Thursday, May 17, 2007

Backlash Awakening?

Backlash Awakening?

After the Tony nominations were announced on Tuesday, the prevailing conventional wisdom among most pundits seemed to be that Spring Awakening had a solid lock on winning the honor for Best Musical.

Even the pundit of all Broadway pundits, Michael Reidel of the New York Post, dutifully painted a picture of backroom drama at the Tony nominating committee meeting that sought to ensure a win for Spring Awakening by locking out Legally Blonde:

Some of them, who were very much in the thrall of Spring Awakening, got wind of the Pinkies' plan (to get the road vote) and, it appears, blocked it by giving the fourth slot for Best Musical to Mary Poppins instead of Legally Blonde. The path to Tony Award glory is now clear for Spring Awakening.

"Not so fast," cry a number of vital voices like Rob Kendt ( and The Wicked Stage) and Peter Filichia of TheaterMania. There's even a backhanded compliment thrown its way by Chris Caggiano at Everything I Know I Learned From Musicals who quite accurately points out that Grey Gardens could have tied Spring Awakening's impressive 11 nominations had it not been for its lack of choreography.

I also vividly recall when another one of my favorite theatre bloggers Rocco at What's Good/What Blows In New York Theatre bluntly stated in January:
I was find myself among the ranks with those who kinda hated Spring Awakening. I thought for sure, I was going to love this show. It seemed right up my alley, as a fan of the original play, and an advocate of new musicals on Broadway. But those factors are the main reasons why I was put-off by almost every aspect of this production. For starters, the cast is constantly giving off this attitude that what they're doing up there is so cool and so edgy.
Although I kinda liked this electrifying show -- and could certainly put aside how anachronistic and smugly self-aware I found it -- much of Steven Sater’s book was surprisingly predictable. As "shocking" as the material was clearly intended to be, I found myself easily figuring out where this was all headed. Although it came close, I never thought this show reached the heights of excellence that Grey Gardens or even Curtains mastered.

Although I realize my little SOB Poll may not provide the most accurate barometer of what's to come (even though your votes proved to be largely correct in predicting the outcome of the Tony nominations), I find it interesting that in the current poll where I ask which show will win the Tony for Best Musical, that the numbers for Spring Awakening have been dropping fairly precipitously over the past three days, mostly to the benefit of Grey Gardens. Yes, there's still about a 20% gap between the two shows, but it's much closer than it was even 24 hour ago.

All this leads me to ask: could it be that Spring Awakening is already peaking? Just as a summer breeze begins to blow away the last vestiges of spring, could it be that Tony voters might be considering a show that can reputably blow away Spring Awakening as its Best Musical? We'll know for sure in another 24 days.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for Grey Gardens tickets.
Click here for Spring Awakening tickets.
Related Stories:
Tony Award Nominations Announced (May 15, 2007)
New York Posts Picks For Tony Nods (May 11, 2007)
Which Shows Will Be Tony-Nominated For Best Play? (May 8, 2007)
Which Shows Will Be Tony-Nominated For Best Musical? (May 3, 2007)
Theatre For A New Age (April 8, 2007)
Spring Awakening (The SOB Review) (March 3, 2007)
Is It Just Me, Or...(Part II) (February 21, 2007)
Musicals Versus Plays: You Decide (January 5, 2007)
Spring Awakening Rouses Box Office; Cast To Appear At Big Apple Store (December 12, 2006)
Waking Up To Critical Acclaim (December 11, 2006)
Spring Awakening Blossoms On Broadway Tonight (December 10, 2006)
Curtains To Rise At Al Hirschfeld Theatre In March (November 3, 2006)
Mary Poppins, Grey Gardens Tops Among SOB Readers (October 27, 2006)
How Sheik: Spring Awakenings To Receive Broadway Transfer (July 20, 2006)
Tony Award Nominations Announced (May 16, 2006)

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At 18 May, 2007, Anonymous jan@broadwayandme said...

I live in a household equally divided between a big Grey Gardens fan (my husband) and a big Spring Awakening fan (me). Both should be celebrated for going outside the traditional musical conventions but what I love about Spring Awakening is that it also reaches out to young people who don't usually think of Broadway as a place for them. I've heard of teens who've seen it three and four times. And if winning Tonys makes other producers start thinking creatively about how they too can appeal to younger audiences, then I hope the show wins a truckload of them.

At 18 May, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Jan, I agree that Broadway needs to continue working to ensure that young audiences see live theatre as the vital artform you and I already know it is. But if the Tonys are about rewarding the best, then my vote for Best Musical goes to a show other than Spring Awakening. There are other categories where I believe it is completely deserving of being called "best," including Featured Actor in a Musical.

At 24 May, 2007, Anonymous Marcus J. said...

I appreciate your criticisms of Spring Awakening, but after seeing every single musical this season, I have to say that Spring was the only one with moments that captivated and haunted me. The intensity of the piece, the fantastic cast, the gorgeous music, every aspect of this production came together, and I think it deserves the Tony. Some may say the lyrics leave something to be desired, but I found them poetic and complicated and beautiful. So different than the typical musical theatre lyrics with hackneyed rhymes that lay everything out for you. Grey Gardens came a close second for me (and I've seen it twice), but while I was entertained thoughout, it didn't have the magic that I live for in live theatre--those moments when you're just completely entranced.
The backlash has come from traditionalists who object to the rock score and the lack of perfect rhymes in the lyrics. I don't see that these few detractors have been able to create much of a dent. I know many more people who love it than hate it. It's still the fastest selling Original Broadway Cast Recording in recent memory, and its box office is doing much better than Grey Garden's. I don't see Grey Gardens successfully taking the Tony away from Spring at this point. Just my opinion.

At 24 May, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Marcus, I appreciate all your thoughtful comments. Truth be told, it's provided the one cast recording that I've listened to the most, and I've done so because I truly enjoy the music.

Cheers, Steve


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