Monday, November 16, 2009

Is the Revival Race Over Already?

Heaven, and readers of this blog, knows that I am certainly not short on opinions about shows. While I try to remain positive and optimistic about each and every show, I still tell it like I see it. After all, I can't like everything, right? And even more, I realize, especially since I started writing this blog, that when I like something a lot, I talk about it a lot. If you've followed this for any length of time, you know that I really like next to normal, Aaron Tveit, Memphis, Chad Kimball and Angela Lansbury. I, like you out there, am a theatre fan, not an expert. But I have had years of experience onstage, backstage and in the house, so perhaps the best description for me would be "educated consumer/participant of/in theatre."

So it irks me when honest to goodness experts make certain things crystal clear and make broad declarations before all of the evidence of something is presented. It is especially hard to take when it is an expert whom I personally look up to and respect. In this case, I'm talking about Peter Filicia, who writes a thrice weekly article/commentary/blog for, is a critic for a New Jersey paper, a published author on the subject and, above all, a true theatre fan. 99% of the time we agree; it's that 1% that has reared its ugly head for the first time in some time.

Today's column, "Welcome Home, Ragtime!" is an unabashed valentine to that show which opened yesterday at the Neil Simon Theatre. It is abundantly clear that he is a huge fan of both this version and the original, and that he has great disdain for The Lion King, which he cleverly never names, but quotes and barbs at throughout the piece. I enjoyed The Lion King and was vastly disappointed in the original Ragtime, feeling that the Tonys it got were the ones it deserved and nothing more. (Oddly enough, the man I rarely agree with, Ben Brantley of the New York Times, described my feelings for the original production almost verbatim from my head, in his review of the revival.) But that is not where Mr. Filicia disagree - I can understand his points about the Disney show.

Toward the end of his article, he writes, "Ragtime will be one of the six of musicals that first lost the Best Musical Tony but eventually won the Best Musical Revival Tony. (Sweet Charity, Gypsy, Chicago, Into the Woods and Hair are the others.) I’d say it’s the revival of the century, but there are 91 years to go." While he is clever in incorporating a play on the lyrics of the opening number, I take exception to his declaration that it will win the Tony.

It may very well do just that. But we aren't even half way through the 2009-2010 season. True, if Ragtime's only competition were the only other musical revivals to open so far, the critically ravaged Bye Bye Birdie, and the well-reviewed but hardly spectacular Finian's Rainbow, it would probably be a no-brainer. But there are at least two more major revivals to open this season: the critically acclaimed London import A Little Night Music - never count out Trevor Nunn, Stephen Sondheim, Angela Lansbury or the Broadway debut of a major star (Catherine Zeta-Jones) separately, let alone together like this - and what could be the little engine that could of the season, Promises, Promises starring America's sweetheart, Kristin Chenoweth.

Now, I haven't seen Ragtime yet. And I'll be seeing Finian's Rainbow this week, so I 'll have a little more knowledge on the subject. And whether I love or hate it, and I will have my say about it, I still won't say anything more that what I've said before: "I wouldn't be surprised if X gets a Tony nomination from this." And it really isn't in Mr. Filicia's character to be so decisive and smug. Maybe he's right. Maybe not. But it hardly seems fair to declare the race for Revival Tony glory over before every show gets its day.


  1. I saw this Ragtime at the Kennedy Center last spring, and it was excellent. I loved the music, the voices, and I thought it was effectively staged. I hadn't seen the original, so I can't compare them (but I agree that it's ridiculous to claim a Tony now for any show- it's way too soon to tell). The review in the Washington Post today lamented the replacement of the actors playing Sarah and Tateh. I'm not currently planning to see it on Broadway. I mean, I wouldn't mind seeing it again, but not while there are other things I haven't seen yet that I want to see. Promises Promises is one of them. I've never seen Kristin Chenoweth on stage, but next month my best friend and I will be seeing her in Love, Loss, and What I Wore, off-Broadway.
    I'm not particularly a Catherine Zeta-Jones fan. And I don't see how anything could beat the benefit concert of A Little Night Music that I went to last January (for Roundabout). It was one of the most thrilling nights of my life, period. Sadly, it ended up being the last thing Natasha Richardson performed on stage, (and with her mother, to boot). She and Victor Garber singing Send in the Clowns- I will never, ever forget that. The entire cast was extraordinary and my jaw about dropped to floor at the end of the night, when Stephen Sondheim himself came onto the stage. I don't think my feet touched the ground once on my way back to my hotel.
    I hope you'll enjoy Finian's Rainbow- I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

  2. Oooh! I am SO jealous that you saw the Night Music benefit concert! And you know, those special moments are the ones we all live for. I have had the great fortune to have many of those, and I understand exactly where you are coming from!

    I'll probably post my thoughts on Finian's Rainbow Thursday afternoon!


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