. It was just fun.

 

Beetlejuice “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)/The Whole Being Dead Thing”- Beetlejuice by FAR wins the award for the most fun performance of the night. It was cool to see the supporting cast get to jam along together to “Day-O” with the Radio City backstage area being littered with props and a couple costumes from the show, and any chance to hear Sophia Anne Caruso sing anything for even a millisecond is an absolute win in my book. And then, here he comes ladies and gentlemen!! Alex Brightman once again showed us what an utter powerhouse of a performer he is when he took over the performance to lead “Welcome to a Show About Death” while surrounded by SOLID ensemble to back him up. The whole number was executed really well, and Brightman’s dynamic take on the show’s title character kept the whole thing anchored in glorious controlled chaos. The lyric changes were even smoother than the earlier “Michael in the Bathroom” parody and made for some pretty laugh-out-loud moments (“Hey, Adam Driver…”). Also, they brought the head and tail of one of their sandworms and for a dork like me who LOVES some quality puppetry, that gets you brownie points! It was nothing but a joyous blast from start to finish, and I’m sure I’ll be finding myself watching the video of it time and time again. It was just so much FUN!!!

 

The Prom “Tonight Belongs to You/It’s Time to Dance”- Another couple individual shout-outs to start this one: Brooks Ashmanskas and Caitlin Kinnunen were awesome in the first part of The Prom’s performance. It’s so much fun seeing such an experienced stage vet and an absolutely elated newcomer play off of each other SO well (I can see why Sabrina loves her cast so much) which made their duet a lot of fun. When it came time for “It’s Time to Dance” the ensemble did a great job pulling off Nicholaw’s energetic choreo, and of COURSE getting a queer kiss on live network TV is A+++ representation so I call it an ABSOLUTE win for the performance. The mashup, while putting together two songs with matching musical themes, had me losing a sense of melody once or twice and, like with Oklahoma!, there’s a certain secret ingredient that keeps The Prom’s entry for the night from being one of my absolute favorites but that should not diminish any of good things I have to say about it. It was a tight, energetic, joyful number pulled off by a very talented cast and I’m very happy I got to see such a great sampling of such a fun show.

 

Choir Boy “Rockin’ Jerusalem”- Choir Boy’s performance was utterly powerful. It’s always cool to get to see a play perform to break up the musical routine, which is made even better when what the play is presenting is really strong material. “Rockin’ Jerusalem” delivered on that front, with an a cappella arrangement and well-done step choreography step choreography to illustrate the strength the young men of color have to find within themselves in this play. This was only bolstered by the little acting bits we got to see that showed off how well rounded and talented the cast of Choir Boy is. While it wasn’t quite the best of the night, it was poignant, and an image that I think will stick with me for a while.

 

Hadestown “Wait for Me”- Call me basic, but in my humble opinion Hadestown gave the best performance of the night, hands down. Their rendition of “Wait for Me” was simply breathtaking (that sounds like a cliché, but I was audibly gasping at several points throughout the song). Everything about the number was perfectly executed, from the blocking adapted to Radio City’s stage, to each performer on that stage giving wonderful samples of the essences of their characters, and with the help of some of the night’s best cinematography to boot. The way so many of those shots were framed, complimented by Hadestown’s stellar aesthetic, is a classic example of the famous phrase “every frame a painting.” All that being said, I still have my minor gripes. Reeve Carney’s yelling “Eurydice!!” sounded like a teenage boy in the throes of his first voice crack, and I wish we had gotten more of Patrick Page, Eva Noblezada, and Amber Gray to get a fuller scope of the show’s four acting nominees. However, they each portrayed so much in so little time onstage, André De Shield’s narration was awesome (always a bonus to see someone perform AFTER they accept their award), Carney gave it 200% (it was even cooler to get to see him really show off his best despite not getting a nom), and the ensemble utterly killed it. The entire performance was a testament to what a worthy winner Hadestown won on Sunday, and that’s the best kind of Tonys performance: the one that looks its viewers in the eyes and shows them exactly why they deserve that coveted trophy.

 

Kiss Me Kate “Too Darn Hot”- I know this isn’t exactly a hot take, but “Too Darn Hot” is kind of stock choice, and that’s kind of lame. It was this year’s “Blow High, Blow Low,” which is far from a bad thing! It’s always cool to have the song every year that serves to show off 5 minutes of pure, exhilarating dance. I just wish they hadn’t picked the one song that anyone could see coming from a mile away to do so with. But I can’t complain too much. Basic choice or no, the choreography, of course, was still impressive. Corbin Bleu and James T. Lane leading the number got to show off their chops (the latter in both dancing AND some pretty solid singing, brief as it was), and the rest of the cast kept up like utter champs. Elizabeth, who’s been in KMK, pointed out to me the impressiveness that the choreography managed to hit every single random beat toward the end of the music, which upon a re-watch or two (and perhaps an attempted recreation), I’ve determined that the song does deserve a fair bit of credit for that, as doing so is A Lot Harder Than It Looks™. Add to it that the cameras did an impressive job at keeping up with the frenetic, stage-wide movement and you have a serviceable song choice that brought a fun, somewhat impressive 4 minutes that showed that this revival has, in fact, taught an old dog some new tricks.

 

The Cher Show “Believe”- Full disclosure, Cher’s not totally my thing, so there may be a part of me going into TCS’ performance on Sunday that just didn’t quite get it. What I did get from Elizabeth is that she and many others concur that Stephanie J. Block’s Cher has transcended imitation and has reached total reincarnation, which I can certainly appreciate, and even as someone who knows next to nothing about this show’s titular “warrior goddess” I could tell just from her opening monologue that Block has utterly stepped outside of herself to recreate this icon of the music industry. As impressive as that is, I have to admit that the performance of “Believe” on the whole felt weirdly low-energy for most of its duration. I know “Believe” isn’t exactly the kind of song designed to get your heart racing, but the performance seemed to be parading itself as this big show-off moment for the neglected musical, but there was a vitality that I felt was missing. The song and movements were just a little too slow to make the performance fully work for me. But I know that ultimately that’s not what The Cher Show was there for on Sunday. Had things been more energetic, there’s a risk they would’ve upstaged the woman herself and the many mind-boggling (which I mean in the BEST possible way) costumes that surrounded her. At which, I must confess, it succeeded brilliantly. Block absolutely shone, and at the end when that low bass beat hits and she stood there, arms spread as if to tell the audience to commence their worship of her, flanked on both sides by the skinned hides of rejected Muppets (which, again, I somehow mean in nothing but a complementary way), I realized that no matter how underwhelmed I was by the number, it still unequivocally succeeded. “Believe” showed off this show’s two greatest, DESERVEDLY Tony-winning assets- Stephanie J. Block in the role of a lifetime, and the most glorious assembly of spandex, sequins, & sparkling accessories any costumer has EVER dreamed up- which is all that this number really needed. I may not have loved it, but damn me if I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

 

And for those of you wondering why I didn’t discuss Cynthia Erivo’s In Memoriam performance: she’s a goddess, I love talking about her, but I felt critiquing what’s effectively a musical eulogy would be in bad taste. My reviews, my rules.

 

Thank you for reading!!

 

 

Now you can watch the show online at https://www.cbs.com/shows/tony_awards/

 

 

 

A History of the Tony Awards

At the time you’re reading this it is Tuesday, May 11th two days after the Tony Awards and it’s very possible all hell has broken loose. All pun intended but at the time of writing this the Tony Awards haven’t aired yet, I haven’t seen what opening James Corden has planned, whether the shows chose the right song to use or not (Ahem looking at you Mean Girls), or anything for that matter, all I have to go off of are nominations and the nominations I find most interesting are the nominations for Best Musical. Beetlejuice, Hadestown, The Prom, Ain’t Too Proud, and Tootsie are all great and it’s definitely going to be close. Or for you was close. This whole thing is kinda confusing so if you don’t mind I’d like to rewind from June 9th and June 10th and well 2019 in general to take a look back at some of the Best Musical winners in years past. A.K.A An excuse for me to talk about a lot of shows I’d like to discuss but don’t want to write a full article about.

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A “Nicely Nicely” Place To Start

I wanted to start with something classic. Not controversial or interesting really, It gives us our bearings to go forward. The first Tony Awards I want to look at is 1951 when the winner for Best Musical, or at the time “Outstanding Musical” as it was called, was Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls. The “Outstanding Musical” category was actually added in 1949 with Kiss Me, Kate but I’ll be honest I know very little about that show or the winner after it South Pacific. You can call me an ametuer but I just never really liked Shakespeare or Rodgers and Hammerstein, but I do love me some Guys and Dolls. This is a show I want to do a full article about sometime in the future because I find it highly interesting and it’s one of my top 5 favorite musicals so I’ll probably just touch on it here. Guys and Dolls is a highly entertaining comedy about Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit and the situations they find themselves in because of love. The show was adapted from the short story "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” by author Damon Runyon which I promise that I will be reading in the future before that main article comes out because from what I’ve heard characters and plots from his short stories are all mixed together in the musical and if that’s true this makes Guys and Dolls the Runyon equivalent of Seussical and this needs to be elaborated on further in the future. Anyways, the show opened on Broadway in 1950 and obviously was a huge success running for a 1,000+ performances. Guys and Dolls is seen as one of the essential golden age musical and in my opinion one of four defining 50’s musicals. It’s hard to tell what officially was nominated and it ran against for the Tony Award since to my knowledge nominees weren’t made public until the 10th Tony Awards in 1956 but I can make my best guesses at the very least that it’s biggest contender was a Peter Pan musical, most likely not the one you’re familiar with though. There are a lot of Peter Pan adaptations. Guys and Dolls did pretty well over all too winning 5 of the 12 possible categories including Robert Alda as best actor in a musical, George S Kaufman as best director, and Michael Kidd as best choreographer. It’s scenic designer didn’t win which I’d debate for it’s incredible sewer set but the guy who did win is listed for 3 different musicals so I suppose at least one of those was probably jaw-dropping. I honestly can’t lie, I’ve never been too interested in the original production of Guys and Dolls. I mean it’s the focal point since it was the one that won best musical but it’s nowhere near as cool as all of the stuff that came after. Like, four years later MGM (Yikes, remember them?) would release a movie based on the musical starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in the lead roles which for people not adverse in 50’s knowledge, let me tell you that I thought long and hard of what if anything to compare that too or what a movie with that kind of star power would be today and I couldn’t. I just could not. The movie itself is great and it’s held up really well but it probably helps having one of the best singers and actors of all time in the lead roles. Then there was the all black revival in 1976 which I want to know a lot more about than I do, and the 1992 revival that brought the world’s biggest glo up to the logo. I mean go look at the paper cut out one on the album from the 50’s and then the new one with the dice in the logo. It’s gorgeous and I love it and then they tried a new thing in 2009, and it was a nice try but not quite the same. Have I mentioned yet I love Guys and Dolls? You know what, let’s move on before this section becomes any longer than it already is. Oh wait, why did it win best musical? Because it’s Guys and Dolls. It’s great.



Street Gangs vs Marching Bands

Seven years later we finally have knowledge of the official nominations and jeezus beheezus criminy christmas was 1958 one heated year. There’s two musicals you need to know (Oh, Captain, Jamaica, and New Girl In Town are cool I guess) but let’s talk about the fact that Music Man and West Side Story went head to head in the same year. Robert Preston vs no one, because West Side Story’s actors got no nominations, Leonard Bernstein vs Meredith Willson (doesn’t actually matter because Best Original Score still doesn't exist), Jerome Robbins vs Bob Fosse but we already stated that we don’t really care about New Girl In Town and that was the show Fosse was tied to but it’s still a huge battle overall and still easily one of the most controversial decisions in Tony history mainly because nobody knows what should have won. If you look at it there’s a lot of good to look at. Both have stellar scores, good books, great choreography, and are all around very good shows that have earned their place as some of the most important golden age musicals. So if I had to make a decision it would be really hard. West Side Story certainly had better choreography and the Tonys supported that. Robert Preston absolutely sold the show and the Tonys reflected that and so when it comes to everything else, the story and the score. It’s certainly hard. At first thought I wanted to give the music aspect to Berstein but Willson’s marching band-esque score was new and exciting and I personally think the music in The Music Man conveys its messages better than the music in West Side Story but even that is just barely my opinion and would certainly change from day to day. So when it comes down to its book that’s the aspect that makes the winner clear to me. The Music Man certainly has a very interesting and enjoyable story that is still as endearing today as it was then but West Side Story is incomparable. Yes, it is based on Romeo and Juliet which makes it not completely original but I find that brilliant. It uses a conflict in the past in a new way to express a conflict that was serious at the time and it does end up being a slightly subtle and well done look at immigration and racism. I say slightly because it is very clearly there but I feel like it fits into the show in a way that the story merges well with its theme. To talk in full about what West Side Story’s script does right would take a long time and get off of our topic entirely, but the thing that absolutely cements this show book for me is the ending. For those of you who don’t know a spoiler alert is in affect I guess, Romeo and Juliet was written 400+ years ago but whatever. Tony dies and then one of the most ballsy things in musical theatre history happens. Seriously, Les Misérables didn’t even have the gall to do this, they added an upbeat song at the end so the audience can leave on a good note. The show ends with nothing but a funeral procession. No final song to leave the audience with just some music and it’s over. Imagine if Jean Valjean just died and the lights came up, yeah that’s how insane West Side Story is when you really look at it. To give you an idea of how crazy  this would have been, My Fair Lady which opened 2 years prior changed the ending of the show to make it “more happy for the audience” when it wasn’t originally intended to be that way, but these gods came out here and said “No we’re not doing that”. Even Sweeney Todd ends with a reprise of the opening song, but West Side Story ends with nothing at all and is the ultimate spit in the face at the idea that “every musical ends with a happy ending.” It lost to The Music Man. The Music Man won Outstanding Musical in 1958. Bad decision? That’s up to you because I do really love The Music Man and plenty of people have stated they disagree with me. If you do see yourself in my party you can rest with the fact that both West Side Story and The Music Man would go onto be made into a movie in the early 60’s and only one would win The Best Picture at the Oscars...and it wasn’t the marching band one.



A Bloody Brilliant Breakthrough

By this point we’ve talked about Stephen Sondheim a fair bit, probably more than I should have to be honest but I hope you’re not tied because I plan to talk about him more, because we’re going to talk about his best show unless you think the other one is his best show which in that case go ahead and skip down to the next section and if you think I’m talking about Assassins or Company then dial your expertise back a bit because we’re not going that in depth. We’re talking about the 1979 winner for best musical, Sweeney Todd. Now back when I first joined the blog about a year ago, good lord time flies by, I had originally planned on a series discussing the history of Broadway by looking at the most influential musical of decade starting with Oklahoma, the one I did do. Not my best but what can you do. There’s several ones I had planned I’m really sad I never got to write about but the 70’s submission Sweeney Todd is one of the ones I was most excited to write. Now I don’t personally know how influential Sweeney Todd was overall. It didn’t usher in a new age of dance, or rewrite the musical standard, well wait maybe it did do that just a bit. No, the thing that makes Sweeney Todd easily the most important musical of the decade and by that standard one of the most important of all time is that it’s the musical that in my opinion definitively proved that you could have a musical about anything from a horror adaptation to a spelling bee and it could work and be well, kinda successful. It wasn't much at first but there’s absolutely no denying the success of it today and it’s a perfect example of the growth of musicals that we can go from one of Sondheim’s first ever works in 1958 which itself was an important break from a bunch of ritzy musicals that always had happy endings to a musical about a guy who splits people's throats and they show it in full graphic onstage, incredible! Sweeney Todd is easily one of the strangest adaptations and it was a significant first step because I don’t know that anyone but Sondheim and his music which is masterfully composed and deeper than just the face value of the lyrics could have made a show so certain to fail in musical format work to such an astounding degree. Sweeney Todd won Best Musical in 1979 against some competition like The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, but nothing that seriously stood against it and it’s award. It's a brilliant musical that defied all odds to become one of Sondheim’s best if not his best, but there's a camp of people you'll see that disagree.



Broadway's Biggest Battle

About ten years later It’s time for a rivalry to be born with two nominees specifically that are going to clash for Best Musical, one that many would consider the best musical theatre composer of all time’s Magnum Opus, Into The Woods. The other a similarly established composer with some big names under his belt who is about to make his magnum opus as well also known as the single most successful musical of all time that will lead to him becoming the most successful musical theatre composer of all time with his musical, The Phantom Of The Opera. It’s the Broadway battle to end all Broadway battles. Stephen Sondheim vs Andrew Lloyd Webber. Sondheim’s submission, Into The Woods, is an interesting take at fairy tale characters who find themselves tied together with the threat of giants looming overhead. The other an epic about a masked man who lives beneath an opera house and longs for one of the singers. When it comes to music, Sondheim is known for his complex scores and Into The Woods is no different. Webber also creates a great score with Phantom that conveys the dark and heavy mood of the show well. Phantom is a much bigger show overall especially with it’s showstopping scene where a giant chandelier crashes into the audiences and Into The Woods is very minimalistic and relies heavily on its music and story.  In the end despite Sondheim’s tony winning history, Phantom took home the award. One of the first milestones in it’s long line of success. In a way Webber dethroned Sondheim and they’ve never had shows line up to have a rematch to this day. Do I think this decision was right? Well, yeah probably. Into The Woods is a beautiful show that I discover more about every time I see it but Phantom is bigger in just about every way. It doesn’t have the same meaning and depth to it’s music I’ve come to love Sondheim for, but it makes up for it with an epic and overwhelming story and score. There simply was no stopping Phantom once it got rolling, not even by the great Stephen Sondheim and the debate that pins Sondheim against Webber for best musical theatre composer still goes on to this day.



The Worst Tony Awards Ever

Ok, alright let’s just talk about this for a second because holy good lord this is just the worst year, the single worst Tony Awards of all time. I don’t care what you guys think of Dear Evan Hansen vs Great Comet because this one is the worst decision of all time. The year is 1991 and several musicals have just opened on Broadway and are prepared to be adjudicated for the Tony awards. In the end several musicals will get nominations but only 4 will get nominations for the most prestigious award of all, The Best Musical unless you don’t have music then it’s Best Play but also sometimes plays have music like Choir Boy or Peter and the Starcatcher so I mean… It’s the one that ends it so it’s the best, there. That’s a good enough reason. Anyways there were 4 musicals up for this award and odds are you’ve heard of all of them. The first one was Once on This Island by Ahrens and Flaherty. Another one was The Secret Garden based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett with music by Lucy Simon, who didn’t do any other shows but didn’t need to because The Secret Garden is a magnum opus and a musical that was written by a composer known for previous shows and wasn’t his Magnum Opus, Miss Saigon by Boublil and Schonberg. Anyways some seriously good musicals against Will Rogers Follies by Cy Coleman. Now a lot of you probably don’t know that musical. Before researching some things about The Secret Garden I didn’t either. I do know Cy Coleman but better for his musical Barnum so I can say at least that he has good music but nothing that could ever compare to The Secret Garden...oh and the others. Alright, now just listen because you’ve probably heard of The Secret Garden. It’s kinda like Parade in the fact that you may never have listened to it but you’ve heard someone talk about how good it is and it really is. All of the music is gorgeous and it’s orchestrated so that each character has a different type of sound. I don’t have to sell you on Miss Saigon because it’s music is pretty much Les Mis and you are lying to me if you say you haven’t listened to that and then there’s Once on This Island with music by composers who have a lot of other musicals I like a lot more, like My Favorite Year. Underrated classic, no one talks about but some of the songs are amazing. Anyways, the point is to tell you that those 3 musicals are solid and even more so with their music all to lead up to the winner of the 1991 Tony Awards for Best Musical...Will Rogers Follies. Now you’re probably asking the same question I am right now which is how? Well hold on, I’m not done, because even though it beat all of those other way better shows for Best Musical it’s onslaught was greater because it also won Best Score which if you have listened at the very least to The Secret Garden or Miss Saigon you know is absolutely ridiculous. So, back to that question of Why? Well, there’s a lot of speculation but the most popular reasoning is that Will Rogers Follies was bigger with Tony voters because it represented an older age of Broadway. whatever the reason I not agree with it and it just goes to teach the lesson that even when you think a show has no competition, that anything can happen.



Oh man, I don’t really want to end it there because 1991 was so long ago and that’s kind of a sour note but thats really i have Well maybe not everything. Alright, I've got an idea, let’s just do a speed round of a few more history facts…



Ready set Go!

Fact #1 In 1996, four years after their first musical Disney got a Best Musical win with The Lion King.

Fact #2 In 1999 Fosse and Parade fought for Best Musical. Parade being a superior show won Best Book and Best Score but lost Best Musical which is incredibly odd.

Fact #3 In 2001, The Producers won Best Musical and basically everything else leading it to become the musical with the most Tony won. A record it hold to this day.

Fact #4 In 2003 Avenue Q beat Wicked in a surprising turn of events for Best Musical. With Avenue Q recently closing Wicked got the last laugh outlasting it

Fact #5 In 2012 Disney had good odds to get their second Best Musical win with Newsies, However controversially the show lost to Once

...And that basically puts us to today where only a few years ago Hamilton swept, fans cried out when Dear Evan Hansen beat Great Comet, The Band's Visit had zero chance of losing and now it’s time for a brand new battle...for me at least. For you that battle is over and history.


I love the history of the Tony Awards and there is plenty more I’d love to talk about but I think I’ll leave that for another year, As always I’d really like to thank you for reading, It really means a lot to me and I try to write monthly so I hope to see you again the next time i do and even though I’m a day late I would like to wish you a Happy Tony Awards whether you watched it at home or saw it live in person. Me, I'll be just a few blocks away...so close yet so far. Anyways, that is it Thank you again, look for some finishing Tony stuff soon from talented writers on the blog and I hope you all have a fantastic day. Goodbye.






The Bloggers Vote on the 73rd Tony Awards

Collective Blog; Put together by Darren Wildeman and Erica Jurus

2019 Blogger Tony Awards

 For the 2019 Tony Awards, the All Things Broadway blog team voted on each award based on who we think should win each award. And these are the results of said voting.

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Best Orchestrations Nominees

Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose, Hadestown

Simon Hale, Tootsie

Larry Hochman, Kiss Me, Kate

Daniel Kluger, Oklahoma!

Harold Wheeler, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

 

And the bloggers voted: Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose, Hadestown


Best Choreography Nominees

Camille A. Brown, Choir Boy

Warren Carlyle, Kiss Me, Kate

Denis Jones, Tootsie

David Neumann, Hadestown

Sergio Trujillo, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

 

And the bloggers voted: Warren Carlyle, Kiss Me, Kate

 

Sound Design of a Musical Nominees

Peter Hylenski, King Kong

Peter Hylenski, Beetlejuice

Steve Canyon Kennedy, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Drew Levy, Oklahoma!

Neil Steinberg and Jessica Paz, Hadestown

 

And the bloggers voted: Peter Hylenski, King Kong

 

Sound Design of a Play Nominees

Adam Cork, Ink

Scott Lehrer, To Kill a Mockingbird

Fitz Patton, Choir Boy

Nick Powell, The Ferryman

Eric Sleichim, Network

 

And the bloggers voted: Eric Sleichim, Network

 

Lighting Design of a Musical Nominees

Kevin Adams, The Cher Show

Howell Blinkley, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Bradley King, Hadestown

Peter Mumford, King Kong

Kenneth Posner and Peter Nigrini, Beetlejuice

 

And the bloggers voted: Kenneth Posner and Peter Nigrini, Beetlejuice

 

Lighting Design of a Play Nominees

Neil Austin, Ink

Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Peter Mumford, The Ferryman

Jennifer Tipton, To Kill a Mockingbird

Jan Versweyveld and Tal Yarden, Network

 

And the bloggers voted: Jennifer Tipton, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

Best Costume Design of a Musical Nominees

Michael Krass, Hadestown

William Ivey Long, Beetlejuice

William Ivey Long, Tootsie

Bob Mackie, The Cher Show

Paul Tazewell, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

 

And the bloggers voted: William Ivey Long, Beetlejuice

 

Best Costume Design of a Play Nominees

Rob Howell, The Ferryman

Toni-Leslie James, Bernhardt/Hamlet

Clint Ramos, Torch Song

Ann Roth, To Kill a Mockingbird

Ann Roth, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Adronicus

 

And the bloggers voted: Ann Roth, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

Best Scenic Design of a Musical Nominees

Robert Brill and Peter Nagrini, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Peter England, King Kong

Rachel Hauck, Hadestown

Laura Jellineck, Oklahoma!

David Korins, Beetlejuice

 

And the bloggers voted: David Korins, Beetlejuice

 

Best Scenic Design of a Play Nominees

Miriam Buether, To Kill a Mockingbird

Bunny Christie, Ink

Rob Howell, The Ferryman

Santo Loquasto, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Jan Versweyveld, Network

 

And the bloggers voted: Rob Howell, The Ferryman

 

Best Featured Actress in a Musical Nominees

Lilli Cooper, Tootsie

Amber Gray, Hadestown

Sarah Stiles, Tootsie

Ali Stroker, Oklahoma!

Mary Testa, Oklahoma!

 

And the bloggers voted: Amber Gray, Hadestown

 

Best Featured Actress in a Play Nominees

Fionnula Flanagan, The Ferryman

Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird

Kristine Nielsen, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Julie White, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Ruth Wilson, King Lear

 

And the bloggers voted: Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

Best Featured Actor in a Play Nominees

Bertie Carvel, Ink

Robin de Jesus, The Boys in the Band

Gideon Glick, To Kill a Mockingbird

Brandon Uranowitz, Burn This

Benjamin Walker, All My Sons

 

And the bloggers voted: Brandon Uranowitz, Burn This

 

Best Featured Actor in a Musical Nominees

Andre De Shields, Hadestown

Andy Grotelueschen, Tootsie

Patrick Page, Hadestown

Jeremy Pope, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Ephraim Sykes, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

 

And the bloggers voted: Patrick Page, Hadestown

 

Best Leading Actress in a Play Nominees

Annette Bening, All My Sons

Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman

Elaine May, The Waverly Gallery

Janet McTeer, Bernhardt/Hamlet

Laurie Metcalf, Hillary and Clinton

Heide Schreck, What the Constitution Means to Me

 

And the bloggers voted: Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman

 

Best Leading Actress in a Musical Nominees

Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show

Caitlin Kinnunen, The Prom

Beth Leavel, The Prom

Eva Noblezada, Hadestown

Kelli O’Hara, Kiss Me, Kate

 

And the bloggers voted: Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show

 

 

Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play Nominees

Paddy Considine, The Ferryman

Bryan Cranston, Network

Jeff Daniels, To Kill a Mockingbird

Adam Driver, Burn This

Jeremy Pope, Choir Boy

 

And the bloggers voted: Jeff Daniels, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical Nominees

Brooks Ashmanskas, The Prom

Derrick Baskin, Ain't Too Proud -- The Life and Times of the Temptations

Alex Brightman, Beetlejuice

Damon Daunno, Rogers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma!

Santino Fontana, Tootsie

 

And the bloggers voted: Santino Fontana, Tootsie

 

Best Direction of a Play Nominees
Rupert Goold, Ink
Sam Mendes, The Ferryman
Bartlett Sher, To Kill a Mockingbird
Ivo van Hove, Network
George C. Wolfe, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

 

And the bloggers voted: Bartlett Sher, To Kill a Mockingbird

Best Direction of a Musical Nominees
Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown
Scott Ellis, Tootsie
Daniel Fish, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Des McAnuff, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations
Casey Nicholaw, The Prom

 

And the bloggers voted: Casey Nicholaw, The Prom

 

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre Nominees
Be More Chill (Music & Lyrics: Joe Iconis)
Beetlejuice (Music & Lyrics: Eddie Perfect)
Hadestown (Music & Lyrics: Anaïs Mitchell)
The Prom (Music: Matthew Sklar, Lyrics: Chad Beguelin)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Music: Adam Guettel)
Tootsie (Music & Lyrics: David Yazbek)

 

And the bloggers voted: Hadestown (Music & Lyrics: Anaïs Mitchell)

Best Book of a Musical Nominees
Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations (Dominique Morisseau)
Beetlejuice (Scott Brown & Anthony King)
Hadestown (Anaïs Mitchell)
The Prom (Bob Martin & Chad Beguelin)
Tootsie (Robert Horn)

 

And the bloggers voted: The Prom (Bob Martin & Chad Beguelin)

 

Best Revival of a Play Nominees
Arthur Miller’s All My Sons
The Boys in the Band
Burn This
Torch Song
The Waverly Gallery

 

And the bloggers voted: Torch Song

 

Best Revival of a Musical Nominees
Kiss Me, Kate
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

 

And the bloggers voted: Kiss Me, Kate

 

 

Best Play Nominees
Choir Boy
The Ferryman
Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Ink
What the Constitution Means to Me

 

And the bloggers voted: The Ferryman

 

Best Musical Nominees
Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations
Beetlejuice
Hadestown
The Prom
Tootsie

 

And the bloggers voted: Hadestown

 

 Final Tally for wins by show
Hadestown: 5
To Kill a Mockingbird: 5
The Ferryman: 3
Beetlejuice: 3
Kiss Me, Kate: 2
The Prom: 2
The Cher Show: 1
Tootsie: 1
Burn This: 1
King Kong: 1
Network: 1


Thanks for reading, let us know your opinion on the vote, and don’t forget to watch the Tony Awards on June 8 at 8/7c on CBS, hosted by James Corden, to find out the winners.

If Hamilton Never Was: Revisiting the 2016 Tonys

Darren Wildeman

Often dubbed “The HamilTonys”, the 2016 Tony Awards were dominated by Lin Manuel Miranda’s smash hit Hamilton winning 11 Tonys, just one short of tying the record set by The Producers. And it is still one of the hottest shows on Broadway. However, what if there was a universe where Hamilton was too innovative and too different for its time? What if Hamilton didn’t make it past the out-of-town try outs and faded into obscurity? What would the 2016 Tonys season have looked like? In this article I will be breaking down who may have been nominated in a world without Hamilton and who would have won in its place.

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Best Orchestration Nominees

August Eriksmoen, Bright Star

Larry Hochman, She Loves Me

Darryl Walters, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Sara Bareilles, Waitress

In this scenario you are going to see Waitress come up a lot. And I don’t think anyone will argue against the orchestrations of this show. Sara Bareilles wrote a beautiful score and a nomination for Orchestrations is more than deserved.

 

And the winner is: August Eriksmoen, Bright Star

I think people forget just how good the music in Bright Star is. 2016 was an incredibly strong season. Bright Star has a beautiful blue grass feel to it and the orchestrations go flawlessly with its music. Bright Star may have gotten a bit lost in 2016, but I feel like this would be a nice nod towards what the show did and was.

 

Best Choreography Nominees

Savion Glover, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Hofesh Shechter, Fiddler on the Roof

Randy Skinner, Dames at Sea

Sergio Trujillo, On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan

Casey Nicholaw, Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting isn’t remembered for much these days. Unfortunately, its score underwhelmed many and the book wasn’t that highly regarded either. However, one thing it did have is absolutely beautiful choreography. Some people considered it a snub that it wasn’t nominated in the first place, so I think it falls in here pretty naturally.

And the winner is: Casey Nicholaw, Tuck Everlasting

This choreography choice is incredibly intense. But Tuck Everlasting has a style and beauty about it in the actors’ movements. Also, while people don’t like to admit it, politics certainly plays a role in Tony voting and Nicholaw as highly regarded as he is up to this point has never won a Tony for his choreo. So, between choreo being a strength of Tuck and Nicholaw not having won in this category yet, that he becomes the automatic favourite here.

 

Best Direction of a Musical Nominees

Michael Arden, Spring Awakening

John Doyle, The Color Purple

Scott Ells, She Loves Me

George C. Wolfe, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Bartlett Sher, Fiddler on the Roof

 

There were a lot of incredibly well directed shows this season. However, the revival of Fiddler on the Roof breathed new life into a timeless show. If it was possible to make that show anymore stunning Bartlett Sher found a way to do it. I think a nomination here is incredibly well deserved.

 

And the winner is: Michael Arden, Spring Awakening

I think in this scenario Michael Arden winning is a no brainer. A fantastic director who has yet to see his Tony who did a beautiful job with the Deaf West Spring Awakening. A well-deserved Tony for a gorgeous job on what is a very heavy musical.

 

Best Lighting Design of a Musical Nominees

Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Ben Stanton, Spring Awakening

Justin Townsend, American Psycho

Japhy Weiderman, Bright Star

 

There isn’t an obvious choice here for what show would be nominated. However, Bright Star did have some very beautiful lighting effects that gave a really nice setting for the show.

And the winner is: Justin Townsend, American Psycho

American Psycho isn’t remembered for much these days although it did get some love. However, one thing it did do well is incredibly intense lighting design. The visual effects are incredible and are certainly worthy of a Tony.

 

Best Costume Design of a Musical Nominees

Gregg Barnes, Tuck Everlasting

Jeff Mahshie, She Loves Me

Ann Roth, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Ann Hould-Ward, The Color Purple

 

And the winner is: Gregg Barnes, Tuck Everlasting

Again, the visual beauty of Tuck Everlasting. As I said when they won choreography, there isn’t necessarily a lot that gets loved in terms of music or book. However, it is a very visually appealing show.

 

Best Scenic Design of a Musical Nominees

Es Devlin and Finn Ross, American Psycho

Santo Loquasto, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

David Rockwell, She Loves Me

Walt Spangler, Tuck Everlasting

 

Once again, Tuck Everlasting comes through to pick up another design nomination. Not much I can say here that I haven’t said already. This musical is simply stunning to look at.

Since She Loves Me won we will not be changing the winner of this category.

 

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Nominees

Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple

Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me

Jennifer Simard, Disaster!

Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Keala Settle, Waitress

 

And the winner is: Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me

Jane gave a terrific performance in this production of She Loves Me. Everyone else here is amazing but that production was so incredible and Jane played her role so well this is well deserved

 

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Nominees

Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress

Michael Mulheren, Bright Star

Steven Skybell, Fiddler on the Roof

Billy Porter, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

 

And the winner is: Billy Porter, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

This is a very tough category all of a sudden. A lot of fantastic men here. This was incredibly difficult to decide. However, Billy absolutely gave it all in Shuffle Along. And I think his performance really stood out.

 

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Nominees

Laura Benati, She Loves Me

Carmen Cusack, Bright Star

Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple

Jessie Mueller, Waitress

Ana Villafañe, On Your Feet

 

On Your Feet is another musical that had a somewhat lukewarm reception. However, playing Gloria Estefan is not an easy task and Villafañe gives a great performance.

Since Cynthia Erivo won this award that year, we will not be changing the result here.

 

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Nominees

Alex Brightman, School of Rock

Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof

Zachary Levi, She Loves Me

Benjamin Walker, American Psycho

 

Note: For this category we are rolling with four nominees instead of five. All the male nominees from a major show have been nominated and any of the remaining shows did not get enough love from critics or voters in other categories that I feel comfortable adding a fifth nominee.

Benjamin Walker gave a fantastic performance as a serial killer. Some considered it a snub in the first place that he wasn’t nominated so he’s the obvious choice here.

 

And the winner is: Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof

Burstein as Tevye breathed all sorts of new life into the musical. Tevye is not an easy role to play in the first place and Burstein did it flawlessly. In a very tough leading male category, Burstein was the obvious choice here.

 

Best Original Score Nominees

Bright Star, Music by Steve Martin and Eddie Brickell, Lryics by Eddie Brickell

School of Rock, Music by Andrew Lloyd Webver, Lyrics by Glenn Slater

Waitress, Music and Lyrics by Sara Bareilles

American Psycho, Music and Lyrics by Duncan Sheik

 

The now fourth nominee was a tough one. There isn’t an obvious show that should step in. However, Duncan Sheik wrote a fantastic and very unique score that I think in this scenario would grab the attention of the voters.

 

And the winner is: Waitress, Music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles

Bareilles’s score for Waitress is nothing short of gorgeous. She wrote a very catchy score with songs that hit all the right notes. I think she hands down wins best score in this scenario.

 

Best Book of a Musical

Bright Star, Steve Martin

School of Rock, Julian Fellowes

Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, George C. Wolfe

Waitress, Jessie Nelson

 

Waitress being the next big musical of the season that wasn’t nominated I think giving it the nod for book here is a pretty no brainer. However, that being said the book of Waitress is quite a bit weaker than the overall score.

And the winner is: Bright Star, Steve Martin

 

I think Bright Star may have had a chance to win score. However, it also has a very strong book which is something Waitress didn’t have as much. So it makes more sense that Waitress would win where it’s really strong, and Bright Star would win book. And Bright Star definitely deserves this. The story does not have that many flaws in it and is overall a very well put together story

 

Best Musical

Bright Star

School of Rock

Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Waitress

American Psycho

 

I don’t think it’s too insane for American Psycho to be the next show up in this scenario. It already got acknowledged for its unique score and it collected a decent amount of nominations elsewhere. It would only have an outside chance of winning but to be the next show nominated I think is quite reasonable.

 

And the winner is: Waitress

Despite the shortcomings I mentioned earlier, I think Waitress is what would win. It seems like after Hamilton, Waitress was the baby of both fans and critics alike and this would lead to it getting the favour for Best Musical.

 

Well that’s the Tonys without Hamilton. Before I totally wrap this up though I’m going to crunch some numbers and breakdown which shows did well in an absence of Hamilton.

 

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Please note that a couple of shows won awards and were nominated for awards pertaining to Revivals so there are some awards here won not seen in the actual article. As you can see this season becomes very spread out if Hamilton was not a thing.

 

American Psycho, Tuck Everlasting, and Waitress become the big winners. Each one picks up 3 more nominations and each picked up some wins as well. Bright Star also gets its recognition for awards.

 

Let me know what you think of these nominations and awards? Do you agree or do you think some shows should have won more?

Living the Dream

Sabrina Wallace
Last year, a friend of mine forwarded me an email about a potential opportunity to be part of a Broadway show. I was curious so I agreed to meet with a producer to hear more about it. Little did I know that one simple meeting would change my life forever. 

 I fell in love with THE PROM the moment I heard that it was “a new musical comedy about big Broadway stars, a small town LBGTQ girl, and a love that unites them all”. The more I learned about the story, the more I wanted to be part of it! After I said YES to THE PROM, things moved very quickly. I met one of the lead producers, contracts were drawn and BOOM! I was a co-producer!  Things didn’t seem real until the night I went to invited dress rehearsal. There I was, a mom from Austin, Texas, sitting among big time producers and actors from Broadway. Suddenly, I hear “Here she is, our latest addition to the team, welcome!”. Once my heart started beating again, I fell right into the family. I used to think that Broadway people weren’t nice, but I learned that to be very much untrue. On opening night, Casey Nicholaw stepped on stage before curtain call and introduced our 13 Broadway debuts! One by one they were recognized by their choreographer and director, who by the way, has to be the nicest man alive! 


In the months since opening night, I learned a few other things. Swing are amazing, every single person in the show is important, people on Broadway work non-stop, and it takes a village to make a show happen! I think this is why everyone is so nice, you need to get along to make a show special, and THE PROM sure is one special show! 

 

On Tuesday this week, four of my colleagues in this adventure, all women from Austin, sat together, holding each other as we watched the Tony Award Nominations live. We cheered with every nom, we cried with every nom, and at the end, we looked at each other in disbelief and hugged. Surround yourself with people that can give you this type of unconditional love and support because life is a journey that is a lot more pleasant with amazing company.  

 

So here I am, a Tony Award Nominated Producer with THE PROM. Local TV interview tomorrow, press events the next few weeks and a big ceremony coming up in June. The journey has been like a dream, one I don’t want to awaken from until June 10th!

 

However, like Dee Dee Allen says, this “is not about me” but it’s all about THE PROM, an honest show that has earned 7 Tony Award Nominations including Best Musical this season. A show that sips into your soul with a charming group of characters, a fun book, an amazing score, choreography that is sharp and energetic, and a story that is not only true but beautiful and heartwarming.

 

THE PROM is magical in many ways. It is a story that can change people’s lives, a show that, with a lot of humor, tells us that we need to be more tolerant and accept others for who they are. Isn’t that what theatre is supposed to do? Be a reflection of society and show us the way to a better tomorrow? I took a group of students to see THE PROM this past Saturday and I saw the effect the show had in some of the girls in the group. I saw tears coming down their faces when Emma (Caitlin Kinnunen) finds herself alone at the fake prom, heartbroken and betrayed by her peers. I saw them celebrate when Trent (Chris Sieber) starts to change people’s minds in the small town of Edgewater. Indiana while they all sing “Love Thy Neighbor”. Finally, they rose to their feet in an outburst of joy with the final kiss. I asked them what they thought about the story and there was a consistent theme in their responses “representation, love, acceptance and tolerance”. My heart was filled with proud and love because the message made it to those that listened!  

 

As I get ready to fly on top of my cloud to the Tony Awards, I can’t but reflect on what a lucky woman I am. I get to be a part of one of the best musicals on Broadway this season and share it with many people that see themselves reflected in Emma and Alyssa’s love story.  

 

Have you seen THE PROM? If not, what are you waiting for? “It’s time to dance!”

 

To be continued on June 10th! 

 

THE PROM received 7 Tony Award Nominations: Best Musical, Best Director (Casey Nicholaw), Best Leading Actress (Beth Leavel), Best Leading Actress (Caitlin Kinnunen), Best Leading Actor (Brooks Ashmanskas), Best Score (Mathew Sklar and Chad Beguelin), and Best Book (Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin).

 

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Don't Tony Worship

Jonathan Fong

In light of the recent Tony Awards, I just thought I’d write something that has been on my mind for a while. I’ve seen this happening a lot, in both community and professional theatre, and I thought it should be addressed

No, it’s not about people judging whether what won should’ve won. There has been enough debate about The Band’s Visit winning everything already, as there always has been and will be when a show sweeps the Tonys, and I’m not going to open that can of worms. In fact, what I’m going to talk about isn’t really something specific to this year nor any year in the past.
I’m going to talk about something else. I call it Tony worship. No, I’m not talking about those who have shrines to Tony from West Side Story in their rooms. I neither confirm nor deny the presence of one in mine. I’m talking about people treating the Tony Awards, and everything associated with or related to them, as the entirety of theatre itself.


Every year, I see dozens of small-scale productions, some community/amateur and some professional, of musicals mimic the Tony-winning set or costume designs of that musical’s original Broadway production. Every year I see other productions attempt to copy the original choreography, with varying degrees of success, of the original Broadway production. Every year, I see, whether online or in person, dozens of performances of the same songs from the musical theatre canon sung in the exact same way - intonation, tone, delivery, you name it. 
And every year, when I ask the person in charge of set design or the performer why, they say the same variations of the same thing - ‘(insert-famous-theatre-person-here) did it and won a Tony for it’.


Let’s ignore for a second the copyright issues which come with copying things such as set designs or costume designs (you don’t get the rights to copy a production’s set design when you get the rights to a musical, in case you were unaware). Let’s also ignore the real risk of doing things like mimicking an actor’s vocal tone in a song without proper vocal training to do so, which can actually do harm to your voice.


Thing is, yes, they won a Tony for it. But do the Tonys define theatre? Do they define your production and what direction it should take? Do they define you as an actor?
Sutton Foster, Patti LuPone, Idina Menzel - they’re all incredibly talented actors. No one’s doubting that Andy Blankenbuehler or Christopher Gattelli are wonderful choreographers, neither is anyone doubting the amazing designs of David Zinn or Mimi Lien. They’re all clearly good at what they do and the fact that they won Tonys for their work is proof of that. But at the end of the day, what they did was take the material given to them - librettos, plot synopses, the like - and interpreted and developed it in their own unique ways. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what everyone’s supposed to do?


As actors, choreographers, directors, designers, or whatever role you might have in the theatre, isn’t it our job to make our own interpretations of what we’re given? To creatively stretch the boundaries and go beyond the text or the libretto? Why are we defining what we should do by what others have done, and not the limits of our own creativity? Why are we copying other’s creative work just to feel secure in what we do?


I’m not saying that you shouldn’t seek inspiration in any way from other sources. Inspiration from others is one of the most valuable things you can get in the arts - it can offer insights you might have never otherwise considered. And I most certainly would be lying if I said I’d never looked at what other artists have done as guidance.


But please, for crying out loud, don’t just copy Sutton Foster’s Tony-winning performance in Anything Goes for your recital, or the minimalist set design of the 2005 Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd (yes, that actually happened) for your local community theatre production of the show. Don’t just sing Defying Gravity ‘that way’ because ‘Idina Menzel did it’, and don’t light the stage or design your props ‘that way’ because ‘that Broadway show did it and won a Tony’. That’s not justification for a creative cop-out. Yes, they won a Tony for it, but they won it not for copying what someone else did, but because what they did was original and creative.
Be creative. Be brave. Be theatrical. Stretch the boundaries; don’t be content with being ‘safe’ with what others have successfully done. Make your work as an artist unique and your own, not a mere imitation of what someone won a Tony for.
Don’t let the Tonys alone define what theatre is for you.

2018: The Year of the Adults-But...

Photo by asbe/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by asbe/iStock / Getty Images

Michael Kape
This was the year the adults dominated the Tony Awards. But 16 kids, 16 high school students, took two minutes (out of 525,600 in a year) to steal the show in what was the most emotional moment I can remember in over 50 years of Tony watching.
Musicals
Going into the telecast (or live streaming online), four shows really dominated the nominations: SpongeBob SquarePants, Mean Girls, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and a tiny little musical called The Band’s Visit. The prognosticators expected an all-out duel between SpongeBob and Mean Girls in the various musical categories. Harry Potter faced competition from four shows already shuttered in the play competitions, so it was expected to sweep; it did not disappoint.

So, what went wrong with all the predictions? And why was Frozen essentially shut out?
Remember, a hefty number of Tony voters come from the touring houses across the country. They vote with an eye toward what is going to fill seats in their cities. Yet sometimes, they throw caution to the wind and vote for what they think is actually the best in various categories. This was such a year.

To be honest—and certainly judging from some of the excerpts we saw on the telecast—the voters were simply not all that impressed by much of what they saw. Frankly, neither was I.
How did a tiny little 90-minute show like The Band’s Visit manage to pull off a sweep and take home 10 Tonys? Simple. It was the only musical appealing to the adults in the room.
I have never been much of a fan of Frozen, which could only muster a handful of nominations in the first place. Grant you, I am not the target demographic for this show; neither are the Tony voters. Personally, I found the animated film kind of meh (and the live version running at Disney resorts even more so). It doesn’t rank as Bobby Lopez’s (Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon) best work. Onstage, it looks like a lot of gimmicks pasted together. Still, it’s already booking its tour dates, and I don’t think anyone needs to lose sleep over it being completely shut out. 

The Theatre Wing fully expected Mean Girls’ Tina Fey to win for Best Book (hence the reason Best Book was telecast, and Best Score wasn’t). And Mean Girls did rack up a lot of nods, so it was reasonable to expect it to pick up several honors ahead of its tour announcement. Surprise (not really), it was completely shut out. Likewise, SpongeBob SquarePants should have taken home (as it was expected) a slew of the creative awards; it won just one, for Best Scenic Design of a Musical. 

Meanwhile, The Band’s Visit kept racking up wins. Quietly. As if it had snuck into the Tonys and just being nominated was supposed to be win enough.

But The Band’s Visit was meant for adult audiences; SpongeBob, Mean Girls, and Frozen were for the kids. The adults dominated the evening, and The Band’s Visit won 10 Tonys as a result.
You would think my argument about the evening being for the adults would fizzle when it came to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Quite the contrary is true. The young readers who devoured the books as they were published are now grown themselves. Harry Potter (and its brilliant script) actually tackles the very real and adult issues of parenting and having one’s youth suddenly take center stage 19 years later, with your children having to bear the brunt of your foolishness. Adult themes and an adult show. Still, it did not take home any acting honors, instead being quite content to earn several creatives and the big prize, Best Play. 

The televised excerpts from the new musicals we viewed were a mixed bag (to be kind). Mean Girls seemed lively enough, but I didn’t feel motivated to see more (let’s just say I wasn’t surprised it didn’t pick up a Best Score win). One thing really did irk me watching it. These are supposed to be high school students and most of them looked their actual ages (ie, well into their twenties). Kind of stretches credulity, and not in the intended way. As I noted earlier, Frozen was not impressive either. Sure, great special effects and quick costume changes dominated, yet it was also kind of jarring to see the full cast singing a number where only half the cast is involved (really, who would let Sven the Reindeer into a palace to sing and dance?). I wish the excerpt from SpongeBob SquarePants had been about the title character (poor Ethan Slater showed up for 15 seconds and then disappeared). Gavin Lee did get to do his big tap dance, which was remarkable to be sure, but it’s not what the show is about. Lest we forget, there was that excerpt from Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. However, now we can forget it with its really mediocre disco choreography (truly disappointing). I personally thought the excerpt from The Band’s Visit was haunting and “Omar Sharif” is a beautiful song. The moment showed a quiet dexterity in using subtle moves to make its point. Subtlety was something all the other musical lacked in what they displayed; subtlety won the night.

Revivals
What about the revivals, both Play and Musical? Even though it had its flaws, the revival of Angels in America was expected to do well—and it didn’t disappoint, with Andrew Garfield (Best Actor), Nathan Lane (Best Featured Actor), and the production itself taking home wins. Three Tall Women won what it was supposed to win—Best Actress (the incomparable and sublime Glenda Jackson) and Best Featured Actress (twice-in-two-years winner Laurie Metcalf; I guess this almost makes up for the sting of the Roseanne debacle). 

With musical revivals, My Fair Lady and Carousel were supposed to dominate. Then look at what we saw in the telecast. I could have easily fallen asleep during My Fair Lady (except for Norbert Leo Butz doing a wild imitation of Stanley Holloway, the original Alfred). Carousel confused and confounded me. On one hand, it was a great way to showcase the Tony-winning choreography of Justin Peck. Great staging for “Blow High, Blow Low” (normally a throwaway number these days but truly a highlight). On the other hand, that is NOT what Carousel is all about. Five leads were nominated in their respective categories (and I was happy to see Lindsay Mendez take Featured Actress in a Musical honors—great acceptance speech, too), and not one of them appeared in the Carousel selection. What were they thinking? I mean, guys, you had opera diva Renée Friggin’ Fleming, whose rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” put a whole new spin on an old chestnut, but she was nowhere to be seen on that stage. A really bad move indeed. Still, I expect the revival is going to make the tour—without any of the nominated leads, of course. Both My Fair Lady and Carousel came off as respectful of the originals but not overly inventive. (One need only look at the Richard Chamberlin revival of My Fair Lady 20 years ago to see a complete rethinking of the piece.) The Once on This Island moment was startling, colorful, and just brilliant. It was a complete reimagining of the original and ultimately proved why it won the award. (The goat helped in his own way.)

Springsteen
Yes, he deserves to be discussed all by himself. He’s been packing in audiences at the Walter Kerr for months (a hotter ticket than Hamilton). He looks terrific, not even close to his 68 years. (Too bad the same couldn’t be said about Billy Joel, his contemporary, who looked like he’s forgotten how to take care of himself.) For much of the broadcast, I thought diversity was going to be the dominant theme of this year’s show. Then Bruce Springsteen came on and proved it was more than that—it was diversity in the context of the American spirit. During the telecast, some of my fellow ATB bloggers were grumbling about how he talked so much and didn’t sing. But I fear they were mistaken. “My Hometown” is a brilliant monologue with a few bars being sung. It celebrated (and bemoaned) a time of lost innocence, of family bonding, and of an unfulfilled longing. Personally, I loved it and thought it was one of the evening’s highlights. 

Acceptances
Just some random thoughts about the various acceptance speeches, which ranged from quietly dignified to exuberant to deeply moving and stirring. Just some notable moments:
Andrew Garfield (Best Actor in a Play) set a lot of the tone for the evening in his heartfelt plea to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community—and to let them have their cake and eat it too (a none-too-subtle dig at the Supreme Court).

The time for the beard at the Tony telecast is finally gone, and gay men can finally thank their husbands and partners openly. Some of those thanks were emotional (Nathan Lane) and some were actually quite funny (Happy birthday, David!). 

Ari’el Stachel (Best Featured Actor in a Musical) was both inspiring and infinitely sad. Sad because he trained to play any ethnicity but his own; inspiring because he just won a Tony for playing his own ethnic background. 

I would have liked to see the full acceptance speeches—live on air—for all those creative awards presented during the commercials. Someone should remind the Theatre Wing and CBS you can’t have a Broadway show without costumes, sets, orchestration, choreography, and sound design. And not showing David Yazbek finally winning a Tony (after three pervious losses) for his score to The Band’s Visit was just plain criminal.

Why the hell cut off Jack Thorne (Best Play) from giving his acceptance speech for his brilliant work on Harry Potter? Really a bad move all around.

Couldn’t help but be moved by the acceptance speech given by David Cromer (Best Director of a Musical). His reaching-out to those in pain, those who feel isolated and alone, and those who (tacitly implied) might be considering suicide was such a wondrous departure yet so fitting with the mood of the event.

I loved Tony Shalhoub’s (Best Actor in a Musical) heartfelt tribute to his father, who came over from Lebanon as an immigrant. (A lot of grumbling online about this win for so quiet a performance as the one he delivered. Best Actor in a Musical doesn’t always have to be about belting out the score, you know.)

Other Observations
Some other notes I have for the telecast:
Three cheers for Josh Grobin and Sara Bareilles for doing a terrific job as co-hosts. You could see and feel the chemistry between them (they are good friends off-camera). They kept things moving. They were just so cute together and alone. And how the hell did they manage all those costume changes? (The cross-dressing bit was a hoot!) I gave up trying to keep count. Kudos to both of them for pulling off a big win for themselves. Now if only someone would put them together in a show, perhaps a re-imagined Nick and Nora.
A note from the Red-Carpet strut. Seems like no one was a chromophobe at the Tonys.
Shout-out to the current cast of Dear Evan Hansen for its rendition of “For Forever” during the very upsetting In Memoriam segment. 
Happy Daddies Day—no double entendre intended there I’m sure.
I’m kind of saddened because there were only three Best Musical Revival entries. 
Who the hell thought presenting the Lifetime Achievement Awards to Chita Rivera and Andrew Lloyd-Webber off camera was a good idea? That montage was nothing short of ridiculous. They both deserved their own individual moments to shine. Really a bad idea.
Bobby Lopez—a Frozen 2 is in the works? Do we really need this?
Mamma Mia 2 (as seen in the commercials)? Do we really need this (since the first one was so awful)? I don’t if care Cher is featured. Take away my card.
Judging from what we saw, the glam squad was out in full force last night.
That Moment
And a child shall lead them. Well, 16 children, actually. 
It was already a beautiful moment when Melody Herzfeld, a dedicated theatre teacher at Marjorie Stillman-Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, was awarded with Educator of the Year. Then the Tonys surprised everyone in the room and on television as a drop was raised and there stood 16 drama students who had survived the massacre on February 14, in no small part due to the heroic efforts of Ms. Herzfeld. Then they broke into “Seasons of Love” from Rent. Not a dry eye to be found in the house or at home. (No good using allergies as an excuse!)
This kind of special moment can only happen in the theatre. No movie can duplicate it. No book can adequately portray it. It was the children teaching the adults a lesson—and it was beautiful to behold. 
In Conclusion
Yes, the end is near. Not the end of the Fabulous Invalid. This year’s Tony Awards actually came off better than most I’ve ever seen. The right hosts. An undercurrent of diversity and acceptance throughout. And that moment.
Feel free to disagree (you’re wrong in my opinion, of course), but no one and no show was robbed at the ceremonies. The kiddie shows didn’t win but the adults did. And for some of us, that was a very good thing.

The "other" Tony Awards

Award season is officially over. Starting in early April with the Lucille Lortel nominations announced on April 3rd, and ending with the 72nd Tony Awards on June 10th, what an interesting season it has been. However, I’m not here to talk about what happened last night at the Tony awards cause honestly, I am not the person to give that review of what happened, and I am writing this before they occur and only wish I could predict the future. Because of this, I am going to talk about the importance and impact of the second most important award season to a seventeen-year-old high schooler…

Photo by blanaru/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by blanaru/iStock / Getty Images

The high school musical theatre awards!
I have been so fortunate to go to a high school that has been involved in these awards that take place all around the country, just to celebrate what young people are doing in the theatre scene. I am going to talk about all the great experiences I have gained by participating in these awards as a member of a nominated production, and why every high schooler should have the opportunity to at least go to these awards as an audience member.

Community
The first time I went to my region’s award ceremony, I was there all day. My older sister was in the opening number, so I didn’t go to it already in costume and prepared to represent my show. This was the case for many other people there, and because the theatre didn’t have enough dressing room to accommodate hundreds of students getting changed at the same time, we all had to walk over to a public outdoor park and use the restrooms there to get ready. This created the ability to learn about what shows people were doing, who they were playing, their background with theatre, and so much more. It was truly amazing to see people just getting to really connect on a more personal level because of theatre.

A few months ago, I was at a college audition and I met people there who I was able to talk about what happened at the awards ceremony and the performances we got to experience, and I knew of them because of this wonderful occasion.

 Gain Knowledge of other Musicals
Many high schoolers are having their first experience with musicals during their years at high school, and so they have limited knowledge about shows other than the ones they have performed in. At the ceremony, you get to see wonderful shows perform a number, wonderful soloists perform a medley of multiple musicals, and it allows people who have a very small pool of knowledge grow. Many people would ask me what the shows were about due to the songs being performed, and then would want to go and listen to them and get to know them better. It is amazing to see someone discover a new musical.

Gain Performance Experience
I have been so fortunate to be able to be a part of a production which was nominated for Best Musical, which gave my entire cast the opportunity to perform in front of 2,000 theatre lovers. People still talk about what it felt like to get a standing ovation from that size of a crowd and know that they had touched some people’s hearts that day. Even people who were in the audience still talk about it. This sort of performance experience, if you’re so lucky to get to have, can make such an impact on a high schooler’s life, that it may even change their course of life. It is truly remarkable.

These are just a few of the amazing things that a student, or anyone, can get from attending or being a part of the “Tony Awards for High Schoolers.” Put aside the competition part and look to see the impact that it is putting on real people who still can take these opportunities. Many people want to get rid of these programs because it creates some tension between the schools that win and don’t win, but I say let them stay for the impact that it allows the students to have.

 

 

 

 

Putting the Tony in the Tony Awards

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For a little over a month, we here at The All Things Broadway Blog have been preparing you for the single biggest night in theatre, and now it’s just about time to wrap up Broadway’s Award Season and look into the future. However, I’m sure just like you, it will take a while for us to debrief from all this madness, and there will still be plenty to discuss, but for now the time for preparation has come to an end. If you’ve not finished planning your tony parties yet, or made your predictions on who the winners will be, or if you still don’t even know what the heck I’m talking about, then you are almost out of time because this Sunday June, 10th at 8/7 Central, only on CBS, it’s finally time for the moment we’ve all been waiting for...The 72nd Annual Tony Awards!

The History of Broadway And The Musicals That Call It Home- The Tony Awards Special!
Have you ever wondered how award shows came into being? Or where the awards came from? I mean, who even designed the physical Tony Award? All good questions and well, I’m sure there’s a book somewhere that will tell you all that because that’s way too much for me to research. I’m kidding of course, it was legendary Art Director Herman Rosse. However, there is one question I really do want to get to the bottom of today and that is, why the Tony Awards? I mean have you ever thought about why our award shows are named what they are, I mean sure there named after people, but who? Who was the original Oscar, is he the guy the statuette was based off of? What about the Pulitzer Prize, I mean, why do we have an award based off a guy who swindled a bunch of kids just trying to sell papes? I mean, who even is this “Tony”? Well, every name has a story as you may know, and the story of the Tony Awards goes way back to 1917 in where else, but New York City.

Charitable Beginnings
In 1917 right before America would enter World War I, the country was feeling patriotic and everyone was doing their effort in the war, including Rachel Crothers who decided to create the Stage Women’s War Relief. She and several other theatre women made uniforms, collected food and clothing, and sold Liberty Bonds, but of course being actresses and playwrights, they also raised money the best way they knew how to - through performing. They built a makeshift Liberty Theatre outside of the New York Public Library, and in total, the group ended up raising a ton of money for the war effort, and you might not know Crothers today or her small organization, but you might know it by its updated name.

 The Birth Of The American Theatre Wing
The Stage Women’s War Relief was abandoned after the end of World War I, but as you all may now, it wasn’t very many years after the first war that we discovered just that. It was only the first, and once again at the beginning of World War II, Crothers was ready to get back to work and re-established the organization as a branch of the British war relief. However, when America decided it was time to enter the war, Crothers renamed the organization to something you might know a little better today- The American Theatre Wing - which focused on the American war effort and got straight to work, getting back to its New York roots and opening the stage door canteen to entertain servicemen in America. They raised money, boosted ally spirits, and once again did what they did best, put on shows. However, after the War ended suddenly, the Wing had once again lost purpose. But unlike after World War I, it didn’t disband and instead kept going stronger than ever, and though the war was over they still assisted veterans on their way home and helped in the effort to move on from the war. They then started to establish themselves and help grow the expanding world of theatre and in 1946, The American Theatre Wing was about to make one of its biggest contributions to theatre history yet, after the call for an award banquet for New York's distinguished actors was made. The award would be given to those working on Broadway, The Tony Award, named after who it was dedicated to.

 Antoinette Perry And The Tony Awards
Why the Oscars? Why the Oliviers, why do we name awards after people, and who even are the people we name them after and in this case, who is Antoinette Perry? She is, as you may be able to guess, the namesake of the Tony Awards but, who is she? We haven’t discussed her yet and odds are the name isn’t ringing a bell. Well, she is an integral part of not only the story I just told you but also of theatre history. You see, as I said, Crothers established the organization, but when she brought it back after World War I as the all new, American Theatre Wing she didn’t do alone and I purposefully left out one of her key new members, the co-founder Antoinette Perry.

Perry is known as an actress, producer, and director, but most of all for her role in the wing in World War II. She created scholarship opportunities, funded works of new plays, and supported the theatre in every way possible. To give you an idea of who Perry was, when she died in 1946, she was $300,000 in debt, and that was purely because Perry gave everything she had to theatre. Her daughter described her as a bit of a gambler but that all her winnings went straight to providing for the theatre wing. Once a reporter asked her, “Why do you give so much time and money to such thankless activities?” to which Perry replied, “Thankless? They’re anything but that, I’m just a fool for theatre.” Perry was anything but a fool, though. It was clear to her friends and coworkers that she had a passion for theatre like no other, and that’s exactly why when she did die in 1946 from a heart attack, it was no question to Brock Pemberton, head of the Wing at the time, that the new award would be named “The Antoinette Perry Award For Excellence In Theatre”, or as it would catch on, The Tony Awards.

So, if you get anything from the article get this, winning the Tony Awards isn’t the huge deal we make it out to be because it’s exclusively for Broadway, or it’s so hard and exceptional, but because it’s something reserved for only the most passionate and exceptional individuals: those who represent what Antoinette Perry stood for and would gladly give their life for theatre. So, if any of you reading this ever do win a Tony, maybe skip the note cards, and skip drawn out speeches and simply say, “I’m just a fool for theatre,” because it means so much more than the audience may ever know and if you do end up thank anyone, thank Antoinette Perry, the war supporter, theatre legend, and woman who lived her life to help grow this wonderful artform into what we know today.

And ever since that first Awards Banquet in 1947 where no medallions were even given out just jewelry and other valuable accessories we have had 71 ceremonies since. With changes to awards, changes to locations, and changes to theatre in general, the Tony Awards are now able to be seen by everyone since they've been broadcast on CBS since 1967, and its brought everyone a little closer into the world of theatre we know and love and given everyone the chance to get involved in the event. As we approach the 72nd show, it’s nice to look back onto humble beginnings in times of war and at those often unheard who paved the way for not only The Tony’s today, but theatre in general, and as well to look forward to the future as The Tony Awards is looking into the digital age and may soon find another home outside of just television, but also Broadway and the bright future of this ever growing artform.

So that’s the history of the Tony Awards! Do you enjoy this history stuff? I mean love it, but I want to see what you think, do you want more of this or should I write about other things tell me in the comments below and as always, make sure to be there or be square, unless you’re Ethan Slater who has to be there AND be square. Make sure to tune into The Tony Awards on CBS at 8/7 Central this Sunday! Wait, though I know what you’re already saying what about all of us not in America, worry not friends overseas because I got your back. I’d like to refer you to https://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/tonynight/international_viewing.html which tells you everything you need to know about overseas watching. But for those of us in America, tune into CBS, jump on the couch, pop some popcorn, and get ready to either hate or love the American Theatre Wing, you know, the ones who decided The Producers was absolutely worth a record number of Tonys and they are totally right, but also that Big Fish couldn’t even get a nomination. What?!? Sorry, Darren already covered that one, still mad about it though. I love Big Fish if you can’t tell. I mean would it have won, no probably not. But not even a nomination? I mean Nice Work If You Can Get It got a nomination for Best Musical in 2012 and that’s just a jukebox musical featuring an already done Gershwin plot and the absolute worst of Matthew Broderick practically being carried by Kelli O’ Hara, but Big Fish featuring my favorite boy, Norbert Leo Butz, can’t even get a nomination for Best Musical, and speaking about 2012, don’t even get me started on Newsies losing to Once, because we will be here all day.

Well that’s it for me, thankfully. I’ve been Taylor and I can't wait to watch the Tony Awards with all of you guys. So, thanks for reading. I encourage you if you’re just finding the blog to go back and read the other entries the team has made over the past month and make sure to keep up to date, as we all have much more to talk about and of course, if I haven’t said it enough, make sure to tune into The 72nd Annual Tony Awards Live on CBS at 8/7 Central! Thanks once again and have a great Thursday everyone.

 

 

 

Tonys In 10 Years- What Will they Look Like?

We are currently in the age of self-exploration, and the Tonys over the past few years have reflected that. We are coming to terms with ourselves as people, mostly through exploring out childhood – as most of the shows coming to Broadway are revivals or adaptations of films/shows - we are slowly starting to reconcile with our younger-selves, and this is leading to a rebirth in theatre. It’s a cyclical nature: there’s a boom, then we run out of ideas and suddenly BAM! we have our next Andrew Lloyd Webber or Lin Manuel Miranda. Ten years from now, I believe the cycle will have started again and, after reconciling with the past, the Tonys 2028 will be looking on towards the future.

The 21st century is a time of optimism, or at least it should be. A time of looking to the future, or at least it should be. A time of exploration, or at least it should be.

The Tony Awards 2028 will be focused on the future because by that time we will have changed the world (for better or for worse) with new achievements such as the #MeToo movement, and the growing ban on single-use plastics, it seems like 2028 will be a new era. After attacking our problems on every front, it may just be that we finally feel like we can now put our mind to making new art.

Photo by shutter_m/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by shutter_m/iStock / Getty Images

That is what the Tonys will be in 10 years: new.

And bold.

And happy.

I hope…

One thing’s for sure, it will be a new era. An era, I believe, that will be led by the public, as theatre makes its way out of the commercialised world and once again becomes an art form. Because what’s to say that me or you or him or her can’t have a show on Broadway, can’t put something together from our brilliant minds and make a show full of hope, a show which receives Tonys? The revolution starts here, and finishes at the 2028 Tonys where the revolution will be televised.

My predictions for the 2028 Tonys? The girl from down your road will win best supporting actress. Your baby brother will win best actor. The girl who started playing clarinet at 18 will win best orchestration. The best musical will be sci-fi, I think, because there just haven’t been enough science fiction musicals… And best revival will go to Cats, which, after a five year hiatus, will return to Broadway with the same play but this time with real Cats – and Lloyd Webber will be making that #dolla.

Is Originality Dead?

Freya Meredith

The era of entertainment has never been more versatile than now. With the accessibility of television and the internet, an array of community and professional theatre world-wide, and more people wanting bigger and better content, the following of and demand for theatre is at a highpoint. And with the biggest night of theatre fast approaching, we start to ask ourselves a very crucial question: is originality dead?

Photo by phive2015/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by phive2015/iStock / Getty Images

The answer is… undetermined! And before anyone starts screaming at their device screen about how that answer is simply not good enough, let me start by saying, “I get it”. With literally everything being remade nowadays (I don’t want to hear anything more about the non-musical version of Disney’s Mulan), it’s easy to assume that there are not many ideas left to create into a mega-masterpiece for literature, screen or stage. Sure, this could be true in the sense that no story is truly original, but, let’s face it, a story hasn’t been completely and utterly original for a long time. It’s common knowledge that in a story, something happens, and then it goes one of three ways; it ends in happiness, it ends in sadness, or it finishes unanswered. So, fine, I guess in saying that, nothing is completely original. Today, however, we are focusing on more than just the basic structure. But with only 6 of the 45 musicals and 18 of the 46 plays nominated for Best Musical/Play in the past 10 years being cited as original (as in, not inspired or based off pre-existing published work), we need to put forward a different question: why is originality not commercial?

This year, the Tony nominees for Best Musical (Spongebob Squarepants, Mean Girls, Frozen, and The Band’s Visit) all come from the screen. From the average consumer’s perspective, it is much more appealing to go and see a musical based off a movie or a television series that they recognize. It’s also a smart move for producers to invest in a show that already has a following based on its original format. It’s simply common sense and a pretty good reason as to why original musical concepts just are not as successful. Then there are stories based on real life world events and people of interest, with the most recent successes being Hamilton and Come From Away. Once again, audiences are aware of what it’s about (for the most part). I’ve found, through trying to understand why there isn’t more original musicals on Broadway, that audiences are a little scared of the unknown. This is, of course, excluding theatre fans who live for theatre and Broadway. The producers and investors know that we will come to these shows, minimal questions asked (except, maybe, ticket prices, but that’s for a later date). The people they have to “sell” the shows to are everyday people who aren’t theatre nerds. It’s easier to market a show based off pop culture or a well-known event or person than it is to market a completely new idea. So then why are shows like Dear Evan Hansen so successful? Is it the cast? Is it the story itself? Was it so good that word-of-mouth simply promoted the show?

There are plenty of variables as to why shows are commercially successful. Being a marketable product is essential to keep Broadway alive, so it’s understandable as to why there are minimal original storylines on Broadway. But that doesn’t mean that originality is dead on Broadway. Every season, we see new and innovative creations on stage, whether it be through music, choreography, set, costume, or lighting design. We are incredibly lucky to be living in a time where any subject manner can be composed into a musical setting, with ground-breaking results; subsequently living in a time where stories that deserve to be told are being transformed in, what I think (and I am very biased), the most beautiful and versatile form of entertainment in the world. So, the answer to this question is… you make up your own mind.

 

Are The Tonys Still Relevant?

(100% Definitely Not Clickbait)

Jyothi Cross

When I was 14, I watched my first every Tonys – only on YouTube mind you, the UK coverage of award show is beyond shocking – and I fell in love. I fell in love with the Something Rotten cast making Shakespeare seem cool, I fell in love with Kristin Chenoweth's comedic timing (and have seen Wicked on tour three times since), and most importantly, I fell in love with how American's pronounce Amanda Seyfried's name (it's See-fred right??). But though this spectacle of joy and dance made my little heart dance with joy, does the American Theatre Wing's night of wonder really still hold a place in modern day?

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Every summer since then I have eagerly waited for the release of clips which showed introductions, performances, and Hamilton's 11 Tonys but I can’t help but feel that the magic is fading. Has it become so overdone, so used up, that even celebrating the achievements of our heroes is considered a bore? I haven’t had a falling out with theatre, maybe I’ve just had a falling out with the idea of an award showing how much a show's worth, with the fact that sometimes the shows which deserve it the most are often left out because they're not in the right area - here's looking at you Dear Evan Hansen.

The Tonys make me feel conflicted. Of course, you deserve an award for being the best show, but do these awards really take into account the hours of hard work, of the blood/sweat/tears which go into making 5 minutes of a musical? If you win, yes, but if you don’t? Sometimes it can be like trying to pick which internal organs you like best (and all the rest get left behind).

But don’t get me wrong, I love watching Alan Cumming being incredibly campy on a Broadway stage in a suit with shorts as he announces the evening’s nominees, and maybe that’s what makes the Tonys so special. Maybe, it is this celebration of the arts in all its weird and wonderful forms which makes it so worthy of our attention. Because when we achieve, we want to celebrate that, and when we achieve something as a community – just as a big show does – then we want to celebrate as a community. Perhaps, the Tonys can be considered relevant simply because it brings the spotlight back onto the theatre, a medium for our emotions and our turmoil to fly free. After all, if actors can win awards for being paid millions of pounds in a Star Wars movie, why shouldn’t your friendly neighbourhood Cynthia Erivo or Norbert Leo Butz win something as well?

Perhaps the Tonys are relevant because they celebrate the best of what we are, and the best of what we could be. Each year brings a new message of hope, whether it be “love is love is love is love is love is love is love” or “please recycle”. When we need to find light in a darkness, it is the spotlight of the Tony stage that bring the theatre community together to celebrate what we can do together. And that is why the Tonys are still relevant.

The Forgotten Group: The Ensemble Deserves a Tony

Savannah Karabus

A musical is a musical, and a play is a play, no matter how big or small the ensemble is or whether there is one at all. But it would be ignorant of me if I didn’t acknowledge the huge role they play in a musical or a play. Of course, there is no denying how integral it is to have solid leads, but how can we, as the audience, become so deeply involved and enthralled by a piece of work if there is no background harmonizing and dancing, no elaborate numbers with large amounts of actors. It is near impossible to connect in the way we want to.

Here in South Africa, our theatre awards - The Naledi’s and The Fleur de Caps - both nominate the best ensembles of the season so that may make me a little biased, but I still believe that there is room to at least honour the top ensembles at the Tony Awards.

When I started writing this blog, I began thinking about my favourite shows, not just of the season but ever. Frozen has an incredible ensemble that only enhances the talent of the leads on stage, as does Wicked, the Sound of Music, Singin’ in the Rain. The list of shows that would be completely different without their ensembles is endless. But the recognition they receive is minimal, if they are even recognized at all. Currently the only awards that recognize the ensemble of a Broadway show are the Chita Riviera Awards for Dance and for Choreography. The only other sort of recognition an ensemble member receives is the gypsy robe on the official opening night of a show, for being the chorus member who has been in the chorus/ensemble of the most amount of shows, but yet again this is only focusing on a single member and not the amount of effort of the group on a whole.

Photo by master1305/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by master1305/iStock / Getty Images

There has been talk that through the works of actors and actresses who believe that everyone on stage deserves to be recognized for the hard work they do to ensure the show, no matter what, is memorable and spectacular for everyone watching, that the Broadway League and American Theatre Wing and going to consider making this an actual category for next seasons awards as well as Best Chorus. This is exciting news and major progress…if it comes true! 

As someone who has loved theatre for pretty much her entire life, for one reason or another, my eyes have always been drawn to what is going on in the background; what the ensemble are doing and how they are improving the overall quality of the production. Of course this doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate all the hard work and sacrifices the leading actors and actresses make to create a mind blowing experience for us as the audience. 

I truly do look forward to the day where we will hear “and the award for best ensemble in a musical/play goes to…”. We may have a long way to go but there is an element of hope!

What are your thoughts? 
 

How To Succeed in Throwing a Tony Party Without Really Trying

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Taylor Lockhart

Warning: Despite what the title says you are probably going to have to try somewhat during this process. Unless you’re the world best party planner than in that case, what are you here for? You probably know more about this than I do.


So, You want to host a grand gala, or maybe a party, or just a get together over drinks for the 72nd Annual Tony Awards! Well you have come to the right place. First of all, I assume you know what the Tony Awards are but I am legally required by my editor to tell you anyways. The Tony Awards are despite what The Olivier Awards twitter bio says, the singular biggest night in theatre all year. It’s the night we see Peggy Sawyers become Broadway stars and then get played off the stage by the unrelenting orchestra. All hosted in New York City at the Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 10th 8/7 Central on CBS.

Ok, now that's out of the way. My name is Taylor Lockhart, and I’ll be leading you in this process of becoming the greatest host or hostess possible and what you need to throw the best and most likely only tony party on the block. Let’s get started.

The first thing you need to do is actively decide whether you’d rather just watch the Tony Awards alone on your couch and in your underwear instead of plan and cook and clean and talk to people for several hours. If you decide that this is what you want to do, now you have to convince people to abandon their plans of doing that and come to your house instead. If you plan on making food include that in the text or email. People are 65% more likely to come to a party where food is served and 100% guaranteed not to if you’re not at least serving chips, I mean you’re not a monster right? Oh and if you decide none of this is for you, please keep reading anyways. Most of these plans can be done solo as well.

Now as I mentioned, the singular most important thing to any party is the food. You can never go wrong with finger sandwiches and chips but if you’re feeling a bit more decorative Best Day Ever Toppers on Etsy is offering cupcake toppers with playbills based on this years nominees which would also work really well with sandwiches. Of course if you’re not willing to spend 10$ plus shipping for paper on sticks you could probably make your own with toothpicks and a printer. Once your ready for dessert hop over to Martha Stewart's for a sponge or in the case “sponge-bob” cake but if you want a more personalized cake or Tony themed cake. The Tony Awards site has got your back with a make your own Tony Cake. Be warned, this cake is not for those unskilled at cooking or following any directions at all. Shame, I really wanted a Tony cake.Of course themes can become unnecessary at times and you never can go wrong with a good old fashioned taco bar. Links to all of these items will be at the bottom of the article for you to check out.

Of course, I'm leaving out a HUGE part of food to serve at your party and that is, what do you serve before the food. Well for all of you of age out there, which I assume is at least 75% or higher, the answer is clear, Cocktails. No ordinary Margarita’s or Bloody Marys will do for the Tony Awards though. So here is my list for you of specialty cocktails for the 2018 72nd Tony Awards and how to make them and become the best makeshift bartender of any party you’re friends go to all year


Frozen Frostbite- Disney’s hit musical Frozen is full of icy surprises and snowy situations which may also be how’d you describe your night with this spin on a famous cocktail, inspired by the tony nomination for Best Musical.

What you’ll need: 1 ½ ounces of Tequila.  ½ ounce of white creme de cacao, 1½ ounce of blue curacao, and  ½ ounce of cream. For garnish use Maraschino Cherry

How to Make It: Pour the ingredient into a cocktail shaker with lots of ice (if you’re truly feeling frozen fever that is). Next Shake well and then strain using a slotted spoon or cocktail strainer into a cocktail glass, add your garnish of Cherry and enjoy a cocktail fit for a queen, or an ice queen that is.

On Wednesdays We Drink Pink- Feeling Mean, perhaps ready to spread gossip around about the other nominations if Mean Girls doesn’t win Best Musical. I believe you but before you do that why not try our selection inspired by the famous line from the movie, and I assume the musical. I haven’t seen it and the cast recording doesn’t come out until a day after you read this.

What you’ll need: 2 ounces of Vodka, 1 ounce cranberry juice cocktail, ¾ ounce fresh lime juice, ¾ ounce triple sec, garnish with an orange twist for serving

How To Make It: Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and add ice, shake thoroughly for about 30 seconds until the outside is very cold. Strain your cocktail through a slotted spoon or cocktail strainer into a martini glass and add your orange peel garnish. Now pretend you’re high school girls again despite the fact that you couldn’t drink in high school as you watch the Tonys!

Yellow Sponge: A spin on the classic Yellow Bird this yellow drink is sure to get you into the Bikini Bottom spirits as you shout I’m ready! For the Tony Awards that is.

What You’ll Need: ½ lime juice, 1 ¼ ounces orange juice, 1 ounce light rum, 1 ounce dark rum, ¼ ounce Galliano Liqueur, For garnish use a maraschino cherry and 1 sprig of mint, pineapple in this case is also heavily recommended as a garnish, any tropical fruit could be used.

How To Make It: Squeeze your lime juice into a cocktail shaker with ice, next add all of the other ingredients, Shake well, Strain into a collins glass with crushed ice, and garnish with a cherry and a sprig of mint, and/or tropical fruit of your choice, and enjoy. Don’t drink too much though or you’ll wind up looking like a Goofy Goober as Ethan Slater sings about The Best Day Ever live.

Once On This Island Breeze: I won’t lie, I know nothing about Once On This Island but I saw there was a cocktail named Island Breeze and I leaped at the pun opportunity, so make up your own witty description for this one.

What You’ll Need: 1 ½ ounces light rum, 4 ounces pineapple juice, 1 ounce cranberry juice, 2 dashes Angostura Bitters, and a lemon wedge or cherry to garnish

How To Make It: Fill a highball cocktail glass with ice, pour in your ingredients and add lemon wedge or cherry for garnish and drink till you turn into a tree. That’s it, That is the one thing I know about this musical someone turns into a tree. I’m sorry ok.

My Fair Lady: Originally the drink of choice was going to be a Mimosa for its classy Champagne contents and the pun of course would be, My Fair Mimosa, but then while looking up cocktails I scared just about everybody around me with a high pitched scream as I saw...There is a cocktail named My Fair Lady after the show and it would be a disservice to tell you to make anything other than that.

What You’ll Need: 1 ounce Gin, 1 ounce Lemon Juice, 1 ounce Orange Juice, 1 ounce Strawberry Syrup, and 1 dash of Egg White

How To Make It: Pour the ingredients and ice into a cocktail shaker and shake thoroughly and then strain into a cocktail glass and whether your a cockney mess who can’t english that good or a convincing crown jewel capable of fooling anyone into believing you must be a queen. Enjoy your cocktail fit for a rainy day in Spain or at the Ascot Races or just on the street where you live. As you can see unlike the last entry, I have two many My Fair Lady puns I can make and I’m going to stop now or I never will. Just remember not to drink too much or you might find yourself dancing all night. Alright Sorry, my bad now I’m done.


Now you’re ready to serve drinks to your guest to enjoy while watching the Tony Awards, and as always remember to drink responsibly avoid drinking games like “Take a shot every time the orchestra plays because someone's speech is too long” because you will almost certainly die. If you don’t like any of these choices you can simply find whatever cocktail you would like to serve and title it the, “Insert Show Here- Special” and that’s boring and uncreative but if that’s what you want, You do you. I won’t stop you.

Once you have finished eating and drinking it’s probably about time for the announcer to open you into Radio City Music Hall the same way he does every year and time for you to start keeping track of the show even closer than you already would have with my homemade 2018 Tony Awards Bingo. You know the rules, try to get five in a row and trust me you totally can.

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And if you’re looking to get more competitive, try your shot at predicting the winners before the show starts with my homemade 2018 Tony Awards ballot sheet

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GnymzC6il9LUPBqc7yFId_J0kYVZ0LsAuscFLgYaM-Y/edit?usp=sharing

You are also going to want to give out some reward for whoever can guess the most correct answers and unsurprisingly you can’t buy a replica or plastic Tony Award. But you can head over to Crown Awards which has very nice theatre awards for cheap that someone could actually display and it adds to the room rather than being a cheap piece of plastic garbage no one can do anything with. If you want one that looks like a tony award in shape but for legal reasons contains not many other similarities, The Toni Award might be for you. Yea, I know real subtle. Perhaps you’d rather ditch the idea of trophies and award someone something they can actually use like any of the many officially licensed Tony Awards shirts, hats, mugs, or bags. You could also award them a Tony Awards Playbill commemorating the event. Or finally the thing I would recommend the most, A paperback book by Isabella Stevenson and Roy A Somlyo, containing all of the nominees and winners...up to the year 2001. A perfect coffee table book as long as you stop guests from trying to find Hamilton. Again links to all of the these are at the bottom of the article.

So you have done it, or at least planned to do it which is half the battle you know. With food, drinks, ballots and bingo and prizes to be won your party is bound to be a surefire success.

Of course you don’t have to do any of that. There’s nothing wrong in going all out with themes and decorations and food but a few sandwiches and soda from your fridge surrounded by a few friends to laugh, chat, and overall enjoy the biggest night in theatre all year is really all you need. A party doesn’t need to be anything else than 2 or 3 friends and the most important part is that you enjoy it because it only happens once every 365 days and if to you that’s done in a nonchalant way more power to you, but if you think the best way to celebrate the 72 year old super show is to go all out and make a big and elaborate splash, you’re my kind of person and I hope you learned something that will help you with the future of your Tony Awards party.

So happy Tony Awards everyone and I’ll see you in 3 weeks when we go a bit more in depth at what 72 years really means and how this whole phenomenon all got started with The 2nd installment of The History Of Broadway And The Musical That Call It Home: Tony Awards Special. Until then I hope you have a fantastic thursday and once again be sure to tune into the Tony Awards Sunday June 10th at 8/7 Central. You are not going to want to be anywhere else but in front of your tv when it all goes down live. Also be sure to check back to the blog every Monday and Thursday for Tony related content leading up to to the big day. Well, If that is all I’ve been Taylor and You’ve been you and I will see you later, Goodbye.


Cupcake Toppers-  https://www.etsy.com/listing/598193132/tony-awards-2018-playbill-cupcake?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=tony%20awards%20party&ref=sr_gallery-1-3

Sponge Cake Recipe-

https://www.marthastewart.com/978785/sponge-cake

Tony Award Cake Recipe- https://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/news/articles/2010-06-08/201006081276012829208.html

Crown Theatre Awards-

https://www.crownawards.com/StoreFront/92X.Drama_Trophies_And_Awards.cat?&start=60&sz=30

Toni Award-

https://schoppy.com/products/toni-award?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=googlepla&gclid=Cj0KCQjwre_XBRDVARIsAPf7zZh3QFehcQQczfsa6wvkiONFrWVQnW1NyLS7du_7sCBfQY7h6eZu4UAaAhlZEALw_wcB

Tony Merchandise-

http://tonyawardsstore.com/

Tony Playbill-

https://www.playbillstore.com/the-2018-tony-awards-playbill.aspx

Plastic Theatre Award- https://www.amazon.com/Gold-Award-Trophies-Trophy-Statues/dp/B06XFZ61BV/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1526528135&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=tony+award&psc=1

Tony Book- https://www.amazon.com/Tony-Award-Complete-Nominees-American/dp/0325002940/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1526526349&sr=8-11&keywords=tony+awards

Unmentioned Tony Book- https://www.amazon.com/Tony-Award-Book-Decades-American/dp/0896597717/ref=pd_sbs_14_1?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0896597717&pd_rd_r=TX2RX4ANE8BNV58YMXGX&pd_rd_w=ssz53&pd_rd_wg=9mM7M&psc=1&refRID=TX2RX4ANE8BNV58YMXGX




 

Don't Judge a Show by its Tonys

The Tony Awards, it’s the Superbowl for theatre fans. We root for our favorite shows/actors, we indulge in the 5 minute number of those nominated, and we cry when a favorite show wins or ultimately loses. We make joke bets on the nominees. We base a LOT of judgment of a show based on their Tony nominations. But I personally feel that we shouldn’t. Because not every show every season gets nominated for a Tony, and sometimes those shows not nominated are the best ones, and those nominated for a Tony may not be. While the Tony Awards are a great thing to reward shows every season, I think judging a show based solely on how many Tony’s they have or don’t have is kind of silly and we should stop judging a show based on those facts and look at the show as whole (story, music, book, development).

I know not everyone pays attention to a shows Tony nominations, but I know for a lot of fans, that’s a huge basis of whether or not they should see a show (I have seen it a lot recently on twitter). I get it, following what The Tony Committee says is a good show and what they feel deserves to be “show of the year”. Again, I understand. They seem to know what’s the best of the best this season. But sometimes, the shows nominated and the shows NOT nominated may be just as good or not. People are so presumptuous based on these nominations that they often forget those that aren’t nominated. While I personally don’t believe in a “Tony snub” that goes around on social media, I do believe that shows not nominated often get underlooked as they are often outshone by those nominated. Again I’m not saying this is always the case, take Anastasia for example. It wasn’t nominated for a Tony last season but is still one of the most beloved shows on Broadway currently and was more beloved than some of the nominees last season. Perfect example of why I think that a Tony nomination doesn’t give a show its worth. 

I suppose my main point is that because a certain show is nominated for a Tony, that doesn’t mean it is the best, and because a show wasn’t nominated for a Tony, doesn’t mean it’s bad or isn’t awesome, because every show on Broadway is. I mean it made its way on The Great White Way! Especially since we are approaching Tony season, all shows, nominated or not, should be given the love and support they deserve. Us as Broadway fans owe it to them. Whether we are huge fans of the show or not, every show deserves love and praise, nominated or not. Do take what I am saying with a grain of salt, this is all from my personal observation and a personal opinion, but it is something I’ve felt for a while.


-Taylour xx

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No Tonys In the Pit!

By Freya Meredith (A.K.A. Australia’s Ally to Broadway)

It is a well-established fact that the Tony Awards celebrates excellent in theatre. In the lead-up to the nominations, many theatre practitioners, including actors, writers, composers, producers, choreographers, directors and so many more, anxiously hope for their name to be announced as a cut above the rest. These people have dedicated months, most likely years, into making their production the best it can be. And while they are proud to be a part of that show and have already experienced the gratitude of audiences and critics, many say that to be recognized by the American Theatre Wing is the icing on the cake. What an honour it must be to be “a Tony nominee!” Many people in theatre have endless dreams about this - but unfortunately, for some people, this dream may never come true.

Musical Directors and Conductors have been an essential part of theatre since the invention of “the performing arts”. With the help of the rise of orchestras and operas, it is unlikely that you will now go to a musical theatre production that is not accompanied with a musical director and/or a conductor. The role of a musical director/conductor, whose job is to shape and lead a musical performance, is a vital role on the production team. In my personal opinion, this role is just as important (sometimes even more depending on the show) as the choreographer. So my question is: why is there no longer an award recognizing the work of a Musical Director?

The Tony Award for Best Conductor and Musical Director began being presented at the 2nd Annual Tony Awards ceremony in 1948 (the first award being given to Milton Rosenstock for his work on Finian’s Rainbow). The last of this award was presented in 1964 to Shepard Coleman for his “vocal arrangements” (or so it is said) on the original production of Hello Dolly! As Joseph Church writes in his book Music Direction for the Stage: A View from the Podium; “In truth, Mr Coleman had been let go early in the production, and his position was taken over… three months after the show opened.” It is thought that Coleman received the award because it was Hello Dolly! and voters were unaware of his actual contribution to the production. Because of the supposed difficulty of analyzing the work of a musical director/conductor (as opposed to the very evident work of a director and a choreographer), the Award was retired. 30 years later, a committee of music directors (in which A View from the Podium’s author was a founder of) presented a case to bring back the Best Conductor and Musical Director award and to create an award for orchestrations to the Tony committee members. The committee rejected their motion for the Musical Director award, but were compliant in creating the Tony Award for Best Orchestrations. And nothing has really happened since.

Photo by Furtseff/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Furtseff/iStock / Getty Images

Now, I kind of understand why the Award was dumped. I have to agree (sorry musical directors) that it is a little hard to track how a musical director creatively contributes to a production. Other than doing their job and relaying the composer’s intentions from the score, they creatively aren’t giving as much as the director or the choreographer or the costume and set designers and so on. A lot of the time, you don’t see someone’s musical direction live on through other productions of that same show like someone’s direction or choreography does (ala Michael Bennett’s A Chorus Line). It’s also known that audiences aren’t as aware of someone’s musical direction as they are with direction or costume design (which is unfortunate).

But besides all these complications, musical direction and conducting is tough work, and the American Theatre Wing should recognize it in an Award. Musical directors, especially in the case of a brand new show, have to take everything that the composers, lyricist and orchestrators have put together and make it work! They are responsible for every aspect of the preparation and the performance of the music. Musical directors have to coordinate with the creative team and designers to make sure that what audiences are hearing is telling the story just as much as what they are seeing. They have to hire and work with different musical personnel to complete scores, and also work with different voice types and vocal skills to achieve a clean and almost perfect sound (which, as a singing teacher, I know can be a nightmare to do). Musical directors have to lead rehearsals with both the cast and the orchestra (double the work) and are the link between both groups. Most musical directors are also the conductor in these productions, and having the ability to lead an entire orchestra AND cast 8 shows a week is astounding. If something goes wrong, they have to immediately improvise and coordinate sometimes over 60 people (example: West Side Story can have 31 orchestra members and 40 cast members on stage) all at once, and they can do that without missing a beat - literally. It is remarkable how much of a genius of music you need to be to become a successful musical director and conductor, especially in musical theatre.

I believe that when good work is presented, it should be awarded. Yes, the job description for a musical director can mean a lot of things and it can be hard for the American Theatre Wing to keep track of, but it is also one of the hardest jobs on Broadway (don’t even get me started on stage technicians and managers. The Tony Award for Best Stage Technician needs to be a thing again). Like I said, I think you need to be a genius (and a little bit insane) to be a musical director, and while this role is obviously very fulfilling, a little recognition on the biggest night for theatre wouldn’t go astray. If my local theatre awards can manage to do it (shout out to the City of Newcastle Drama Association Awards), the Tony’s can too!

Why They Didn't Win: An Analysis of "Robbed" Shows

Darren Wildeman

“________ was robbed!” you will often hear theatre fans exclaim. Whether it be after the most recent Tony Awards, or whether they’re still bitter about a previous awards season almost everyone probably has a favourite show that never won, or even got nominated. But why did some high profile shows lose? Whether you agree with it or not the voters have a reason for voting the way they do for a show. Let’s jump in and take a look at some shows which are perceived to have been robbed and maybe why they didn’t win.

 

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1958 Tony Awards

The Robbed Show: West Side Story, losing to The Music Man.

Thankfully this now beloved show didn’t get totally skunked at the Tony Awards. Jerome Robbins won for best choreography and Oliver Smith won for scenic design. However, this now beloved show not winning the Tony for what was then called “Outstanding Musical” seems baffling. This now begs the question, what went wrong, and why did it not win?

One thing that may have at least played a role in this is the show being covered in controversy. Sara Fishko writes on NPR about how Jerome Robbins was a former Communist Party member and he exposed ten other people as such before court. Of course communism in 1950s America was a huge deal. He was also a secret homosexual, however I’m not sure if this would have played a role in the show being robbed as not many people knew about it. The other thing Sara discusses in the article is how Jerome Robbins intentionally would try to create tension in the cast. The actors of the gangs weren’t allowed to even eat together (for Sara’s full article, click here). Finally, there’s the matter of the content. Race, rape, and general bigotry are something modern day theatre audiences have become somewhat more accustom to being addressed in theatre. However, it’s possible that even though the show was popular that it may have just been too much for the award voters.

We also need to consider the musical that won. The Music Man. The Music Man is largely to be considered a good show in its own right, however most people don’t seem to put it on the level as West Side Story either. By comparison, it’s a much more “safe” musical that includes some comedy, and a romance story, and it didn’t have the controversial for the time subjects of race, and rape brought up. By 1957 standards The Music Man is much more what people were accustom to seeing in the theatre, and this could very well be what gave it the win.

1960 Tony Awards

The Robbed Show: Gypsy, losing to The Sound of Music and Fiorello!

Looking back, this is another show that’s hard to believe didn’t win any Tonys. Not only did it lose Best Musical, but Ethel Merman also lost the Tony for best leading actress for her role in Gypsy. It had eight nominations in total and lost all of them. What happened?

While probably not related it’s interesting that this is the second musical that Robbins and Sondheim worked together on that is now perceived as being robbed.

The Sound of Music was released in 1959. America was only fourteen years out of World War Two and the world as a whole would have still had it in their memory. Something that we will see time and again in theatre, is that something that is relevant to the times, will win. Given that World War Two was quite recent in people’s minds, and that by this time Rodgers and Hammerstein had already built quite the name for themselves it makes sense that this won the Tony. While not directly related to winning the Tony it is also worth noting that this would be their last show together due to Oscar Hammerstein eventually passing away from cancer.

Fiorello! also opened to amazing critical reviews and large audiences. Gypsy is also another example of a show with a bit of a darker and deeper storyline not winning. This combined with the fact that it was up against two other very good shows led to its not winning. One show was really relevant and the other was considered very good. Gypsy turned out to be the odd one out in every category. It was just too competitive of a season for it.

1964 Tony Awards

The Robbed Show: She Loves Me losing to Hello Dolly!

Honestly this one is relatively easy to explain. As beloved as She Loves Me is now, it initially wasn’t that well received. Combine the fact that it was up against a show that was both a powerhouse both in its day and in modern times, and it never really had much of a chance. The same goes for Barbara Cook not even being nominated. She had a fabulous career, but She Loves Me just wasn’t going to be the show to get the big awards.

1972 Tony Awards

The Robbed Show: Follies, Grease, and Jesus Christ Superstar losing to Two Gentlemen of Verona

This one confuses a lot of people. One of the popular opinions on this one is that Two Gentlemen of Verona won because Galt Macdermot lost at the Tonys with Hair a few years prior. It was essentially a “make up” decision to give him the Tony that some people thought he deserved. Also one blogger Pewterbreath, points out that no matter how he is portrayed on stage it is pretty hard for people to argue with anything Shakespeare related (for the full article on this you can click here). It was another year with too many good musicals, and Two Gentlemen of Verona was a semi successful show. Most people think the voters got it wrong, however in some ways it is another case of there being too many good shows in the same year. Jesus Christ Superstar wasn’t even nominated for best Musical (although it was nominated for five other awards) probably just due to being too crowded in the category and it was the odd one out. Between being moderately successful and well received and Galt Macdermot not winning a Tony a previous year, Two Gentlemen of Verona managed to push out many other successful shows and come out on top in a very crowded Tony year.

You could argue that Grease also lost for being too “poppy” and “fun.” The exact opposite problem West Side Story had. You see by this point in theatre history Sondheim had ushered in an era where it was okay for musical theatre to be more serious. It was up against Follies which is a Sondheim creation, and Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death which is another show that goes deeper and explores the African American life in the ghettos. Grease was up against these as well as the eventual winner and really in a season like this it really didn’t have a chance.

It is also worth noting that Follies managed to pick up 4 other Tony including best score and direction. It isn’t as if they were totally ignored.

1976 Tony Awards

The Robbed Show: Chicago losing to A Chorus Line

This is another one that really doesn’t need much of an explanation. What A Chorus Line did for dance was revolutionary. Meanhwile the first run of Chicago was not terribly well received. It didn’t do horribly, but calling it robbed is definitely an overstatement; especially when you look at what the winner did for theatre.

 

1984 Tony Awards

The Robbed show: Sunday in the Park with George losing to La Cage aux Folles

This is a really interesting one. Sunday is an incredible show and Sondheim did something with this show that had never really been seen before in turning a painting into a musical. It’s a very original concept and the show is flawlessly executed.

Not only did Sunday lose best musical, but La Cage pretty much wiped the floor with them leaving Sondheim’s creation with just 2 design awards. It’s hard to point to one single thing as to why Sunday lost. However, one thought is maybe Sunday was just too far out there for the voters. In his Washington Post review of the 1984 Tony Awards David Richards echoes these thoughts calling Sunday “radical and adventurous” and saying it was “experimentation.” Meanwhile he said that La Cage “is right out of Broadway mainstream.” (to read his full 1984 Tony summary click here).

This isn’t to say La Cage was undeserving of the Tony award as it was very well reviewed and the voters themselves obviously loved it. It’s also hard to ignore the storyline of La Cage. From the 1970s onwards many of the States were in the process of decriminalizing homosexuality. While by the 1980s this revolution still had a long ways to go, it was also relevant to the times. Remember, we’re also in 1984 here. We’re just nine years away from the first workshop of Rent.  Not to mention that Broadway has historically been ahead of social issues. Considering these two things, and combining them with the popularity La Cage was getting as a show it starts to seem somewhat obvious why La Cage won.

1991 Tony Awards

The Robbed Shows: Miss Saigon losing to The Will Rodgers Follies

Given that Miss Saigon was drowning in controversy at the time over its casting, I don’t think it’s a huge surprise to see why it lost. Although Lea Salonga did win for her performance, the show as a whole lost all around. From criticism to their portrayal of Asian people, to the “yellow facing” of white people to make them look Asian including one of the lead roles. While being well received the show just couldn’t overcome these mistakes among a few other things. It’s also worth mentioning that by today’s standards, while Miss Saigon is certainly a spectacle to see, a lot of the music and book fall flat. A lot of the reviews of it at the time were positive, there were also some mixed to negative reviews (such as this one by Linda Winer of the LA Times). Between controversy, and some critics not loving it from the get go, it leads to Will Rodgers Follies winning.

1998 Tony Awards

The Robbed show: Ragtime losing to The Lion King

Today Ragtime is a quite well liked show that has aged very well, and has stayed if not become even more relevant. However, it opened to mixed reviews. For the most part it wasn’t completely trashed by the critics, however they weren’t exactly raving about it either. A lot of the criticism the show faced is not unlike the complications Les Miserables had. The nuances of bringing a novel that deep, with that much going on can be difficult, and things can get lost, and to a lot of critics this is what happened.

Furthermore, it was going up against The Lion King. While the Lion King itself isn’t without its flaws, it’s a spectacle. You can hide a lot with spectacle, powerful music, and great vocal performances. Not to mention the cultural influences on this show that give it yet another layer that makes it even more attractive to a lot of people.

Considering all these things I think it’s pretty easy to see why Ragtime lost the Tony this year. It’s also worth noting that Ragtime did win for best score and best book. It wasn’t totally ignored.

1999 Tony Awards

The robbed show: Parade losing to Fosse

Like Ragtime the previous year, Parade picked up the Tonys for best score and best book, however, it failed to win the big award in best musical. The reviews for it were mostly positive, and some of them downright glowing. That really wasn’t the issue here. Tony voters have a bit of a habit of sometimes turning away from dark and heavy material. While the shows get reviewed well and do well at the box office, they don’t always win Best Musical, even if it looks like it might be the best of that season. Maybe the voters aren’t sure how well the show will do post Tonys or even post-Broadway. It might sound crazy to some but as we will see in a bit with Wicked this is something that gets considered. It’s possible they’re concerned if non NYC crowds will go see these heavier shows and receive them as well in other cities. Sometimes it’s possible they’d rather give the Tony to a safer show for touring purposes.

It’s also worth noting that Fosse was a chilling remembrance of one of Broadway’s best composers in Bob Fosse. It was very well received and payed great homage to him. Between Parade possibly being too dark for some and Fosse remembering a Broadway great you wind up with Fosse winning the Best Musical.

2004 Tony Awards

The robbed show: Wicked losing to Avenue Q

This one is somewhat easy to explain as well. Avenue Q was new, innovative, and was really well received. There is also speculation that it needed the Tony win to continue to be successful. Whereas Wicked wasn’t as well received critically, but commercially it would do just fine Tony or not. Ergo, Avenue Q wins the Tony

2009 Tony Awards

The robbed show: Next to Normal losing to Billy Elliot

This is yet another example of a darker show not winning. This isn’t to say a dark show can never win, however the Tony voters tend to prefer the “safer” shows. Not that Billy Elliot is all rainbows and unicorns, but Next to Normal is so heavy and as discussed earlier this can scare Tony voters for a variety of reasons.

That’s not to say the Billy Elliot isn’t a fine show in its own right either. It’s a fabulous show that many people love. This isn’t necessarily a case of an inferior show winning like we’ve seen in other seasons. This was really a heavy weight match which saw Next to Normal win best score, but Billy Elliot took the big award.

The same thing also partially applies with what was discussed in regards to The Lion King about spectacle, beautiful music, and powerful vocals being a winning combination. Billy Elliot doesn’t quite have the same type of music as Lion King but it’s moving nonetheless. Also it is a dance spectacle, whereas Next to Normal is smaller scale, and more intimate.

Between Next to Normal being darker and Billy Elliot being a really good show on its own, and being more of a spectacle this leads to a best musical Tony award for Billy Elliot.

2014 Tony Awards

The robbed show: Big Fish with zero nominations

This one is a bit unusual. It’s odd that a show of Big Fish’s caliber doesn’t at least get some nominations. I’m not sure that it would have won anything but not even getting a nod is weird. So what happened?

It’s hard to say, it did receive some mixed reviews, and it was a very strong season. It probably just got overlooked. Some seasons a show just happens to be the odd one out. That appears to be the case here.

2015 Tony Awards

The robbed show: Finding Neverland with zero nominations

For the sake of length I generally haven’t discussed shows robbed of nominations. However, Big Fish was worth talking about and Finding Neverland was also an interesting case.

In the first place Finding Neverland was not received well by critics. In the second place, it was behind the scenes politics. Harvey Weinstein fired a lot of staff members and left a general distaste in the mouth of a lot of important people (you can read more about this here).

This goes to show that having a good show alone isn’t good enough for nominations. Key members of the show also need to be careful not to upset the wrong people. Otherwise they will find themselves on the outside looking in.

2017 Tony Awards

The robbed show: Everything vs. Dear Evan Hansen

Last year was a really interesting season. I don’t know how many people think something was robbed, but last year no matter which way the voting fell someone was going to be upset. All of these shows could have won the Tony in any other season, but it was a loaded year.

One of the big reasons Dear Evan Hansen won is trendiness and marketability. The show is so popular that it is going to tour well, and get attention no matter where it goes. Slapping that Best Musical title on it is only going to increase the hype. Not to mention that technically speaking it is a very well done show.

It’s not to say that the Tony wouldn’t have helped the other shows, but it was just such a strong season but wherever you go Dear Evan Hansen always stood out among fans as being the top show of the season, and the critics agreed. It by far generated more attention than any other show, was super well done, and stood out just enough more than anything else in a good Tony season.

It’s not that there was anything really wrong with the other shows but Dear Evan Hansen broke away from the pack more than anything else did.

I understand that people aren’t going to always agree with the Tony voters. However, even if you don’t agree with them, or think a show got robbed- I hope this article at least helps you to understand why a show didn’t win. It might help to try and see what the voters look for, and why some shows might not get as much attention from the voters.

 

It's the Tonys. Yawn

Michael Kape (a/k/a Grumpy Olde Guy®)

When I was a mere lad of 10 years, CBS broadcast the Tony Awards for the first time. It was 1964, and my family gathered around our big, new RCA color television (a novelty back then) to watch the proceedings. It was an exciting show, with live re-enactments from top Broadway shows—both musicals and plays. I don’t remember too much from the broadcast (c’mon guys, it’s been more than half a century), but I remember saying, “Someday I’m going to be there.”

Well, it took a while, but I did make it a few years ago when two plays in which I was an investor were nominated for four Tonys between them. Didn’t win a single one (we should have won for Best Play, Time Stands Still, and Best Musical Revival Finian’s Rainbow—but I digress). Still, I was able to cross “Go to the Tony Awards” off my bucket list.

In the years before and since, I’ve endeavored to watch the telecasts. I’ve missed some years. When I was in college I didn’t see some of them though I had seen almost all the nominees. After my partner died 10 years ago, I made it a point to be at a theatre (always Off-Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway). We had made such big deal out of watching the telecasts together I couldn’t bear to watch it alone. If you’ve ever been widowed you’d understand.

These days, I’m living out in the desert, 100 miles from Los Angeles. I rely on touring productions. Yes, I still watch the telecasts. No, I don’t really care all that much.

The likelihood of seeing any of the Tony-winning performances in Los Angeles is slim to none (except, of course, when a Tony winner is angling to get noticed by Hollywood producers). Unless a show is going to be sitting for a few months in one theatre (like Hamilton or Aladdin did this season at the Hollywood Pantages), we’re likely to get a scaled-back version of the Broadway production. Most tours are designed to fit a stage depth of no more than 29 feet. Why? Because the Fox Theatre in Atlanta is a major touring house and its depth is, you guessed it, 29 feet. Many Broadway houses are well over 30 feet deep. When they go on the road, they scale the sets back to fit the Fox.  Speaking of touring houses, those producers have an outsized influence on what and who wins the Tonys. They actually make up a large chunk of the Tony voters and their judgment is influenced by what they think would play best in their cities—not necessarily what might be the best shows or the best performances. Oops, did I say this? Yes, I did. It was told to me by one of those touring house producers in a freak moment of candor.

I guess I should get to my point—why I’m no longer particularly excited by the Tony Awards. I’m not going to be able to see any of the scaled-back winners for at least a year or two (or more). In a rare treat (really), I get to see last year’s Best Play, The Humans, next year, a wait of just two years (but not with the Tony-winning cast, which included an old friend from my high school days—who finally won the Tony he so richly deserves). Next year, we’re also getting last year’s Best Musical Revival, Hello Dolly, but of course we don’t get to see the Divine Miss M in her Tony-winning performance.

This year, the big competition in musicals seems to be between Mean Girls and SpongeBob Square Pants. What about Frozen you ask? Heck, Disneyland has been running a scaled-back (surprise) live version of it for many months now. (Yes, I saw it. No, I wasn’t impressed. But I wasn’t impressed by the animated feature, either. I’m the wrong demographic, obviously.) None of these is on the schedule for the 2018-2019 season at any of the four local touring houses. Sadly, neither is The Band’s Visit, the likely winner this year for Best Score. But we’re getting repeat revivals of Les Misérables, Miss Saigon (ugh), Cats (no way I’m wasting any time to see this for a fifth time; four times was bad enough), Fiddler on the Roof (a show I first saw back in 1964—jeez), Something Rotten (it was just here this season, but the bus & truck is out there now), Jersey Boys (for the fourth time), Phantom of the Opera (for the umpteenth time) Spamalot, and Evita. Alas, we will never get to see Groundhog Day or Bandstand.

And this gets me to my biggest gripe. I fully expect Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to win for Best Play and dominate most of the design awards. Will it ever tour? With a cast of 40 and a five-hour running time (spread out over two seatings), not bloody likely. I’ve read the published script (it’s simply incredible, of course). I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and would really like to see it. But it’s sold out years in advance in New York and the sheer, massive logistics make it impossible to tour. Unless there’s a scaled-back (ugh), cut down to three hours (double ugh) production. It just won’t be the same.

So yes, I’m going to be watching the Tonys this year—at home in the desert. Am I going to be all that excited? No, not really. I won’t ever see any of the winning performances live. I won’t see the same show as it’s being done on Broadway when I eventually have it on one of my subscription series.

The Theatre Wing (which presents the Tonys) touts how the telecast promotes live theatre in the hinterlands (you know, places like Los Angeles or Chicago or the place where you live if you’re not in the New York metropolitan area). And touring houses promote some shows as “the Tony-winning production of [show name],” but fail to mention the Tonys were for performances, not the show itself. What, a tour producer over-hype a show? Impossible.

You know something? This frustrates me and makes me grumpy. And you know you should not make me grumpy. It isn’t pretty (but neither am I, so how can anyone tell the difference).

Grumpy Olde Guy® at the 64th Annual Tony Awards.

Grumpy Olde Guy® at the 64th Annual Tony Awards.

A Cut Above the Rest

Photo by stsmhn/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by stsmhn/iStock / Getty Images

Jonathan Fong

As Broadway approaches awards season once more and every Broadway fan performs the obligatory sharpening of the pitchforks for when their favorite show, actor, composer, or designer inevitably, in their opinion, gets snubbed in the nominations or perhaps, later, the wins, I find that all too often we, as thespians, do tend to forget some things. Namely, we forget what makes Broadway theatre so incredible and unlike most anything on this planet.

Some of us are fortunate enough to have frequent exposure to live theatre. Perhaps you live in a big city which often gets equally-big tours and other major professional productions, or perhaps you’re among the lucky few who live in New York or London and have access to Broadway or the West End, respectively, the world’s great hotspots of live theatre.

Or perhaps you’re something like me - hailing from a tiny city in the middle of nowhere with little, if any, exposure to any live theatre, let alone the big tours and Broadway/West End productions ‘everyone else’ seems to get. If you come from somewhere in the middle of nowhere too, you’ll know what I mean.

Suffice it to say that while I’m a Broadway aficionado, I haven’t exactly had the chance to see lots of shows. In fact, I’m probably one of what’s probably a tiny group of people who can say that they’ve been in more shows, whether behind the curtain as stage crew or onstage as a performer, than they’ve seen in the audience.

Last February, my family surprised me with a gift that I’ll treasure my whole life. A week-long trip to New York, with tickets to any Broadway show I wanted.

Now, I’d heard stories of just how incredible Broadway productions and the actors, designers, stage crew, and everything else involved in them were, how they were all ‘a cut above the rest’ and whatnot, but I had no point of reference to guess what that might entail. I’d seen a few professional productions of musicals before; I couldn’t imagine how anything could be better, and honestly, I did have a few doubts about whether Broadway was really as good as everyone made it out to be or whether it was all just mindless hype.

When I stepped into a Broadway theatre for the first time, still riding a caffeine high from the coffees I’d had earlier to make sure my jetlagged self would be able to stay awake for the whole thing, I could just feel that the show would be something special. You could just feel the effort that so many people, seen and unseen, had put into the show. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before and I loved every second of it.

I thought I’d seen great performances before, but actually seeing a show on Broadway completely redefined what I thought it meant to act, to sing, and to dance. I thought I’d seen incredible set and costume design, but seeing a Broadway show convinced me otherwise. I thought I’d heard great pit orchestras, but hearing the first notes of the overture convinced me that I must have been deaf before I stepped into that theatre.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention any musical in particular. That’s because there was no single musical I saw that convinced me of the above - it was every show I saw that led me to those conclusions.

Originally, my plan was only to see Dear Evan Hansen (since the show hadn’t yet won all its Tonys in February, I actually managed to snag tickets that didn’t break the bank); in the end, though, I managed to snag cheap tickets to Wicked and Cats too while I was in New York. All three shows were quite different and each incredible in their own ways, but the one thing they convinced me of after seeing them is just how incredibly talented and hardworking Broadway professionals really are. I’d heard it before, but now I believe it - they truly are a cut above the rest.

So, as we head into awards season, please, everyone, remember just how talented each and every person working on Broadway is. Don’t get used to them and their performances, whether on the cast recordings, the clips you might find on YouTube or Broadway.com, or perhaps live if you’re one of the lucky few who get the opportunity to do that, because you may just get used to them and forget how incredible they really are. Every actor and actress, every member of the crew, every set designer and choreographer and composer and director - they all pour their hearts and souls into their work in ways that most of us would find unimaginable. These people are some of the most talented on this planet and they each work their butts off to create some of the finest art eight times a week.

So please - don’t fight or squabble too much over whether or not an actor is worthy of an award or perhaps if a designer or composer was snubbed or not. Because these people - each and every person on Broadway - are all truly a cut above the rest, and that’s something that we should all remember.