Friday, June 06, 2008

SOB's 2008 Tony Picks - Part III

SOB's 2008 Tony Picks - Part III

With just over one week 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 in the midst of offering my own prognostications on whom I believe should win.

Yesterday, I provided my picks for the acting categories and before that my picks for best shows, as well as for musical book and score. Today, I tackle the creative direction categories.

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 Scenic Design of a Play
Peter McKintosh - The 39 Steps
Scott Pask - Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Todd Rosenthal - August: Osage County
Anthony Ward - Macbeth

Should Win: Scott Pask - Les Liaisons Dangereuses

As evidenced this season by his work on The Ritz, November and Cry-Baby, Scott Pask has been one majorly busy man. But none of his set designs were more elaborate than the mesmerizing and sumptuous Versaillesque milieu he recreated for Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

Todd Rosenthal's three-story work for August: Osage County was pretty lofty in its own right, but Pask's set design effectively took me back to 18th Century France.

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
David Farley and Timothy Bird & The Knifedge Creative Network - Sunday In The Park With George
Anna Louizos - In The Heights
Robin Wagner - The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Michael Yeargan - Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific

Should Win: David Farley and Timothy Bird & The Knifedge Creative Network - Sunday In The Park With George

In a field crowded with very worthy nominees (yes, including Young Frankenstein), one team stands brilliantly apart.

Initially, necessity became Sunday In The Park With George's mother of invention. In its earliest incarnation as the musical was strapped for cash, Tim Bird and The Knifedge Creative Network helped fill in the blanks of David Farley's effectively colorless set design with an enthralling, radiant projection design that is unequivocally the true star of the show. Together, they have made this tuner a gorgeous work of art worthy of a great master.

Best Costume Design of a Play
Gregory Gale - Cyrano de Bergerac
Rob Howell - Boeing-Boeing
Katrina Lindsay - Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Peter McKintosh - The 39 Steps

Should Win: Rob Howell - Boeing-Boeing

Pulling double duty, Rob Howell's ingenious and vibrant red, blue and yellow set and costume designs literally help set the stage for the three flight attendants served up in this tour de farce.

Even though Howell's designs go hand-in-hand, he's only been awarded one nomination. For all of his first-class work, he gets my vote as the best.

Best Costume Design of a Musical
David Farley - Sunday In The Park With George
Martin Pakledinaz - Gypsy
Paul Tazewell - In The Heights
Catherine Zuber - Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific

Should Win: Martin Pakledinaz - Gypsy

One of the key reasons why this Gypsy sparkles so brilliantly is because of Martin Pakledinaz's never-ending razzle-dazzling costume designs ranging from the frumpy to the fabulous.

Even though this is a revival, and we've seen variations on these designs before, Pakledinaz makes them all seem vividly fresh and real, whether it's the unholy trinity of Mazeppa, Electra and Tessie Tura or the metamorphosis of Louise into Gypsy Rose Lee. Stunning. Absolutely stunning.

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Kevin Adams - The 39 Steps
Howard Harrison - Macbeth
Donald Holder - Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Ann G. Wrightson - August: Osage County

Should Win: Ann G. Wrightson - August: Osage County

There's some serious competition here, but I have to narrow my choices down to Donald Holder and Ann G. Wrightson. My nod must go to the latter.

Whether it was the portentous flashes from the squad car or the flicker of the never-seen television set, Wrightson's subtle illuminations helped drive the drama and humor of August: Osage County even further.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Ken Billington - Sunday In The Park With George
Howell Binkley - In The Heights
Donald Holder - Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific
Natasha Katz - The Little Mermaid

Should Win: Donald Holder - Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

There's also some stiff competition in this lighting category. Here, my choices come down to Howell Binkley and Donald Holder, both of whom expertly captured the movement of the sun into nighttime.

But Holder's artistry in evoking each blissful moment of this gorgeous revival with perfectly drawn brilliance makes South Pacific absolutely radiant. Close call here, but Holder gets my nod.

Best Sound Design of a Play
Simon Baker - Boeing-Boeing
Adam Cork - Macbeth
Ian Dickson - Rock ‘N’ Roll
Mic Pool - The 39 Steps

Should Win: Mic Pool - The 39 Steps

Finally, acknowledgement for the vital work that goes into providing essential sound designs for Broadway shows. This is the first year awards will be bestowed in this category.

While something tells me that the Tony voters will go with the more bombastic (read: LOUD) nominee, whose work often drowned-out the already difficult-to-hear language of the Bard, it was Mic Pool's integral sound design that enabled The 39 Steps' audience to sense where this comedy was going in spite of its simple set design.

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Acme Sound Partners - In The Heights
Sebastian Frost - Sunday In The Park With George
Scott Lehrer - Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific
Dan Moses Schreier - Gypsy

Should Win: Scott Lehrer - Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Two words: shower scene. Scott Leher somehow managed to mic Kelli O'Hara in such a way that she lathered up and effortlessly sang "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair" in a shower. Without getting electrocuted.

Oh, and the rest of his sound design was pretty fantastic, too.

Best Orchestrations
Jason Carr - Sunday In The Park With George
Alex Lacamoire & Bill Sherman - In The Heights
Stew & Heidi Rodewald - Passing Strange
Jonathan Tunick - A Catered Affair

Should Win: Alex Lacamoire & Bill Sherman - In The Heights

While you may have thought I'd be inclined to go with Stew and Heidi Rodewald yet again (given my love for Passing Strange) it's time to give due props to In The Heights.

Taking Lin-Manuel Miranda's exuberent score and turning it into an even hotter than salsa hip-hop funk, Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman not only succeed in turning up the heat, but they've single-handedly taken In The Heights to the heights I had hoped the rest of the show would be.

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford - Cry-Baby
Andy Blankenbuehler - In The Heights
Christopher Gattelli - Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific
Dan Knechtges - Xanadu

Should Win: Dan Knechtges - Xanadu

Without a doubt, Rob Ashford's work was the best thing about Cry-Baby, and Andy Blankenbuehler certainly provided one of the year's most exhilarating displays of dance on stage in In The Heights, surely making him a Tony favorite. But try doing all that on wheels, and backwards while you're at it.

An essential part of Xanadu's brilliant magic is derived directly from Dan Knechtges' daring roller-boogie choreography. When you consider the miniscule stage of the Helen Hayes Theatre and the injuries notoriously inflicted on certain cast members negotiating their way across it in good old-fashioned roller skates, Knechtges' choreography was clearly fraught with danger. But the very essence of live theatre is danger. And it dazzled all the way.

Best Direction of a Play
Maria Aitken - The 39 Steps
Conor McPherson - The Seafarer
Anna D. Shapiro - August: Osage County
Matthew Warchus - Boeing-Boeing

Should Win: Anna D. Shapiro - August: Osage County

When you direct the year's best show, it stands to reason that you'll be the person to beat for Best Director.

But Shapiro more than earns this honor as she's taken a superb script and excellent ensemble and directed them into something unique that is both heartfelt and visceral. Its dramatic punch hits every bit as hard as the humor. Credit Shapiro with sharpening this play into a razor-edged, whip-smart American classic.

Best Direction of a Musical
Sam Buntrock - Sunday In The Park With George
Thomas Kail - In The Heights
Arthur Laurents - Gypsy
Bartlett Sher - Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific

Barlett Sher - South Pacific

Here's the category about which I'm most conflicted. Make no mistake, I adore just about everything that Arthur Laurents has done to make Gypsy the absolute Best Revival of a Musical this year. But as someone who's now taken his third crack at the work -- and he's been nominated for the 1975 revival -- perhaps it's time to recognize someone else.

That someone else, of course, is Bartlett Sher, whose loving interpretation of South Pacific is both surprisingly innovative yet entirely natural, making his revival majestic. For a show in which racial bigotry is the issue, he also almost imperceptibly underscores the racial divide by slyly segregating what lonely African American troops inhabit this island to the sidelines.

As conflicted as I feel, I am compelled to give it to Sher.

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:
SOB's 2008 Tony Picks - Part II (June 5, 2008)
SOB's 2008 Tony Picks - Part I (June 4, 2008)
And The Tony Nominees Go To... (May 12, 2008)

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At 06 June, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

Of the shows I saw, (including The 39 Steps in Boston), August: Osage County gets my vote for scenic design. I loved Todd Rosenthal's big old house. It's got this well-worn, slightly cluttered look that works perfectly with the characters' well-worn, cluttered lives.

I wish I'd seen Sunday in the Park with George, if only for the projection design! For me, it's between In the Heights and South Pacific, and I have to give the edge to South Pacific. I even loved the maps!

And I agree with you about the costumes for Gypsy, especially the way they were used to transform Louise. This is one instance where I think the costume really helped advance the story.

It didn't occur to me that the sound designer would be responsible for the shower scene in South Pacific working so well. I absolutely loved that number, so Scott Lehrer gets my vote, too!

At 07 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, Todd Rosenthal's design was absolutely amazing and serves August: Osage County so well that I wouldn't be surprised if he walked home with the Tony.

At 08 June, 2008, Blogger doug marino said...

steve, what an awesome blog! i think i agree with just about ever category. just stumbled upon your blog and am going to make a link from mine...

At 09 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Doug, So glad you found me! And thanks for providing the link to your site - I only wish I had known about yours earlier!


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