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In June of each year, the Tony Awards honor the previous Broadway season’s productions. Here are the 2014 Tony Award nominations with my predicted winners. Even though I did not see every show nominated this year, I did see many of them. I thought it might be fun to make my own predictions and add some comments. I’m sure I’ll miss the boat on a number of them.
- Peter Hylenski, After Midnight
- Tim O’Heir, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
- Mick Potter, Les Misérables
- Brian Ronan, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
This is pretty much a wild guess. Hedwig was the only nominee in this category that I actually saw. I’ll say this: It was loud. Unfortunately, from where I was seated the band overpowered the actors much of the time and that should never be the case. I’ve heard numerous people comment on the impressive sound design for Les Miserables, commenting on the fullness and clarity. How often do you hear people compliment the sound? Usually the average audience member won’t mention it unless they can’t hear the performers.
Best Sound Design (Play)
- Alex Baranowski, The Cripple of Inishmaan
- Steve Canyon Kennedy, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
- Dan Moses Schreier, Act One
- Matt Tierney, Machinal
I saw both Cripple and Act One and didn’t notice anything unique or challenging here. “A play with music” is the way Lady Day is being billed. I’m still a little surprised this didn’t end up in the revival musical category. With the challenges of blending music with dialogue, not an issue in the other nominated shows, I expect Lady Day will take the prize.
- Kevin Adams, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
- Christopher Akerlind, Rocky
- Howell Binkley, After Midnight
- Donald Holder, The Bridges of Madison County
I saw all but After Midnight in this category and feel better about my choice here. Hedwig is a lighting show. The lighting is an integral element of the show’s concept, not just an enhancement. In addition, it incorporates many effective projections and special effects that normally fall under lighting considerations.
Best Lighting Design (Play)
- Paule Constable, The Cripple of Inishmaan
- Jane Cox, Machinal
- Natasha Katz, The Glass Menagerie
- Japhy Weideman, Of Mice and Men
I saw both Cripple and Of Mice… and the lighting for both were fine. I didn’t see Menagerie but it’s a single interior set. I saw pictures from Machinal and the lighting looked spectacular, so that’s my choice.
- Christopher Barreca, Rocky
- Julian Crouch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
- Alexander Dodge, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
- Santo Loquasto, Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical
Rocky, with it’s innovative design approach and high tech movement– stand above the rest. The fact that the boxing ring flies down from above the stage and then places the ring out in the audience (moving the front rows of patrons on to the stage as fight spectators) wins it the prize alone.
Best Scenic Design (Play)
- Beowulf Boritt, Act One
- Bob Crowley, The Glass Menagerie
- Es Devlin, Machinal
- Christopher Oram, The Cripple of Inishmaan
The revolving Cripple set was attractive and worked well, the images I saw from Machinal were outstanding; but I have to give this to Act One with its multi-tiered, intricate, revolving set.
Best Costume Design (Musical)
- Linda Cho, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
- William Ivey Long, Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical
- Arianne Phillips, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
- Isabel Toledo, After Midnight
I was highly impressed with Cho’s very detail, brilliant designs for Gentleman’s Guide. I couldn’t get over how perfectly she married color, patterns and textures in her stunning costumes.
- Jane Greenwood, Act One
- Michael Krass, Machinal
- Rita Ryack, Casa Valentina
- Jenny Tiramani, Twelfth Night
For me, the only clear stand out is the well-executed, period costume design of Twelfth Night. The other nominees were well done but failed to have the impressive design-edge attained through an ornate, classical period design.
Best Book of a Musical
- Aladdin, Chad Beguelin
- Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Douglas McGrath
- Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical, Woody Allen
- A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, Robert L. Freedman
I saw both Gentleman’s Guide and Bullets Over Broadway in this category. Only the book for Beautiful might be considered original, as it was written to showcase the music of Carole King and tells her life story. (Hence, a jukebox musical.) Both Aladdin and Bullets were adapted from films featuring music from those sources. Gentleman’s Guide was adapted from a 1907 novel, that was also the source for a film.
I chose Gentleman’s Guide because I thorough enjoyed it– great story, cleverly told and very well written. Though I’ve heard wonderful things about Beautiful, the book was written to move the songs along more than to tell a story. Bullets is the typical, old book style musical, formula plot and I just don’t feel it works effectively on stage. Most of the jokes fall flat. And Aladdin is, well, Aladdin. I’ve heard nothing to indicate that the book for this production contains anything unique or original beyond being a fairly direct adaptation of the cartoon.
I have to note that the only truly original book, If/Then was not even nominated. Egregiously overlooked, as was Bridges, though it is an adaptation. Poor judgement on the part of the nominating committee, in my opinion.
- Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin. Aladdin
- Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
- Steven Lutvak and Robert L. Freedman, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
- Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, If/Then
I will be content with any of the shows winning the award for best score except Aladdin, which is not original. Violet and Hedwig were not eligible because they had previous Off-Broadway runs that did not lead them directly to Broadway this season, so they were not considered new. I feel the same about Aladdin even though its source was a film score.
As much as I truly love the score for If/Then, I have to give my vote to The Bridges of Madison County. The score is simply perfection.
- Doug Besterman, Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical
- Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
- Steve Sidwell, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
- Jonathan Tunick, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
Again, If/Then was snubbed in this category. With no disrespect to the other nominees, there is no competition in this category. Jason Robert Brown’s orchestrations are so clearly, far and above the others, they should have just given him the award. Brilliant, lush, gorgeously written, Brown’s orchestrations are probably the best on Broadway in the past twenty years.
- Reed Birney, Casa Valentina
- Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night
- Stephen Fry, Twelfth Night
- Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night
- Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie
Birney’s performance is the only one I saw in this category. Dressed as Charlotte, I often found myself forgetting he was a man. A great performance in a difficult role.
I’m actually surprised there are no nominees from All the Way here. Three nominees from one show (Twelfth Night) will probably split the vote and Smith’s role of the Gentleman Caller is rather pedestrian (the role, not his performance), having limited stage time. So Birney is my pick.
Best Featured Actress (Play)
- Sarah Greene, The Cripple of Inishmaan
- Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie
- Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
- Anika Noni Rose, A Raisin in the Sun
- Mare Winningham, Casa Valentina
Celia Keenan-Bolger could very well win this category for her performance as Laura in The Glass Menagerie and I wouldn’t be surprised– but my vote goes to one of the most under-valued actresses in stage and film, Mare Winningham. She gives a full, layered performance and obviously feels so at home on the stage. Her performance is so natural and real– and she immediate feels like a old friend you’ve always known.
- Danny Burstein, Cabaret
- Nick Cordero, Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical
- Joshua Henry, Violet
- James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
- Jarrod Spector, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
I didn’t see Iglehart’s Genie but for God’s sake– it’s the Genie in Aladdin. I’ve heard good things about his performance as well. So he is my choice to win. Cordero definitely had the audience in the palm of his hand the night we saw Bullets. The always incredible, Joshua Henry, one of THE best voices on the stage, gives a touching, carefully thought out performance in Violet. I did not see Burstein or Spector’s performances in their respective shows.
Best Featured Actress (Musical)
- Linda Emond, Cabaret
- Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
- Anika Larsen, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
- Adriane Lenox, After Midnight
- Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
I only saw two of these performances and my prediction is based more on buzz and hype than an actual opinion. In fact, I really don’t feel my prediction should win. Lena Hall is just fine in her performance in Hedwig. I just didn’t find it a memorable performance that will stick with me. She sings back up and is only featured vocally on a couple numbers . Lauren Worsham was excellent in Gentleman’s Guide, but so was counterpart, Lisa O’Hare, who was not nominated and should have been, equally.
Will someone please tell me why LaChanze was not nominated for If/Then?
Best Actor (Play)
- Samuel Barnett, Twelfth Night
- Bryan Cranston, All the Way
- Chris O’Dowd, Of Mice and Men
- Mark Rylance, Richard III
- Tony Shalhoub, Act One
Having seen three of these performances, I think it will be a tight race between Chris O’Dowd’s Lenny in Of Mice and Men and Bryan Cranston’s bravura performance as LBJ in All the Way. Though both performers are both deserving of the prize, I believe Cranston will and should reign victorious.
- Tyne Daly, Mothers and Sons
- LaTanya Richardson Jackson, A Raisin in the Sun
- Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
- Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
- Estelle Parsons, The Velocity of Autumn
Some extremely talented women in some powerful role in this category this year. Daly gives a powerful heartfelt performance in Mothers and Sons but I don’t see it as a Best role. Parsons has a disadvantage in that her show closed after an abbreviated run. My head tells me that Cherry Jones should win this but my heart says Audra McDonald, already a five-time Tony winner will edge ahead of the rest. A sixth win would give her the record.
Best Actor (Musical)
- Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
- Ramin Karimloo, Les Misérables
- Andy Karl, Rocky
- Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
- Bryce Pinkham, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
The outcome of this race may upset me. Neil Patrick Harris is fine in Hedwig, just not a Best performance. He could easily win too, being a big supporter of the Broadway community and audience favorite. Jefferson Mays should win this, playing eight roles beautifully in Gentleman’s Guide. Bryce Pinkham gives an outstanding, memorable performance as well. I’m sure one of the reasons Andy Karl was nominated, was the size of the role. Again, he was fine but I didn’t find him memorable this time around. We would have liked to have seen Ramin Karimloo in the new revival staging of Les Miserables but just couldn’t fit it in our schedule.
Another embarrassing omission here– Steven Pasquale in his tour de force performance in The Bridges of Madison County. Had he been nominated, he’d have been my choice. The best live male vocal performance I’ve ever heard in any genre.
- Mary Bridget Davies, A Night With Janis Joplin
- Sutton Foster, Violet
- Idina Menzel, If/Then
- Jessie Mueller, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
- Kelli O’Hara, The Bridges of Madison County
With so many brilliant female performers in this category anyone of them would be deserving. I was lucky enough to see O’Hara, Foster and Menzel’s incredible performances. So to choose, I had to go with who went the step beyond. In my opinion, combining acting, singing and the challenges of the role put Kelli O’Hara above the rest.
- Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
- Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine, Rocky
- Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin
- Susan Stroman, Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical
Seeing just two of the four but knowing the requirements of the shows, I chose the dance show, After Midnight. I don’t really remember choreography in Rocky and Stroman’s work in Bullets was not her usual impressive staging.
Best Direction (Play)
- Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night
- Michael Grandage, The Cripple of Inishmaan
- Kenny Leon, A Raisin in the Sun
- John Tiffany, The Glass Menagerie
Cripple was the only nominee I saw here. Going by the numerous acting nominations Twelfth Night received, I figured it was a safe bet to go with director Tim Carroll. I would also be quite happy if John Tiffany won for his direction of The Glass Menagerie. I really wish I could have seen it.
- Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
- Michael Mayer, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
- Leigh Silverman, Violet
- Darko Tresnjak, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
I saw three of the four nominees. The director guides the ship. Some shows require much more steering than others. So I enthusiastically go with Darko Tresnjak’s wild romp in Gentleman’s Guide.
Best Play Revival
- The Cripple of Inishmaan
- The Glass Menagerie
- A Raisin in the Sun
- Twelfth Night
The Glass Menagerie received mostly rave reviews. The fact that this, one of Tennessee Williams’ greatest works has never been nominated, tells me its time has come.
Best Musical Revival
- Hedwig and the Angry Inch
- Les Misérables
It doesn’t matter how good the other nominees are– Hedwig is going to take the prize. Buzz, hype, long lines for tickets and a somewhat legendary history make this a shoo in.
- Act One
- All the Way
- Casa Valentina
- Mothers and Sons
- Outside Mullingar
I saw four of the five nominees and really liked three of them. The most polished and impressive, without a doubt, is All the Way.
- After Midnight
- Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
- A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
This may end up being a tight race between Gentleman’s Guide and Beautiful. If Beautiful wins, I think it will be considered by many as an upset. I found Gentleman’s Guide to be a perfectly packaged night at the theater and the most innovative of the choices here.
Why aren’t If/Then and The Bridges of Madison County in the running? It’s anyone’s guess. Apparently, an adaptation of a cartoon, a dance show (with existing music) and a jukebox musical are held in higher regard than a completely original new musical or an adaptation with the best score in recent history.
Many people have asked me what the best show was, of the seventeen productions I recently saw. I have yet to pick one. I either really liked the shows or I didn’t. It’s really hard to compare art. And there is really no need to. I feel really fortunate to have seen so many excellent, vastly different productions and performances this year. Even though some of my comments may come across a little negative or snarky; they are purely based on my personal impressions and preferences. I applaud all the nominees and those that were overlooked in what I feel is some of the best accumulative work in any recent Broadway season.
Watch the Tony Awards on CBS Sunday night, be entertained and see how close I am on my picks.
I woke up around 4:30 am and walked over to the Times Square Starbucks and got to watch crews setting up outside the Good Morning America studio for the Dancing With the Stars After Party.
It was overcast this morning but the rain held off, only drizzling occasionally throughout the day. We met our friends at 7:30 am and headed down for what, I was sure would be the most memorable part of our visit.
National September 11 Memorial & Museum The Museum was originally supposed to open in time for the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in 2011. Bureaucracy and funding got in the way, delaying the tireless efforts– but here we were, May 21, 2014, the official opening day– and I was lucky enough to be there.
When we arrived at the Memorial site, the hallowed ground where the World Trade Center once stood, still known by many as Ground Zero– I was taken aback to cross the street, round the corner and find the Memorial Plaza open with free access. I visited the Memorial twice before, while it was completely fenced in, keep out anyone that did not have a pass or a ticket. In fact, this historic site had been completely caged in since the horrifying events of 9/11.
Now it has been set free. Open to the world. A beautiful public tribute to the many people that perished that day.
As we walked across the massive plaza, bagpipes were playing. The press were set up in a long row near the museum to capture the ceremonial unfurling of the National 9/11 Flag before it was carefully folded and carried past us through the museum doors.
We were among the first 50 members of the public to enter these sacred halls. I say sacred not only because of what the museum represents but also because it houses a repository of some 8,000 still unidentified human remains.
The museum is beautifully laid out. Upon entering, you must first go through airport-like security. From there you enter the sprawling entry hall where you are greeted by two twin steel tridents, salvaged from the North Tower facade, rising up against the glass framed backdrop of the memorial plaza towards the sky. This is just the beginning, leading you into and all-encompassing journey of sight and sound, taking you back in time to one of the darkest days in American history. It is a sobering reminder for those that lived through it– an important memorandum for those who were too young and the many future generations to come.
I think you can visit the museum and experience it differently, depending on your mindset. It would be easy to become completely engulfed and have a very emotional experience. Or, as I chose, for my first visit– to view the museum as a spectator. I viewed much of it through the lens of my camera; wanting to document everything I saw. This visit I wanted to be an observer, or a witness; I wasn’t there to grieve.
I don’t want anyone to think I was trying to ignore or avoid an emotional experience– just being there was an emotional experience for me. September 11, 2001 has had such a profound effect on my life, I knew this experience would be another milestone in my personal journey.
I’m not sure how guided tours would work here. Much of the museum is laid out to stimulate a very solemn, personal experience. No photography is allowed in a number of areas. Dim lighting spotlights the exhibits, salvaged from tons of debris and personal effects donated by the families of victims. You are led on a cerebral and visceral journey depending on your emotional state.
The next time I go back, I could easily spend a full day taking in the full experience. Allowing myself to feeling the overpowering emotions bottled up inside. Allowing myself to grieve. The eyewitness accounts, media documentation, personal effects and thousands of stories of life and loss– are all here in remembrance.
The Cripple of Inishmaan Daniel Radcliffe is featured in this production written by Martin McDonagh. We saw Radcliffe’s outstanding performance in Equus a few seasons back. Even though he’s considered the star of this, he’s really not on stage that much. Other characters spend most of the the time talking about him in his absence.
There’s a chunk of the second act where the characters are watching a movie, conversing and commenting on the film. I completely missed the correlation here. It didn’t seem to go anywhere to further the thin plot.
There are some great moments and fine acting in this Irish black comedy. I’d compare a lot of the banter back and forth to that of a Mamet play.
Overall, though, it just wasn’t my favorite piece.
Casa Valentina Written by Harvey Fierstein and directed by Joe Mantello, Casa Valentina is a fine theatrical work. Michael and I both agreed it could use some fine tuning towards the end but it’s a fascinating story.
Based on actual events, the action takes place in 1962 in the Catskills where a small group of married men gather to “escape being men”, dressing and living as women. It explores the conflicts of their mostly secret lives, their relationships and their own deep seated prejudices.
The ensemble cast is outstanding. I was most impressed and moved by Gabriel Ebert’s (Tony-winner last year for Matilda) sensitive portrayal of Jonathan/Miranda, completely at odds with his identity. Tom McGowan (Modern Family) as Bessie, is a strong, larger than life contrast– always the life of the party.
I kept forgetting that Reed Birney was a man. His Strong-woman portrayal of Charlotte is mesmerizing. John Cullum is completely adorable as Terry and has some of the best, unexpected quips.
Patrick Page and Mare Winningham lead the ensemble as husband and wife, ‘comfortable’ yet deeply conflicted with their unusual arrangement. It is their storyline, above all else, that we felt could have used a little more exploration.
Casa Valentina is a very funny, yet moving story. It’s one production that I would highly recommend.