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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#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

Spring Awakening and the Evolution of the Language of Theatre

Originally staged in 2006, Spring Awakening is actually based on a 19th century play of the same name. From that base, Duncan Sheik created a rock opera about the struggles of 19th century German teens which rang true enough with modern audiences to garner 11 Tony nominations. This time around it’s only received 3. So what sparked this re-staging, and how does a critically acclaimed revival get so little attention from the Tony Awards?

Deaf West, the company who revived Spring Awakening, is housed in San Francisco, and their mission is directly attached to their name. Composed primarily of actors who are deaf or hearing impaired, Deaf West incorporates American Sign Language into their performances. Michael Arden (Hunchback of Notre Dame, Bare, Big River) felt that at it’s heart, Spring Awakening was about the dangers of miscommunication. Much of the conflict in the script is due to the divide between the struggling teens and the adults who refuse to listen.

Michael Arden and Deaf West felt that what better way to intensify that gap than to layer in a language divide between the characters?

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The revival of Spring Awakening features 8 deaf actors, 8 hearing actors, and 7 on-stage musicians. Every line of dialogue and lyrics are accompanied by American Sign Language. But how does this affect audience members who do not understand the language?

It’s a simple concept, and yet fits in another layer of metaphor: every deaf actor also has a “voice”, who is an on-stage musician. The hearing actor speaks and sings for the deaf actor while they sign.

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Wendla Bergman (Sandra Mae Frank) and her “voice” (Katie Boeck).

While this may sound somewhat chaotic, it intensifies the feelings of Moritz and Wendla, both played by deaf actors. They, most of all, feel lost, and though Wendla can sign to her mother and her mother can sign back, there is still a disconnect between parent and child. In the opening scene as Wendla’s mother struggles to explain to Wendla where babies truly come from, Wendla looks to her “voice” actor to help her make her mother understand her desire for knowledge and maturity. The audience grasps immediately this lack of communication will lead to conflict down the line.

The only actor of the company who does not use sign language in any fashion is the headmaster of the boys school. His lines of dialogue are projected onto the chalkboard instead. The reason for his lack of conformity becomes clear- he attempts to mold the boys into the school’s version of adept students and adults, with no room for deviation.

Watch a trailer for the revival opening: HERE

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This revival is the first to feature deaf actors on the Broadway stage, as well as a cast member who utilizes a wheelchair (not hearing impaired). Michael Arden has been nominated for Best Director, and the production itself has garnered a Best Revival of a Musical nomination. So why has it missed so many potential nominations?

Opinions are splintered, but the leading thought is that it’s due to the 2015-2016 season was absolutely flooded with new productions. And this is true- only 5 out of the potential 16 eligible musicals were revivals this season.

So many have asked, was Spring Awakening simply overpowered by the bombshells of Hamilton and Shuffle Along? Or did critics simply like the original staging more?

If the former is true, it once again raises the question of just how many of the award categories need to be separate? As it stands currently aside from the separations of play and musical, only Best Musical/Best Revival of a Musical are separate. The trend in recent years has seen the nominations swing in the direction of the majority, either revivals or originals. The work it takes to produce and original show vs. a revival contain far different components, so maybe it’s time for the administration committee to ask themselves why they largely compete for the same awards?

Finally, if the latter is true, then once again the opinion of the public and the critics are split. Audiences saw to it that this production of Spring Awakening was highly profitable, so much so that a National Tour has been announced for 2017. So it seems that the audience’s opinion is currently the one that matters.

MITM Musings: So which line of thought do you think is the most valid? And if you had the chance, would you like to see a Deaf West performance?

 

Tony Nominations: Part 2

And now for the nominated musicals! Rather than wait until our final count, it deserves to be said now that we have a record-breaking season on our hands. Hamilton  has received 16 nominations in 13 categories, making it the first show since The Producers in 2001 and Billy Elliot the Musical in 2009 to earn more than 13 nominations.

The Producers still holds the record for most Tony wins, with 12, making it one of the very few musicals to win every category it was nominated in, and the only to sweep wins all available musical categories. Will Hamilton be on track to break this record as well?

Best Musical:

Bright Star                                                         Hamilton

14296-3                                            13717-3

School of Rock-The Musical                           Shuffle Along

13693-3                                  proj-shufflealong

 

Waitress

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Best Revival of a Musical:

The Color Purple                                            Fiddler On The Roof

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She Loves Me                                                  Spring Awakening

she_loves_me_key_art_with_billing                                       spring-awakening-large-643x441

 

Best Book of a Musical:

Bright Star-
Steve Martin

Hamilton-
Lin-Manuel Miranda

School of Rock-
Julians Fellows

Shuffle Along-
George C. Wolfe

 

Best Original Score:

Bright Star-
Steve Martin and Edie Brickell

Hamilton-
Lin-Manuel Miranda

School of Rock-
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater

Waitress-
Sara Bareilles

 

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical:

School of Rock-
Alex Brightman

Fiddler on the Roof-
Danny Burstein

She Loves Me-
Zachary Levi

Hamilton-
Lin-Manuel Miranda

Hamilton-
Leslie Odom Jr.

 

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical:

She Loves Me-
Laura Benanti

Bright Star-
Carmen Cusack

The Color Purple-
Cynthia Erivo

Waitress-
Jessie Mueller

Hamilton-
Phillipa Soo

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical:

Hamilton-
Daveed Diggs

Hamilton-
Jonathan Groff

Hamilton-
Christopher Jackson

Shuffle Along-
Brandon Victor Dixon

Waitress-
Christopher Fitzgerald

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical:

The Color Purple-
Danielle Brooks

Hamilton-
Renee Elise Goldsberry

She Loves Me-
Jane Krakowski

Disaster! The Musical-
Jennifer Simard

Shuffle Along-
Adrienne Warren

 

Best Scenic Design of a Musical:

American Psycho-
Es Devlin and Finn Ross

Hamilton-
David Korins

Shuffle Along-
Santo Loquasto

She Loves Me-
David Rockwell

 

Best Costume Design of a Musical:

Tuck Everlasting-
Gregg Barnes

She Loves Me-
Jeff Mahshie

Shuffle Along-
Ann Roth

Hamilton-
Paul Tazewell

 

Best Lighting Design of a Musical:

Hamilton-
Howell Binkley

Shuffle Along-
Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhaur

Spring Awakening-
Ben Stanton

American Psycho-
Justin Townsend

 

Best Direction of a Musical:

Spring Awakening-
Michael Arden

The Color Purple-
John Doyle

She Loves Me-
Scott Ellis

Hamilton-
Thomas Kail

Shuffle Along-
George C. Wolfe

 

Best Choreography:

Hamilton-
Andy Blankenbuehler

Shuffle Along-
Savion Glover

Fiddler on the Roof-
Hofesh Shechter

Dames at Sea-
Randy Skinner

On Your Feet!-
Sergio Trujillo

 

Best Orchestrations:

Bright Star-
August Erikmoen

She Loves Me-
Larry Hochman

Hamilton-
Alex Lacamoire

Shuffle Along-
Daryl Waters

 


 

Final Count

Most nominations: 16- Hamilton (in 13 categories)

10- Shuffle Along

8- She Loves

5- Bright Star

Eligible Musicals with no nominations:

  • Allegiance
  • Amazing Grace

Eligible Musicals with only 1 nomination:

  • Disaster! The Musical
  • On Your Feet!
  • Tuck Everlasting
  • Dames At Sea

Meet the Eligible Shows (Part 4)

The final category in our eligible shows round-up are the shows potentially up for Best Revival of a Musical. These shows have graced the Broadway stage in previous years, but have been given a new lease on life for the 2015-2016 season.

Able to be entered for Best Revival of a Musical

The Color Purple colorpurple240

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple was originally produced in 2005. Following the life of Celie as she struggles living as a black woman in the 1930’s South, the musical showcases the bonds of sisterhood, hope, and how having strength in the face of adversity is one of the most powerful weapons one can wield.

Where: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
Run: December 10 2015-

 

 

Dames at Sea dames-at-sea-logo

While the show originally debuted Off-Broadway in 1968, the 2016 production of Dames at Sea is the first to make it to Broadway. Set in the style of the large and flashy movie-musicals of the 1930’s, the plot parodies the genre as a “tap happy gem”, which centers on a play within a play: the titular Dames at Sea.

Where: Helen Hayes Theatre
Run: October 22 2015- January 3 2016

 

 

Fiddler on the Roof 13908_show_portrait_large

Originally produced in 1964 and following a movie-musical of great success, Fiddler on the Roof follows the little town of Anatevka in 1905 Imperial Russia. The protagonist, Tevye deals with marrying off his daughters on the eve of the Russian pogroms against the country’s Jewish population.

Where: Broadway Theatre
Run: December 20 2015-

 

 

She Loves Me she_loves_me_key_art_with_billing

Produced on Broadway in 1963, She Loves me goes in line with this season’s 1960’s revival trend. Inspired by Miklos Laszlo’s play Parfumerie, the show revolves around two shop employees in Budapest, who in spite of constantly butting heads, are unaware that each is the other’s secret pen pal who they’ve met through “lonely heart ads”.

Where: Studio 54
Run: March 17 2016-

 

 

Spring Awakening spring-awakening-large-643x441

Though the original Broadway production of Spring Awakening only opened in 2006, the 2016 revival has brought a Broadway first to the stage: a company full of deaf and hearing-impaired actors. Produced by California theatre company Deaf West, Spring Awakening takes the trials of 19th century German teens with the music of Duncan Sheik and translates it for a whole new audience.

Where: Brooks Atkinson Theatre
Run: September 27 2015- January 24 2016

 

 

MITM Musing: Are you familiar with any of the musical and play revivals this season? With so many already earning critical acclaim, what’s your personal favorite?

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