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Posts tagged ‘Tonys’

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So Sad to Report that “Bright Star” Is Closing Sunday

Carmen Cusack2Broadway can be so cruel sometimes. It is with a heavy heart that I have to report the sad news that “Bright Star” my favorite show of this season is closing Sunday.  Sometimes I think that quality has no place on Broadway, where supposedly only the Best of Best are showcased. I could name several more than mediocre musicals that are running, but I will refrain from casting aspersions. It’s been a very crowded season for musicals unfortunately for “Bright Star.” But do yourself a favor, if you haven’t already done so and get the marvelous CD of the Original Cast with the stunning debut of Carmen Cusack, who was nominated for Best Actress in a Musical.

“Bright Star” was also nominated for Best Musical, but alas won neither award. TONYS do help keep shows open.

Here’s the Official Press Release I just got sent announcing its’ untimely demise.

2016 OUTER CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNING &

2016 TONY AWARD NOMINATED
BEST MUSICAL

 

STEVE MARTIN & EDIE BRICKELL’S

“ B R I G H T   S T A R ”

 

TO PLAY ITS FINAL BROADWAY PERFORMANCE ON

SUNDAY, JUNE 26

 

New York, NY – Producer Joey Parnes today announced that Bright Star, the new musical from 2016 Tony Award nomineesSteve Martin and Edie Brickell, will play its final Broadway performance on Sunday, June 26, after 30 preview and 109 regular performances.

 

Bright Star, with direction by Tony Award® winner Walter Bobbie and choreography by Josh Rhodes, began performances on Thursday, February 25th, 2016 at the Cort Theatre (138 West 48th Street), and opened officially on Thursday, March 24thIt went on to win the 2016 Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Musical and Best Score and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music.  It also received five 2016 Tony Awards nominations, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book, Best Lead Actress in a Musical, and Best Orchestrations.

 

“So much of Bright Star’s beauty comes from the fact that it is utterly free of irony,” said Joey Parnes.  “In these cynical times, this quality proved to be totally refreshing to audience members, and also created a unique challenge in attracting them.  I am so proud of this show, and I am glad that Steve, Edie and Walter, and this incredible company, brought its unique spirit to our city, if only for a while.”

 

The original cast recording of Bright Star is now available everywhere, and charted on five different Billboard lists in its first week of wide release.  The cast album from Ghostlight Records placed at #1 on the Top Current Blue Grass Albums chart, #2 on the Top Broadway chart, #5 on the Americana/Folk Albums chart, as well as hitting the Top 100 on the Billboard Top Albums chart and Top 200 on the Overall Digital Albums chart. The album is produced by the legendary, multi-Grammy Award-winning producer, manager, and musician Peter Asher.

 

Carmen Cusack has made one of the most buzzed about and raved over Broadway debuts in recent memory as Alice, a role she originated in Bright Star’s world premiere production, and is joined by co-stars Paul Alexander Nolan, Tony Award®nominee Michael Mulheren, A.J. Shively, Hannah Elless, Tony Award® nominee Stephen Bogardus, three-time Tony Award®nominee Dee Hoty, Stephen Lee Anderson, Emily Padgett, Tony Award® nominee Jeff Blumenkrantz, along with Maddie Shea Baldwin, Allison Briner-Dardenne, Max Chernin, Patrick Cummings, Sandra DeNise, Richard Gatta, Lizzie Klemperer, Michael X. Martin, William Michals, Tony Roach, Sarah Jane Shanks and William Youmans.

The design team for Bright Star includes Tony and Emmy Award® winner Eugene Lee (Scenic Design), Tony Award® winnerJane Greenwood (Costume Design), Tony Award nominee Japhy Weideman (Lighting Design), Tony Award nominee Nevin Steinberg (Sound Design), Tom Watson (Hair and Wig Design), Grammy Award® winner Peter Asher (Music Supervision), Rob Berman (Musical Direction and Vocal Arrangements), August

Eriksmoen (Orchestrations), and Howie Cherpakov (Casting).

#Bright Star

 

Will Drama Desk Winners Repeat at the TONYs?

Jessica & Cynthia 1Will Drama Desk Winners repeat their triumphs at the TONYS? Probably. This year, especially. I think so. Above are pictured the two Best Actress winners. Jessica Lange for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and British newcomer Cynthia Erivo who is starring in “The Color People.” Lange won for Best Actress in a play and Erivo won for Best Actress in a Musical. I think these two ladies are Won and Done. At the Tonys.

Also poised to repeat at the TONYs are their two male counterparts in Drama Desk triumph Danny Burstein in “Fiddler on the Roof” and Frank Langella in the French play about an Alzheimer’s victim “The Father.”

I think all four of these powerhouse thespians can rest assured the Tony Voters will like them, really like them,too. The Tony Voters  do look increasingly to the Drama Desk winners to narrow their playing field, as it were.

This year, though, the theatrical phenom “Hamilton” is nominated for more TONYs than any other production in Broadway history. But in these four leading categories I don’t think it will register as it is likely to do in others. “Hamilton” won nearly every award in the book LAST year when it was eligible for the Drama Desks(and also the Outer Critics Circle and the Obies) because it played Off Broadway first at its’ historic run at the Public that launched it to Broadway.

And although two of its’ leading men author/actor Lin Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odon are both nominated for Best Actor in a Musical, I think they will cancel each other out, leaving the way for the popular veteran Danny Burstein to triumph for his joyous Tevye in “Fiddler.”

In other news, I think juggernaut “Hamilton” may find itself stopped at the TONYS. Although it was nominated for a historic 16 awards, I think it’s going to register much, much less than that.

The only acting award I think is a surefire win for “Hamilton” is the charming young African-American actress Renee Elise Goldsberry, who won the Drama Desk last year for Best Featured(or Supporting) Actress in a Musical.Renee Rlise Goldsberry 1

And on the Drama side, the powerful performance of veteran Jayne Howdeyshell from the Best Play Drama Desk winner “The Humans” could score in Supporting, which is where the TONYS put her and co-star Reed Birney, although they are both leads. “The Humans” also won for Best Ensemble at the Drama Desks, a special category that the DDs always give, but the TONYs do not.Jayne Houdyshell Humans 1

“Hamilton” will win Best Musical for sure. But the TONY voters are notorious for spreading the wealth around, and I think they will do that this year, too, in spite of “Hamilton” perceived dominance.

#Drama Desk Awards, # Hamilton, # Tonys, #Jessica Lange, #Cynthia Arivo, #A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, #Color Purple, #Best Actress in a Leading Role, #Danny Burstein, #Frank Langella, #Fiddler on the Roof, #The Father, #Lyn-Manuel Miranda, #Renee Elise Goldsberry,#Jayne HowdyShell #The Humans

Benjamin Walker Kills in Bloody Underpants in “American Psycho:The Musical”on Bway

American Pyscho 1I never really understood the ’80’s. The 1980s. They didn’t have the defined Gestalt of the ’60s(hippies), the ’70s(punk rock). Nor have any of the decades since then seem particularly definable to me. Just one big blur. Or is just life as we know it….continues…And “American Pyscho” tries its’ best to define the undefinable ’80s. And goes ahead to prove that New York City hasn’t changed that much. So it’s relatable.

It’s trying to be the ultimate New York ’80s Wall Street musical. And at that it does succeed. And it’s combining genres like mad.Which is very avant-garde of it, which I liked. It’s complex.

The rather unbelievable idea of trying to transform Brett Easton Ellis’ novel “American Psycho” into a musical comedy is indeed, er, dicey. And it veers widely in tone. Is it comic? Well, it’s funny, at times. It rhymes “ironic” with “Manolo Blahnik” and “mahi-mahi” with Issac Mizrahi. So it’s TRYING. And it tries too much. But what can you do with intractable, basically non-musical comedy material? Well, you put the comedy and the fantasy and the sex,(see above picture) front and center.

And it does this by having its’ incredibly comely leading man Benjamin Walker enter in his tighty-whiteys (see below)And pretty much keeps him there, unclothed, for most of the rest of the musical. And that’s a good thing.AMerican Psycho 2

It’s a great thing, really, because Mr. Walker, is an incredibly adept actor/singer/comic, who dances up a storm in Act Two particularly. And yes, again in his white underwear, that is now drenched with blood. In his incredibly long, monologish sequence in Act Two, he stays drenched in blood and singing, too, it is really a tour-de-force and to his credit, he’s never self-conscious, but always sexy. And yes, compelling. He acts OVER his underpants.

“American Psycho:The Musical” owes a lot to the late lesbian novelist Patricia Highsmith’s “Talented Mr. Ripley” and all her novels, including the Alfred Hitchcock-adaptation of her”Strangers on a Train.” Highsmith’s great achievement was always putting you INSIDE the murderer’s head, be it Tom Ripley or Bruno Anthony or any of them, and making you side with the psycho, which is exactly what “American Psycho” succeeds at, too.

“American Psycho” wants to put us all, as Patricia Highsmith did, inside the mind of serial killers.

But you see, Patrick Bateman is a Don Draper-look-alike, who is really a nerd. Nothing he ever says or does satisfies him. And New York and Wall Street particularly drive him crazy, and so he acts out, bloodily. Or does he?

Where “American Psycho:The Musical” also succeeds is abstracting all the violence. The French had a whole school of theatre called “Grand Guignol” and this is a perfect example of that. Blood was always everywhere as it is at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, where audiences are loving it! Es Devlin’s chiarascuro set aided by Finn Ross’ stunning scenic video projections are constantly turning the black and white Wall Street world of Patrick Bateman into a sea of red.

The first act was way too long by half, but by the time they got to “Mistletoe Alert” their Christmas number the show began to jell into the bloody aspic it becomes successfully in Act Two.

The fact that Patrick escapes to the Hamptons (see below) which he hates. (He also hates Christmas, btw.) And has to run back to New York, New York, where he feels “Safe,”made me begin to like this guy.American Psycho 3A seemingly impossible feat given the premise.

And oh yes, the chorus especially the men, are as buff as buff can be and as frequently shirtless as Benjamin Walker is. They form a very decorative set themselves.

Main among them I really liked Drew Moerlein’s Paul Owen, the perfectly slimy Wall Street a-hole, who is just BEGGING to be slaughtered by our serial-killer savior Bateman. (You see, he gets you on his murderous side, so you’re glad when he lowers quite a spectacularly bloody boom on the haplessly drunk and high Owen.)

Red-headed Jordan Dean also scores  as the closeted Wall Street-er who constantly is trying to seduce Bateman, in VERY physical ways.  His hands were all over Benjamin Walker’s superb physique rather constantly. I could relate.

Helene Yorke has the only stand-out female role as Bateman’s society-and-label-crazed fiance. And she keeps calling him “PA-TRUCK.” And Tony Winner Alice Ripley is totally wasted and unrecognizable as Pa-truck’s mother.

No. This is a show where the guyz, as you can see above, have it.

Benjamin Walker’s bravado turn just earned him an Outer Critics Circle nomination this past week. And so did Helene Yorke’s droller-than-droll deb.

The Drama Desk, btw, of which I am a voting member, announces their nominations on Thursday AM.  The Outer Critics gave “American Psycho:The Musical” the lions share of their nominations. Will the Drama Desk follow suit?

We’ll shall see. All I can say in conclusion is “AP:TM” is a bloody good time.

#American Psycho # Benjamin Walker # Outer Critics Circle # Patricia Highsmith # Talented Mr. Ripley # Alfred Hitchcock

Tony Predictions 2015. “American in Paris”& “Curious Case…”Will Sweep

Elephant ManMirren AudienceTony 2015And the Tony(s) will go to….Most likely,to the most liked “An American in Paris” the tony (pun intended)  re-imagining of the great Gene Kelly/Leslie Caron cinematic starrer of 1951,directed by Vincente Minnelli, it won the Best Picture Oscar & many  others and I think this million-dollar box-office bonanza for Broadway will make Tony voters vote for it. And I think it’s got legs.

It will sweep its’  Best Actor in a Musical and Best Featured Actor in a Musical, Robert Fairchild and Max Von Essen in, too. As well as Best Director of a Musical and Best Choreographer. Christopher Wheeldon has brought ballet to Broadway in a way that I can’t really remember. And Fairchild has a growing well of buzz about him. Doing the seemingly impossible and making you forget Gene Kelly in the same part, if only for a moment. When he won the Drama Desk Award earlier this week, in this same category, he thanked Gene Kelly, which I thought was a nice, classy touch.

The fact that Fairchild is a ballet dancer who has suddenly turned into a Broadway triple threat here, singing and acting, too, well, it’s catnip to the Tony voters. It doesn’t hurt that his beautiful ballerina sister Megan Fairchild is kicking up her talented heels as the leading lady Miss Turnstiles in “On the Town” a few blocks south on Broadway, too.

Broadway stalwarts Michael Cerveris in “Fun Home” and Brian D’Arcy James in “Something Rotten” will likely be seen as having other chances. And who can believe the full-throated, full-throttle D’Arcy James as an Elizabethan LOSER? But I think he’ll lose here. And I think “Something Rotten”( to the core) will be just too low-brow for the middle-brow Tony Voters. And Fairchild is the astonishment of the season.

The Drama Desk gave “Rotten” only one award for Christian Borle in Featured Actor. And he was very good, perhaps the best thing in “Rotten” as a rock-star Shakespeare. But Borle has already won a Tony (for “Peter and the Starcatcher” a few years back), leaving the excellent Frenchie, Max Von Essen, who isn’t French, to build his own Stairway to Paradise in that category.

Best Actress in a Play and Musical are slam-dunks for Dame Helen Mirren for “The Audience” and the very popular Kristen Chenoweth for over-exerting herself to the max in “On the 20th Century.”

Best Play will be British import “Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time” which will sweep all its’ many nominated categories Best Play, Best Direction of a Play. Best Lighting, Best Sound Design, Best Dog…(sorry, I REALLY didn’t like this dogs’ lunch myself. It gave me a headache. But that’s the sign of a true predictor. You can see what’s going to inevitably win and predict what you see, even if it made you feel like taking a Xanax, desperately…)

“Fun Home” may get Best Music and Best Book of a Musical for Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, respectively. “An American in Paris” is re-cycling mucho Gerswhin, so is not nominated in the Best Music category, which maintains that the music be original. And nobody liked Craig Lucas’ book for “American” and everybody likes Lisa Kron’s inventive work for “Fun Home.”

Best Revival of a Play I think will be the lush, opulent, but just right, re-interpretation of “The Elephant Man.” Now wowing the West End in London, it also featured sublime support from Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola as well as a dazzling star turn from Bradley Cooper in the title-role.It seems incredible that recent Julliard grad Alex Sharp is going to beat Superstar Bradley Cooper in the Best Actor in a Play race, but he’s won every other award in sight this season for “Curious Case…” Timing is everything on Broadway, and I think that if the sold-out hit “Elephant Man” was still running HERE, Bradley Cooper would’ve won for his tortured portrayal of John Merrick.

There seems to a groundswell that surrounds certain performers as Tony draws nigh(tomorrow night on CBS) and I feel that with Chenoweth, Sharp,  Fairchild, and Mirren.

I also feel that buzz surrounding Annaleigh Ashford for her dreadfully over-done, bad ballet dancer in “You Can’t Take It With You.” Supporting or as they like to say on Broadway Featured actor categories are always tricky to predict. But Ashford seems to have the momentum, inexplicably. to me, at least.

And Best Revival of a Musical is most likely going to be “The King and I”  at Lincoln Center. Well-done and sturdy, it lacks the two leading performances the over-rated and over-cast Kelli O’Hara and the barely understandable Japanese actor Ken Watanabe, playing the King of Siam. But everybody and everything else in it is quite well done.

This means my faves “On the Town” and “Gigi” will come away empty-handed. And so I think, will “Something Rotten” and “Hand to God.” But “Wolf Hall, Pts. 1 & 2” may land its’ solitary Tony win by gaining Henry VIII’s NathaAn American in Paris 1Wolf Hall 1niel Parker a nice, silver trophy to take back to Blighty, when the six-hour two part marathon of the season finishes its’ limited run the first week of July.

So tune in tomorrow night at 8pm to CBS to see how right or wrong I was.

Could “Wolf Hall Pts 1 & 2” Win All the Tonys???

Could the astoundingly popular British six-hour smash hit “Wolf Hall Pts. 1 & 2” win all the Tonys it’s sure to be nominated for in less than two weeks? It certainly could. It’s massive length, and its massive cast of nearly two dozen imported Royal Shakespearean actors is based on the equally massively successful and acclaimed novels by Dame Hilary Mantel.Wolf Hall 1 TONY 2015 1“Wolf Hall” and its’ successor “Bring In the Bodies” BOTH won the prestigious Mann Booker awards in Britain. And though you would think the six-hour long marathon length would daunt theater-goers, it was a success in Stratford-Upon-Avon, where it appropriately started, then in the West End, when it transferred, and now on Broadway,

Anglophiles seem to be coming out of the wood-work lapping it up as a day well-spent time-travelling to the uttterly corrupt court of King Henry VIII. It has already been adapted into a critically acclaimed hit by Mike Poulton at London’s Royal Shakespeare Company, and its current Broadway transfer has grossed almost $2 million in previews since March 20; it opened April 9. And the novels themselves have sold over three million copies world-wide

It’s also currently airing on PBS starring Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell, here the protagonist. With overwhelming stats like these, I think it’s going to get nominated for every Tony Award in the book. Including and especially  Best New Play, Best Actor (Ben Miles ~ Thomas Cromwell), Best Supporting Actress (Lydia Leonard ~ Anne Boleyn) and Best Supporting Actor (Nathaniel Parker ~ King Henry VIII) and you can throw in Best Director, and all the technical awards, too.

I wasn’t sure about this  TONY sweep happening, although all my critical colleagues were throwing their hats very high into the air with the best reviews of the season, until I saw a 90 minute Q&A at the New School’s auditorium in Greenwich Village.

Hosted by the jovial and expert Richard Ridge, Parker, Miles and Ms. Leonard utterly charmed and beguiled me, as they participated in this, one of the best symposiums I’ve ever attended. Hosted by SAG and Broadwayworld.com, the Tudor trio & Ridge created what was one of the most delightful afternoons chats I’ve ever been witness to.

Also invited were Drama Desk members, and all were thrilled by what they were hearing as Parker, Miles and Ms. Leonard regalled us with a totally complete picture of just how “Wolf Hall” transformed into  two stage plays from those very thick British novels.

And all three were unstinting in their generosity in their replies to Ridge’s apt questions. They were three actors talking from their hearts to an audience full of actors(The Screen Actors Guild) and they couldn’t’ve been more charming, intelligent, completely forthcoming and utterly winning.

Ben Miles, Lydia Leonard and Nathaniel Parker may have arrived here as virtual strangers on our shores, but they are going to leave nominated for every acting award they’ll be eligible for. The Drama Desk and the Tonys all announce their choices within the next two weeks. I can’t wait!

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Steven Lutvak & Robert L. Freedman Winners of the Drama Desk Awards for Best Lyrics & Best Book for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”

And here’s my Tony Predictions Part three. Where I show you my interview with the super talented creators of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” Composer Steven Lutvak, who won Best Lyrics at the Drama Desk and Robert L. Freedman who won for Best Book. They co-wrote the lyrics. And for the Tonys, I predict they could win across all these categories, too!

However, there’s the closed show “Bridges of Madison County” which won Best Music.

The Tony voters differ from the Drama Deskers in that they like to give their awards to shows THAT ARE STILL RUNNING. Which “A Gentleman’s Guide…” still is and getting bigger and bigger at the Box-Office all the time.

Jonathan Tunick, a legendary Orchestrator, could also win for “Best Orchestrations” continuing the “Gentleman’s Guide…” sweep.

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Audra McDonald Soars In the Sublime “Lady Day”

Audra McDonald, who has won more Tonys than any other actress, five at last count, is looking seriously at her sixth, for her superb rendition of the doomed & dying Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grille.” McDonald, always masterful, here touches the sublime in a superb interpretation the late, jazz great Holiday.

Watching, and hearing, this silken voice soar over the rainbow, is beyond the beyond. And watching a great singer and a great actress at the absolute peak of her vocal and dramatic prowess is a great, great privilege and a pleasure second to none. McDonald has captured lightning in a bottle.

The legendary MacDonald has an operatic range and Julliard training and was simply magnificent as Bess in “Porgy and Bess”, in what was, up til then, the performance of her career.

Now, she’s done the impossible and topped herself, with her heart-rending, scintillating, melodious “Lady Day.”

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grille” is named that for a very specific reason. We here see Billie Holiday right near the end of her drug-addicted and booze-fueled life. She was dead at 44. And Emerson’s Bar and Grille was one of the only places she could play after being imprisoned in New York City for drugs. And it’s in Philadelphia, a town she hates.

“I don’t care if I go to heaven or to hell, as long as it’s not Philadelphia” she says.

She lost her license to perform in New York City clubs because of her prison time. Even though she could and did sing at Carnegie Hall, she couldn’t practice her art in nightclubs.

Her sad, sad life is enlivened and elevated, of course, when she sings. And MacDonald has captured the exact timbre and tone and the tremendous pain behind all of Holiday’s singing. And also the singer’s utter joy in her music.

McDonald has won Five Tonys and is celebrated and lauded wherever she goes. starring on Broadway and in concerts. And she restricts her vocal stylings to exactly match Holiday’s very limited range. But her voice flies up to rapturous emotional heights as Holiday’s did. I felt like I was watching a moonbeam sing.

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grille” is a very strange cocktail of a play and a musical. It’s really both, and it calls upon McDonald to go places onstage that she’s never been asked to go before. But go there, she does. As she continues to sing and interact with the admiring throng, she is also going to pieces right in front of us.

She literally staggers on to the Circle in the Square stage, from the back room of Emerson’s Bar and Grille, where she was clearly soused to the gills as the play opens, and McDonald weaves her way through the assembled cocktail tables where much of the audience is seated, as if it were a for-real nightclub. She staggers and needs help mounting the stage and sings a couple of upbeat numbers, before she halts her act, to inform the audience of her tragic back story. Her cleaning the steps of a Baltimore whorehouse, and actually working in some herself before she started singing.

She keeps cursing the man in her life who got her hooked on drugs, and now she’s helplessly in the death throes of her addiction, and there’s nothing she can do about it.It isn’t pretty, but Audra McDonald makes it beautiful beyond belief.

She even staggers back through the audience to leave the stage completely to her confused and dismayed musical trio, who vamp until she returns, having clearly shot up in the back room of Emerson’s Bar and Grille.

She wears long white gloves to cover the track marks, and one of them is dangerously slipping and MacDonald returns to the stage glistening with sweat all over, as junkies do. Her bare shoulders slightly soaked and beautiful face sweaty & screwed up into that all-too-familiar, self-satisfied smile of inner glee that junkies have immediately after they get high.This moment was so accurately portrayed, it was chilling.

McDonald builds her definitive portrait of this damaged artist detail by detail, describing one shocking racial incident after the other, so that by the time she sings her signature song, “Strange Fruit” she becomes an unforgettable mixture of pain and beauty.

The song, of course, describes a lynching she has witnessed in the South.

But the joy in this great spirit is incandescent. And a performance of this caliber is so high and so rare, don’t by any means miss it. You’ll never forget it.

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