Medea – National Theatre Live #36

medea-01For those who are not familiar with the play…it does NOT end well…for anybody. This may be the Greek-est of all Greek tragedies, the innocent are murdered, brutally; the guilty live, not entirely unpunished and everybody loses.

To understand the play, it helps to know the back story, so bear with me, we will get to the meat of the subject shortly.

Jason, our mythic “hero,” is sailing with the Argonauts in search for the Golden Fleece which is owned by King Aeetes, who happens to have a daughter named Medea. The King agrees to give Jason the fleece if he can complete three labors, which are obviously impossible, but Medea, having fallen in love with Jason, (or having had a love spell cast on her by the Gods) and just happening to be a sorceress as well (she is descended from the Gods after all), agrees to help Jason get the Fleece. Having achieved his goal, Jason agrees to take Medea with him and to distract her father while they make their romantic getaway they kill her brother and scatter his body parts around for her father to find.

Medea2So fast forward many years to the beginning of our play and Jason, after having lived with Medea as a devoutly in love couple and having had two sons together, has unceremoniously thrown her over for the King of Corinth’s younger, blonder and less witchy daughter. We join our characters on the day that Jason is to be married to his new bride. Medea in the days prior has made little secret of her displeasure, making threats both veiled and un-, to the extent that the King of Corinth, fearing for his daughters well fare, has come to banish her and her children into the wilderness. Tearfully and humbly pleading on bended knee for mercy Medea is granted a brief and most unwise reprieve by the King and uses the time less to plan a safe getaway but rather to determine how best to unleash her vengeance on those who have wronged her. Mostly Jason, but she’s okay with some collateral damage as well. In the end she uses her sons to murder her husband’s new wife and father-in-law and then uses her own two hands to slaughter her beloved two sons because she cannot find any other way that she can cause Jason the same level of pain that he has caused her.

I have been told by those whose understanding of this play is more learned than I, that this is a play about feminine empowerment. Of taking control when everyone is seeking to control you. And I get that but I am perhaps too indoctrinated in modern middle class morality to ever feel sympathy for a character that murders her own children.

3medea2207BAnd having said that we are finally at the meat of this narrative. I, at my core and in my most logical modern mind have no sympathy for Medea. She’s a bit of a lunatic and mean and petty to boot, and while she had numerous opportunities to get away and be safe she chooses to stay and seek revenge no matter the cost. But…Helen McCrory’s outstanding performance in this show had me entranced and in the end in tears. It is a powerful, gripping and incredibly intense portrayal that made me feel what she was feeling, her anger, angst, anguish and very true agony of killing her children.  Ms. McCrory portrays Medea as a proud, impressive and seemingly indomitable woman and you really want her to succeed and win out over the people who have abused her; I’m there with her (solidarity sisters!) right up until she decides, “No, I think I really need to kill the kids, that’ll really show him!”  Perhaps it helps a little that the children are little more than cut-out figures in the play and you never connect with them emotionally. Perhaps her actions are mitigated by the general callousness about human life that was prevalent at that time. Perhaps, being a descendant of the Gods, she has less natural human sympathy. Perhaps its just a cautionary tale about obsessive love and ceding your happiness to the control of someone else.

Regardless of which way you swing on  the Medea question, there is no question this was a powerful and emotive production and the largest share of that credit goes to Ms. McCrory and her electrifyingly chilling performance. Look for it and other interesting screenings  in a theater near you at NT Live website.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch – Redux

1004141829So ever since I discovered the awesomeness that is Hedwig and the Angry Inch I’ve been jonesing to see the show again and the soundtrack (when it was finally available) was damn near on a continuous loop for a couple of months. Returning to NYC to see NPH before he departed in August was a constant consideration because in my mind nobody I could think of could embody that role the way Mr. Harris had, right? Then…then they announce Andrew Rannells would don the Hedwig and a light goes off and you think “Duh! Of course!” That kind of put an end to the debate of going to see the show again; I really really wanted to see him in this role.  I’m not sure entirely why, I’ve only ever seen him in “Book of Mormon” and Elder Price is a completely different type of role but something about his performance and his stage presence made me think he could kill this role. And he really did.

andrew-rannells-hedwig-angry-inch-credit-joan-marcusSeeing a show, especially one that you loved, is never going to be the same the second time around; you’ve lost the element of discovery and you can’t recapture that same level of emotional engagement. But the lovely thing about live theater is that there are always elements that you miss or that you forget about and every actor brings their own element to the performance. Each show is indeed unique and I am a big fan of seeing a show more than once, I wager that when this show goes on tour I will go see it again, assuming that they do something stupid like cast Shia LaBoeuf in the role. (I probably shouldn’t have put that idea out in the ether!)

hedwigf-rannellsBut back to Mr. Rannells, did I say he was wonderful? He really was. Was he better/worse than Mr. Harris, it’s a really hard call, NPH has the edge just by being my first Hedwig, so how do you top that? If I was being really critical I would (and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack all day) have to say Mr. Rannells is the better singer which showed mostly in the slower songs. I would really have to hear it again to verify and I assume the producers aren’t going to release a second soundtrack just to please me. On the down side I will say his German accent from time to time escaped him, but that’s a pretty minor quibble.

I was a little disappointed that Lena Hall was absent (I’m assuming she’s off rehearsing with Michael C. Hall) but her understudy did a good job, but not quite on par. I always feel bad about criticizing the understudies, it has to be impossible to step into a role that you get to play infrequently and be as good as the person who does it regularly. It’s not about talent level (so many talented people out there!) it’s about chemistry and muscle memory? To be fair no one waiting outside for autographs seemed to notice or care about the difference. Yes, I autograph hounded again, really the queue was really short so I jumped right in. I’m opportunistic  that way.

Anyway you have a mere week left to see Mr. Rannells before he is replace with Michael C. Hall. Now I understand that Mr. Hall has performed on Broadway before, he was one of our many MC replacements in the revival of Cabaret, but I can’t help but think that the producers are playing the name recognition game, that’s my way of saying I’m not making any special trips to see the show again. I’ll wait for the tour which I assume they are planning (or they should be!!)

I leave you with proof of Mr. Rannells talent.

 

The Magic Flute-Isango Ensemble Repertory #35

I was tallying up the list of shows I’ve got scheduled to see how I’m doing on my 52 weeks/52 shows goal for the year (I’m pretty close) and had a minor panic attack when I realized that I had not yet fulfilled my goal of seeing an opera. I’ve never seen a live opera! Seems like a pretty big gap in my theater repertoire, I may need to try and see one a year just to keep things interesting.  Luckily I realized that I had a ticket to see The Magic Flute by the South African theater group Isango Ensemble.  And as  bonus it also qualifies as “something different” which is always a goal with me; don’t settle for just the familiar.

Magic Flute1 This show certainly qualifies as that, taking a German piece of work and placing it in the vernacular of South African culture. I really enjoyed the show, they imbued the performance with wit, whimsy and a whole lot of energy. While I’m no aficionado of opera I thought the voices were beautiful, especially the iconic aria by the Queen of the Night. She kind of killed it, which is appropriate considering she’s directing her daughter to commit murder. Among the serious machinations of our star crossed lovers, Tamino and Pamina’s quest for love, truth and not dying, the show interjects these bright spots of levity with a knowing wink to the audience. Papagano, is the reluctant sidekick to our hero, is hilarious (loved his “birds”) and I loved the three Spirits in their lovely lavender suits and feathery wings, they were delightful. And then out of nowhere ‘fros and 70’s bell-bottoms pop out, ridiculous but it worked so well. They made the show much fun.

I was surprised that there was actual dialog in the show and first thought that may be a deviation but it was written that way; I tend to think of operas as all singing all the time. It was actually probably a good thing because I have discovered that even if the opera is sung in English it can still be a little difficult to follow. The vocal acrobatics distort the words from their commonly understood form. Although I’m not unconvinced that parts were not performed in a different language. There were certainly times when the dialog was definitely in a foreign language, mostly in the ceremonial scenes. Reading the synopsis in the playbill is also helpful.

Magic Flute2A very interesting element of the production was the entirely percussion based orchestra consisting of marimbas and a variety of drums. How closely it held to the original orchestration I lack sufficient knowledge to determine but I really enjoyed the spin on the orchestration, I do enjoy good percussion and it really provided the appropriate exotic otherworldly atmosphere to the show. The lone musical instrument was the trumpet that was the voice of the eponymous Magic Flute. What is really impressive is that the cast was also the orchestra (it flanked both side of the raked stage), there was a constant revolution of characters moving from singing to playing the instruments in a perpetual round robin that made the orchestra a physically integral part of the show. Can you just imagine the level of coordination and concentration that would take? The actors where not always playing the same instruments and when cast members were neither performing or playing they were still part of the orchestra providing additional vocals and sometimes breaking out in random joyous dance. This makes the cast quadruple threats, actors, dancers, singers and musicians. Some people would call that showing off…not that I’m bitter or anything.

The Isango Ensemble is performing this show in repertory with another Opera, Venus and Adonis, which I am unfortunately not going to get to see before they leave. They’re performing at the Lansburg Theater (Shakespeare Company) until Sunday but they’re on tour in the US through early November. Sorry I haven’t been able to find a schedule of cities they’re visiting you can check their website here.

Sunday in the Park with George #33

SundaySo do you know what I really hate about Sondheim? He just refuses to pander to the audience. No he can’t just give me a few catchy earworms to hum on the way home and a predictable happy/tragic/up-lifting ending. No, I have to sit there and listen to the lyrics and the dialog, follow the subtleties of the story arc and listen to and appreciate the sophisticated orchestrations that evolve with the story line and build to a meaningful and significant finale. Fine…be that way.

I was kind of gun shy about seeing this, I previously tried to watch the film of the stage show with Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters and never got past the first scene, it was less than engaging. But sometimes taking a theatrical risk pays off. Yes, risky theater, this is the razors edge of danger I trip along. This was a very good production, I’m not sure why I’m hesitating with the excellent, ah screw it…it is an excellent production. I can’t think of an element that I didn’t like. This is as polished, professional and entertaining a show as you’re going to get anywhere.

Sunday2The show is based on a fictionalized account of the life of the artist Georges Seurat, his mistress Dot (get it…a pointillist in love with Dot? Sorry it amuses me) and the creation of a very famous piece of art, Sunday in the Park on the Island of La Grande Jatte (you may know it from “Ferris Buellar’s Day Off”) that ties George and Dot’s story to that of their great grandson, also an artist, nearly 100 years later. There are many many layers to the story, it is not just about a relationship between a man and a woman. It is also about eternal struggle of artists to promote themselves their work; it explores a period of time where art and science begin to intersect; it’s about the need to be always looking forward and not allowing the accepted traditions of the past prevent the exploration of new means and methods, it’s about personal sacrifice to achieve ones goals. I would even say it was a little about mental health because I don’t know how else you explain all those freaking dots. What Seurat was working on is the foundation of all our modern printers, points or pixels it’s the same concept. It was also a shift in thinking about art, George wasn’t just exploring paint on canvas he was exploring how the human eye perceives paint on canvas and how the human transforms it.

Okay, that description may make the show seem dull and pedantic but really it’s not, all that is subtext to the surface story. This is one of those shows that requires a talented cast to convey the underlying themes of the show or it will seem kind of ponderous. Seurat can appear to be an especially unsympathetic character, I mean who casts off his loving mistress for “finishing a hat” and then disavows his own daughter! Claybourne Elder’s performance as George brings an underlaying feeling of angst and fearfulness to the character that offsets his surface callousness. He is not only letting Dot go because of his dedication to the work but there is also a knowledge that he cannot be what they need and they cannot be what he needs.

tn-500_14056-551.jpg.pagespeed.ce.hNgBEUf7K4Brynn O’Malley’s turn as both Dot and her aged daughter Marie is phenomenal. She’s most endearing and likable as Dot but her transformation to 98 year old Marie is a work of art. She did it with very little more that a few added wrinkles and a white wig, the rest of it, the transformation of her body, voice, mannerisms was pure ACTING! Major kudos! The entire cast was excellent but these two leads are the back bone of the show.

I suppose since this is a musical I should mention the music and lyrics; they may not be to every one tastes but they work very well in the show. You really should look at it more like an opera. The staccato nature of the music, especially in the first act, is an aural representation pointillism and despite what I said in the first paragraph I have found myself humming “Finishing the Hat” and “Putting it Together” has a definite earworm quality. Signature has kicked off their 25th anniversary season in fine form.

What I did this Summer-Part 2

In other exciting news I have already bought tickets for, or identified, enough shows to get me to 51 shows for the year leaving me 1 scant show shy of my 52 shows for the year, but I imagine that I’ll be able to pick-up that one show.  But back to our count down, or count up?

#29 – Buyer and Cellar

buyer-cellarThis was a funny, cute and ultimately irrelevant fantasy tale that takes place in an actual place, Barbara Streisand’s basement. Apparently Ms. Streisand’s basement is designed to to look like a shopping mall and all her “overflow” items are stored like they’re on sale. That in itself is a ridiculous enough concept; but they pile on more by inserting our guide through Bab’s Basement, an erstwhile actor who has been hired to “work” in her basement. There really is no plot, it’s a fun little jaunt through Mrs. Brolin’s career and personality quirks. It helps if you know your Bab’s lore and as I do I laughed often throughout the show and promptly forgot about the show once I left.

#30 – Private Lives

privatelives-thumb-620xauto-72527This show I loved! I, not so secretly, want to be witty and urbane in a nonchalant manner; okay wealthy wouldn’t be too bad either. The story revolves around a divorced couple who meet again after several years by sheer coincidence (some would say fate) on the night of their respective honeymoons to their new spouses. Almost immediately their tempestuous attraction to each other is reignited and they with nary a backward glace run away to Paris together. Halfway through the show I began wondering why the lead characters seemed so familiar, then I realized this is Benedict and Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing) the later years. The story of two stubborn passionate people who love each other so entirely that the only thing worse than being together is being apart. Two quotes some immediately to mind, “Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably” and “If they were but a week married, they would talk themselves mad.” Those two quotes most aptly describe these two characters who are too well matched in wit and in temperament to be together but too much in love with each other to be a part. It was just a delightful evening of theater.

#31 – Stupid F#@!ing Bird

This was one of Woolly Mammoths most touted show last year so I bit the bullet and decided to go see what the big deal was. The play is a modernization of Checkov’s “The Seagull.” Of course my first thought was hasn’t this been done? I’m thinking specifically of  last years “Sonia, Masha, Vanya and Spike” which played on Broadway. But having seen Checkov performed straight I’m all for modernization. It was a funny and enjoyable and well performed and as required in a Russian play someone dies needlessly. I’m actually really looking forward to the a fore mentioned “Sonia, Masha…” at Arena Stage later this season.

Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage #32

dd-imageI will admit that going to see this show was purely a nostalgia trip. This production has been floating around for a few years and as much as I revile the movie to musical trend this one seemed like a no brainer. How could this not be turned into, if not a good show, at least an entertaining show; a show that plays on the nostalgia of ones youth, or at least my youth. Well the producers managed to find a way. It was bad.

Lest you think I am unduly biased because of my disdain for the movie-musical trend or my love of the original movie (which is not insignificant) I have brought on board a guest reviewer, a disinterested third party who has no emotional skin in the game, to validate my opinion. Broadway Babe while young is not inexperienced in theater both as an audience member and a performer.

There are very few things I really enjoyed about the show. The dancing was great but everything else was less than adequate. Samuel Pergande and Jillian Mueller as Johnny Castle and Baby Houseman had NO chemistry on stage. The ensemble was quite good and had some great dance numbers and Emily Rice was very entertaining as Lisa when she sang Hula Hana song (The one intentionally funny part of the show). Easily, Jennlee Shallow, as Elizabeth and Doug Carpenter as Billy, were the best part of the show and their performance did justice to the songs. The live band was very good but they almost never used them in the production. It was also strange that the leads in the show never sang a word, unlike most musicals where the leads sing most of the songs. They were good dancers but that is all they truly had going for them. Overall the production needs a lot of work.

Broadway Babe

See…it not just me. I did notice later that they’re not calling the show a musical; it’s “The Classic Story On Stage;” whatever that means. I think it means they were too cheap to hire actors who can dance, act AND sing; so they compromised and hired people who can dance (albeit very well) and are able to speak (don’t confuse that with acting.) If nothing else this production has manged to elevate Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey’s performances to be Olivier-esque in comparison; I suppose that’s some sort of achievement. 

To end I would like to take a moment and mention my utter disgust and disappointment in a audience that would give this performance a standing ovation. I know it’s a battle lost and certainly no one (I hope) had high expectations for this show but a show such as this deserved polite applause at most. I did cheer loudly (while seated) for Ms. Shallow and Mr. Carpenter for providing the one bright spot in a sea of mediocrity.

What a Les Miz Reboot Should Look Like

I said not too long ago that I was done with Les Miz  and I saw no reason to see the show again until some one truly reinvents it. Well, if I were in Texas, I would go see this version of the show, actually, I’m a little upset that I’m not able to see this show. Yes, they’ve spliced together the best of clips, but it’s a pretty compelling clip. This is what happens when you kick over  the ant hill and see it rebuilt to the same purpose but in a different form. This is what Les Miz needs, a kick to the ant hill that is the entrenchment of the show’s current incarnation.

Bringing it into the modern time is a bit of a no brainer, certainly the themes of Les Miz are still relevant; the socio-cultural struggles of the characters are little different from what we deal with still today; the over bearing boss who makes the job you can’t afford lose a miserable one, the seemingly unbreached authority of a dis-compassionate government, women tearing each other down, the real criminals never getting punished, etc. etc. etc. (non sequitur – Lincoln Center mounting new production of the King and I, 2015)

I like most everything I see I this clip, there’s a real immediacy in the performances that really grabbed me. I really like the dread-lock sporting Theardier and the pseudo-geek Cossette; but apparently all Javerts need a large menacing overcoat. I was very excited to see Nehla Joshi, from our own Arena Stage rocking it as Valjean. (how did he end up in Texas?) I’m not totally sold on their high knee quick stepping during “One Day More” but that’s a minor quibble. Anyway, I love when region theater takes something and does it better than the big boys.  Good for you Dallas Theater Center.

Cabaret-Revival of the Revival #24

cabaret04

This is the show that really started it all for me and the theater, the 1998 revival of Cabaret; the first truly exceptional show that I had ever seen; a show that was more than mere entertainment; the show that set the bar against which I have measured all other shows (which few have met and none have overcome) and the show that made me a fast, true and long term fan of one Mr. Alan Cumming. (He was “something” long before the “Good Wife” FYI). 16 years ago I chose this show to go see because I was familiar with it and I had always loved the movie version of Cabaret with Liza and Joel Gray. I was expecting to see some version of that performance and it was absolutely not what I got and I couldn’t have been happier to have my expectations dashed. They turned that dapper, crisp and shiny movie world into a dark, seedy and much more disturbing reality. The plot is still true to the original musical and even more true to what life likely was in Berlin during the Wiemar Republic. When the show was over, I walked out of the theater excited and enervated, we had just experienced something special; I had never had this reaction to a show ever before. Granted in those days I was doing good to see 4-5 shows a year so I din’t have much to compare it against but exceptional stands out regardless.

Needless to say when I heard that they were re-staging the show AND that Mr. Cumming would be reprising his role as the MC I was over the moon. I have for years been telling friends what a wonderful show they had missed and how they had taken an iconic show and and iconic role and redefined them and made them icons for a new generation and now…now they were finally going to get the chance to see the show! It did not take much arm twisting from me to get a group of friend to go with, I am not the only Cabaret/Alan Cumming around it seems.

cabaret01When I go see a show I try to go with as few expectations as possible, once I’ve selected a show I stay away from reviews and synopses of the show; I want an unbiased as possible experience; plus expectations often lead to disappointment. Unfortunately with this show I couldn’t not have expectations and even worse they had to live up to my memories of the show I saw 16 years ago; it’s almost impossible not to disappoint. Don’t worry this isn’t a build-up to an apocryphal statement like ” The show was awful!” Quite the opposite, the show was wonderful and Mr. Cumming delivers the goods. Joel Gray’s MC was, while quite dapper, I felt he secretly had a stash of corpses somewhere, very neatly stored corpses with perfectly made p faces. Mr. Cumming’s MC is no less creepy but more in a “weird guy you might meet on the subway at  2 am” kind of way. He is simultaneously sleazy and dirty but still kind of sexy, he’s the personification of that time in Germany where the decadent life he’s so enjoying is eventually going to lead to his destruction. I was a great show but for me the magic of the first time was not there, I really wasn’t expecting it to be. The memory of something wonderful is always going to outshine the attempt to recreate it. I am still very much of the opinion that if you haven’t seen the show, you should go see it,and you absolutely should go see it while Mr. Cumming is still in the role;  your fist time could be as magical as mine. (Okay, that came out a little dirty but not inappropriate for this show.)

It was interesting sitting in the audience because it was quite clear that a large portion were, like me, fans from the old days and everyone was happy to get a little boozed up and interactive. Normally I will be the person giving bitch face and shushing those who dare talk once the lights go down but this show, with its cabaret atmosphere encourages a bit more active participation and even I was moved to a little interactive hootin’ and hollerin’. It’s okay I did it with a German accent.

cabaret03Besides Mr. Cumming there are actually other people in the cast. Michelle Williams is one of the many Hollywood actors who is taking a turn treading the boards, it’s practically a right of passage for those who want to be taken “seriously.” Speaking of which have you heard that Bradley Cooper is coming to Broadway to take on the role of the Elephant Man? The role that all handsome actors take to remind people they’re not just a pretty face and a set of rock hard abs; I appreciate that but couldn’t you find a more original role to be ugly in? Any way, I wan’t particularly impressed by Michelle Williams as Sally Bowls; her English accent was a bit dodgy throughout and I found her Sally more annoying than anything else, is it bad that I felt good when Cliff finally slapped her? Her character certainly isn’t a good person but you’re still are supposed to like her at least a little bit and have some empathy for her. To her credit she killed on the “Cabaret” number, actually all her singing parts were well done, it was the speaking portions that she let down in.

cabaret02One of my favorite parts of the musical is one thing that was radically changed in the movie, the mid-life romance between Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz; the wonderful Linda Emond and Danny Burstein. Their relationship is as doomed as Sally and Cliff’s but it is actually more tragic ending. You never really expect Cliff and Sally to make it as a couple, they were eventually going to destroy themselves or each other, but Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz would have been happy were they not torn apart by society, politics and fear. But I will from now on think of pineapples as a romantic fruit. If  you don’t get that go see the show.

And this really made my trip…

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Tony Award 2014 Predictions!

tony awardI’m behind on the posts for the last three shows from Broadway week but those shows aren’t going anywhere but since the Tony Awards are tonight I feel the need to make predictions. Even with the week long Broadway Blitz there are quite a few that  I haven’t seen especially the play so some of the predictions are based on reviews and earlier awards. Bold items are my pick..

Best Play

  • Act One
  • All The Way – The new play about LBJ and the civil rights movement starring Bryan Cranston has been consistently winning all the “smaller” awards.
  • Casa Valentina
  • Mothers and Sons
  • Outside Mullingar

Best Musical

  • After Midnight
  • Aladdin
  • Beautiful: Carol King Musical
  • A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and MurderEasily the best of the crop and the only one of the nominated shows that has an entirely original score.

Best Revival of a Play

  • The Cripple of Inishmaan
  • The Glass Menagerie
  • A Raisin in the Sun
  • Twelfth NightI’m always rooting for Shakespeare!

Best Revival of a Musical

  • Hedwig and the Angry InchNo competition! It’s a given.
  • Les Misérables
  • Violet

Best Book of a Musical

  • Aladdin – Chad Beguelin
  • Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – Douglas McGrath
  • Bullets Over Broadway – Woody Allen
  • A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder – Robert L. Freedman

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

  • Aladdin
    o   Music: Alan Menken
    o   Lyrics: Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin
  • The Bridges of Madison County
    o   Music & Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown
  • A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
    o   Music: Steven Lutvak
    o   Lyrics: Robert L. Freedman & Steven Lutvak
  • If/Then
    o   Music: Tom Kitt
    o   Lyrics: Brian Yorkey

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

  • Samuel Barnett, Twelfth Night
  • Bryan Cranston, All The Way
  • Chris O’Dowd, Of Mice and Men
  • Mark Rylance, Richard IIIIt’s probably going to be Bryan Cranston but I have a soft spot for Mr. Rylance
  • Tony Shalhoub, Act One

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

  • Tyne Daly, Mothers and Sons
  • LaTanya Richardson Jackson, A Raisin in the Sun
  • Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie Just saw her in another play and she was wonderful
  • Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
  • Estelle Parsons, The Velocity of Autumn

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

  • Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry InchIf he doesn’t win I will be overwrought with disappointment, this was a seminal performance. (no disrespect to Mr.s Mays and Pinkham)
  • Ramin Karimloo, Les Misérables
  • Andy Karl, Rocky
  • Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
  • Bryce Pinkham, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

  • Mary Bridget Davies, A Night with Janis Joplin
  • Sutton Foster, Violet
  • Idina Menzel, If/Then
  • Jessie Mueller, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
  • Kelli O’Hara, The Bridges of Madison CountyShe’s long overdue for a Tony nod.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

  • Reed Birney, Casa Valentina
  • Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night
  • Stephen Fry, Twelfth Night
  • Mark Rylance, Twelfth NightHow cool would it be for him to win best and featured actor in the same year. I wonder if he’s memorized two poems just in case.
  • Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

  • Sarah Greene, The Cripple of Inishmaan
  • Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie
  • Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
  • Anika Noni Rose, A Raisin in the Sun
  • Mare Winningham, Casa ValentinaTotal Guess

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

  • Danny Burstein, Cabaret
  • Nick Cordero, Bullets Over BroadwayHe was the only bright spot in an at best adequate show.
  • Joshua Henry, Violet
  • James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
  • Jarrod Spector, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

  • Linda Emond, Cabaret
  • Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Anika Larsen, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
  • Adriane Lenox, After Midnight
  • Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and MurderShe was wonderful and while I loved Lena Hall I’m going with who had more active performance time.

Best Scenic Design of a Play

  • Beowulf Boritt, Act One
  • Bob Crowley, The Glass Menagerie
  • Es Devlin, Machinal
  • Christopher Oram, The Cripple of Inishmaan

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

  • Christopher Barreca, RockyThey did some new and interesting things in the set design.
  • Julian Crouch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Alexander Dodge, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
  • Santo Loquasto, Bullets Over Broadway

Best Costume Design of a Play

  • Jane Greenwood, Act One
  • Michael Krass, Machinal
  • Rita Ryack, Casa Valentina
  • Jenny Tiramani, Twelfth Night

Best Costume Design of a Musical

  • Linda Cho, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
  • William Ivey Long, Bullets Over Broadway
  • Arianne Phillips, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Isabel Toledo, After Midnight

Best Lighting Design of a Play

  • Paule Constable, The Cripple of Inishmaan
  • Jane Cox, Machinal
  • Natasha Katz, The Glass Menagerie
  • Japhy Weideman, Of Mice and Men

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

  • Kevin Adams, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Christopher Akerlind, Rocky
  • Howell Binkley, After Midnight
  • Donald Holder, The Bridges of Madison County

Best Sound Design of a Play

  • Alex Baranowski, The Cripple of Inishmaan
  • Steve Canyon Kennedy, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
  • Dan Moses Schreier, Act One
  • Matt Tierney, Machinal

Best Sound Design of a Musical

  • Peter Hylenski, After Midnight
  • Tim O’Heir, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Mick Potter, Les Misérables
  • Brian Ronan, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Best Direction of a Play

  • Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night
  • Michael Grandage, The Cripple of Inishmaan
  • Kenny Leon, A Raisin in the Sun
  • John Tiffany, The Glass Menagerie – Every show of his that I’ve seen I’ve loved.

Best Direction of a Musical

  • Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
  • Michael Mayer, Hedwig and the Angry InchI love his work but if Darko Tresnjak wont I wouldn’t be upset, plus I like his name.
  • Leigh Silverman, Violet
  • Darko Tresnjak, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

Best Choreography

  • Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
  • Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine, Rocky
  • Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin
  • Susan Stroman, Bullets Over Broadway

Best Orchestrations

  • Doug Besterman, Bullets Over Broadway
  • Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
  • Steve Sidwell, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
  • Jonathan Tunick, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

 

Les Miserables #23

Redemption! Not only is that a predominant theme through out the musical, it is what the show has achieved since the last time they were on Broadway. This production has gone a long way toward washing away the bitter taste of the abysmal production that was their last return to Broadway; the one where I just couldn’t wait for Fantine to die…already; and who the hell decided to cast a castrato to sing the part of Jean Valjean in falsetto (or was that the last surviving BeeGee,) with his obviously fake man pecs. Let us talk of it no more. You may ask, how did they managed to achieve such a miraculous transformation? It was really clever, they cast talented performers! Et Voila! A great show that, once again, is able to reduce me to tears, as it should be.

les miz2For all the talk of a “re-booted” or “re-imagined” production, this is essentially the production that has been touring the last couple of years but they have cast some serious talent that has gone a long way to giving the show back it’s former vigor. Leading the cast is the stellar Ramin Karimloo, who proves to us early in the show that his sculpted torso needs no more augmentation than his does is incredible voice. The ultimate test for all true Valjeans is the pivotal song “Bring Him Home” and where many have failed, he absolutely kills it; the voice, the emotion, that spectacular note at the end, it was all there. I would love for him to perform that on the Tony Awards. There is an awesome clip on Youtube of he and Colm Wilkinson singing the song in duet that is well worth the viewing. While I think there is little chance of him actually winning a Tony Award I’m hoping to see him on the Broadway stage again, preferably in a new original production.

les miz6The rest of the cast is equally able. Will Swenson as Javert is a wonderful and 180° from the last role I saw him play as the free spirited anti-establishment hippie Berger in Hair. I really like the irony of that. You wouldn’t recognize him; yes I know he’s an actor he’s supposed to be able to do that but he does it very well here. While Valjean and Javert are the back bone of the show, the talented supporting cast does it’s fair share of the heavy lifting s well. )Remember to lift with your legs not your back.) I was really please to see Nikki M. James (most recently from Book of Mormon) as Eponine, she was well suited to the part and did justice to one of favorite and most moving song of the show, ” A Little Fall of Rain.”

les miz4I appreciate the producers trying to breath freshness into this old War Horse of a show but I’m not sure they’ve done enough. The use of the electronic background doesn’t add much to the set design and while I mostly don’t miss the turn table, the death of Enjolras is never going to have the same impact as it did when the barricades rotated and his suspended lifeless body was revealed. I think the first time I saw it I gasped aloud. The cart attempt just doesn’t work. Also, can I just say how I’m so over the Thenardies, they just see to get greasier with each production and attempts at making them more shocking or funny just aren’t working for me.

What I think Cameron Macintosh needs to do is put this show to bed for awhile, let people miss it. Let the next generation create there own new version of the show, it’ll give younger theater goers the opportunity to claim the show for themselves and it’ll give older theater goers, of which I will be one, the chance to harrumph and complain that it’ll never be as good as the first production. If they keep this show on this never ending, yet highly lucrative, treadmill they run the risk of becoming a cliche and a joke. I mean when was the last time anyone revived Cats?