Tuesday, June 10, 2008

For Your Consideration

So... i saw tons of shows this season and I've been debating how to assess the tony nominees in a blog post. I was going to do a Will Win/Should Win kind of post, but then the Times came out with theirs and i thought it kinda sucked. I just wanted to punch Charles Isherwood right in the mouth. I know they don't mean it this way, but it seems like by saying someone should win, but won't, that the person who will be winning doesn't really deserve to, and I don't think that's fair. So many of these categories are FILLED with deserving winners. I'm way too personally involved with Heights to wish for any other show to win over it in any given category, but I can also recognize the talent and craft involved in the other shows, and I understand that Heights will likely not walk away from the ceremony Sunday night with 13 trophies (it could still happen though! I'm not totally counting that out!). So instead of writing "Should win - In The Heights" in thirteen categories, I'm listing the nominees in each category in the order I personally enjoyed them, and then I'll add a nice comment about all the shows nominated in that category. I'll leave the "will win" to the actual tony voters and we'll see what happens on Sunday night. An asterisk* next to a nominee's name means i didn't see that production. That basically means Little Mermaid, Young Frankenstein and Grease. Oh, and I'm only doing the musicals because i didn't see that many straight plays and August: Osage County and Macbeth will probably clean up in those categories anyway. Here we go!

Best Musical
In The Heights
Passing Strange

ITH, of course, i think is phenomenal. Xanadu is light and fun and successful art made out of something that was infamously considered to be crap. Cry-Baby also had some very strong elements that made me like it even though i went in expecting not great things. Passing Strange is a very unique and powerful experience. I'm glad it's gotten the attention it has. There should be room for a lot of different types of shows on Broadway.

Best Book of a Musical
In The Heights, Quiara Alegría Hudes
Xanadu, Douglas Carter Beane
Passing Strange, Stew
Cry-Baby, Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan

Q's book didn't get the credit it deserved from the critics. Xanadu has a very funny book, Stew's book has a distinct voice that really rings true. Cry-Baby's book doesn't really stand out for me, but it didn't pull me out of the show either.

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
In The Heights, Music & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Passing Strange, Music: Stew and Heidi Rodewald Lyrics: Stew
Cry-Baby, Music & Lyrics: David Javerbaum & Adam Schlesinger
The Little Mermaid, Music: Alan Menkenn Lyrics: Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater*

Please God, let Lin win Best Score. Passing Strange really rocks and Cry-Baby is has some fun energetic music. Little Mermaid is one of my favorite movie musicals of all time. But the score of in the heights is really gonna stand the test of time.

Best Revival of a Musical
South Pacific
Sunday in the Park with George
Grease *

Oh, The Big Three Revivals. I had the most difficulty picking an order for these shows. It feels wrong to have Sunday in third. Both Gypsy and Sunday are tied slightly behind South Pacific. They are all amazing productions. Sunday has so much heart married with brilliant design aspects. Gypsy has amazing performances in a truly grand production, and South Pacific is just brimming with magic as a production.

Best Performance By A Lead Actor in a Musical
Lin-Manuel Miranda, In The Heights
Daniel Evans, Sunday in the Park with George
Paulo Szot, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Tom Wopat, A Catered Affair
Stew, Passing Strange

You know, people tend to say that Lin is an amazing natural performer and he is, but his portrayal of Usnavi has really deepened from the off-Broadway production to Broadway. I think there are so many layers to Usnavi that Lin has found over time. Daniel does a great job of perfecting two different characters in Sunday, Paulo is extremely charismatic and powerful in SP, Wopat is impressive and captivating and Stew is a brilliant storyteller. This is a very strong, very diverse category of nominees.

Best Performance By A Lead Actress In A Musical
Patti LuPone, Gypsy
Jenna Russell, Sunday in the Park with George
Kelli O'Hara, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Kerry Butler, Xanadu
Faith Prince, A Catered Affair

And here's another one! They all deserve to win. Lupone really just propels that production into the Ozonosphere though. The other four really shine in their shows though. Russell like Evans does an amazing job in two roles, Kelli O'Hara is beautiful in SP, Kerry Butler is working her ASS off in Xanadu but making it look easy, and Faith Prince is really the best thing about A Catered Affair, in my opinion.

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Robin De Jesús, In The Heights
Daniel Breaker, Passing Strange
Boyd Gaines, Gypsy
Danny Burstein, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Christopher Fitzgerald, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein*

Robin doesn't even have his own song, and here he is slugging it out with the other featured actors. Go, Robin! Breaker is so fresh and engaging in Passing Strange, Boyd Gaines is simply amazing and has 3 tonys already, Burstein was very very good in South Pacific. There was so much good work going on this year!

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Olga Merediz, In The Heights
Loretta Ables Sayre, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
de'Adre Aziza, Passing Strange
Laura Benanti, Gypsy
Andrea Martin, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein*

Paciencia y Fe! Olga knocks it out of the park. Loretta's was my favorite performance in SP. de'adre is also totally amazingly talented and Laura Benanti is also stunning as Gypsy Rose Lee.
Sorry I didn't see your show, Andrea Martin!

Best Direction of a Musical
Thomas Kail, In The Heights
Sam Buntrock, Sunday in the Park with George
Arthur Laurents, Gypsy
Bartlett Sher, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

All of these nominated shows excelled on so many levels. It's because they had great directors leading the way and putting it all together. These really were my four favorite shows of the season.

Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, In The Heights
Rob Ashford, Cry-Baby
Dan Knechtges, Xanadu
Christopher Gattelli, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Blankenbuehler's fusion of style and use of dance to tell the story is just exemplary. I still have some of Ashford's moves in my head months after seeing Cry-Baby. I only saw the dancing in Xanadu from the back but those actors were going at it with huge amounts of energy and athleticism.

Best Orchestrations
Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman, In The Heights
Stew and Heidi Rodewald, Passing Strange
Jason Carr, Sunday in the Park with George
Jonathan Tunick, A Catered Affair

Alright, so I'm not a fan of A Catered Affair, but some people really enjoyed it's understated, conversational nature. So if it worked for you, hooray! I much preferred the orchestrations done on Heights and Passing Strange. Sunday was very good too, but i don't know how to assess the difference in the orchestrations from the original version.

Best Scenic Design For A Musical
Anna Louizos, In The Heights
Michael Yeargan, South Pacific
David Farley and Timothy Bird & The Knifedge Creative Network, Sunday... with George
Robin Wagner, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein*

The city block! The palm tree on that amazing shoreline! The ever changing landscape of the white room! All of these sets were fantastic and were truly a tremendous element of the success of these productions.

Best Costume Design For A Musical
Paul Tazewell, In The Heights
David Farley, Sunday in the Park with George
Martin Pakledinaz, Gypsy
Catherine Zuber, South Pacific

All these costume designs seem very evenly matched to me. There's really no overlap in style or time period, so I don't really know how you choose. Really brilliant and memorable work.

Best Lighting Design for a Musical
Howell Binkley, In The Heights
Ken Billington, Sunday in the Park with George
Donald Holder, South Pacific
Natasha Katz, The Little Mermaid*

The further you go back in the theater. the more truly amazing Heights' lighting design becomes. Sunday's lighting design is beautiful as is South Pacific's. I know i keep saying it over and over again, but the amount of storytelling that's being done in these productions by their tech design is really something that's worth seeing. Go see these shows!

Best Sound Design for a Musical
Acme Sound Partners, In The Heights
Sebastian Frost, Sunday in the Park with George
Scott Lehrer, South Pacific
Dan Moses Schreier, Gypsy

I could hear all these shows! Everything! Nothing got lost! Do you know there was a time when I'd go to Broadway, and after every show i thought "the sound in there was just terrible!" But in all these shows the orchestra sounded vibrant and thrilling, the lyrics and dialogue were clear and they didn't sound fake or processed. i was so happy with these listening experiences.

So that's everything. I know i wrote a lot and basically only said "everyone was great!" but really, everybody was and they all deserve to be celebrated. In all likelihood, the level of excellence across the board will probably result in several shows getting multiple awards, and I would have to agree that'd be fair. But that being said... go kick their asses, In The Heights! Wepa!

1 comment:

Katie Vagnino said...

Wow, I'm impressed (and a bit jealous) that you saw so many shows this season!

Watched the Tonys tonight (of course) and thought of you -- hope it was a blast. Vanessa looked gorgeous and everyone at Rich's party burst into applause after Lin's speech.

Moving to Boston in about 6 weeks...