Monday, June 18, 2012

Tony Dilemma: Last Weeks and Limited Runs



A few seasons ago, the theatre community was in a post-Tonys tizzy.  Nearly every winner - both in the acting categories and production categories - was set to leave their shoe and/or close within a few short weeks of winning that prestigious silver medallion.  Tonys translate into box office gold, right?  Not that year - the money was already made and the producers were headed for the Hamptons congratulating themselves, and the movie stars were off to LaLa land, feeling creatively sated if economically short-changed (yeah, right).

This year, the Tonys, by and large, went to "theatre people," with the (arguably) most nationally recognizable winners being Judith Light, who hasn't been a TV fixture in decades, and Christian Borle, most nationally famous for his role in Smash, a show that very few people outside theatre circles watch.  And, if you consider that by the end of summer, a lot of the "best of the season" will be but a memory, it gets pretty hard to defend the Tonys as a great commercial for Broadway.  It seems that it is advertising that which can't be bought more and more.  Oddly enough, the one thing about this year's show that people had a lot of negative things to say about was the inclusion of shows that weren't even nominated.  And yet, it is the Tony-less that will have the bigger chance to be seen by the masses over the summer.  Seems inclusion will help the marginalized, while the elite will remain elusive to the average theatre-going public.  Art imitates life, indeed.

If the play's the thing for you, you can't see this year's Tony winner for Outstanding Revival of a Play.  Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, in fact, had folded a week before it won.  I guess it turns out a good thing that Phillip Seymour Hoffman didn't win Best Actor or Andrew Garfield didn't win featured actor or it would be a triple disappointment.  Had it not added a few weeks to its run, you probably would have missed the years Best Play (by Tony standards, anyway).  Still, you'd better get to the Walter Kerr Theatre before Labor Day if you want to see Clybourne Park.  The other two Best Play nominees, Venus in Fur and Other Desert Cities closed yesterday.  And with them, you lost the chance to see the Best Featured Actress (Ms. Light) and the Best Actress, Nina Arianda.  The All-Star revival of Gore Vidal's The Best Man will run much longer than originally planned - though still only to until September 9.  And even then, you won't see much of the original cast past mid-July.  The second string starts coming in on July 10 - John Stamos, Kristin Davis, and, for me, the most interesting newcomer, Cybill Shepherd - with the final major replacement - Elizabeth Ashley for the great Angela Lansbury - coming in July 24.  The good news is that both John Larroquette and Tony nominee James Earl Jones are remaining with the show to the bitter end. The other two Best Play Revival nominees, Master Class and Wit are long gone already.  The non-nominated revival of A Streetcar Named Desire has rescinded much of its recently extended run, closing July 22, and taking with it the chance to see Blair Underwood and Daphne Rubin-Vega among others.  The big Tony-winning play (though not the "big" prize) Peter and the Starcatcher looks like it could be in for the long haul and without real star power marquee names probably has the best chance for survival.  You'll still get to see the Tony nominated turn of the excellent Celia Keenan-Bolger, and the terrific Adam Chanler-Berat, but you'll only have until June 30 to see Tony winner Borle, who leaves to return to filming Smash.

Other star turns will be gone by the beginning of August as well.  July 1 sees the closing of The Lyons, and with it the Tony-nominated turn by Linda Lavin; July 8 is your last chance to see John Lithgow, when his play, The Columnist, folds.  Even the season's first show, Harvey, will be gone, along with star Jim Parsons, on August 5.  Tony winner for Best Actor, James Corden, and company will be leaving the Music Box on September 2. Meanwhile, the struggling show End of the Rainbow, will be sticking around through the holidays along with its Tony-nominated star, Tracie Bennett.

Musical-wise, you'll fare somewhat better, though if you are a fan of Stephen Schwartz's classic Godspell, you have one week left.  Who knows how long Jesus Christ Superstar will last, with its dwindling box office, lack of Tonys and so-so televised performance? (Closing July 1)  Follies is but a memory, and the Tony-winning Best Musical Revival, The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, along with Best Actress Audra McDonald, (*she's out until July, and when she's back, not on Wednesday matinees) will be gone by the end of September, provided the Tony will helps its troubled box office numbers.  Interestingly, the Tony-less Evita is the strongest of all the revivals, doing near sell-out business and looking smashing on the awards show.  Several of my co-workers, none of them theatre followers, who saw the show said they really wanted to see that more than any show represented on the program - with Ghost coming in a close second of all the shows for these people.  I guess getting their show on the Tonys was a wise move by Ghost's producers.  Speaking of the reaction of potential ticket buyers, the clear loser was Nice Work If You Can Get It, which is doing OK business, and gives theatre fans the chance to see the Best Featured Actor and Actress winners.  But the average Joes I work with couldn't get past how old the music sounds and how "fat Ferris Bueller" has gotten.

The best shot for folks to see a Tony winner is Disney's Newsies whose Tony winning score and choreography will be as winning no matter who sings or dances it.  Then there is "the Big Prize," Best Musical.  I hope that Once is around for a really long time and that Tony nominee Cristin Milioti and big star of the future, Tony winner Steve Kazee stay with it for a long time, too.

I guess there is some consolation to be found in the fact that the best show of the entire year is the one people will have the most chances to see.  And they'll also still have the chance to see the season's biggest hit, by far, Spider-Man:Turn Off the Dark.  Just think!  Maybe in 3 or 4 years they'll have a chance to see The Book of Mormon!

Closed June 17: Other Desert Cities, Don't Dress for Dinner, Venus in Fur; closes June 24: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Godspell; closes July 1: The Lyons; closes July 8: The Columnist; closes July 22: A Streetcar Named Desire; closes August 5: Anything Goes, Harvey, closes September 2: One Man, Two Guvnors, closes September 9: Gore Vidal's The Best Man.

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