2015 Tony Nominations

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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby Okri » Tue Sep 29, 2015 9:31 pm

The Original BJ wrote:
Okri wrote:Murder Ballad
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812


I haven't heard those two, although I heard good things about both.


Oh, you definitely should tackle them. The latter in particular is just glorious.

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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Sep 29, 2015 8:20 pm

Okri wrote:Murder Ballad
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812


I haven't heard those two, although I heard good things about both.

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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby Okri » Tue Sep 29, 2015 7:19 pm

Lin-Manuel Miranda just got a MacArthur Genius grant.

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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby Okri » Tue Sep 29, 2015 7:12 pm

Hmm, okay, best scores of the decade thus far

Hamilton
Murder Ballad
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
The Scottsboro Boys

I enjoy the other listed scores you mentioned (except If/Then, which I haven't heard).

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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Sep 29, 2015 12:42 am

I listened to the Hamilton score again when it dropped on NPR streaming, and I have to admit that I didn't change my reaction to it very much. I'm quite conflicted on its parts, in fact -- I think the lyrics are hugely impressive, with, as you say, plenty of transcendent moments of inventive word craft. Just looking at Miranda's words on the page makes me understand why people are so excited about such a freshly modern take on history. But...for the most part, so much of the music just sounds all the same to me. I actually felt LESS inclined to purchase the soundtrack after another listen, simply because I can't imagine wanting to listen to this over and over again. I'm aware many others feel differently, I just wish I heard what they all did. But I'm still open to letting it grow on me.

In the past five years, I would rank the scores to The Book of Mormon, The Bridges of Madison County, Fun Home, If/Then, and The Scottsboro Boys all higher than this. (And if you extend it to six years, Next to Normal, which tops them all.)

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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby Okri » Mon Sep 28, 2015 9:07 pm

David Harrower's play, Blackbird, will debut on Broadway this year. It had an off Broadway run at MTC in 2007 and was the show that beat Frost/Nixon, Rock N Roll and The Seaferer for the Olivier Awards. Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams are the performers.

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Okri wrote:BJ, what did you think of In the Heights more specifically?


I'm a big fan of In the Heights. I think it's an energetic, often very funny, and in the end really poignant look at a contemporary immigrant neighborhood, full of memorable music that incorporated rap/hip-hop elements in a manner that felt hugely fresh (but also had enough great melodies so someone who isn't the biggest rap fan wouldn't feel alienated.)

Given my enthusiasm for In the Heights -- and my great interest in American history -- I assumed Hamilton would be an obsession of mine. But while it wasn't, I definitely don't want to undersell it either. (In terms of recent Tony winners, I think it's superior to Gentleman's Guide and Kinky Boots, and well above Once and Memphis.) And it's hard to be anything other than enthusiastic about the fact that the hot ticket phenomenon on Broadway right now is an original musical (okay, based on a history book, but not, you know, a movie) featuring an almost entirely non-white cast. As Mister Tee said in the post below, it's the kind of show whose success will make it possible for other risk-taking new musicals to get off the ground in the years ahead.


Cool. Without having seen either but knowing the cast recordings of both, some thoughts.

a) The score to Hamilton is fuckin' built. Holy hell.

b) I think it builds upon In the Heights in interesting ways. While I definitely see structural similarities, the music to Hamilton is more complex and layered. And, book-wise, it seems to be richer as well. In the Heights, for all it's freshness, is a very typical book. But it's the music of Hamilton that is absolutely breathtaking. The number of times I chuckled to myself at the lyrics/delivery or wanted to applaud a turn of phrase.... seriously, this is phenomenal stuff. To use a rap comparison, this is My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to the Heights/College Dropout.

c) The fact that I don't think of this as the best score of the past five years is actually a tribute to how strong the form has been as of late.

The other thing a lot of those currently successful shows have in common -- Fun Home, Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, Matilda, go back a little bit to Wicked -- is that they appeal very strongly to young people. Part of the reason they're hits is because theatergoers of MY generation (supposedly an age group that doesn't go to the theater) are flocking to them. And certainly a big part of this has to do with the fact that the music appeals to more youthful sensibilities. (By contrast, when you look at a number of well-reviewed recent musicals that have flopped -- The Bridges of Madison County, The Visit, The Scottsboro Boys -- it's hard not to notice that these were among the least contemporary-sounding shows of recent years, widespread acclaim for their scores notwithstanding.)


Hmmm...... It'll be interesting to observe this season to see if that dynamic plays out. On the one side, you have On Your Feet and American Psycho; on the other, Shuffle Along and Alleigance. I'm not quite sure I buy it, but it's certainly interesting to ponder.

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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby dws1982 » Wed Sep 09, 2015 10:11 pm

A contender on the (revival) play side: The Crucible, with Ben Whishaw, Sophie Okonedo, Ciaran Hinds, Saoirse Ronan, and Jim Norton. Like A View From the Bridge, Ivo von Hove is directing.

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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Aug 24, 2015 11:04 am

The Original BJ wrote:The other thing a lot of those currently successful shows have in common -- Fun Home, Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, Matilda, go back a little bit to Wicked -- is that they appeal very strongly to young people. Part of the reason they're hits is because theatergoers of MY generation (supposedly an age group that doesn't go to the theater) are flocking to them. And certainly a big part of this has to do with the fact that the music appeals to more youthful sensibilities. (By contrast, when you look at a number of well-reviewed recent musicals that have flopped -- The Bridges of Madison County, The Visit, The Scottsboro Boys -- it's hard not to notice that these were among the least contemporary-sounding shows of recent years, widespread acclaim for their scores notwithstanding.)


Yes and no. I know quite a few oldsters in their 70s and 80s who have tickets for Hamilton. They also watch Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh so it will interesting to see if this suits their sensibilities.

The appeal of The Book of Mormon is cross-generational.

The Scottsboro Boys probably should have done better among young people, but The Visit was just too old-fashioned even for the old people whose parents and grandparents rejected the film version of the play fifty-one years ago despite the star power of Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Quinn who were weighed down by the moldy storyline. The score, though, is actually fairly decent. The mournful soliloquy Chita Rivera performed at the Tonys is not one of the better songs in the score. One of her duets with the late Roger Rees would have been better but I suppose he was too ill to perform and they didn't want to do it with someone else to cause talk.

The Bridges of Madison County had a terrific score, but a weak book, which is a shame. With a stronger libretto it might still be running.
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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Aug 24, 2015 3:24 am

Mister Tee wrote:The epilogue suggests the playwright imagines he's mounted some searing critique of religion, but I didn't think the play made that case at all; what Tyrone intoned in that last scene felt grafted on.


I totally agree with this statement -- I was really caught off guard by the ending, because it seemed to me that all of a sudden the play decided it had a deeper meaning, when everything that had come before was played essentially just for laughs.

As to flipp's broader question, the other recent musical with a sweeping old-fashioned score would be Ragtime -- which had a decent enough two year run -- though of course that's going on twenty years now.

I think one reason we don't hear a ton of Golden Age-style scores in new musicals is simply because the revivals are doing a pretty good job of keeping that music alive on Broadway. The King and I, as we've mentioned, is a terrific production. Soon enough Broadway will see revivals of Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me, and Dames at Sea, and countless others to come. The new musicals, I think, have to stand apart by NOT simply being more of the same, and one way to do that is to feature more contemporary sounding music.

And, truly, one thing I kept thinking during my week in NY was how much variety there is among the shows on Broadway right now. The scores to Fun Home and Hamilton don't sound like any other shows that are currently on the boards, and they're selling out every performance entirely because of quality and word-of-mouth. Something Rotten! and the still-going-strong Book of Mormon are holding down the broad musical comedy fort (and it's worth noting that they both have totally original books and scores.) A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder represents comic operetta (and though that was based on a movie, it's so obviously not a cheap cash-in). And even though Matilda and Kinky Boots are based on familiar source material, they're both pretty well-executed crowd pleasers with fresh contemporary scores. All of this is to say, I don't think the Broadway musical is in as dire a state as some do -- yes, pointless screen transfers like Finding Neverland still hog theaters, and a jukebox show like Mamma Mia can run for over a decade despite being utter garbage, but there's quite a lot of interesting stuff too, much of it doing quite well financially.

The other thing a lot of those currently successful shows have in common -- Fun Home, Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, Matilda, go back a little bit to Wicked -- is that they appeal very strongly to young people. Part of the reason they're hits is because theatergoers of MY generation (supposedly an age group that doesn't go to the theater) are flocking to them. And certainly a big part of this has to do with the fact that the music appeals to more youthful sensibilities. (By contrast, when you look at a number of well-reviewed recent musicals that have flopped -- The Bridges of Madison County, The Visit, The Scottsboro Boys -- it's hard not to notice that these were among the least contemporary-sounding shows of recent years, widespread acclaim for their scores notwithstanding.)

To touch on Magilla's question about where the big Broadway stars are, I think it's pretty important to acknowledge that the entire entertainment industry has changed in a way that simply doesn't allow the theater to produce those anymore. Gone are the days when Julie Andrews could star in My Fair Lady, appear on the TV variety shows, and become a household name based on essentially one performance. Today's Broadway mega-stars are essentially performers with musical theater backgrounds who found their fame in other areas (Hugh Jackman, Neil Patrick Harris). I'm very interested, though, to see where Idina Menzel's career takes her -- she's essentially the only current Broadway star who has amassed great fame strictly through her association with the musical genre (and of course, she needed an enormously successful movie for that fame to skyrocket, though it's worth noting that that movie still pretty much relied upon branding her as a Broadway musical star.)

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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Aug 23, 2015 4:51 pm

To throw in a few thoughts here:

I think okri is correct, that Sondheim's influence on the modern musical -- especially his axiom that individual songs are subordinate to the overall needs of the story -- has a good deal to do with the changes since mid-20th century. The composers/lyricists of the so-called Golden Age mostly came along at a time when songs were the far more dominant force (some, like Rodgers, got started in the era when musicals were barely more than a batch of songs and gags strung together). This persisted into the 60s -- there's a story that someone asked Jule Styne what purpose people served in Funny Girl, and his answer was "To get me airplay". I don't think you find this attitude much among contemporary creators of musicals; they concentrate on the integrity of the piece, to the point where at times it can be difficult to pinpoint individual songs in scores.

And I don't think you can totally dismiss the arrival of the rock era as playing a role. It's hardly coincidental that the end of the Golden Age came at exactly the same time rock completely took over the pop charts (though the singles charts had been rock n roll since the mid-50s, it was only around '65-'67 that the album charts went the same way). Hair was of course a smash (and the last cast album for many years to go to number one), but it was closer to pop than actual rock. Many quite talented rock folk took a stab at creating a musical -- Paul Simon, Bono, Sting -- but none really seemed in sync with the form. Andrew Lloyd Webber started out as at least something of a rocker (Superstar and even parts of Evita), but retreated to near-operetta the further along he went. The major successful marriages of rock and Broadway have been the jukebox musicals, or shows like Movin' Out -- but those all relied on audience pre-awareness of the material; they weren't creating anything new.

Which also pertains to why shows like the King and I or Guys and Dolls are successful upon revival -- people looking for a safe show to take their parents to know they can count on an old favorite like that. Broadway as a whole has become dependent on revivals and pre-sold familar titles transferred to the stage (all the Disney shows, of course, but also stage versions of popular movies, with any songs reprised). All of this makes it less likely a new show with classically memorable tunes will emerge.

Briefly on another subject: I saw Hand to God the other night, and was, if anything, less impressed than BJ. I think Steven Boyer does an amazing job with the puppet, and found many of his scenes quite funny. But for me the play surrounding it isn't all that interesting -- the family situation seems out of Inge territory, only it's played too broadly to even have much impact. The epilogue suggests the playwright imagines he's mounted some searing critique of religion, but I didn't think the play made that case at all; what Tyrone intoned in that last scene felt grafted on. The young actors are quite good, but both the older ones played to the rafters for me, and I was constantly wishing for them to leave stage.

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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby Big Magilla » Fri Aug 21, 2015 3:40 am

Adam Guettel is, of course, Richard Rodgers' grandson. He has the pedigree as well as the talent to be composing soaring new scores every year or two, but the support isn't there either from backers or theatregoers for the kind of show that his grandfather and Stephen Sondheim's mentor Oscar Hammerstein produced in their heyday which also included shows by other composers they didn't feel comfortable doing themselves such as Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun.

The era of great Broadway musicals began with Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's Show Boat in 1927 but didn't really kick in until Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! in 1943. Numerous shows in the interim produced great scores but not so great books. Cole Porter's Anything Goes is frequently revived for its infectious score, not its rather silly book. The period from 1947 (Finian's Rainbow , Brigadoon, High Button Shoes , Street Scene) through the late 1960s was rich in musicals with great scores backed by strong books. Sondheim and his imitators added a kind of sophistication beginning with Company in 1970 that made the type of musical that Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe and even Sondheim's contemporary, Jerry Herman, seem old-fashioned and out of touch with that kind of sophistication.

Rock musicals didn't kill the Broadway score. They were simply another style that could co-exist with the right material. The problem was/is that the right material is seldom there. Hair had a great score that few others could come close to. The British shows, mostly produced by Cameron MacIntosh, often with a score by Andrew Lloyd Webber, were more about the spectacle of the show than the music. Whereas a Webber show often included a memorable song or two or three, the thing that repeat customers keep coming back for is the spectacle. It's the chandelier that keeps the The Phantom of the Opera in business is the chandelier.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the jukebox musical, which is easier and cheaper to produce. I really don't get the appeal of shows like Jersey Boys and Beautiful. If you want the Four Seasons and Carole King's greatest hits, there are other ways to get them.

Another problem is the lack of stars. Where are the Ethel Mermans, Mary Martins, Alfred Drakes, Ray Bolgers, Angela Lansburys and Jerry Orbachs of today that composers will want to write for and audiences will want to go and see? Is anyone going to The King and I because Kelli O'Hara is starring in it? Does anyone know who the current stars of Phantom of the Opera, Wicked or Jersey Boys are? Today's Broadway musical stars may be as talented as their counterparts of yesteryear but have zero name recognition. They are lucky to get a bit part in an episode of Law & Order SVU on TV. Kelli O'Hara herself was Mrs. Darling in last year's Peter Pan live broadcast. Tony champion Audra McDonald was the Mother Abbess in the previous year's The Sound of Music broadcast. Thee are hardly the types of roles that Broadway stars of yesteryear would be offered in their prime.
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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby Okri » Thu Aug 20, 2015 8:35 pm

Flipp, I blame

1. Off Broadway (smaller musicals requiring less ambitious orchestration giving us a different sound - Hair, A Chorus Line, Rent, Fun Home)

2. Steven Sondheim - he redefined the artform so thoroughly and more than anyone in the last 50 years told composers exactly what a musical could be (and while he wouldn't admit it, probably should be as well). And even those composers that could work in that mold don't often. Michael John LaChiusa (listen to Giant), Adam Guettel (Light in the Piazza), Ahrens/Flaherty,

3. I'd also say there's definitely nostalgia at play here, though. Yeah, South Pacific and The King and I did well, but they did so at a non-profit theatre. Indeed, the most successful musical revivals of that ilk are done by the Roundabout or LCT. But beyond that, I'd assert they're no more likely to be hugely acclaimed/financially successful than other revivals.

4. Andrew Lloyd Webber and the British invasion/ Disney's animated musical.

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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby flipp525 » Thu Aug 20, 2015 1:11 pm

I watched a bootleg of The King and I. It really is as glorious as BJ says, even just on video. And I had forgotten what a beautiful score it has. It's a shame that scores like that are no longer being written. People might say that they are too old-fashioned, yet, whenever one of those musicals is performed, they do very well. Guys and Dolls. South Pacific, etc. So my question is (and to continue the discussion that's been weaving through this thread): Are those revivals successful because of the nostalgia and name-appeal, or because they have beautiful scores and great stories? If the answer is the latter, then, why the hell isn't anyone trying to duplicate that formula? The only musical I can think of in recent history that had that kind of ambition is The Light in the Piazza, which, although beautiful, couldn't hold a candle to the aforementioned scores. Why don't more people try to do it?

Or is the answer as simple as it was AIDS that wiped out an entire generation of writers who might've kept that old-fashioned musical alive in the dawn of the modern rock (and, later, rap) musical?
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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby The Original BJ » Thu Aug 20, 2015 12:36 pm

Okri wrote:BJ, what did you think of In the Heights more specifically?


I'm a big fan of In the Heights. I think it's an energetic, often very funny, and in the end really poignant look at a contemporary immigrant neighborhood, full of memorable music that incorporated rap/hip-hop elements in a manner that felt hugely fresh (but also had enough great melodies so someone who isn't the biggest rap fan wouldn't feel alienated.)

Given my enthusiasm for In the Heights -- and my great interest in American history -- I assumed Hamilton would be an obsession of mine. But while it wasn't, I definitely don't want to undersell it either. (In terms of recent Tony winners, I think it's superior to Gentleman's Guide and Kinky Boots, and well above Once and Memphis.) And it's hard to be anything other than enthusiastic about the fact that the hot ticket phenomenon on Broadway right now is an original musical (okay, based on a history book, but not, you know, a movie) featuring an almost entirely non-white cast. As Mister Tee said in the post below, it's the kind of show whose success will make it possible for other risk-taking new musicals to get off the ground in the years ahead.

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Re: 2015 Tony Nominations

Postby Okri » Wed Aug 19, 2015 6:37 pm

BJ, what did you think of In the Heights more specifically?


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