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MICHAEL AR0NOV wins Best Featured Actor at the Tonys!

My former guest Michael Aronov just won his first Tony for “Oslo”. A total surprise! But my god, does he deserve it! And he used to live in my building! *faints* Very moving speech about this parents and his one-room apartment which if he entered by the door, he was “in danger of flying out the window.” TRUE STORY! Nobody predicted Michael but I want to link to my interview with him eight years ago where I said, “He was one of the great actors of his generation.” And now everybody knows I was right! http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

I think this means “Oslo” now a lock to win Best Play.

Kevin Spacey sang AND danced an electric opening number spoofing all the nominated Best Musicals. Hysterical! The TONYS 2017 off to a good start! I’m amazed!

TONY Predictions 2017!


I am so in love with the idea that this year’s Tony Awards might heavily feature two of my all time favorite theatrical events. “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” the genre-busting pop-opera and “Little Foxes” which makes audiences (and critics) see double with the divine Laura Linney switching up with Cynthia Nixon. I admit to bias here, but I have the Drama Desks Awards this past Sunday to second my emotions.

Yes, I think “Natasha, Pierre…” will win many, many of its 10 nominations on TONY night, this coming Sunday. Including, I’m calling it now, Best Musical, Best Director of a Musical Rachel Chavkin, who won the DD on Sunday, Best Set of a Musical Mimi Lien, Best Lighting of a Musical, and Best Orchestrations Dave Malloy, who also wrote the incredibly, ketchy and thrilling  sung-through musical score, which may also get Malloy ANOTHER Tony in that hotly contested category.

I’m going to go with the more influential than ever Drama Desk Winner for Best Actor in a Musical and think that in a surprise Andy Karl will prevail in this category.He tore his ACL, and I’ve torn mine and trust me, it’s VERY, VERY painful, and takes a LONG time to heal, and Karl, formerly nominated as Bway’s “Rocky” overcame this excruciating experience to OPEN “GROUND HOG DAY” and continue on performing it, singing and dancing as he did before, turning it into a hit, where people are coming to see HIM as well as the show. He also won an Olivier Award in London for this performance. THAT counts bigly with Tony Voters.

And his HUGE, BLACK, frightening-looking knee brace is in full view the ELEVEN times he has to change into his clothes in front of the audience. And he’s clearly in pain doing all this. This counts heavily with the TONY voters, who know the show must go on, no matter what the pain level.

I think Broadway vet Karl wins this category over 23-year-old newcomer Ben Platt in “Dear Evan Hansen.” The TONY voters, I have to add, are older and more homogeneous than even the #Oscarssowhite Academy members. Yes, AMPAS is more diverse and forward thinking than the TONYs. And pain counts. Ben Platt will have other chances.

They’re not necessarily going to GET a musical about the Internet. Some of them DON’T EVEN HAVE INTERNET. So…It’s too young for TONY, but “Natasha, Pierre…” is a masterpiece based on a masterpiece, Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, so it’s just right. It’s got the most nominations. It’s right in the Tony voters comfort zone(s). Usually the show with the most nominations wins. Let’s see if that holds true this year on Sunday night when the awards are handed out at 8pm EST on CBS.

Surprisingly, “Natasha, Pierre…” won in EVERY CATEGORY for the Drama Desks that it was nominated for. And because it opened earlier Off-Off Bway, it was only eligible for the parts of it that were NEW to this production. And those category were Best Director of a Musical, Best Set of a Musical, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations.

Another category that I think “NPATGCO1812” will win is Best Featured Actor in a Musical. I think the TONYs will help the astonishing Lucas Steele along on his way to mega-stardom. It doesn’t hurt that though he’s cited as Supporting, he has a larger part than Pop Superstar Josh Groban, who is also nominated in the lead category, where he faces Karl AND Platt, unfortunately, or the award  handily would be his.

Lucas Steele is Anatole, Groban’s Pierre’s wayward, hedonistic brother-in-law, a very, complicated. LARGE part of the villain, as it were, of the extremely small section of “War and Peace” that has here been excerpted. He’s hot. He’s a little dumb. And he plays the violin. And he’s charismatic beyond belief and has been with “NPATGCO1812” for FIVE YEARS in all its’ growing and re-growing on its’ way to Bway. And he hits notes that are stratospheric, to say the least.

Bway vet Gavin Creel of “Hello, Dolly”, although he won the Drama Desk Award in this category, is funny, yes. But that’s about all there is to that part. , AND he was not up against his main competition, Lucas Steele that night.

Bette Midler, of course, even though she DIDN’T SHOW to pick up her Drama Desk win, as Best Actress in a Musical, will easily win in this category.

If I’m leaving out Best Play, it’s because “Oslo,” a play that bored me to death, has won every other Best Play award this year. And,yes, will probably devour the TONY, too. I wish my former guest Michael Aronov was going to win Best Featured Actor in a Play.

But I think that award, like it did at the Drama Desks, will go to Danny DeVito for “The Price.”LITTLE fOXES 3lITTLE FOXES 14

And as far as the Supporting or Featured Actresses are concerned, I think, like the Drama Desk it will go to Jenn Collela for “Come From Away.” And Best Featured Actress in a Play will be Cynthia Nixon. Pairing up for a win with her co-star Laura Linney, giving the performance(s) of their careers in the brilliantly double cast “Little Foxes.”  What a theatrical event! And this was all Laura’s IDEA! And the Tony Voters know it and she’s never won.</a
And Best Actor in a Play? Oops, I almost forgot. Kevin Kline in “Present Laughter” and yes, he won the Drama Desk, too.

#Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, #Josh Groban, #Lucas Steele, #Bette Midler # Hello, Dolly, #Gavin Creel, #Dear Evan Hansen, #Ben Platt, #Andy Karl, #Groundhog Day, #Kevin Kline, #Present Laughter #Rachel Chavkin, #Laura Linney, #Little Foxes, # Cynthia Nixon

“Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” Wonderful New Musical Off-Bway!

FOR MY LOVE, IT IS TIMELESS AND VAST AS THE SKIES
IT IS STRONG AS THE TIDE AND THE WAVES WHEN THEY RISE
IT IS I, ERNEST SHACKLETON, HERE IN COMMAND
AND I PROMISE MY DARLING WE’RE GONNA FIND LAND

“Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” is the most wildly inventive musical of the Off-Bway season. And if anyone would have told me I’d be raining superlatives over a two-person love story that’s set simultaneously in Brooklyn and Antartica (!) I wouldn’t’ve believed them! But it’s true! It’s all true! And 19th Century Arctic Explorer Ernest Shackleton has come back to life(Through a date searching app on the Internet) to make wild, theatrical magic love to a single 45-year-old Mom with a baby named Zach in an unheated apartment “far out” in Brooklyn, well, it just sounds preposterous.

But the theater exists to make the unbelievable, believable.And “Ernest Shackleton” amazingly does just that .Our heroineKat (the extraordinary singer/actress/musician Val Vigoda) is an experimental music composer, whose living room is filled with every kind of electronic musical device imaginable, including a red, heart-shaped electric violin, which she barely puts down and a set of amplified drums that she beats all her many frustrations out on. This assemblage of electronicaErnest Shackleton 2 is backed by a gigantic computer screen, behind the stage, on which we see her many, many wild fantasies play out on.

The frigidity of her (very) cold water flat and the stress of her life as an artist. “I gave my life to art!” she plaintively sings, sends her over the edge and into the imaginary arms of studly Arctic hero, Ernest Shackleton, who calls out to her romantically through the Internet dating site, “Katherine! Katherine!..”and then enters her own version of Antarctica, through (where else?) her refrigerator.

Wade McCollum and Val Vigoda are the star-crossed lovers linked by the heroic struggles both are going through. He, to reach his high-flown Arctic goals, and she, well, just to survive her life. Her baby never stops crying, her computer’s keyboard keeps re-looping the word “Alone,” and they spend “Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” finding each other in the highly unromantic ice and snow, which the dauntless duo here turn into a winter wonderland.

The fiery Ms. Vigoda has also written the equally red-hot, heartfelt lyrics to go with Brendan Milburn’s Irish-inflected score.

There are a lot of sea shanties mixed in with the hard-rock and the love songs and the rock-solid book is by Joe DiPietro of “Memphis” fame, who really knows his way around a musical.  And underground there is massive musical amplification on  every kind of instrument imaginable by Sound Designer Rob Kaplowitz and Orchestrators Ryan O’Connell and Glen Milburn. And the super-skillful director Lisa Peterson makes the duo seem like a cast of thousands.

At no time do Kat and Shackleton strain our credulity, as the metaphor of his ice-bound ship, the Endurance, freezes over and sinks, stranding them and a crew of 22. This is based on a true story, which I won’t spoil here.(You can look it up. It’s a recorded fact.)And they had a videographer with them, too! As newsreel footage of Shackleton’s impossible dreams becomes all of our dreams of achievement, love and survival against all odds.“Ernest Shackleton’s motto was “Optimism is a form of moral courage.”
I left “Ernest Shackleton” filled with more optimism, and hope, yes, hope for the innovative American Musical than I’ve felt since well, since “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”
He sings “FOR MY LOVE, IT IS TIMELESS AND VAST AS THE SKIES
IT IS STRONG AS THE TIDE AND THE WAVES WHEN THEY RISE
IT IS I, ERNEST SHACKLETON, HERE IN COMMAND
AND I PROMISE MY DARLING WE’RE GONNA FIND LAND!”

#Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, # Ernest Shackleton, #Val Vigoda,#Wade McCollum,#Antartica, #Artic Explorer, #Endurance, # Electric Violin, # Single Mom

Laura Linney, Cynthia Nixon BOTH Win Outer Critics, Bette Middler, Andy Karl, too

Present Laughter 3LIttle Foxes 16As I predicted only yesterday, BOTH Laura Linney AND Cynthia Nixon won awards for their unforgettable roles in the double cast “Little Foxes.” It was the Outer Critics Circle who first declared this double victory, which I think will be repeated at both the Drama Desk Awards AND the Tonys, if history is any indicator. But of course, this is an historic first, the double casting of female leads in one terrific show. Men have done this before but not women. Linney won for Best Actress for her Regina-with-a-heart, and Cynthia for the Supporting role of the sad Aunt Birdy. But the actresses both switch parts at alternating performances. So they really were BOTH being honored for BOTH parts, too. As well they should be!Bette Midler and “Hello Dolly” also won. As did Andy Karl for “Groundhog Day.” “”Come from Away” the Canadian Musical about 9/11 on for Best Musical . Jenn Collella, the only character with a song to herself in “Come From Away,” got best featured actress in a musical for her feisty pilot and Gavin Creel got Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his high-stepping Cornelius Hackl inAndy Karl Ground Hog Day 1“Hello, Dolly!” as I predicted he would. The Outer Critics Circle made up from critics whose reviews are read outside New York City are always the first to announce and often predict won the following awards, the Drama Desks, the Tonys, will go, especially in the Actors’ categories. Oh! And Danny DeVito in his Broadway debut as the kibbutzing  furniture appraiser in “The Price” won for Best Featured Actor in a Play, and Kevin Klein for “Present Laughter” as Best Actor in a Play.

For a complete List of winners go to OuterCritics.org.

Come From Away 1.PNG

Rejoice! “Spamilton”s Sparklingly Funny CD Is Out! & The Show Is STILL running!

Rejoice, Musical Theater Lovers! And Haters, “Spamilton”s hilarious new CD is out! Yes! The Original cast in its’ entirety has been captured forever, affording devotees of the Maestro of Mirth Gerard Alessandrini, the ability to listen to his witticisms puncture that OTHER Maestro of the Musical Moment, Lin-Manuel Miranda & his monsterpiece “Hamilton” Things were so out of control last season that when the show opened , I mean, when “Spamilton” opened, and I saw it last fall, that other show “Hamilton”, it was literally eating Bway alive. Other shows were closing (“Shuffle Along” for one for instance) with lines of overnight campers-out literally littering W. 46th St. All hoping desperately to get a returned ticket. As is a  surprise character in the show is…but more on her later…

Things aren’t quite so desperate now. “Hello Dolly” is now the hottest ticket in town. And all of the original cast of “Hamilton” is gone off to Hollywood, or wherever, to be rich. Lin-Manuel himself is shooting “Mary Poppins” for Disney. I don’t know how that’s going to work out. Emily Blunt as Mary herself may save it.

We’ll see, Mary Dugan.

But in the meantime, if you STILL can’t get $800 tickets to “Hamilton” itself, “Spamilton” will do very nicely. And is a fraction of the price. It’s still at the snug Triad night club on W.72nd Street. And the CD is great! And even cheaper!  I can’t stop playing it! And laughing! Here’s a link to my original review from last fall.

https://stephenholtshow.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/spamilton-hilarious-brilliant-hamilton-spoof-off-broadway-at-the-triad/

It seems marvelously effusive in retrospect, but I still stand behind every superlative! And the cast has changed at the Triad. Only the wonderfully vermin-like Dan Rosales as Lin-Manuel and Chris Anthony Giles as the frustrated Leslie Odom as Aaron Burr(“I wanna be in the film, when it happens!) are still in it. But the new cast-members are just as hilariously versatile as the originals and they sing the range-y score magnificently.

Tristan J. Shuler as Daveed Diggs looks so much like the actor he replaced, I thought it was the same person! And he seems to just love rocking his jockeys off in “I Kill My Friends in My Underwear!” And Larry Owens is also a doppelgänger for his predecessor, playing Stephen Sondheim (yes, he’s in it, too) as Yoda. Sort of. And Ben Franklin. (Everybody in history is in this!)

I had the privilege of witnessing the performance of pint-sized Claudia Yanez playing ALLLLLL the females in the show, and I thought “Understudy! Uh-Oh!” But she was astounding, and fresh as a daisy. With a voice that could project all the way to Bayonne!

I’m also happy to report that the Playkill Program has been upgraded to allow me to include a strong mention that the amazingly adept and funny choreography on the dime-sized Triad stage is by Gerry McIntyre (“Thighs Up”!), and the just-right costumes are by Dustin Cross. Gina Kreiezermar is “Guest Diva”who does so well imitating Bernadette Peters, and Liza Minelli (among others) crying, disguised as a homeless woman who enters from the audience “Tickets. I need tickets! For a desperate diva!” to the music of the Beggar Woman from “Sweeney Todd.”

And I can now give fulsome credit to the zany, wonderful Glenn Bassett as the Queen of Broadway, who plays Jonathan Groff as the campy King George III to a T and remarks that his number is really the Beatles’ “Penny Lane” as he leads the audience in a rousing chorus of “Gay, gay, gay, GAY!”

Lin-Manuel himself has been to see it TWICE! And is quoted as saying,

“I laughed my brains out!”

“Bandstand” Another Great New Musical Arrives on Bway!

Broadway is just bursting with musicals as the season is quickly drawing to a close and the Drama Desk nominations have been announced (See post before this one.) And a marvelous surprise was awaiting me when I saw “Bandstand” last night. It’s one of the best! And in the year of “Natasha, Pierre…and the Great Comet”,”Come From Away” and “Hello Dolly” that is really saying something. I had heard nothing about it. Didn’t know what I was in for. But trust me. It’s a Wow! I know I just said that about “Hello Dolly,” but this is a NEW musical. Brand new, with an entirely new score set at the end of World War II, as the boys come home to…Cleveland.

I know that doesn’t sound like a great premise for a musical, but believe me, it was tremendous. Tremendously rewarding in its’ own sweet way. And it heralds the arrival of a sparkling new bunch of musical talent. Composer Richard Oberacker, who co-wrote the lyrics with Rod Taylor, has written a marvelously melodic, but also dramatic score with one terrific tune after the other.Written in what I guess you could call Swing time.

The band is made up of overseas warriors coming home to find no jobs in Cleveland.(Think “Best Years of Our Lives”) and no work.

Laura Osnes is the only previously known quantity as the leading lady. Formerly “Cinderella” herself, and of course, “Hamilton”s great Tony-winning choreographer, Andy Blackenbuehler, who here makes his stunning directorial debut and well as keeping the dancing GIs and snappy home girls as peppy as a gin fizz.

But the real find is their incredible young leading man, the charismatic Corey Cott, who opens the show and brings down the house in a wife-beater! Wailing a solo tune that bears his name “Donny Novitski.” The hairy-chested but wiry and very, very angry Cott howls up a storm about his plight and the war (and his Polish last name).

Corey Cott turns out to be the man of the hour from “Gigi”! He was the Louis Jourdan role in the delightful musical  of the classic movie, which played all too briefly last season on Bway. Coery Cott in Gigi 1

Cott’s got it all, and is allowed to show his great musical as well as emotional range here, as he returns from the war, truly scarred and troubled, whose only solace is playing his music.He convincingly morphs into ambitious band-leader D0nny Nova, who falls madly in love, natch, with the adorable Ms. Osnes. She is a local girl and a Gold Star war widow, and Danny was her late husband’s best friend. Julia, who has the unfortunate last name of Trojan. So she is Julia Trojan for most of “Bandstand”, and Osnes does her best work ever in this challenging, dramatic role, where she has to go from shy Sunday school church singer to swinging big band belter. And she does. And she’s been awarded a Drama Desk nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. This is in a year when her co-nominees are none other than Bette Midler, Patti LuPone,and Christine Ebersole. She and Cott sing their hearts out. And win ours in the process.

But I’m up in arms about the criminal overlooking of Corey Cott come awards time, which is upon us. Donny Novitsky a.k.a. Donny Nova is as equally challenging and demanding a role as Osnes’ Gloria Trojan. He should’ve been recognized. His vocal range is amazing and his sense of humor right on target. He sees Frank Sinatra as his competitor.  “He’s over-rated and he sings flat.”

I also have to say, I found “Bandstand”s book, funny and sharp, and amazingly well-written. And again it’s Oberacker and Taylor, who wrote it along with all the orginal music in the show. “Bandstand” is certainly a winner on all fronts. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. And the fact that the main music is being played onstage by “Bandstand”s centraI characters, gives the 1940’s inflected  music extra-snappy pizzazz, and oomph is another charming, jazzy plus. I hope audiences find it and embrace it the way Danny and Laura so romantically embrace each other in this tuneful war-time( and post-war) romance.
It’s at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater on W.45th Street, right in the heart of Bway. And I hope Bway audiences take it to their hearts, too.

“Hello, Dolly!” Bette Midler! Wow! Wow! WOW!!!!!

Hello Dolly 2Is “Hello, Dolly!” newly revived on Bway with the legendary Bette Midler and selling like hot cakes, one of the greatest shows ever??? PRETTY Close! It’s an instant contact high, as they used to say in the ’60s. The minute you hear the first few notes of that famous score, Gerry Herman’s best by far, you’re instantly elated.

Like your lungs are filling up with helium! Hello Dolly 1

The Orchestra got applause at the first notes. The conductor got applause! The scenery got applause, when the curtain went up. The chorus, when they first entered, got applause. And Bette Midler? Well, she stopped the show cold by just dropping the newspaper that she was hiding behind, to her lap. She got an ovation! And it just didn’t stop! And I mean, the crowd was just going wild from seeing her. In person. At age 72. And “back where she belonged” on Bway, where she’d never been before.

Well that’s not exactly true. When I was in college, I saw her in “Fiddler on the Roof” as Tzeitel, the oldest daughter of Teyve, who gets married as the cast sings “Sunrise, Sunset.” And I remember looking at my program and trying to find “that girl,””She’s going to be famous, ” I thought. The girl who had the most infectious smile…She still does. She was “Midler from Fiddler” for three years. But Supporting no longer.Hello Dolly 5She’s the star of stars now of “Hello, Dolly!” and she is just flat out wonderful in it! The audience was going CRA-ZEE, as I’ve said. And the whole show is just miraculously infectious like Bette’s crinkly smile. Just what is it that makes it so fabulous? It’s like bottled joy! I’m not kidding. You just can’t be in a bad mood around Bette Midler’s role of a lifetime, Dolly Levy. A matchmaker, made in heaven.

Hello Dolly 10

Broadway veteran director Jerry Zaks is at the absolute zenith of his long career here and so is stalwart choreographer Warren Carlyle.. They have lovingly recreated  what must’ve been the sugary-up, rainbow feeling of the late, great Gower Champion’s two-dimensional, but fabulous dancing. And it gets better.

Another Broadway baby who has been around for quite some time Gavin Creel completely owns the role of Chief  Hay and Seed Clerk Cornelius Hackl, who is just bursting to get a day off and go to Manhattan.(“Hello, Dolly!” is set firmly in turn-of-the-last-century Yonkers.) And “Put on His Sunday Clothes” and go dancing and he “won’t come home until” he ‘”kisses a girl,” which of course he does.Gavin Creel 1

The Six Foot plus Creel has just been nominated for a Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. As has his co-star Kate Baldwin, and Bette, too, mais oui. AND David Hyde Pierce, “Hello, Dolly!”s resident scrooge.

Creel has been nominated for a Tony twice for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Hair”, but never won. This may be his year. And he’s an Out Gay LGBT actor, and I’m very, very proud of him. He also WON an Olivier Award in London for his role as Elder Price in “The Book of Morman.”

It certainly is Bette’s year, who has NEVER been nominated for a Tony, but this year I predict she will be dodging all the awards that are going to be hurled at her. Her powerhouse Dolly Levy lives up to her legendary alter ego The Divine Miss M, make no mistake.

Hello Dolly 12Meaning that Sophie Tucker and the Mermaid-in-the-Wheelchair are never far from her Dolly, who, of course, has a wicked twinkle in her eye, 72-year-old widow though she may be.

Her conversations with her late husband Ephraim, which she delivers downstage center, are very moving indeed. She gets to exercise her dramatic chops here and grounds her Dolly in a great well of loneliness as she plaintively begs her late husband’s ghost “to let me go, Ephraim.” She wants to rejoin life “Before the Parade Passes By” and she does.Hello Dolly 11

With her irrepressible humor and warmth,  a lark and a flirtation and an active persuing of “half-a-millionaire, Horace Vandergelder” keep her moving forward  even while she is trying to make matches for Cornelius and his fellow clerk Barnaby (a marvelously pint-sized bundle of joy, Taylor Trensch). David Hyde Pierce is masterful here. too, as Horace. Pierce mightily holds his comic own as the pinch-penny object of Dolly’s overly effusive affection.

Hello Dolly 13“Hello, Dolly!” is a much sturdier and more delightful vehicle than I ever imagined it to be. I saw it with Ginger Rogers of all people when I was a mere child, and I don’t remember being THIS excited about it.

In the hands of all these great Broadway pros and one certified legend, the divine Bette, I just never wanted it to end. And with the way the public is storming the box-office it may never end. Ever. And I don’t want it to.

This is Broadway at its’ absolute, level best. Pure old-fashioned escapism superbly done and it’s best, it’s absolute best.Hello Dolly 9#Hello, Dolly! # Bette Midler # Broadway, #Musical Comedy, #Gavin Creel # David Hyde Pierce

 

 

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