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Posts tagged ‘Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award’

CD of “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet…”A Masterpiece Recording of a Masterpiece Musical!

The soon-to-be-released 2-disc CD of the Original Broadway Cast of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” is a masterpiece of recording of a masterpiece musical. I’m sorry, I just can’t stop the superlatives when talking about “Natasha, Pierre..” or as some call it “The Great Comet.” But whatever you call it, I predict it’s going to land like a bomb in the middle of TONY awards season. It’s due out May 19 and it will be flying off the shelves, like, well, like the great comet that it memorializes forever in this dazzling pop-opera spectacle that I’ve seen FOUR times and I can’t wait to see again!

Natasha, Pierre 22And yes, the magnificent lyric baritone of the legendary Josh Groban pierces through the massive ensemble and breaks your heart, with a vocal range we have barely heard him use before, especially thrilling in the darker, almost guttural, lower tones. Groban is turning into a consummate actor-singer right before our very eyes, and he has been selling out Broadway with this fiery, very avant-garde opera that challenge him at every step he takes and every note he sings and he meets the challenges magnificently..

And yes, I could see him singing at the Met one of these years. His voice just grows in depth and resonance in this incredible recording, as his performance as Pierre Bezukov has grown, too, since I first saw it. “Poor, bewildered Pierre, a warm-hearted Russian of the old school” sings the full-throated chorus, masterfully orchestrated by composer Dave Malloy. He was nominated for TWO Tonys, for his score and his orchestrations of it.

Natasha, Pierre 20Groban has two stunning solo numbers “Dust and Ashes” which ends his Act One and the title song, which ends the show. He is also singing throughout the entire score, with that pure, moving voice that is sometimes here almost a rock rasp. “What? What? WHAT?” he wails as his cousin Maria Demitryevka (the frightening Grace McLean) tells him some very alarming news indeed regarding his unrequited love, beautiful, young Natasha.

His Pierre is angry, frustrated, and almost always reading or drunk. He is married to “a bad wife”, the slinky, sensual Amber Grey as Helene.

amber-grey

She continues with this sensational role of “the slut”, wailing like a blues singer, belting out “Charmante,” wearing green furs and sequins, and sounding for all the world like a Russian Billy Holliday. As she helps seduce innocent Natasha, a better-than-ever Denee Benton, for her dissolute brother Anatole.Denee Benton 1

He is played to the hilt and beyond by Lucas Steele, who has also been with the show through all the years of its’ many peregrinations as has Amber Grey, McLean and many others. He actually has a larger role than Groban!Josh and Lucas

“Natasha, Pierre…” has had a grueling five year journey From the tiny Ars Nova theater Off-Off Broadway to the festive circus tent in the meat-packing district, where I first saw it. where they served dinner! They also went to Boston to the ART theater there. All the while under the stupendously inventive guidance of  director Rachel Chavkin. who is herself nominated for a Tony, too.

“Natasha, Pierre…” has now been nominated for TWELVE Tony Awards and I hope it wins all of them. Groban, Benton and Steele have all been nominated in their categories, but only Lucas Steele of the actors has won an award for the evil Anatole so far. He scored a prestigious Lucille Lortel Award.Lucas Steele 1Lucas Steele Lucille Lortel Award 1

In his category, Best Featured Actor in a Musical, he’s up against Broadway veteran Gavin Creel, who is a riot in “Hello, Dolly!” Both shows are mega-hits, but Steele’s Anatole is so dastardly, and also so devilishly handsome and sexy AND he plays the violin, having a wild solo as he fiddles away, preparing his plans to abduct the underage Natasha. He’s married already, and it’s a crime that he’s about to perpetrate. Yes, even in 1812 Moscow, he would be considered a criminal. and yes, this is all out of a tiny sliver of the 1000+plus-paged novel “War and Peace” from which this epic is adapted by the uber-talented Malloy.

This sliver is so epic…you can only imagine what the rest of Tolstoy’s classic novel is like. Believe it or not, I read it in the 8th grade. The other kids in the Bronx Catholic boys school I was doomed to,  made fun of me carrying his huge tome around with me for a year.

“Are you really reading all that?”

Yes, I was and I did, and I’m so glad now that I can say that I felt every inch a genuine Russian after reading it and especially seeing “Natasha, Pierre” FOUR times! And now this extraordinarily beautiful, tuneful, masterfully recorded treasure of a CD is coming soon! May 19! Remember that date!

I saw “NPATGCOE,” as the Internet might abbreviate, this last time, seated RIGHT ON THE STAGE! Every time you see it sitting in a different place in the wildly re-devised Imperial theatre,  it’s like seeing a different play! When you’re sitting on the stage itself, you feel like you are IN the play! The stage actually vibrates with the bass notes of the synthesizer that sometimes Josh Groban himself is playing in the pit of the orchestra. Which is stage center and completely unhidden.Natasha, Pierre Marquis

In fact, from his first entrance in front of a blinding blaze of  white lights, he is playing the accordion himself, and he rarely if ever leaves the stage.  Bespectacled Pierre is Tolstoy’s alter-ego. He is one of the first, modern anti-heroes. He is thoroughly depressive, a big Russian,
beaten-up bear of a character. And yes, he’s the hero of “War and Peace.”  Groban to his everlasting credit has totally immersed himself to the point of unrecognizability in his heroic, vanity free performance. He is wearing a fat suit. He now lumbers and growls and shuffles his considerable weight as a middle-aged man would. His long, thin fingers shake with what may be delirium tremens as in a man who drinks Way too much. His young brow is now furrowed, without any make-up.

You can hear this bear of a character that he is so perfectly portraying growling through the CD like a wounded animal. But like the maestro he is, Pierre’s voice, his howl of pain, is always also modulated and very, very beautiful.  And moving.Natasha, Pierre Broadway SetYou must hurry and buy it. I predict it will be a best seller, the first Broadway recording and the best maybe ever. It could go platinum in five minutes. And go see Groban live and onstage before he leaves the show forever in July. He’s entitled. He’s been packing them in on Broadway, for nearly a year, revitalizing it and don’t even get me started on Mimi Lien’s transformative set and the wild, magnificent lighting of Bradley King! Both also nominated for Tonys. I hope they all win!

I also have to add that there seems to be a thousand-voiced choir, an epic number of voices that call themselves “The Great Comet Singers” who are pictured in the CD program and contribute to the amazing sound and rhythm of “Balaga” and “The Abduction.” They are also credited as “Shakers.” Because the audience was all given egg-shaped shakers to increase the beat of the delirious troika ride to end all troika rides in Act Two. Yes, “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet” of 1812 will abduct you, too. Your heart, I mean. You’ll never think of musicals the same way again.

Lucas Steele & Denee Benton 1
#Natasha, Pierre, # The Great Comet of 1812, #Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 # Josh Groban, #Lucas Steele, #Tony Awards, #Denee Benton, #Russia, #War and Peace

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Daniel Radcliffe Delights Bway! In “How To Succeed…”

Daniel Radcliffe is absolutely a delight and a revelation in the latest revival of Bway vintage musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” He is so successful from his Harry Potter decade of family film franchise stardom that he never has to do anything for the rest of his professional life. Unless he wants to. And he certainly didn’t have to take on the singing and dancing challenge that J. Pierpont Finch represents in “How To…” But he did! And he triumphs!

Surprisingly. When the tiny Radcliffe busts a movie(or rather) move in the “Groundhog” football dance number the teenage girls in the audience (yes! teenage girls in a Bway audience!) started squeeeeealing with delight. That’s just the first act! And by the “Brotherhood of Man” finale number that concludes this rousing revival,the diminutive Radcliffe has utterly proven himself as a bona fide Broadway singing and dancing sensation!

And his “I Believe In You” the famous Men’s Washroom song sung to an invisible mirror — Fawgeddabowit!

 “How To…”, a creaky curio at best, really needs that star power and charisma in the central role that Radcliffe dazzlingly provides, or it really is pretty much a bunch of nothing. And very sexist too boot. Its’ heroine Rosemary’s singing of the delights of “I’ll be happy to keep his dinner warm. Waiting for him to wearily come home from Downtown” as the other girls in the steno pool sing ” Don’t Cinderella! Don’t give up the Prince!” and the glories of the “New Rochelle PTA!”

Feminists in the audience will be cringing. But not so the teenage girls who were SCREAMING their way through one Radcliffe number after the other after the other. They were in Harry Potter cult heaven! I’ve never seen anything like this reaction on Ole Broadway before…It reminded me of what it must have been like when Frank Sinatra sang to the swooning bobby-soxers at the Paramount. Not that I was there, mind you. But I’m just saying…it’s VERY unlike OLDE Broadway to have this much young blood pumping wildy through its’ veins. But why not? It works! In spades!

“How to…” harks back, way back,  to the days when stars were expected to sing seven or eight numbers (at least!) all night long. And dance, too! And Radcliffe does all that to a fare-thee-well.

He has a very nice, serviceable singing voice, too, and an undeniable charm that makes his supposedly Machiavellian rise to the top be be absolutely and utterly believable. His character,  J. Pierpont Finch simply by reading this “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” book rises to the top of the World Wide Wicket Corporation by simply following the book’s simply laid out rules. Unctously read as an off-stage voice by narrator Anderson Cooper. Yes, THAT Anderson Cooper! It seems every body wants in on this successful boy’s new next act. Singing, and dancing and with a perfect American accent, too! I loved it!

This plot strangely mirrors Radcliffe’s charmed life in a marvelous way. The boy is so utterly disarming, as the book says, “without really trying”, he succeeds and succeeds again, as Radcliffe as Harry Potter has done in the decades-long franchise now about to reach its’ cinematic conclusion this summer. It’s been the most financially successful franchise series in cinema history.

 And when the last movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Pt.2” is released and Daniel Radcliffe will  still be singing and dancing his way into America’s hearts in this charming revival which will run and run as long as Radcliffe wants it to be in it.

 With, I’m predicting a “Best Actor in a Musical” Tony Award to boot!

Having seen Radcliffe naked and acting his heart out to the tune of a Drama Desk Award Nomination for Best Actor in a Play for “Equus” couple of seasons back, one knew he had the dramatic chops to sustain this startling career transition to serious stage actor and now morphing even further into a singing and dancing Bway phenom.

Justin Bieber, Look Out!

Daniel Radcliffe is now crooning and swooning in a Big Phat Bway Musical Hit!

I’m beginning to think that Radcliffe can do just about anything! Of course, he is fully supported by one great show tune from the pen of the late great Frank Loesser after the other.

This show won the Pulitzer Prize it was considered so timely, so edgy, when it first came out 50 years ago, but without the spiffy stealth updating by director Rob Ashford and an able supporting cast, including TV Vet John(“Night Court”) Larroquette in the Rudy Vallee part of J. B. Biggley, the boss of World Wide Wickets and the beauteous, ample heaving bosoms of the headiest of  Hedy La Rue’s of Tammy Blanchard, one wonders just how pertinent this dated story could possibly be today. In a post-Enron world, a mild satire of corporate shenanigans could go over like the lead balloon it proved to be when Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullaly (pre-“Will and Grace”) essayed it back in the ’90s. He and it were so boring and she was so grating, I walked out at intermission. But he won a Tony anyway.

But the rise and surprise of Daniel Radcliffe made me stay and stand and applaud! Aren’t we lucky to have him on Broadway delightfully re-inventing this war-horse and his own career at the same time! As far as I’m concerned Broadway has a new star! Daniel Radcliffe! Long may he shine!

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