2014 Tony Nominations

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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Dec 17, 2014 9:42 pm

Hugely pleased about this. I've touted the show to many people, most of whom never got a chance to see it on stage, and I'm glad they'll now have an opportunity.

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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Dec 17, 2014 3:26 pm

Mister Tee: you got your wish! It was just announced that HBO will be presenting a filmed version of Audra McDonald in Lady Day.

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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby The Original BJ » Fri Dec 12, 2014 1:31 pm

I don't take any joy in mentioning it, but Side Show -- which officially opened Nov. 17 -- has announced a closing date for the top of January, so it seems all of our assumptions about a show that flopped enormously the first time proved to be correct.

An extremely odd bit of trivia: the revival will be closing Jan. 4, not only the exact same date the original production closed in 1998, but also the exact same date that Daisy and Violet Hilton were discovered dead in 1969.

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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Sep 08, 2014 5:15 pm

I think A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder is a witty, enjoyable show, though I can't say I'm as wildly enthusiastic about it as some have been. A lot of this is just a personal taste thing -- this is pretty frothy stuff, and on the whole I'm more inclined to get excited about material with some weight to it. But also -- and this is probably an even more personal reaction -- I just didn't find it as uproariously funny as many have, including many in my audience. I think it's clever, sure, with a lot of smart lyrics and fun musical send-ups of operetta, and the plot line jovial but shot through with just the right amount of morbidity. But when I heard people at intermission commenting that this was "HYSTERICAL" I wasn't quite on board with them. I think a lot of this has to do with my reaction to the much-heralded Jefferson Mays performance -- I think he's entertaining, and it's impressive how much energy goes into crafting all of the characterizations. But at some point it started to exhaust me, because at every moment you're so aware of the amount of effort the actor is exerting on stage, every character is pitched to such an over-the-top level. (Late in the show, when he appears as the low-key janitor, I thought, THANK GOD, he stopped hyperventilating for a few minutes!) Of course I don't think he's bad in the role or anything, only that my funny bone just doesn't respond as well to performances that feel so out of control like this. Plus, I think there IS a fantastic lead performance in this show, and that's the one given by Bryce Pinkham, who manages to convey good-humor, sympathy, and malevolence, sometimes all in the same scene. Pinkham's quick, subtle shifts in emotion were far more impressive to me, because it's the work of an actor who is so obviously calculating his choices without seeking to draw outrageous attention to the fact that he's PERFORMING. Really nice work, I think. Both Lisa O'Hare and Lauren Worsham provide solid support, though why one lady would be Tony-nominated over the other struck me more as luck than any sizable difference in the role or decency of work. On the whole, I think it's a well-realized drawing room comedy with songs, definitely the best of the three Best Musical nominees I saw this season (and given that I don't think revues count as real musicals, I'm sure I'd like it more than the one I didn't see too), but not at the level of the omitted If/Then (though I acknowledge I like that one a lot more than most people.)

As for Beautiful, I imagine most people here know EXACTLY what to expect from this one. For the most part, musical biographies are for people who have never seen other musical biographies, and this one is not especially different. You'll hear the Carole King songbook, and watch the story of her rise to the top, with little in the way of thematic or narrative invention. (I will say, though, that I thought the dialogue was a bit wittier than I expected. When I looked at the writing credit at intermission and remembered Douglas McGrath wrote the book, I thought, that makes sense, so many of the scenes have the same kind of warm humor he has brought to his film work.) It also surprised me just how little conflict this "story" had -- King wants to sell a song in the opening scene, she goes to the studio, and sells it! Then...she meets a guy who she falls in love with who becomes her songwriting partner...and they have a bunch of number one hits! Then...she wants to record an album of HER singing her own songs...and she wins a bunch of Grammys and performs at Carnegie Hall! Just about the only conflict in the whole show involves her husband's infidelities...geez, how many times have I seen THAT in a musical bio before. This is not to say that I had a bad evening at the show -- even though the music isn't of my generation, I still enjoy it, and I especially thought the orchestrations of King's songs were really well done. And the actors are very amiable -- Featured nominees Anika Larsen and Jarrod Specter are the kind of classic second-banana supporting types that have often filled out musical comedies for decades. As for the Tony-winning Jessie Mueller, I think she's very good in this role, with a soulful voice and some really nice piano chops. But I was surprised at how not-dominant the role was -- given that much of the story involves other people singing King's songs, she doesn't really get a big showcase until the end of the show. And, though she's dynamic in the acting scenes, I didn't think the role allowed her to play as many complex emotions as Idina Menzel, Kelli O'Hara, and Sutton Foster did in their way more challenging parts (with Menzel my top choice, if pressed). My final verdict would be: if you think you're going to like "The Carole King Musical," this is well done enough for you to enjoy it. If you're looking for something special, though, this is not it.

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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Sep 02, 2014 6:13 pm

I saw Violet, as well, shortly before it closed, and I'm roughly in accord with your take. I liked the show fine, but I thought it was a better journey than it was a destination.

I found the character of Violet interestingly dimensional -- I liked her sharp sarcasm, her defense against the bad hand life had dealt her. The flashbacks nicely gave background on how she evolved into who she was without seeming to explain things too literally.

All of this was interlaced with a very decent score -- no particularly memorable song, but a lot of music pleasing to the ear. My audience, predictably, went wild for Joshua Henry's "Let it Sing" number --I thought it was solid, but he did use some fairly cheap vocal tricks designed to get the audience to whoop. (It's like when a whole tap line does that "arms swinging-back-and-to-the-sides/head thrust forward" thing -- every dancer tells me it's the easiest thing in the world to do, but audiences never fail to go wild for it.) Apropos of which: the audience also erupted over the gospel number, which was of course stirring but pretty much stopped the story cold.

Because, as I said, I liked the journey, but once we got to the preacher, there wasn't much place for the story to go. We know he can't really heal her, and the way he didn't wasn't any particular surprise. And as far as the re-meet with the soldiers...I'd liked the way the two guys had been characterized, as "one will get you to bed faster; the other will stick around", but I didn't feel the ending made it clear why Violet should be with Flick -- or why she hadn't hooked up with him earlier. Was it simply race? (If so, that's pretty simplistic) And are they together because their double misfit-ness makes them a logical couple? I didn't think any of this was clarified in the script, and the staging of the final number was to me the most bungled of the whole show...it felt like it petered out rather than hit a crescendo (most of the of other numbers were far better realized).

Foster, though, was just terrific. She's got the age & looks to play ingenues (as she largely has), but she's got far more range than any ingenue I've seen. I also particularly liked the guy who played her father, and of course both soldiers were good actors and singers.

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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Sep 01, 2014 10:22 pm

I'll chime in next on the two Best Musical Revival nominees I saw, though it's not like it will do much good in terms of persuading anyone to see them -- Violet has closed, and the chief draw of Hedwig and the Angry Inch has left the show. (Though I don't intend that in any way to be a knock on replacement Andrew Rannells -- he's a pretty terrific performer in his own right, and I imagine he'd be great in this part.)

Violet is a show that definitely has its high points. Sutton Foster, as usual, is a rather unimpeachable leading lady, and this role is a pretty impressive change of pace for her. If anyone had doubts she was just a talented musical comedienne, they'd have to put them to rest -- she's clearly a powerful dramatic actress as well, in the role of a naive girl searching for a preacher who can heal the hideous scar on her face. Both men -- Colin Donnell and the ever-charismatic Joshua Henry -- provide solid support, too. And I think the score is very strong as well, full of memorable folk and gospel influences that provide great showcases for Foster. But...I think the book has some issues. At one point early on in the evening, I thought, I really hope this doesn't turn into a love triangle between Violet and these two guys. And that pretty much is exactly what transpired, in a manner that didn't flesh out either male character in a reasonably different way from the other (given that the story takes place in the South in the sixties, and one of these guys is black, that struck me as a not insignificant issue). By the story's end, I didn't understand why I supposed to be moved that Violet ended up with the guy that she did -- it would have seemed just as arbitrary for her to end up with the other, to me. I also found the treatment of the charlatan preacher character to be fairly ho-hum, adding very little to the Elmer Gantry archetype we've seen in countless other stories. As I said, I think the script has definite moments of power, and the strong cast and music elevate the material, but I felt the piece overall wasn't as well worked out story-wise as many who have loved this show obviously found it to be.

As for Hedwig and the Angry Inch, well...it's basically a Neil Patrick Harris concert, albeit one in which the central performer commands the stage from the moment he's lowered on to it, and continues throughout the evening to pull off one outrageous bit after another. If you've ever wanted to see a show where the star takes a big swig of water and spits it directly into an audience member's face, this is the show for you. If you've ever wanted to see a show where the star starts making out with a random audience member in the front row, this is the show for you. If you've ever wanted to see a show where the star leaps onto an audience member's chair and starts pelvic thrusting into his face, this is the show for you. All I can say is, I thought it was a tour de force performance, full of energy I didn't even know human beings had, outrageous laughs, and by the end, even dramatic resonance -- in my book, such electric work pretty obviously merited the Tony Award it won. As for Lena Hall's Supporting Actress trophy, I was surprised she won after seeing this show -- I think the last number, in which she reveals herself to be a gorgeous babe with a killer set of pipes, after playing a guy for the whole show, was what clinched the prize for her -- but after later in the week seeing three of her competitors (who were all strong, but not knockouts), I understood more clearly why her more unique role carried her to the podium. On the whole, pretty much a blast of entertainment at the theater -- with that terrific rock score many of us first heard in the film version -- and I imagine even with Harris gone, it'd still be a pretty raucously enjoyable night.

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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Aug 30, 2014 1:38 am

I actually found myself thinking that, no matter which category Audra was placed in, it wouldn't have felt quite right: she has far more dramatic material to work with than the usual actress-in-a-musical candidate, but obviously also makes use of her musical ability to a degree almost never seen among nominees for actress in a play. The evening's a bit of a hybrid, and I'm not sure there was a way to slot her that would satisfy everyone.

While it's true that the musical actress field was more crowded than its drama counterpart, I'm not sure that putting Audra under drama made her win easier. Though it appears to be almost forgotten, Cherry Jones got pretty extraordinary raves herself for Glass Menagerie. When I read those reviews back in late Fall, I'd never have imagined anyone coming along to top them.

I agree, though, that Audra would have won wherever they put her. At the time of the Tonys, I wasn't sure what caused the wild ovation her win occasioned -- career affection or individual performance. Now that I've seen the work, I have little doubt it was enthusiastic approval for a simply transcendent turn.

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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby The Original BJ » Fri Aug 29, 2014 10:26 pm

I've been meaning to report back on all of the shows from this theater season that I caught a couple weeks ago, but since I'll probably only have time to write about them in chunks anyway, let me just co-sign what Mister Tee wrote about Lady Day: Audra McDonald gives one of the most phenomenal performances I have ever seen in a theater. I've been a big fan of Audra over the years (do people exist who aren't?), both for her theater work as well as for her solo concerts. Lady Day is like the most extraordinary combination of both -- you can see a sensational actress deliver an emotional knockout with her role as a worn-down once-great performer who debilitates even further as the night goes on, and you can hear an amazing vocalist take songs you thought you knew and perform them with so much power and singularity you feel like you're hearing them for the first time. (Audra's rendition of "God Bless the Child" felt instantly legendary to me, the kind of performance people will talk about for years.) And, yes, the way she captures Billie Holiday's voice is astonishing -- I know a lot of times around here we try not to hold up mimicry as the highest achievement in acting, but I honestly wasn't prepared for just how amazed I was that McDonald was able to so flawlessly channel Holiday's famous sound throughout the entire evening. It's really a marvel of a star turn from top to bottom.

I think the play overall is more solid than special -- it's more a vehicle for the tremendous performance at its center, and to get from one song to another, than anything hugely inventive. But I will agree that the individual anecdotes are consistently compelling, and the writing finds just the right level of humor to keep material that's pretty thoroughly bleak from feeling too overwhelming. And, of course, the playwright deserves credit simply for crafting a character that allows Audra the chance to soar so high.

One question, though: it seems like pretty major Tony gerrymandering for this to be considered a play rather than a musical, right? I get that it's a very different night at the theater than, say, Gentleman's Guide or Beautiful, but the ratio of spoken material to music can't be much different than it is in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, another show that's essentially a solo concert. I get that Best Actress in a Musical was an immensely crowded field this year, so putting Audra in the less crowded Play category perhaps made her victory easier, though at the end of the day, I bet she'd have won in whatever category she were placed.

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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Aug 29, 2014 4:40 pm

Anyone who's frequented the New York theatre in recent decades will be familiar with the annoyance of the obligatory standing ovation. At this point, the moment lights go out on any mediocrity, a certain portion of the audience is leaping to its feet -- perhaps in an attempt to justify the exorbitant price shelled out for even a ho-hm evening. This practice is annoying partly because it's self-extending -- even those not inclined to stand are forced to if they want to see the performers during the curtain call. But most of all it's infuriating because it diminishes the meaning of the standing o -- making it seem inadequate when something comes along that truly merits the tribute.

Which is my way of getting to Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, which I saw last night, and which features as extraordinary a lead performance by Audra McDonald as any I've seen in 50+ years of theatre-going. It starts off with the singing voice: McDonald, who many of us have heard sing (beautifully) in her own voice for years, opens her mouth and it's Billie Holiday's sound that emerges. Not, maybe, the actual voice the singer may have had at that late point in her career, but the glorious voice of her prime years (if that's a bit of a cheat, it's one I'm happy to put up with). But the performance goes much further. I don't recall ever seeing/hearing anything that would give me an idea of Holiday's speaking voice, so McDonald's work there is not impersonation (a la Jamie Foxx/Ray); she simply creates a now broken-down but clearly one-time glistening star, who recounts her life, sometimes understanding the mistakes she's made and sometimes not, but always aware, as she puts it, that what she was then is why she's what she is now.

I can't say the play proper is anything brilliant -- it's akin to alot of one-man/woman plays where famous personages take us through their lives (though this time with a batch of songs interspersed). But two things distinguish it: first, the quality of the anecdotes (and the way they lead into music, especially the way a story about travel through the pre-Civil Rights South goes directly into Strange Fruit); and, second and above all, the sense it creates of being in a second-rate club watching this legend-in-decline. It actually made me wonder how it would have felt to have witnessed such an event: would I have felt blessed to have seen her live, ever -- or so sad over the distance from her great years that I couldn't appreciate what I was seeing? (I realize now, I had something of the same experience in 1970: seeing Groucho Marx at Northwestern; he wasn't nearly as quick then as he once was, but, still, to be in the same hall with Groucho was kind of wow)

Anyway, McDonald just made the evening one I won't forget -- the range she covered, the flashes of humor and of anger, the little touches (like how she relates to her little dog...or the way she phrases God Bless the Child, different from the best-known version, as she must have needed to, to keep it fresh for herself). For once, I was among those leaping to their feet, saluting a truly landmark performance. I don't know if any of you are going to be passing through NY in the next month or so, before the show closes, but I recommend nothing as highly. And I deeply hope someone opts to record this; it deserves to be preserved.

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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Aug 06, 2014 10:29 pm

FilmFan720 wrote:
Mister Tee wrote:To finish the conversation from below: Side Show was announced today as opening at the St. James in October.

I have every reason (including financial interest) to root for the show, but I still think it's a long shot, and playing in a barn like the St. James doesn't improve its odds.


Tee, I don't want to pry, but do you have a financial interest in the show because of your wife being in a workshop? Does she get a sliver of the show from that? I don't want to be personal, but am always curious how these things work in the real world!

Yeah, ever since A Chorus Line -- where actors helped develop the show in workshop (with their own life stories) and were initially denied any royalties -- anyone who does a workshop has a small piece of the show's future earnings.

As it happens, the two shows from which my wife might have stood to make decent money don't qualify -- Grease because it pre-dated these rules, and Nine because she didn't do the workshop, only came into the show shortly before its Broadway opening. But she does have this small percentage of Grand Hotel and Side Show (which now comes to me).

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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby FilmFan720 » Wed Aug 06, 2014 10:05 pm

Mister Tee wrote:To finish the conversation from below: Side Show was announced today as opening at the St. James in October.

I have every reason (including financial interest) to root for the show, but I still think it's a long shot, and playing in a barn like the St. James doesn't improve its odds.


Tee, I don't want to pry, but do you have a financial interest in the show because of your wife being in a workshop? Does she get a sliver of the show from that? I don't want to be personal, but am always curious how these things work in the real world!
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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:36 pm

To finish the conversation from below: Side Show was announced today as opening at the St. James in October.

I have every reason (including financial interest) to root for the show, but I still think it's a long shot, and playing in a barn like the St. James doesn't improve its odds.

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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby dws1982 » Thu Jul 31, 2014 1:27 pm

Love Letters is being revived, opening September 18, with Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow for the first few weeks, followed by Dennehy and Carol Burnett, then Alan Alda and Candice Bergen, then Stacy Keach and Diana Rigg, and finally Martin Sheen and Anjelica Huston.

Also, Peter Morgan's The Audience, where Helen Mirren reprised her role as Queen Elizabeth, is planning a spring transfer.

Looking like a pretty good season on Broadway.

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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby flipp525 » Mon Jul 21, 2014 10:58 am

FilmFan720 wrote:
flipp525 wrote:Also, BJ, my good friend Brad Oscar is currently in the Broadway production of Phantom. Hope you enjoy.


flipp, I grew up obsessed with Forbidden Broadway and have been a fan of Oscar's ever since his work in that franchise...I was so happy to see him get the Cinderella story in the middle of The Producers, and glad to see he is still going strong!

I'll let him know that, FilmFan. He'll be touched.

In other "Side Show" related marginalia, this is a great male duet version of "Who Will Love Me As I Am?" including mega-hottie Kyle Dean Massey: http://youtu.be/BpeEAltPAtE. It feels very much like a gay-related anthem to me.
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Re: 2014 Tony Nominations

Postby FilmFan720 » Sun Jul 13, 2014 9:46 am

flipp525 wrote:Also, BJ, my good friend Brad Oscar is currently in the Broadway production of Phantom. Hope you enjoy.


flipp, I grew up obsessed with Forbidden Broadway and have been a fan of Oscar's ever since his work in that franchise...I was so happy to see him get the Cinderella story in the middle of The Producers, and glad to see he is still going strong!
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