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2014 Tony Award Nominations and My Predictions

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.

 

Best Sound Design (Musical) A_Gentleman's_Guide_to_Love_and_Murder

  • 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.

 

Hedwig-and-the-Angry-Inch-Playbill-03-14_THUMBBest Lighting Design (Musical)

  • 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.

 

If-Then-Playbill-March-2014-a-New-Musical-on-Broadway-Richard-Rodgers-Theatre-Music-Tom-Kitt-Book-and-Lyrics-Brian-Yorkey-with-Idina-Menzel-Lachanze-Anthony-Rapp-Jerry-Dixon-Jenn-Colella-Jason-Tam-Tam-0Best Scenic Design (Musical)

  • 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.

 

Casa-Valentina-Playbill-04-14Best Costume Design (Play)

  • 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.

 

Bridges-of-Madison-County-Playbill-01-14_1389306410Best Score

  • 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.

 

Best Orchestrations

  • 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.

 

All-The-Way-Playbill-02-14Best Featured Actor (Play)

  • 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.

 

Of-Mice-and-Men-Playbill-03-14Best Featured Actor (Musical)

  • 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.

 

Bullets-Over-Broadway-Playbill-03-14Best Actress (Play)

  • 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.

 

Cripple-of-Inishmaan-Playbill-04-14Best Actress (Musical)

  • 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.

 

Best Choreography

  • 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.

 

Violet-Playbill-03-14Best Direction (Musical)

  • 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
  • Violet

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.

rocky_1389306440Best Play

  • 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.

 

Best Musical

  • After Midnight
  • Aladdin
  • 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.

NYC May 2014- Day Two: Bunnies, Boxing and Crowded Streets

I tried to sleep in but after waking a up a few times, I found myself heading to Starbucks at 5 AM– after I realized I forgot to get ground coffee for our room. Times Square is always so peaceful early in the morning. I love experiencing the drastic changes in the energy as the day progresses. Even though I try to walk the perimeter of the area going to and from shows to avoid the crowds, it’s still a fun vibe to be in the heart of — just in small doses.

We relaxed most of the morning, staying near our apartment, knowing it was going to be a long day. We left around noon, took a walk and did some exploring before our matinee. It was a beautiful day in the upper 60’s and sunny.

Of-Mice-and-Men-Playbill-03-14Of Mice and Men I don’t get too many opportunities to see professionally produced classic dramas. Choosing OM&M was more about the show itself than seeing James Franco. Sometimes star power works for a production but actors still need to prove they belong there.

The first act was pretty solid, only to fall apart in the second act. I don’t understand why anyone would think it was a good idea to sanitize the most dramatic moments of the show, leaving them void of emotion. How can characters completely disassociate themselves from feelings where death is concerned? That is exactly what happens in this production.

Chris O’Dowd is wonderful as the simple-minded, Lenny. His character, gestures and mannerisms are all fully developed and well acted. James Franco gives a strong first act performance as George but then fails to find any real emotion in the pivotal moments of the second act. He fakes vomiting at one point and wipes away a few imaginary tears but that’s it. Based on the overall tone though, I’m not sure how much of it is Franco’s or director Anna D. Shapiro’s choice. It just didn’t work for me. What should have felt tragic was left feeling rather mundane.

I also thought Jim Norton was miscast here as Candy. He’s a great actor. I just felt he lacked the earthiness needed for the role, making him seem out of place.

It’s sad to see a production with so much promise, fall so flat.

 

9th Avenue International Food Festival

9th Avenue International Food Festival

The 9th Avenue International Food Festival Fifteen city blocks of food and beverages. A sea of people mixing tourists, families and a neighborhood crowd. The festival reportedly draws an average of 200,000 people over the annual two day event. We spent a couple hours walking around and sampling some of the food between shows. Most visible: Roasted Corn, Fresh Lemonade, Beer and Crepes. What is it about standing and eating crepes outdoors? I don’t really get it.

It was definitely bustling but no worse than Times Square and not hard to weave in and out of the crowd. There were a couple of blocks dedicated to children’s entertainment and for the most part, it was the typical mix of vendors you’d find at any outdoor festival anywhere in the world.

rocky_1389306440Rocky the Musical I always cringe when I hear another movie is being made into a musical. Is there no original source material anymore? Sometimes we choose shows for the spectacle and wildcard potential. Rocky was pretty much panned by the critics but we don’t always agree with them and we took a chance.

There’s a lot of money up on that stage and some actors that are giving their all. Unfortunately, all that effort doesn’t hide the major flaws in the material. Rocky is an iconic movie and story. I just can’t figure out how it could be told so poorly. Even with the spectacle, I thought it lacked energy and electricity.

Set in the 1970’s, as in the movie,  costumes weren’t always period appropriate (skinny and stretch jeans) and the use of modern technology IN the story just added confusion. Particularly in the final fight scene, live video used “in the arena”– multiple screens used as part of the action and others used at the same time so the audience could see what was going on– all created a chaotic atmosphere.

Andy Karl (Rocky), Margot Seibert (Adrian) and Terence Archie (Apollo Creed) are all up there trying to do the best with what they’ve been given. I just did not understand the casting of Dakin Matthews as Mickey. I just didn’t buy it.

Basically, the set is the show. It moves, turns, twists and spins. The book and music are not that memorable– A huge disappointment coming from one of my favorite writing teams Ahrens & Flaherty.