Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Tonys: If I Could Vote

The Tonys: If I Could Vote

In what is arguably the most anticipated Tony Award category each year, I had the pleasure of seeing all four Best Musical nominees: Curtains, Grey Gardens, Mary Poppins and Spring Awakening.

While Curtains and Mary Poppins failed to register the same caliber of critical response offered to Grey Gardens and Spring Awakening, I actually enjoyed all four productions and believe that they underscore what a great year this has been for the resurgent art form known as musical theatre.

While I realize that the heavy favorite to win remains Spring Awakening, regular readers will know that my personal favorite of the past year bar none is Grey Gardens, which was just one Tony nod short of Spring Awakening’s headline-grabbing 11 nominations. Yes, I appreciate the bold, new artistic direction Spring Awakening has taken the Great White Way, but in my estimation, the truly revolutionary musical breakthrough came via Grey Gardens.

Just as Christine Ebersole took Little Edie’s revolutionary apparel for a breathtaking ride -- and will win a Tony for doing so -- Michael Greif’s brilliant direction took this audience member on one of the best journeys ever enjoyed in musical theatre. Even more astounding for me was that I was rather repulsed by the original documentary of “Grey Gardens” that first appeared in the mid-70s and was initially shocked that anyone would dare make a musical out of the piece. Instead, Greif and his excellent cast completely mesmerized me in a way that no other Broadway musical this past year could match.

What should win: Grey Gardens. What will win: Spring Awakening. According to your votes in my recent SOB Poll, a bare majority of you (51.9%) believe Spring Awakening will win; Grey Gardens came in second with a respectable 34.6%.

In the Best Play category, I have only seen three of the four nominated productions: Frost/Nixon, Radio Golf and The Little Dog Laughed. I completely missed Tom Stoppard’s monumental The Coast Of Utopia, which will undoubtedly prove victorious on Sunday night.

For all the richly deserved acclaim that was heaped on Julie White’s breakthrough performance in The Little Dog Laughed, I just don’t consider it worthy of the Tony, although she could very well earn one for herself. And while Frost/Nixon had most critics’ tongues wagging, I thought its best parts were the recreated interviews between the two title characters (I believe Frank Langella will -- and should -- win a Tony for his stunning performance as the disgraced president). Of the shows I’ve seen, I think Radio Golf was by far the most moving, even if most agree that it pales when compared to August Wilson’s other works.

Being a fan of Stoppard’s intoxicating writing, I truly regret not having seen The Coast Of Utopia. Yet, I want to be honest here. A major factor in my not having seen it was that I didn’t want to see each of the three long installments separately. However, quite paradoxically, the thought of sitting through nine straight hours of a show scared me away – I admit that I get itchy sitting in just about any theatre seat at the three-hour mark. This long slog was so daunting that I stayed away. Shame on me. From all that I understand, I missed the best production of the year.

What should win: The Coast Of Utopia. What will win: The Coast Of Utopia. According to your votes in my recent SOB Poll, an overwhelming majority (64.3%) of you agree that The Coast Of Utopia will win; a distant second with 23.8% is Frost/Nixon. Only 2.4% of you think Radio Golf -- my favorite among the shows I have seen -- will win.

As for Best Revivals of a Musical, I only caught two of the four nominated productions: Company and The Apple Tree. The sentimental side of me kept me away from A Chorus Line. Since all accounts note how the current revival completely apes the original, I chose to skip the new incarnation and remember the original as it was -- the same thinking was behind my decision to pass over revisiting Les Misérables. The other production I missed -- and I’m sad that I did given how much I adore Audra McDonald -- was 110 In The Shade.

Because A Chorus Line is so faithful to the original staging, I don’t believe Tony voters will reward it with their Best Revival honor. Of the two shows I did see, The Apple Tree was a great vehicle to highlight the talents of Kristin Chenoweth and Brian d’Arcy James, but the production itself was uneven. I much preferred John Doyle’s unique retelling of Company. Where else could you see a superb, spellbinding and star-making performance by Raúl Esparza, whom I believe will win the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical, as well he should.

That would leave my choices between Company and 110 In The Shade. Since I didn’t see the latter and believe that its mixed critical response will likely preclude it from winning, my vote would go to Company.

What should win: Company. What will win: Company. According to your votes in my recent SOB Poll, exactly half of you (50%) believe Company will win the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical, while 23.9% of you think 110 In The Shade will take home the Tony.

Finally, in the all-important category of Best Revival of a Play, I have absolutely no qualifications on which to base my vote. This is the first year in many when I haven’t seen a single one of the nominated works, which include Inherit The Wind, Journey’s End, Talk Radio and Translations.

Given that I found the snubbed A Moon For The Misbegotten to be among the best works of the past year, I can only surmise that the other four were so incredible that they would have landed on my top ten list if only I had seen them. Alas, any vote on my part here would be based solely on what I’ve heard about the nominated shows, and while there are probably some actual Tony voters who fail to see some of the nominees, I’ll abstain (yes, I realize some of you may think I should abstain in the two other categories in which I didn't see every production, but this is my blog, so there!).

What should win: Abstain. What will win: Journey’s End. According to your votes in my recent SOB Poll, Journey’s End narrowly wins with a plurality of 45.7% to Inherit The Wind’s 40%.

Over this next year, as difficult as it may be, I must resolve to see even more Broadway. Here’s wishing all the nominees nothing but the best on Sunday.

This Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 06 June, 2007, Blogger SarahB said...

I am sending every bit of positive energy I have to Grey Gardens. I saw it three times off Broadway and four times on Broadway. I have tickets to see it again on the 12th. I saw Mary Poppins once and would like to see it again. I saw Spring Awakening once and that was quite enough. I will not see Curtains until the 13th - and I know I will love it and be entertained by it. While I really enjoyed Spring Awakening when I saw it and it did move me, I do not agree with the hype that surrounds the show. I do not agree that it is even a musical, at certainly not in the traditional sense, not that there's anything wrong with that. It is more of a play with songs inserted that don't have much to do with the story line - I don't even think there is that much dramatic arc. The great emotional depth in story and character that Grey Gardens has is absent in Spring Awakening.

At 06 June, 2007, Anonymous Esther said...

Well, I've only seen Curtains out of the four nominated musicals, so it gets my enthusiastic vote! I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating: not only is it a great show, but the cast is just the greatest group of people. I'll never forget how wonderful, down to earth and gracious each and every one of them was at the stage door.

I've read other comments similar to Sarah's, that while people enjoyed Spring Awakening, once was enough! Still, I'm really looking forward to seeing it next month, along with Grey Gardens and Mary Poppins. I think it's great that the four represent such varied musical styles.

It's funny, I have the exact opposite reaction to the revivals of A Chorus Line and Les Miserables. I saw A Chorus Line in Boston in the late '70s or early '80s. It was my first "Broadway" show. Then about 10 years later, I saw Les Miserables on tour. I loved both of them, especially Les Miserables. It's probably the score I've listened to most over the years. I hadn't listened to A Chorus Line for years, but I recently bought the original Broadway cast recording and I was reminded again just how poignant the dancers' stories are. I'd forgotten how much I was moved by it. I was excited just walking by the Broadway theaters where they were playing. My sentimental side wants to see both of these shows again!

I do agree with you on the snubbing of A Moon for the Misbegotten. I really hope the Tony voters recognize Eve Best. From the moment of her entrance, she's a totally captivating, mesmerizing presence on stage.

And I agree with you about The Coast of Utopia. I would have found the prospect of sitting through nine hours pretty dauning, too, even with intermissions. Also, I find it difficult to work up a lot of excitement over philosophical debates among 19th century Russian intellectuals!

At 06 June, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Sarah - You and me both. I would be so thrilled to see Grey Gardens win. Although I do see Spring Awakening as a good musical, it simply didn't have what you so eloquently characterized as the great emotional depth that Grey Gardens had - it actually seemed too forced all the for the sake of shock value.


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