Friday, June 13, 2008

Strange: Passing In The Heights For Best Musical?

Strange: Passing In The Heights For Best Musical?

On Tuesday, I offered what some may have thought was a pretty outrageous Tony prediction: that Xanadu might actually be benefitting from that little viral campaign and would win the Tony for Best Musical.

Of course, no one from of a pool of twelve respected prognosticators polled by the Los Angeles Times was so bold as to name Xanadu as a potential Best Musical winner among their Tony predictions. For the record, I still stand by my prediction -- and Rocco at What's Good/What Blows in New York Theatre would clearly be a very happy blogger if my soothsaying were to hold up.

Well, no sooner had I sayeth that sooth than Gil at Broadway Abridged and I began conversing about whether a spike in votes from Xanadu's campaign might actually help push Passing Strange over the finish line.

Next thing I knew, good ol' Michael Riedel at New York Post was telling us all how close the race would be between In The Heights and Passing Strange:

...if you look closely at your Shubert Alley tea leaves, you can discern the makings of an upset or two.
After making Sarah over at Adventures in the Endless Pursuit of Entertainment practically faint by feigning that he thought Patti LuPone could actually lose, Riedel boldly stated: that I've got your attention . . . Passing Strange seems to be gaining quickly on the Best Musical front-runner, In the Heights. You hear the same thing from voters: "I think In the Heights will win, but I'm voting for Passing Strange.

The conventional wisdom was that In the Heights would triumph because (1) it's doing better at the box office and (2) being energetic and bland, it can tour the country more readily than its edgier, rougher rival.

But Passing Strange has a trump card that's been well-played: Stew, its charismatic creator and star.

He and his porkpie hat have been all over town this past month, charming pretty close to all of the 765 Tony voters. (Well, maybe not John Simon.)

Accompanying Stew on his rounds is his collaborator, Heidi Rodewald. She's very shy but has a winning personality.

Both are new to Broadway, which adds to their appeal. And it's been fun watching them befriend theater royalty such as Marian Seldes ("I adore Stew") and Edward Albee.
Well come on! With Marian Seldes in one's corner, how could it not be gaining traction among other prime voters?

UPDATE (10:35 a.m. EDT): In his column this morning, Riedel says that Passing Strange will win.

And traction is the word this morning, according to the informal polling conducted by The New York Times' Campbell Robertson, who offers that the race is indeed very close, but the last-minute surge is working:

...when it’s this close, you are wise to surrender all responsibility and bow to the math. And the poll numbers say: Passing Strange.
A well-earned tip of the hat must be paid to ModernFabulousity, who dared to go far out on a limb in predicting, on June 2 no less, that Passing Strange would win!

Not so fast, appears to be the retort from New York magazine's Vulture column. While they take heart in the sudden horserace, they ultimately conclude about the possibility of a Passing Strange upset:

We doubt it. It's one thing to give the Best Musical award to a show like Spring Awakening, which is rockish and fun but is still made by people who love musical theater and Broadway. It's another thing to give the award to a show that consciously rejects Broadway tradition -- to great effect, it must be said -- written by and starring a guy who's made it clear he doesn't really care for, well, Broadway. "If you asked all of us, you could probably count the number of Broadway shows we've seen on two hands," Stew says, describing himself as a guy "you have to drag to the theater."

Contrast this to In the Heights, whose Lin-Manuel Miranda speaks enthusiastically about his love of musicals, and whose show embraces those traditions even as it spices them up with a touch of reggaeton and hip-hop. Sure, this makes the show a little more "energetic and bland," as Riedel snipes, but it also makes it a much better crowd-pleaser than Passing Strange, even if Passing Strange is more innovative a show. Argue all you want about which musical is better, but if you were a Tony voter -- that is, in most cases, a devoted Broadway lover -- which one would you vote for?
Well, Vulture, since you have asked, this devoted Broadway lover would vote for Passing Strange.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
SOB's 2008 Tony Picks - Who Will Win (June 10, 2008)
SOB's 2008 Tony Picks - Part III (June 6, 2008)
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 13 June, 2008, Blogger SarahB said...

Get me my smelling salts!

At 13 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Sarah, I'll be cheering on Ms. LuPone right there with you.

At 13 June, 2008, Anonymous dylan said...

I told you last week I think Passing Strange is going to win. Passing and LuPone all the way!

At 13 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I will be cheering LOUDLY if that occurs.

At 13 June, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

Wow, all of this last-minute intrigue. I love it! Great roundup of all the soothsaying!

The quote from Marian Seldes is terrific. What a sweet, wonderful woman, so gracious to everyone, including her fans! And I bet she adores Lin-Manuel Miranda, too. ;-)

I'd be perfectly happy to see "Passing Strange" win, even if it didn't capture my heart as much as "In the Heights." I'd be even happier to see Daniel Breaker win. In a way, the stories are very similar - Nina and Youth are both trying to figure out where they belong in the world.

And I did have to laugh when Campbell Robertson said that "In the Heights" is Yiddish theatre in the barrio!

At 13 June, 2008, Anonymous BroadwayBaby said...

I just can't see the Road producers (which make up a sizable minority) voting for Passing Strange. I still see IN THE HEIGHTS winning.

At 13 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, I'll bet Marian Seldes adores Lin-Manuel Miranda - I have great admiration for him and his efforts. But Passing Strange provided the much bigger thrills and chills for me. Based on how many of reading the tea leaves, I'm glad I'm not the only one.

At 13 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

BB, This may be a squeaker of a race, which is why - when adding in the out of towners - I still think Xanadu might pull an upset.

At 14 June, 2008, Blogger ModFab said...

I've thought all along (as my predictions two weeks ago stated) that PASSING STRANGE would probably pull it out. That show's fans are just more passionate than any other fan base...and they proselytize, at the Tony parties, at the pre-award events. There's a lot of chat about STRANGE out there. Will it be enough to put them over the top? I think so, and have thought so from the beginning.

I could be wrong, but if I am, it'll only be because the tour operators who vote think HEIGHTS will make more money on the road. I can't find anyone out there in the industry who, on the merits, thinks HEIGHTS is the better musical.

At 14 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

ModFab, Based on everything you know, I am rethinking my pool bet. As I've said before, I will never doubt your word ever again!


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