Friday, May 8, 2009

Not On Chicago Theatre

First off, I've been blogging a lot the past few days--in fact, my total number of posts for May has already passed the total for April. So please, check them out and give me some comments!

Now, on to our regularly scheduled post.

Those of you who feel like too much attention is given to Broadway would do well to skip this post. The Tony nominations were announced on Tuesday, and herewith are a few of my thoughts, plus a list of the nominations. You can also find this list at Playbill, the New York Times, and the official Tony site, as well as all sorts of chatter from all sorts of other blogs.

--First, and most importantly: I CALLED IT. What did I call? In September, when the Public Theatre announced the transfer of Hair to Broadway, I wrote that (if they moved to Broadway with it) we could expect Tony nominations for leads Jonathan Groff, Will Swenson, and Patina Renae Miller. Groff and Miller didn't move to Broadway (Groff is in Prayer For My Enemy Off-Broadway and is nursing a film career, while Miller is playing the Whoopi Goldberg part in the musical version of Sister Act that just started preview in London), but Swenson is right up there among the nominees! His Berger is absolutely scorching, and he seems to be an early front-runner for the award. Hair walked away with 8 nominations, also including musical revival, actor (Gavin Creel, in Groff's former role of Claude), director Diane Paulus, choreographer Karole Armitage, as well as the costumes, lighting and sound. West Side Story only got 4 nominations, so the showdown of the revivals might already have been decided. (Hair is, incidentally, the only nominated production I have seen.)

--This year provided a starker example than most that Tony nominators have incredibly short memories. The most shocking example of this is the inexplicable absence of the revival of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull from revival of a play, or star Kristin Scott Thomas from actress in a play. The production was hailed by many critics (and my parents, who saw it, the lucky bastards) as the best imaginable production of Chekhov. It was, reportedly, transcendent. It also closed in January, and apparently any transcendence was lost in the rash of openings in the month of April. Don't cry for the producers of The Seagull, though--they have their acclaim to keep them warm, not to mention the fact that they turned an honest to God profit doing Chekhov on Broadway. This may be even harder than doing a perfect production of a Chekhov play.

The bias towards late openings is most obvious in the play revival category. All four nominees--Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Mary Stuart, The Norman Conquests,  and Waiting For Godot--were extremely well-received, and doubtless belong in this category. However, all four also opened in the last two weeks of April. Plenty of other closed shows were virtually absent--such as the popular revivals of Equus and All My Sons. The only closed show that has received significant nominations is Horton Foote's Dividing The Estate, and I fear that Foote's recent death may have had something to do with breaking the trend.

Other interesting things:

--Billy Elliott got 15 nominations, tying The Producers' record, including a single best actor nomination for the three boys playing Billy. The show will be in competition with Next To Normal, the musical about bipolar disorder, which apparently improved greatly on the road from Off-Broadway to Arena Stage in DC to Broadway. Next to Normal is much smaller and darker than Billy Elliott, but it is also an American show. Should be interesting.

--In what has got to be some kind of record, all four cast members of The God of Carnage--Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini, and Marcia Gay Harden--were nominated in their respective lead categories. How many plays have four real leads?

--Jane Fonda got nominated for best actress for 33 Variations. Her performance got a strong response, but does anyone think she would have been nominated if she weren't Jane Fonda?

--Fonda possibly aside, most of the household names nominated got rave reviews, and plenty of celebrities who got raves weren't nominated: Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin, John Goodman, John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Griffiths, Jeremy Piven (hmmmm, wonder why?), Susan Sarandon, and Rupert Everett, to name a few. Meanwhile, it's heartening to see so many stalwart theatre actors, who are anything but household names, among the nominees.

--I already have some predictions for who will win the awards, but I'll leave that for closer to the ceremony. One major one, though: I think this year will spread the wealth. Enough excellent shows open that I don't think any one can sweep. We'll see.

So, what are your thoughts? Seen any of the shows? Have any reactions? Let us know?

A full list of nominees is below:

Nominations for the 2009 American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards®
Presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing

Best Play

Dividing the Estate
Author: Horton Foote
God of Carnage
Author: Yasmina Reza
Reasons to Be Pretty
Author: Neil LaBute
33 Variations
Author: Moisés Kaufman

Best Musical

Billy Elliot, The Musical
Next to Normal
Rock of Ages
Shrek The Musical

Best Book of a Musical

Billy Elliot, The Musical Lee Hall
Next to Normal Brian Yorkey
Shrek The Musical David Lindsay-Abaire
[Title of Show] Hunter Bell

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

Billy Elliot, The Musical
Music: Elton John
Lyrics: Lee Hall

Next to Normal
Music: Tom Kitt
Lyrics: Brian Yorkey

9 to 5: The Musical
Music & Lyrics: Dolly Parton

Shrek The Musical
Music: Jeanine Tesori
Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire

Best Revival of a Play

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Mary Stuart
The Norman Conquests
Waiting for Godot

Best Revival of a Musical

Guys and Dolls
Pal Joey
West Side Story

Best Special Theatrical Event

Liza’s at The Palace
Slava’s Snowshow
Soul of Shaolin
You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play

Jeff Daniels, God of Carnage
Raúl Esparza, Speed-the-Plow
James Gandolfini, God of Carnage
Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King
Thomas Sadoski, Reasons to Be Pretty

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play

Hope Davis, God of Carnage
Jane Fonda, 33 Variations
Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage
Janet McTeer, Mary Stuart
Harriet Walter, Mary Stuart

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical

David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish – Billy Elliot, The Musical
Gavin Creel, Hair
Brian d’Arcy James, Shrek The Musical
Constantine Maroulis, Rock of Ages
J. Robert Spencer, Next to Normal

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical

Stockard Channing, Pal Joey
Sutton Foster, Shrek The Musical
Allison Janney, 9 to 5: The Musical
Alice Ripley, Next to Normal
Josefina Scaglione, West Side Story

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play

John Glover, Waiting for Godot
Zach Grenier, 33 Variations
Stephen Mangan, The Norman Conquests
Paul Ritter, The Norman Conquests
Roger Robinson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play

Hallie Foote, Dividing the Estate
Jessica Hynes, The Norman Conquests
Marin Ireland, Reasons to Be Pretty
Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit
Amanda Root, The Norman Conquests

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical

David Bologna, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Marc Kudisch, 9 to 5: The Musical
Christopher Sieber, Shrek The Musical
Will Swenson, Hair

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical

Jennifer Damiano, Next to Normal
Haydn Gwynne, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Karen Olivo, West Side Story
Martha Plimpton, Pal Joey
Carole Shelley, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Scenic Design of a Play

Dale Ferguson, Exit the King
Rob Howell, The Norman Conquests
Derek McLane, 33 Variations
Michael Yeargan, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Robert Brill, Guys and Dolls
Ian MacNeil, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Scott Pask, Pal Joey
Mark Wendland, Next to Normal

Best Costume Design of a Play

Dale Ferguson, Exit the King
Jane Greenwood, Waiting for Godot
Martin Pakledinaz, Blithe Spirit
Anthony Ward, Mary Stuart

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Gregory Gale, Rock of Ages
Nicky Gillibrand, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical
Michael McDonald, Hair

Best Lighting Design of a Play

David Hersey, Equus
David Lander, 33 Variations
Brian MacDevitt, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Hugh Vanstone, Mary Stuart

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Kevin Adams, Hair
Kevin Adams, Next to Normal
Howell Binkley, West Side Story
Rick Fisher, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Sound Design of a Play

Paul Arditti, Mary Stuart
Gregory Clarke, Equus
Russell Goldsmith, Exit the King
Scott Lehrer and Leon Rothenberg, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Acme Sound Partners, Hair
Paul Arditti, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Peter Hylenski, Rock of Ages
Brian Ronan, Next to Normal

Best Direction of a Play

Phyllida Lloyd, Mary Stuart
Bartlett Sher, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage
Matthew Warchus, The Norman Conquests

Best Direction of a Musical

Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Michael Greif, Next to Normal
Kristin Hanggi, Rock of Ages
Diane Paulus, Hair

Best Choreography

Karole Armitage, Hair
Andy Blankenbuehler, 9 to 5: The Musical
Peter Darling, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Randy Skinner, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

Best Orchestrations

Larry Blank, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
Martin Koch, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Michael Starobin and Tom Kitt, Next to Normal
Danny Troob and John Clancy, Shrek The Musical

* * *

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Jerry Herman

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Signature Theatre, Arlington, Va.

Isabelle Stevenson Award
Phyllis Newman

Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre
Shirley Herz

* * *

Tony Nominations by Production

Billy Elliot, The Musical - 15
Next to Normal - 11
Hair - 8
Shrek The Musical - 8
Mary Stuart - 7
The Norman Conquests - 7
God of Carnage - 6
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone - 6
Rock of Ages - 5
33 Variations - 5
Exit the King - 4
9 to 5: The Musical - 4
Pal Joey - 4
West Side Story - 4
Reasons to Be Pretty - 3
Waiting for Godot - 3
Blithe Spirit - 2
Dividing the Estate - 2
Equus - 2
Guys and Dolls - 2
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas - 2
Liza’s at The Palace - 1
Slava’s Snowshow - 1
Soul of Shaolin - 1
Speed-the-Plow - 1
[Title of Show] - 1

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