Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The 2011 Tony Award Nominations: My First Reaction


When this posts, the 2011 Tony nominations will be just over 24 hours old, and in that time I have felt the full gamut of emotions with regards to the news: thrilled that favorites, even some from the fall, were remembered, disappointed that some favorites were left out, shocked at some inclusions, and dismay at the lack of two awards that aren't, but should, be given.  But the overall feeling I have is one of happiness because for the first time in years I feel like there were more than enough nominees for each category, without stretching the limits of common sense, and that in most cases there was such a surplus of talent that you'd have to be disappointed that some didn't make it.  The 2010 - 2011 season was a roller coaster ride unlike Broadway has seen in some time and even the lowest dips were as thrilling as the highest highs.

"Legally Blonded" 2011:
  • Priscilla Queen of the Desert.  Sure it got two well-deserved (and likely winners) nominations, but they were so glaringly obvious that had they not been nominated everyone would have been crying, "foul!" 

Best Musical nominee Catch Me If You Can:
Non-nominee Aaron Tveit and Company doing
non-nominee Jerry Mitchell's choreography to
non-nominees Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's score.

Timing Is Everything: 
  • Had Catch Me If You Can opened last season as scheduled, it would have swept the award nominations and awards.  This year was highly competitive, and cost it a deserved Best Score nod.
  • And God alone knows what this contest would look like had The Scottsboro Boys and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown had opened in the spring...

The Cast of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Where Were You?: 
  • Speaking of Scottsboro and Women on the Verge.  Too little too late, folks!  The chat rooms and message boards are alive with love for these two shows.  Um, had even half of you ACTUALLY seen either show, they'd both still be running.  You weren't there, and two amazing shows were felled by economics.  And all the Verge hate during their entire preview period... congratulations, you killed a show before it could find itself.  Now is NOT the time to reconsider.  But let's hope you learn your lesson next time around.  Who do you think you are?  Michael Reidel?

No Shows:
  • It is kinda sad that Elf: The Musical wasn't recognized because it was a legitimate, full-fledged musical that happened to have a holiday theme.  It was more White Christmas and not all Grinch.  Broadway will be a better place if it returns again this holiday season.
  • On the other hand, is anyone surprised that RAIN: The Beatles Experience on Broadway  or Wonderland were completely shut out?  One, so cheaply done, a high school could have given it better production values; the other a messy extravaganza (review to post tomorrow!).  And of course, several plays were shut out completely, or close to it - Arcadia, Driving Miss Daisy, That Championship Season, A Free Man of Color, to name but three.

Double the fun: Rob Ashford

Happy News, Happy Surprises: 
  • I think my pal Mike's text message to me during the announcement sums up the best and biggest surprise.  He texted: "OMG!  Scottsboro!"  Amen to that!  12 nominations!  Come on Barry and Fran, get off of some of that Chicago loot and bring back the Boys!
  • So glad for Victoria Clark, Tammy Blanchard and Patti LuPone!  I would have led the mutiny had Laura Benanti or Nikki M. James been left out!
  • Super happy for Joshua Henry!  I don't think I will ever forget his touching, controlled and tragic performance in The Scottsboro Boys.
  • Thrilled that Donna Murphy was nominated for her best performance since Passion.  It is really too bad The People in the Picture was otherwise overlooked.  Again, any other year... (review to post Friday)
  • Catch Me If You Can's Best Musical nod will insure that it will at least get some exposure and, hopefully, a longer run.
  • Is this payback for being overlooked for Promises, PromisesRob Ashford's twin nods for direction and choreography for the superb How to Succeed... seems to imply that the Tony voters are ready to re-recognize this genius.

Are You Kidding Me?
  • The best costumes nod for The Book of Mormon? Please.  It is the one element of the show that really required the least.
  • Adam Godley?  OK, if the award were for best performance as the most annoying character of the season, maybe.  Maybe.

What about us?
Brief Encounter (left) and Nick Adams of Priscilla (right)

"The Egregiously Overlooked" 2011 Edition:
  • One of the most visually stunning, ingeniously directed plays I have ever seen, and equally as critically acclaimed, Brief Encounter was robbed in both the direction and best play categories, and probably more.
  • One of the coolest plays, about a subject foreign to most theatre fans, but made terrifically "user friendly" also got a lot of men to the theatre and was virtually ignored by Tony: Lombardi.
  • Some people are shocked that Joel Grey didn't make the cut for Featured Actor in a Musical.  I'm not.  He was far down my list.  Far.
  • But the top of my Featured Actor list, Nick Adams, really got screwed.  I can't print, in good conscience, how I really feel about this omission.  But I am NOT HAPPY.
  • Jerry Mitchell (again) and Andy Blankenbeuhler NOT nominated for Best Choreography for Catch Me and People in the Picture is sad, especially Mitchell who created movement from curtain to curtain that was simply spectacular.  And Blankenbuehler's work was, as always, visually interesting, and in this case seamlessly interwoven through time, history, and space.
  • Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo: A critically acclaimed debut for Robin Williams in a crowded field is disappointing, but understandable.  But a play on the short list for the Pulitzer Prize didn't make the cut?  Really?
  • Colin Donnell is probably the strongest thing in Anything Goes.  At least we can be pretty sure he'll be back, and hopefully in a better show...
  • If Benjamin Walker ends up being the next great Broadway star everyone was saying he'll be this past fall, then no worries.  But why did Tony snub such greatness?
  • OK, so Tony rarely recognizes Broadway debutantes, especially in musicals, but Rose Hemingway is a lovely addition to the family with talent to spare, and who holds her own against the world's biggest child star.  Boo to you, Tony, for missing this one!
  • And speaking of How to Succeed, talk about a motherf**ker!  Where the hell is Daniel Radcliffe's nomination?  This stinks of the same snub Kristin Chenoweth got last year.  "Step out of the box" the critics say.  And then let us crap on you!  And like Ms. Chenoweth, Mr. Radcliffe will behave like the consummate professional that he is, even (probably) as the Tony Awards host!

How to Be Overlooked (Radcliffe and Hemingway)...
How to Get Nominated (Blanchard and Larroquette)...

Tight Races:
  • While I still expect the deserving The Book of Mormon will come up the biggest winner, I wouldn't count out The Scottsboro Boys.
  • And it looks like it could be much closer that expected in the musical revival category, too.
  • I think that the Best Actor in a Musical is wide open, too.  Will the Mormons cancel each other out?  Will Norbert or Josh get it as part of the only recognition for their perspective shows?  Or will the best guy actually get it?  My money is on Tony for the Tony.
  • Best Actress in a Musical could be anybody's guess, too.
  • But the tightest all night I think is in the Featured Actor and Actress in a Musical categories.  When you consider who DIDN'T make those lists, it could go to anyone!

Create a Tony/Bring Back a Tony:
  • Bring back Special Theatrical Event: Ghetto Klown, The Pee-Wee Herman Show, RAIN, etc. Could have used some Tony love.  Are those trophies that expensive?
  • Create a Tony for Best Projections.  They are here to stay and would settle the is it lighting/is it scenery debate.  And this year they were used particularly well in several plays and musicals like War Horse, Baby It's You!, Wonderland, Lombardi and what I think would have won this year, Brief Encounter.

I'm sure I could go on.  It is always easy to talk about what might have been.  One thing is for sure.  I hope this new season will be even more jam-packed with great things and enough potential winners to fill up two ballots' worth of nominees!

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