An Opinion Piece: Tony Predictions 2016

As we say, it’s only one person’s opinion, and a few categories are going to take each other to task, but there are still some things that we can probably say for certain.

Hamilton broke records left and right this season, including the 16 nominations it got from the award committee. I think the show will definitely dominate the majority of categories, but I’m not sure if it will go for a clean sweep like I’ve seen a lot of people say.

As far as shows with multiple nominees in the same categories, I feel Hamilton may surprise us and see Leslie Odom Jr. go home with the Best Leading Actor award, and Best Featured Actor is a toss up.

Noises Off I think will see the Best Featured Actress award go home with Megan Hilty, as Andrea Martin is still a newcomer and Hilty has been a favorite in recent years.

A View From The Bridge might pull off all tech awards it was nominated for, and The Crucible may pull in an acting nod for Sophie Okonedo, but A View will win more out of the two of them.

I predict Eclipsed getting a lot of attention as well, for both technical and acting, although I’m unsure about whether or not Liesl Tommy will come home with the Best Direction award. Both A View From The Bridge and Long Day’s Journey Into Night have been reviewed really favorably in that direction.

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I get the feeling that the opening number is going to feature riffs on James Corden shows and will most definitely poke fun at the Into The Woods movie. Host Neil Patrick Harris hadn’t starred in Hedwig by the time that he hosted, and last year saw ribbing of Kristin Chenoweth’s time in Wicked, so I think his roles are also fair game. The ceremony did the same with the Les Miserables movie a few years ago, and as someone who didn’t care for the Into The Woods movie, I’m looking forward to some laughs.

With the American Theatre Wing’s push for the recognition of diversity this season, I think onversations on the red carpet and off are going to focus heavily on diversity across all spectrums, though some conversation about “Tony can you hear me” may come up as another year passes without the sound awards.

PLAY:

Best: Eclipsed
Best Revival: Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Best Actor Leading: Mark Strong (A View From The Bridge)
Best Actor Feature: Reed Birney (The Humans)
Best Actress Leading: Jessica Lange (Long Day’s Journey Into Night)
Best Actress Feature: Pascale Armand (Eclipsed)
Best Direction: Liesl Tommy (Eclipsed)
Best Scenic Design: Jan Versweyveld (A View From The Bridge)
Best Lighting Design: Jan Versweyveld (The Crucible)
Best Costume Design: Clint Ramos (Eclipsed)

 

MUSICAL:

Best: Hamilton
Best Revival: The Color Purple
Best Actor Leading: Leslie Odom Jr.
Best Actor Feature: Daveed Diggs (Hamilton)
Best Actress Leading: Jessie Meuller (Waitress)
Best Actress Feature: Danielle Brooks (The Color Purple)
Best Direction: Michael Arden (Spring Awakening)
Best Book: Shuffle Along (George C. Wolfe)
Best Original Score: Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda)
Best Scenic Design: Es Devlin and Finn Ross (American Psycho)
Best Lighting Design: Howell Binkley (Hamilton)
Best Costume Design: Ann Roth (Shuffle Along)
Best Choreography: Savion Glover (Shuffle Along)
Best Orchestrations: Alex Lacamoire (Hamilton)

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“Based On”: Broadway’s Adaptation Addiction

Some years, as with the shift between revivals and new shows, adaptations swarm the eligibility lists. Depending on the source material, adaptations can either feel contrived or give the audience something completely new and profound. Personally, I lean on the side of original work as I feel it better expands the industry and keeps it fresh.

However, adaptations are never something that should be ruled out, because how else would we have ended up with the hits of Les Miserables and the Phantom of the Opera- both of which were novels before they came to the stage? These may be poor examples however, as these two stories have seen a multitude of adaptations over the years with all kinds of media. Perhaps here, it was the passage of time that led to these specific adaptations being well received. Les Miserables was published by Victor Hugo in 1862, and the musical first debuted on the West End in 1985. Gaston Leroux published The Phantom of the Opera in 1909, and it wasn’t until 1986 that Phantom came to the stage.

The current trend seems to be to snatch plots up as soon as they premiere elsewhere and work on transferring them to the stage. It’s not only Broadway that’s fallen prey to this- The Hunger Games from page to screen, and Star Wars from screen to graphic novel are some recent examples.

It feels like a different game when producers adapt things for the stage, especially if they become musicals for one simple reason: there was no music in Victor Hugo’s novel before Schonberg and Boublil put it there. So what about this season’s adaptations? Of the 5 eligible this year, all have been nominated for awards.

13693-3School of Rock: originally a 2003 film starring Jack Black, this production incorporates music from film and adds new songs as well. Changes to have been made to characters,  names, and plot points. Critics gave generally favorable reviews, but many have asked-what does adaptation add to the plot that the movie didn’t? Personally, I view this as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s scramble to make another hit after the Love Never Dies disaster. The show seems fun with great leads in Alex Brightman and Sierra Boggess, but much like Rock of Ages before it, it doesn’t seen like anyone was clamoring for this story to be re-told, especially as the movie is still generally recent. Received 4 nominations for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Actor in a Leading Role.

14295-3Tuck Everlasting: originally a book published in 1975 and then adapted into the 2002 film, the source material obviously contains no music. The production clearly injects musical numbers and manages to weave plot lines unique to book and film. The show had some star power in the form of Terrance Mann and Andrew Keenan-Bolger, but it’s been largely ignored by the award committee. Reviews here were favorable, but the show closed just this past week. The score is whimsical, and the injection of music gives light to the story’s fairytale aesthetic, but I believe the production as a whole wasn’t hard-hitting enough in a season full of Eclipseds and Hamiltons. I think if this would have opened alongside Mary Poppins and Once in lighter seasons it would have fared better. Received a nomination for Best Costume Design.

ap_ogAmerican Psycho: originally a book published in 1991 and then 2000 film starring Christian Bale, this production also poses as a cross between horror and black comedy. It draws heavily on book material and the 1980’s setting to influence music choices. The show opened first on the West End in 2013 and has received favorable reviews for both productions. Here’s another show largely ignored by the nomination committee, but since 2013 has already become a “cult classic”. None of the violence is toned down, so a la Sweeney Todd, many don’t have the palette for it, which is why I think it’s been largely ignored. Music and lyrics are by Duncan Sheik, who’s Spring Awakening also received few nominations for it’s revival this season. Received two nominations for Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting Design.

miseryMisery: originally a book published by Stephen King in 1987 and then 1990 film, this production is the only nominated or eligible staged adaptation that is a play, which is down from recent years. Though the film earned Kathy Bates an Academy Award, this show had mixed reviews. The star power of Bruce Willis couldn’t save this production, though perhaps some of this is due to the writing. The novel has already been adapted into two different plays, and to me, a third version feels like this was staged largely just to capitalize on the star power available. This show was also largely ignored by committee, with Laurie Metcalf garnering the only attention for her role as Annie Wilkes, same as Kathy Bates in 1990. Received a nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

14665-3Waitress: originally a 2007 film, the source material is a largely cult hit, and as most of the others, has no music. The production draws heavily from source material but manages to inject and original score by Sara Bareilles, who is a Grammy-winning artist. The film was critically acclaimed, and the show received mixed to positive reviews. Here’s another show that pulled in less nominations than everyone expected, including myself. Personally, I think the opening ran too close to the eligibility cutoff to have full stock taken, however it may be the same case as Tuck Everlasting. Though containing some gritty subject matter, the show is on the lighter side of the spectrum and maybe would have benefitted in the nominations corner had it opened a few years previous. However, no plans have been made to close the show while other eligible shows this season have already had their last run. Received four nominations for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Actor in a Featured Role.

At the end of the day, this year has seen new works dominate both the eligibility rankings and the nominations themselves, but that is not always the case. Some of the longest running shows currently on Broadway are adaptations: The Lion King, Wicked, Phantom, etc. These three shows garnered heavy attention from the nomination committee when they premiered, so perhaps the attention from the Tonys give shows the boost they need to last beyond premiere season.

However, I feel that writers can’t keep making it in the business if there’s nothing fresh to write. If every story goes through the adaptation saga disregarding parodies, what’s going to constitute a success in the industry? Theatre has historically been such an outlet for original work and creatives that didn’t fit into the entertainment mold, I would hate to see it become more commercialized than it already is. While I appreciate the attention that these large-scale adaptation successes have brought to the theatre community, I never want the industry to lose the original creative spark that drew so many of us to the theatre.

MITM Musing: Of your favorite shows, are any adaptations? If you could pick literally anything to see an adaptation of, what would it be? Any predictions as far as how these adaptations will fare at the Tonys?

#TonysSoDiverse

In the wake of the 2016 Academy Awards and the #OscarsSoWhite debacle, many are looking to the Tonys this season as a potential beacon of light in the way of diversity.

Now, this isn’t to say that this season is the be-all-end-all for diverse stage works, and I know, like most other theatre fans, that the Tonys have had the same discriminatory history as the Academy Awards and the Emmys. But, when all four major acting awards in the musical camp could be won by actors of color, some credit is still due.

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Shuffle Along

Out of all of the eligible plays and musicals this season, 9 out of 36 staged central plots involving characters of color as the protagonists, and another 6 featured actors of color in general major and supporting roles. Again, the majority of focus is still spent on white stories and actors, but when I think about what the eligibility list looked like even 10 years ago, this is a step in the right direction.

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The cast of Waitress: The Musical

Though many shows featuring diverse casts were eligible, there were some shocking nominations left by the wayside in favor of less diverse works.

Allegiance, which opened to great critical reviews and starring the likes of Lea Salonga and George Takei, received no nominations from the awards committee. Before the announcement ceremony, I was sure that the musical would at least earn some acting nominations, as well as perhaps a costume nod or best book nomination. What was nominated in it’s place was not just surprising to me, but to a lot of people.

Having listened to the soundtrack and knowing that the story was based on George Takei’s own experiences with the Japanese-American WWII internment camps, Allegiance was a story previously left untold in an industry (and country for that matter) that largely ignores the narratives of Asian-Americans. Besides Philippa Soo in Hamilton, no other Asian-American actor or creative received a nomination. I may risk repeating myself, but there is still clear work to be done when it comes to nominations as well as the stories created on Broadway.

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George Takei, Lea Salonga, and Telly Leung in Allegiance

But, one thing I have noticed is the diversity in the creative fields, as well as diversity beyond race. This season saw women of color (Danai Gurira and Liesl Tommy) nominated for directing, and writing (Eclipsed). Clint Ramos’ nomination for costume design, Sergio Trujillo’s nod for choreography, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s recognition for book and original score shone a well deserved light on the men of the Latino community.

Across the board, women of all races have been nominated in almost every creative category, from Sara Bareilles for original score, to Ann Roth in costume design, to Natasha Katz and Peggy Eisenhauer with their respective nods for lighting design. Michael Arden, a member of the LGBTQ community, garnered a best director nomination, and though his revival of Spring Awakening received no specific acting nods, it was still nominated for best revival. This means that for the first time, an actress in a wheelchair and an ensemble of deaf actors has been recognized by the awards committee.

It’s clear to see that the trend of recognizing and awarding diversity is on the upward climb and has been placed in the spotlight. Even with just the nominations, the course is set in the right direction, and I hope that the award ceremony itself continues on this path. Here’s to hoping that the next few seasons will offer even more.

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Jennifer Hudson and Cybthia Erivo in The Color Purple

A Deeper Look At The Special Tony Awards

Every Award season, the Tony Awards voting committee gives four “Special” Tony Awards. Often, these are the first awards to be decided, and most are granted before the actual televised ceremony.

So what are these awards, and how can someone be qualified for them?


 

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre

The longest-running non-competitive Tony, this award was established in 1947 and has been awarded consistently into the present season.

This award is largely presented to individuals in recognition of their “body of lifetime work”, although some partners and groups have also won the award. Most recipients are still living upon receiving this award, but many are given posthumously, as was the case with Brock Pemberton in 1950 (as the co-founder of the American Theatre Wing).

2016 recipients:

Sheldon Harnick (Songwriter, librettist, composer)

Marshall W. Mason (Founding Artistic Director: Circle Repertory Company, director)

 

Past recipients:

1970: Barbara Streisand (Star Of The Decade)

1999: Arthur Miller (Lifetime Achievement)

2008: Stephen Sondheim (Lifetime Achievement in Theatre)

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Mandy Patankin accepting on behalf of Sondheim at the 62nd Tony Awards


 

Regional Theatre Tony Award

Initially given in 1948, this Tony became an established award in 1976 and is given to regional theatres that display “outstanding productions and promotion of theatrical arts.” This award is the only to include a monetary prize, which amounts to a $25,000 grant.

The established goal of this award is to promote the creation of new theatre, and no theatre has ever won the award twice. The most common theatre types to win the award are repertory theatres and Shakespeare companies.

2016 Recipient:

Paper Mill Playhouse (Millburn, New Jersey)

 

Past recipients:

1997: Berkeley Repertory Theatre

2008: Chicago Shakespeare Theater

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Winner at the 62nd Tony Awards


 

Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award

This award is named for the late president of the American Theatre Wing, Isabelle Stevenson, and is the youngest of the Special Tonys, first being awarded in 2009.

The Isabelle Stevenson Tony is given to “an individual from the theatre community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations, regardless of whether such organizations relate to the theatre.”

2016 Recipient:

Brian Stokes Mitchell (for his work with The Actors Fund)

 

Past recipients:

2013: Larry Kramer for his work as one of the founders of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

2014: Rosie O’Donnell for her work and commitment to arts education in New York City Public Schools

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Rosie O’Donnell accepting her award at the 68th Tony Awards


 

Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre

Created in 1990, this award  was designed to recognize “institutions, individuals, or organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in theatre” but who are not eligible to compete in any of the current competitive Tony Award categories.

2016 Recipients:

Seth Gelblum (Theatre and Entertainment Lawyer)

Joan Lader (Vocal Coach)

Sally Ann Parsons (Costume Design/Tech)

 

Past recipients:

1993: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids

1995: National Endowment For The Arts

2013: Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon and Milly Shapiro, the four actresses who share the lead in Matilda: the Musical (awarded jointly to all four girls)

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“The Four Matildas” after their Matilda: The Musical medley at the 67th Tony Awards

 

“But Where Is The Award For Best Sound Design?” And Other Award Vacancies

In recent years, the debate for against including sound in the Tony technical awards has looked like a tug of war.

Only created in 2008, sound design was the youngest Tony Award until 2014, when the organization decided to pull the plug- quite literally. Unless reinstated, sound design will remain the shortest lived award in Tony history. But many sound designers and members of the technical theatre community continue to put up a fight.

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Brian Ronan accepting the 2014 Best Sound Design of a Musical Award. Received for “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”

Every other major award show includes a category for excellence in sound design (this includes the Oscars, Grammy, etc.) but the Tony Awards were last on this train. The reason given? The same as why the committee decided to retract the award: the voters and committee don’t understand the craft, and when the award was still included, most voting members chose to forgo voting in the sound design category anyway.

The Tony Administration Committee has since said that they feel sound design is more of a technical award than a theatrical award. To many, this appears more of a lack of understanding than a shift in definitions.

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Hashtag started by the technical theatre community in 2014 after the announcement the Sound Design awards would be discontinued.

It’s been suggested by current West End and Broadway sound designers that Tony Award voters be educated on what to listen and look for with sound design, the same as they would listen to the original music in a play, or score of a musical. The committee has stated their hope to create a Special Tony Award for sound designers- but this would make sound the only “technical” category not included in the main award set.

Read about the committee’s announcement: click here

This has raised the question about what other awards the theatre community feel the Tony Awards have overlooked, and once they’re put in to a list, it may come as a surprise that these categories have never been historically considered.

  • Best Ensemble
  • Best Makeup and Hair Design
  • Best Original Score (Play)

 

MITM Musings: Have you ever thought about any other “missing” awards that could be added to this list?
Do you agree with those who want to add back the award or those who want to create the Special Tony Award?

 

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