IT’S TONY TIME

27 05 2015

150527SLC003-2kIt’s Tony time again, and I spent most of a week in New York City recently seeing as many new shows as possible. I also attended the Spring Road Conference of the Broadway League, which meant I had to be entertained by the producers and casts of hit shows while being fed lunch or offered free drinks.    It is rough work.

150324NYC073-2kThe big winners of Tony nominations in the musical category are Fun Home, American in Paris and Something Rotten. In new plays Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and Hand to God got the most attention.

Since I book mostly musicals for the Capitol Theatre, I don’t get to see many plays. There are wonderful musical revivals – On the Town, On the Twentieth Century with Kristin Chenowith and a big production of The King and I at Lincoln Center. King & I is directed by wunderkind Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, Light in the Piazza) and stars one of Broadway’s top leading ladies, Kelli O’Hara. While Chenowith was a dynamo in the hilarious Twentieth Century, I am rooting for King & I. It is one of the all-time great musicals, by Rodgers & Hammerstein, and the production is beautiful, elegant and engaging. I must admit to personal prejudice, however, as I have known Bart Sher since we were kids and Kelli O’Hara went to the same college as my wife, Oklahoma City University.   Coincidentally, Kristin Chenowith also went to OCU.150324NYC067-2k

In new musicals, there are so many, and most are very good. Finding Neverland, based on the movie, didn’t receive any Tony noms, but it is fun, audiences love it and it is selling lots of tickets. There were high hopes for Doctor Zhivago , but it closed after only 23 performances. The Visit, starring a grande dame of the theater Chita Rivera, has music by Kander and Ebb (Chicago) and a dark plot from a Friedrich Durrenmatt story, received much critical acclaim. The whole story was too depressing for me, though it is great theater.

Fun Home is the darling of the critics, based on a coming-of-age novel by Alison Bechdel , with music by Jeanine Tesori (Shrek, Caroline or Change). The big name star Michael Cerveris is upstaged by four actresses, all of whom received Tony nominations. The story is difficult, with much unhappiness and dysfunction. I walked out of the theater angry at the father (Cerveris) and the writer. It should win lots of Tonys.

150326NYC057-2kAmerican in Paris is a smash, with dancer Robert Fairchild (born in Salt Lake City and trained at Ballet West) in the lead role being called “better than Gene Kelly”. Direction and choreography by Christopher Wheeldon are certain to receive at least one Tony, if not two.

My favorite is Something Rotten, a hilarious spoof on Shakespeare and musical theater, set in in 1595. It was called “the funniest musical in 400 years” by TimeOut. Two stars are contenders for Tonys – Brian D’Arcy James (played SLC in 1995 in Les Miz, starred in Shrek on Broadway) and Christian Borle (plays an obnoxious, devious rockstar Shakespeare). Both men had major roles in the TV show “Smash”. I think Borle must win a Tony – but what do I know.

150324NYC076-2kThe standout new play is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which comes from a novel by Mark Haddon and a London production by the National Theatre. The lead, Alex Sharp, could win Best Actor. The play is gripping, ground-breaking, heart-breaking and frightening.

And I shouldn’t forget the biggest hit of the year – Hamilton – which hasn’t been nominated for even one Tony. With music, lyrics and book by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), this show tells the story of US founding father Alexander Hamilton,150512NYC003-2k based on a biography by Ron Chernow. At the 2015 Lucille Lortel Awards, Hamilton took home 10 trophies, winning in every category it was nominated. Opening on Broadway in July, Hamilton already looks like it will be a winner in the 2016 Tony Awards.

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