Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tony Nominations 2011

I wish I could have a greater appreciation for the Tonys. I'm not saying that I don't love them; I got up at 8:30 yesterday morning so that I could watch the nomination announcements by Matthew Broderick and Anika Noni Rose. But the Tonys represent a part of pop culture that is very limited to me, which is Broadway: sure, I can buy the soundtracks and watch illegally taped performances of different shows, but that's never the same thing. These shows weren't put together the way they are for mass consumption in retailers and on the Internet. They are meant to be seen live, my ass in a theater seat, marveling at the wonders of raw performance and inventive spectacle. Theatre removes the screen, creating a much closer emotional experience than can be created through a YouTube video of the performance (I'm not going to argue movie vs. stage for an overall emotional experience, since both are perfectly capable of succeeding and failing on that front and by necessity of the mediums have to use different techniques to convey that emotion).

So why don't I just go see the shows? Because 1) I live in North Carolina and 2) I'm a broke college student that lives in North Carolina. So basically there's just no way that it can happen on the regular. The only two Broadway shows I have seen on Broadway are Wicked and Rent in 2008, when my high school's chorus went to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall (both were terrific, by the way, though I preferred Rent slightly - maybe it was that "we close in four months, so let's give it our all" vibe I was getting from the actors). And I would love to see more. I did a lot of acting in high school, and not only would I love to get into that again (and I will as soon as they add about, oh, six or so hours to the day), but I would love to see more plays and musicals than I get to. Especially musicals, since that's more or less what I grew up on and the only shows I acted in (I never did do a play, which I wish I could change). I think AV Club's Zack Handlen sums up my feelings about musicals best in his recap of this week's Glee:


Musical theater is powerful stuff.
Oh, sure, it's easy to mock. Grinning idiots gyrating across a stage, supposedly spontaneous explosions into song, corniness so high it'll run you six, seven elephants stacked on top of each other staring unblinking into the spotlight. Gangs singing and snapping their fingers threateningly at each other. And these days, of course, costumed heroes fumbling through ill-conceived, muddled production numbers before flinging themselves into the back-breaking darkness. But forget that. Forget the cliches, forget Broadway's increasingly panicky grabs for attention, with its awful jukebox musicals and movies put on stage for No Damn Reason (Shrek? Really? I don't know who, but someone should be ashamed of themselves), and realize this is a singular art form which, at its best and most beautiful, is capable of transcending the limitations of space, that has access to passions both universal and immediate. Great musical theater can take hundreds or thousands of people and reduce them to tears with a single note. If it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work for you, but if it does, cynicism and irony and detachment can be swept away in a moment. This is primal stuff we're dealing with here. Elemental, intimate, bombastic, and glorious.
And he's absolutely right. A musical is escapist pleasure; no matter how "real" or "gritty" it is, it's still people singing about their feelings or dancing away their frustrations. Or maybe they just want to put on a show. In a way, the musical is the purest form of such entertainment, going straight for the emotions without tickling the brain or relying on sophisticated storytelling. It just has to be a break from our own realities.

All of this is to say that I'm not really too knowledgeable about this year's Tony nominees (I know, quite an introduction). I wish I could say that I've seen The Book of Mormon, from the creators of South Park, which scored a leading 14 nominations, or The Scottsboro Boys, which had a limited run last fall and still ended up with 12 nominations. Or the latest revival of Anything Goes, with the wonderful Sutton Foster. Or buzzy play The Motherf**ker with the Hat, which stars Bobby Cannavale and Chris Rock as they try to sober up. They all sound fantastic, but alas, maybe they'll run long enough for me to catch them sometime. Therefore, I won't be able to add much commentary to the nominees below, but I'll add as much as I know.

The nominees are:

Best Play

Good People
Author: David Lindsay-Abaire
Jerusalem
Author: Jez Butterworth
The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Author: Stephen Adly Guirgis
War Horse
Author: Nick Stafford


David Lindsay-Abaire wrote Rabbit Hole, which was recently turned into a movie. And War Horse is going to be a movie by Steven Spielberg later this year, but the movie is going to be based on the book upon which the play is based on, and not based on the play itself, if that makes sense. 

Best Musical

The Book of Mormon
Catch Me If You Can
The Scottsboro Boys
Sister Act



My guess is that this one is going to end up coming down to The Book of Mormon vs. The Scottsboro Boys, since they have 26 combined nominations. The latter is kind of surprising, though, since it ran only for a limited time back in the fall. But it is the last show from John Kander and Fred Ebb, who did Chicago and Caberet, and it was a huge critical success, so who knows? I've also heard good things about Sister Act when it was on West End, and it seems like it would be a really fun time. 

Best Book of a Musical

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Alex Timbers

The Book of Mormon
Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone

The Scottsboro Boys
David Thompson

Sister Act
Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane

I'm really upset that Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson didn't score a Best Musical nomination; I've heard nothing but good things about it and I've wanted to see it ever since it premiered. But it did pick this up, so that's a plus.

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

The Book of Mormon
Music & Lyrics: Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone

The Scottsboro Boys
Music & Lyrics: John Kander and Fred Ebb

Sister Act
Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Glenn Slater

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Music & Lyrics: David Yazbek


Alan Menken has two previous Tony nominations, but no wins. He currently has eight Oscars (more than any other living person), and if he wins the Tony this year, he'll be halfway to EGOT. And I know that Women on the Verge was a catastrophic flop (well, maybe not compared to Spider-Man...), but it still managed to snag a few nominations. I guess that's the state of Broadway.


Best Revival of a Play

Arcadia
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Merchant of Venice
The Normal Heart

I actually know all of these plays, and I'm willing to bet this race will be down-to-the-finish. I've heard lots of good things about all of them, but the current revival I'm most familiar with is The Importance of Being Earnest, since the cast's Jersey Shore videos are hilarious.




Best Revival of a Musical

Anything Goes
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

I'm actually really floored that there were only two musical revivals this year. But that's good for new musicals, I suppose (well, "new" is relative nowadays, with all the jukeboxes and movie adaptations).

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Brian Bedford, The Importance of Being Earnest
Bobby Cannavale, The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart
Al Pacino, The Merchant of Venice
Mark Rylance, Jerusalem


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Nina Arianda, Born Yesterday
Frances McDormand, Good People
Lily Rabe, The Merchant of Venice
Vanessa Redgrave, Driving Miss Daisy
Hannah Yelland, Brief Encounter

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Norbert Leo Butz, Catch Me If You Can
Josh Gad, The Book of Mormon
Joshua Henry, The Scottsboro Boys
Andrew Rannells, The Book of Mormon
Tony Sheldon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert


They actually didn't nominate Daniel Radcliffe for How to Succeed, which is surprising to me because I hear that he's actually really good in it. Plus, don't they usually want superstars so that people would watch the telecast? Maybe they fear a Bieber-at-the-Grammys-type Twitter reaction should he lose? Or maybe these guys are much better? And for what it's worth, I really want to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert too.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Sutton Foster, Anything Goes
Beth Leavel, Baby It's You!
Patina Miller, Sister Act
Donna Murphy, The People in the Picture



Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Mackenzie Crook, Jerusalem
Billy Crudup, Arcadia
John Benjamin Hickey, The Normal Heart
Arian Moayed, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Yul Vázquez, The Motherf**ker with the Hat

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Ellen Barkin, The Normal Heart
Edie Falco, The House of Blue Leaves
Judith Light, Lombardi
Joanna Lumley, La Bête
Elizabeth Rodriguez, The Motherf**ker with the Hat

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Colman Domingo, The Scottsboro Boys
Adam Godley, Anything Goes
John Larroquette, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Forrest McClendon, The Scottsboro Boys
Rory O'Malley, The Book of Mormon

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Laura Benanti, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Tammy Blanchard, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Victoria Clark, Sister Act
Nikki M. James, The Book of Mormon
Patti LuPone, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown


Best Scenic Design of a Play
Todd Rosenthal, The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Rae Smith, War Horse
Ultz, Jerusalem
Mark Wendland, The Merchant of Venice

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Beowulf Boritt, The Scottsboro Boys
Derek McLane, Anything Goes
Scott Pask, The Book of Mormon
Donyale Werle, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson



Best Costume Design of a Play
Jess Goldstein, The Merchant of Venice
Desmond Heeley, The Importance of Being Earnest
Mark Thompson, La Bête
Catherine Zuber, Born Yesterday

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Tim Chappel & Lizzy Gardiner, Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Martin Pakledinaz, Anything Goes
Ann Roth, The Book of Mormon
Catherine Zuber, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying





Chappel and Gardiner actually won the Oscar for costume design for the movie on which the musical is based. Wouldn't it be interesting to see them win again?

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Paule Constable, War Horse
David Lander, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Kenneth Posner, The Merchant of Venice
Mimi Jordan Sherin, Jerusalem

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Ken Billington, The Scottsboro Boys
Howell Binkley, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Peter Kaczorowski, Anything Goes
Brian MacDevitt, The Book of Mormon

Best Sound Design of a Play
Acme Sound Partners & Cricket S. Myers, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Simon Baker, Brief Encounter
Ian Dickinson for Autograph, Jerusalem
Christopher Shutt, War Horse

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Peter Hylenski, The Scottsboro Boys
Steve Canyon Kennedy, Catch Me If You Can
Brian Ronan, Anything Goes
Brian Ronan, The Book of Mormon

Best Direction of a Play
Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, War Horse
Joel Grey & George C. Wolfe, The Normal Heart
Anna D. Shapiro, The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Daniel Sullivan, The Merchant of Venice


I can't seem to find it anywhere, but is the Joel Grey that directed The Normal Heart the same Joel Grey from Cabaret and a myriad other shows?

Best Direction of a Musical
Rob Ashford, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes
Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, The Book of Mormon
Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes
Casey Nicholaw, The Book of Mormon
Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys


Director-choreographers. That's something we need to see more of in this world, particularly in Hollywood.

Best Orchestrations
Doug Besterman, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Larry Hochman, The Scottsboro Boys
Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus, The Book of Mormon
Marc Shaiman & Larry Blank, Catch Me If You Can

*     *     *
Recipients of Awards and Honors in Non-competitive Categories
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Athol Fugard
Philip J. Smith


Regional Theatre Tony Award
Lookingglass Theatre Company (Chicago, Ill.)


One day I really want to see my local theater, DPAC, win this prize. I just saw The Lion King there a few months of go, and it was terrific. I'd say it's definitely worthy.

Isabelle Stevenson Award

Eve Ensler

Special Tony Award
Handspring Puppet Company


Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre
William Berloni
The Drama Book Shop
Sharon Jensen and Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts


So to my readers who are much more in tune with Broadway than I: what nominees excite/trouble you the most? What shows have you seen, and did you enjoy them?

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