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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
TONY NOMINATIONS

GREAT WHITE STARS
By MATT WINDMAN

  Kirsten Scott, Nick Verina, Lora Lee Gayer and Christian Delcroix in Follies/ Ph: Joan Marcus

This year’s slate of Tony nominations, which were announced on May 1 by Kristin Chenoweth and Jim Parsons from the New York Public Library, reveal much about what a truly strange, generously overstuffed (at least in terms of new plays) and very disappointing (so far as musicals go) season this has been.

In terms of major accomplishment, the new American drama roared back onto the Great White Way. The nominations for Best New Play went entirely to works by American authors (Clybourne Park, Other Desert Cities, Venus in Fur, Peter and the Starcatcher), forcing the omission of the hit English farce One Man, Two Guvnors. The producers of One Man, Two Guvnors, perhaps sensing this was going to happen, petitioned the Tony administrators to be considered a revival instead of a new play, seeing as it’s loosely based on the commedia del’arte classic The Servant of Two Masters. The award will go to either Clybourne Park (which already has a Pulitzer) or Other Desert Cities.

On the other hand, the nominators had a hard time filling out the nominations for Best Original Score, deeming the scores of Leap of Faith, Spider-Man, Ghost and Lysistrata Jones to be unworthy. (Since the score of Once is primarily lifted from its 2006 film version, it wasn’t eligible.) As a result, they nominated two plays with incidental songs – One Man, Two Guvnors and Peter and the Starcatcher – to join Newsies (which is sure to win) and Bonnie & Clyde (the best score to date by the typically terrible Frank Wildhorn).

Newsies and Once were sure to win nominations for Best New Musical (and the award will surely go to one of them), with the pleasant but hackneyed Nice Work if You Can Get It also sneaking in. But what about the fourth nomination? At first I assumed it would go to Ghost, but then I saw Ghost and changed my mind. Then I assumed it would go to Leap of Faith, but yet again had a change of heart after sitting through it. Many industry pundits predicted that Spider-Man, which finally opened one year ago after a record-breaking, never-ending preview process, would be nominated. Perhaps it would even go to the shuttered Bonnie & Clyde or Lysistrata Jones, each of which was at least better than Ghost, Leap of Faith and Spider-Man. In the end, it went to Leap of Faith, but not even the nomination could save the flop musical, which a week later announced that it would close.

Spider-Man, which has been doing consistently strong business over the past year, only merited nominations for Best Scenic Design and Best Costume Design. It’s a shame that Julie Taymor, who is currently suing the show’s producers, did not receive a nomination for her original direction (she was fired and replaced during previews), as that would have surely added another tempest to the teapot.

In order for Newsies to win Best New Musical, Disney needs to announce that the production, which is still being billed a limited engagement that will end in August, will be converted into an open run and that a national tour will also go out. Although Disney has had its fair share of misfires in recent years (Tarzan, The Little Mermaid), Newsies is genuine show-stopping entertainment.

On the other hand, Once might be a soft, sentimental romance, but its producers are ready to put up a fight and have already announced national tour plans. So has Nice Work if You Can Get It. In any case, Once, which picked up 11 nominations (the most of any show), is sure to pick up some Tonys. For instance, its leading man, Steve Kazee, could win Best Actor in a Musical over Jeremy Jordan (Newsies) or Norm Lewis (Porgy and Bess).

Godspell was rightfully shut out of all nominations, including Best Revival, which went to Follies, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Follies scored very well, with cast members Danny Burstein, Ron Raines, Jayne Houdyshell and Jan Maxwell all getting recognized. And while Bernadette Peters was unfortunately not recognized for her endearing performance as Sally Durant, she is already scheduled to receive a special Tony honor for her extensive charity work with Broadway Barks. Although the limited-run revival of Follies closed in January, it is now running in Los Angeles (where many Tony voters apparently live) and could conceivably win Best Musical Revival over The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Although Des McAnuff’s Jesus Christ Superstar is a great revival, JCS and Evita have together created an Andrew Lloyd Webber overload.

Evita is raking in big bucks every week, but its stars Ricky Martin and Elena Roger were not nominated. Although Martin can sing well and move sexily, his Che is completely devoid of personality. And Roger, who previously won acclaim in London in this production, cannot handle the role’s extreme vocal demands. Michael Cerveris, who plays hubby Peron, at least managed to get a nomination.

The nominations for Best Play Revival were sure to include Death of a Salesman, Gore Vidal’s The Best Man and Wit. But what of the tepid multiracial A Streetcar Named Desire, which was the last play revival to open? Thankfully, Manhattan Theater Club’s excellent revival of Master Class, which opened nearly a year ago, received the final nomination instead. Although it will close a week before the Tonys, Mike Nichols’ universally praised staging of Death of a Salesman is still likely to win over The Best Man. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield should also win Tonys for their performances, but what a shame that Finn Wittrock did not get recognized for his outstanding performance as Happy, the neglected brother.

Finally, it’s interesting how the biggest success of the year has not been recognized in any way: Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway. This one-man song-and-dance show wasn’t technically a musical, but Jackman gave the most electric performance of the season, and not recognizing his triumph is just plain wrong. At least he’s getting a special award for being the best Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraiser of all time. 

 


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SCHEDULE UPDATES -
Yes, Prime Minister contracts its run, while A Chorus Line expands its own.
POWERHOUSE OF THEATRE - After 11 years as the Almeida Theatre's artistic director, Michael Attenborough is stepping down to focus on directing. 

SONGS FROM THE HEART - Once the Tony-Award winning musical is set to hit London in January.


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