Wednesday, June 04, 2008

SOB's 2008 Tony Picks - Part I

SOB's 2008 Tony Picks - Part I

With less than two weeks to go before the American Theatre Wing’s 62nd annual Tony Awards ceremonies honor the best of Broadway's 2007-08 Theatrical Season, I'm going to offer a little bit of prognosticating on whom I believe should win.

First up are my picks for best shows, as well as for musical book and score.

As previously mentioned, this is the first year in which I've seen every nominated work and performance. So while I'm no theatre professional, I profess to having an opinion on every last category. Let me know if you agree on whom you believe should win (vs. those you think actually will).

Here are the nominees and my picks:

Best Play
August: Osage County - Author: Tracy Letts
Rock ‘N’ Roll - Author: Tom Stoppard
The Seafarer - Author: Conor McPherson
The 39 Steps - Author: Patrick Barlow

Should Win: August: Osage County - Author: Tracy Letts

Hands-down the best show I've seen on Broadway or anywhere else this past year.

With such an august ensemble, excellent writing and superb direction, the other three shows don't even come close.

Best Musical
In The Heights
Passing Strange

Should Win: Passing Strange

In a field crowded with plenty of heart, Passing Strange offers the biggest one of all in telling the infinitely smart and hip story of musician Stew's formative years all in his effort to be "real."

What can I say? I love this show and its gorgeous score still plays in my head long after I saw it.

Had A Catered Affair been nominated, it would have been a close call for me, but Passing Strange is my favorite new musical of the year.

Best Book of a Musical
Cry-Baby - Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan
In The Heights - Quiara Alegría Hudes
Passing Strange - Stew
Xanadu - Douglas Carter Beane

Should Win: Passing Strange - Stew

To anyone wondering whether this musical tells a story, the answer is "YES!" And a pretty profound one at that.

Lest the advertising and marketing campaign has soured you on this show before you even had a chance to see it, take note. This is a great musical with a great story.

Had Xanadu not been all muddled near the end, it could have skated by Passing Strange.

Best Original Score
Music and/or Lyrics Written for the Theatre
Cry-Baby - Music & Lyrics: David Javerbaum & Adam Schlesinger
In The Heights - Music & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda
The Little Mermaid - Music: Alan Menken, Lyrics: Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater
Passing Strange - Music: Stew and Heidi Rodewald, Lyrics: Stew

Should Win: Passing Strange - Music: Stew and Heidi Rodewald, Lyrics: Stew

I've had one dear friend question whether this is really a musical. Again, I fear that the ill-conceived marketing campaign has taken its toll at the box office.

But ostensibly, this is a musical through and through with the best new score of the year with lyrics that are among the most witty and intelligent offered by any show in years. Among its competition, In The Heights comes the closest.

Best Revival of a Play
The Homecoming
Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Should Win: Boeing-Boeing

In a category in which three of my favorite revivals of plays were not even nominated (Cymbeline, Pygmalion, A Bronx Tale), I was heartened to see at least one of my picks up for the award.

Boeing-Boeing may not win due to a curse on comedies. But don't for one minute think these actors aren't working every bit as hard as those in the other shows. It is the funniest show currently on Broadway.

If I had to choose an alternate pick, it would be The Homecoming thanks largely to its top drawer acting.

Best Revival of a Musical
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific
Sunday In The Park With George

Should Win: Gypsy

In any normal year, you'd likely never have to choose among three truly outstanding revivals in this category. Grease is the only smudge on this astonishing category.

As beautiful as I found South Pacific and Sunday In The Park With George, I was completely swept away by the artistry involved in this latest revival of Gypsy. Maybe it's because I've now seen it more than any other musical, but I've also never seen each of its characters more fully realized than those in this amazing incarnation.

Next up: my picks for the acting awards.

Whoopi Goldberg hosts the 2008 Tony Awards on Sunday, June 15. The CBS broadcast begins at 8 p.m. EDT.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
And The Tony Nominees Go To... (May 12, 2008)

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At 04 June, 2008, Blogger Joseph said...

You really like Passing Strange. That's great. And if I haven't mentioned this before, I really enjoy your writing. Thanks!

At 04 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks Joseph. Appreciate the kind words. And yes, I really, really love Passing Strange. It deserves a much larger audience than it's getting.

At 04 June, 2008, Anonymous dylan said...

I think Passing Strange is going to upstage In The Heights and win the Tony for Best New Musical.

At 04 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Dylan, I certainly hope you're right.

At 04 June, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

While I loved the performances in Gypsy more, I loved the whole look, the presentation, of South Pacific more. I just thought it was an elegant, thoughtful, gorgeous production from start to finish, and it gets my vote for best revival of a musical.

I like Passing Strange a lot, and the more I think about it, the more I like it. Stew's created a very witty, clever musical with interesting characters. (And it is a musical!) The songs have stayed with me. I loved Daniel Breaker.

But overall, while I liked it a lot, I didn't love it. It just didn't captivate me the way In the Heights did. Maybe it's because despite the hip hop and salsa influences, it's a very traditional musical. I don't know. But that's the one I want to see again. Although, if Passing Strange wins, I'll be perfectly happy.

At 04 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, Thanks for sharing your point of view. Great points all of them.

I guess where I got stuck on South Pacific was with the scenes where our military men were literally mapping out their strategies.

And make no mistake, I have nothing but admiration for Lin-Manuel Miranda on his In The Heights effort, but the production was a bit too pat for me, even with the wonderful infusion of its Latin beat.

At 04 June, 2008, Blogger Theatre Aficionado at Large said...

I have to admit that it would be a tough call for any Tony voter this year. You have three superlative revivals in the category, so the winner is (and oh, so rarely does this happen) the best of the best.

But when it comes down to it, there are certain things about "Gypsy" that edge it out of the top slot . It has nothing to do with the top-notch performances which are more than deserving of the accolades and awards. The cheapness of the scenery as well as the surprising edits to the book kept it from total brilliance, in my opinion.

However the gesamtkunstwerk of "South Pacific" - a classy package with performance, staging, scenery, costumes, etc. just made it the most spectacular time I've ever had at a musical revival. Call it a photo finish among the trio.

While I swing my vote to SP, in a revival season this rich, I understand and appreciate the plaudits for all three ("Grease" doesn't count).

And "August" all the way!!!

At 04 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

TAAL, Great points, and I appreciate your very valid perspective.

For me, the edge came in terms of the actual performances. That's not to say any sour notes were sounded during South Pacific, but in Gypsy I walked out of that theatrical performance with my feet not even touching the floor. It was an adreneline rush like I've rarely had. (Oh, I had it with August: Osage County, too!)

At 04 June, 2008, Blogger Theatre Aficionado at Large said...

Haha. Oh I know that feeling. I had it after all three revivals this year. Most memorably though, was the closing performance of the Bernadette "Gypsy," which remains one of the most unique theatrical experiences I've ever had (Sondheim got entrance applause as he walked to his seat, the house gave the overture a standing ovation - it only intensified from there).

That sailing feeling. I love when it happens - and to have it happen as often as it has this season is out of the commonplace into the rare.

At 04 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

TAAL, It's the best feeling on earth (OK, one foot levitating above the earth).


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