Posted in 2016 Tony nominations, Audra McDonald, musical, musical revivals, musical theater, theater

Whoops, I overlooked a contender or 2

In my predictions for the nominations Tony is about to make, http://wp.me/p5jq0w-OI, I left out some of this year’s Broadway starts. School of Rock was not mentioned, and truly, despite its spunk, I doubt it stands a chance in this contest. Nor will American Psycho overturn Hamilton in its run to the top.


May 3rd, noon, Looks like the Tonys left out a contender, too: Audra McDonald was not nominated for the Best leading actress in a musical.


Here’s where the oversight is more serious: From the list (entitled The Chanteuse) below, I have left out Laura Benanti, a soprano to be contended with, often on the short list for many an Award, and Tony winner (for “Gypsy”). Benanti stars beautifully in a wondrous revival of She Loves Me, the musical descendent of a personal favorite among Magyar tales–Little Shop Around the Corner. (In view of this oversight, no ice scream for me.) Laura Benanti is as I said always on the nominees list, and we loved her in the underrated Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

THE CHANTEUSE

The contest for Best among musicals leading ladies is always one that excites, and this year is no exception.

Audra McDonald is a powerhouse performer with 6 Tonys to her credit. Jessie Mueller is a Tony winning actor whose charm shines in every role she takes. Her portrayal of Jenna in Waitress is no exception, of course, even if the pop style is not strictly in her wheelhouse. These two are the likely contenders for the 2016 Best Lead Actress in a Musical, with Bright Star‘s Carmen Cusack giving them a long-shot’s run for the gold.

Musical Revivals

If Shuffle Along… prevails in its plea to be considered a revival, it will be in the contest with The Color Purple, and the aforementioned She Loves Me.

There are no guarantees, but in such a case, despite the star power and sincerity of Shuffle Along…, it might have a struggle beating out the brilliantly cast, effervescent She Loves Me. The latter is as bouyant as the shlag in your coffee, with a lovely if familiar romantic story to tell. We have yet to see Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter etc etc in the George C. Wolfe helmed Shuffle Along…. Chances are we’ll be blown away by the cast and Savion Glover’s choreography, so we’ll keep you posted.

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Posted in Audra McDonald, Billie Holliday, drugs and drink, Jimmy Sonny Monroe, Lady Day, Philadelphi, Tony-worthy performance

A Blues Gardenia

Is there anything sadder than watching a great talent squander her gifts?

The image of Billie Holiday near her end staggering around a small bar in Philidelphia, distrubed playwright Laine Robertson so that “writing Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill was an attempt to rid myself of the ghost.”

It may have freed Ms. Robertson, but the ghost lives on at Circle in the Square where Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill plays through August 10th.

There is no joy in watching Billie Holliday (Audra McDonald) stumble around the stage.

Audra McDonald is “Lady Day.” Photo
by  Evgenia Eliseeva

By March of 1959 when she performed at Emerson’s Bar & Grill in Philadelphia, Billie Holiday had lost a good deal to her addictions. A felony conviction for possession of heroine cost her her cabaret license so she could no longer perform at clubs in New York. She spent nearly a year in a West Virginia penitentiary.

In 1948, after her release from prison, friends had arranged a Carnegie Hall appearance for her; although Lady Day was uncomfortable in white-run venues and toney spots, she sold out Carnegie Hall and gave it her best, singing 32 standards and her own repertoire, including her 1930’s hit “Strange Fruit.”

The pleasure in this play is watching as Audra McDonald turns herself into the embittered, nearly beaten Lady Day. Audra McDonald is nowhere to be found or seen in this performance. Her acting is a totally self-effacing feat; she disappears into the character. Abused, self-loathing and completely self-destructive, Billie Holiday still did not consider singing the blues. “I’m a jazz singer,” Lady Day says.
“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” is a one woman show with support from Shelton Becton who plays Jimmy Powers, Lady’s piano player and apologist. Clayton Craddock is on drums with George Farmer playing the bass in the three piece band backing Billie Holiday.

For more information about “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” please visit http://ladydayonbroadway.com/

Posted in Audra McDonald, Cinderella, Cyndi Lauper, Kinky Boots, Neil Patrick Harris, Pippin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Tony Awards, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Tony, Tony, Tony!

The Tony Awards are more than just a celebration of the great work done by the theater community in the past season, they are also a showcase for New York City’s best product: Broadway!

Broadway is an export product, with shows touring all over the country, but more importantly, it imports visitors to our town and brings them to the Great White Way to share some of the magic. The 2013 Tony Awards highlighted what’s in store for out-of-towners and locals alike.

Making book on who will win is not a blood sport, but I am gratified at how many picks I got right this year!
Imagine how much more satisfying those wins were to Patina Miller, Cicely Tyson, Tracy Letts, Billy Porter– yes I predicted these wins. Congratulations to you all and to “Kinky Boots,” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and Pam McKinnon, and all the rest. In fact, a big congratulations to all the nominees and the Bests.