Posted in 2016 Tony nominations, based on a film, based on a movie, Jessie Mueller, menu, musical, musical theater

The overlooked contender or 2

It looks like Waitress has all the pluck of the indie project from which it was created. Like Something Rotten!, it carries on.

As if the presence of star Jessie Mueller and a lovely cast were not enough, Waitress is offering a little sweetner: groups as few as 4 (and up to 11) people can get discounted tickets- with pie- to attend.

Our Theater Blog: TandBOnTheAisle

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 Rockwas 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…

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Posted in A Gentleman's Guide Audra McDonald, Bryan Cranston, Bryce Pinkham, Carole King, Hugh Jackman, Idina Menzel, Jefferson Mays, Jessie Mueller, Kelli O'Hara, Neil Patrick Harris, The Tony Awards, Tyne Daly

Give yourself a BEST for a great Tony Ceremony

(L-R) Jefferson Mays as Henry D’Ysquith, Jennifer Smith, and Bryce Pinkham as Monty Navarro in a scene from 2014’s Tony winning Best Musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Walter Kerr Theater.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

The 2014 Tony Awards show walks away with a BIG Best! Imaginative, creative, entertaining–this was a Tony telecast that reflects the best of the theater it is honoring.

The June 8th broadcast of the 68th Tony Award presentation showcased future Broadway, and shows not in contention like “Cabaret” and a song from the 10th anniversary of “Wicked.”

Hugh Jackman’s skills and charm were so effervescently on display at the ceremonies. He sings, he dances, he patters, he flirts, he raps, Hugh Jackman is really a superhero. We are grateful that while he kicks butt as Wolverine, his heart belongs to Broadway, and on June 8th, he gave it full-out.

The deserving Jessie Mueller won as Best Actress in a musical for her portrayal of Carole King in “Beuatiful…” and had a chance to sing with King at the Tonys! I did not see this award coming, not because Jessie Mueller is not terrific, but because I was self-bamboozled into believing that “If/Then” would not be left out to dry. My prediction for a win for Idina Menzel did not come to pass, and I was also wrong about “Act One” getting the Best Play win.

“If/Then,” despite Menzel’s fans, will probably not survive their complete lack of Tony cred. “Act One” has announced it’s final week closing on June 15th, despite the set designer Beowulf Boritt’s 2014 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Play.

During the broadcast, “Bullets Over Broadway,” which also had no wins, and was not nominated in the Best Musical category, and “Rocky” (ditto) each had their shining moments showing off their best stuff on the big Radio City Music Hall stage. “If/Then” depended on a solo from Idina Menzel to pitch their show, and I’m afraid that wasn’t compelling enough to give it the oomph it needs to keep on chugging on the Great White Way, though they are still selling through October 12th.

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”— no surprise there with 10 nominations– got the big prize: It is officially the Best Musical of 2014 with “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” getting Best for Revival of a Musical.
Neil Patrick Harris, amazing as always, won as Best Actor in a Musical.

Also unsurprising was Bryan Cranston’s win for Best Actor in a Play for his performance as LBJ in Robert Schenkkan’s “All The Way,” which edged out the aforementioned “Act One” as Best Play of 2014.

Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” still has not won a Tony, and the Best Play Revival went to “A Raisin in the Sun.” Sophie Okonedo, playing Ruth Younger in the revival, won as Best Featured Actress in a play, an award that Audra McDonald got in the 2004 revival.  McDonald won her 6th Tony on June 8th for embodying Billie Holliday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.” 

Posted in Barry Mann, Carole King, Cynthia Weil, Don Kirshnew, Gerry Goffin, Jake Epstein, Jessie Mueller, rock and roll, singer-songwriters, Tapestry, The Shirelles

#1 On The Charts

The “jukebox musical” is no longer a term of endearment. So it’s a good thing that the jukebox musical has found its way to the other side.

It doesn’t matter that few would have a bigger jukebox than Carole King because “Beautiful-The Carole King Musical,” at The Stephen Sondheim Theatre, is  actually a “non-jukebox” musical. “Beautiful” is a story, almost a drama with a track, that covers Carole King’s journey from hitmaker to hit singer-songwriter. It moves from  1650 Broadway (“not the Brill Building”) to the “Tapestry” album and her appearance at the piano at Carnegie Hall. It is biography so it sticks to a timeline. The songs don’t move the story along so much as they are the story.

Jeb Brown as Don Kirshner, Jake Epstein as Gerry Goffin,
Jessie Mueller as Carole King, Jarrod Spector as Barry Mann,
and Anika Larsen as Cynthia Weil in
“Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” on Broadway at
the Stephen Sondheim Theater (c)Joan Marcus

Carole King (Jessie Mueller) had her first chart topper in 1959, when, at 17 she and her husband, lyricist Gerry Goffin (Jake Epstein), gave The Shirelle’s a huge hit in “Will You Love Me Tommorrow.”  From there the hits just kept coming, until one day, years later, Carole King began singing and playing her own music.

Rock and roll did not die, but as Gerry Goffin predicted, it changed under the influence of folk and split off into all kinds of pop and crackle from The Monkees to metal. For many practitioners in the medium, rock and roll went deeper and became more expressive than “The Locomoton” (another King-Goffin hit.)

Jessie Mueller as Carole King in “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”
on Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim Theater (c)Joan Marcus

“Beautiful” thoroughly integrates the music into the plot. “Beautiful” doesn’t take its legends too seriously. Jessie Mueller gets Carole King’s inflections and phrasing, but not just in a mimicky way.  It can’t be easy to personify Carole King when so mnay of us have known her so well and for so long. Jessie Mueller pulls this off as well. King has been a star for most of my life and much of hers, but she is not a glamourous presence. Mueller captures this too–, the simple girl whose genius is undisputed so that even she cannot deny it.

The Shirelles (L-R: Ashley Blanchet, Rashidra Scott, Alysha Deslorieux, and Carly Hughes) in “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” on Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim Theater (c)Joan Marcus

The excellent work by Jeb Brown as Don Kirshner and Jake Epstein as Gerry Goffin back Mueller up. Also outstanding in a great ensemble, under Marc Bruni’s fine direction, are Anika Larsen, charming as Cynthia Weil, and Jarrod Spector as Cynthia’s writing partner, Barry Mann.

“Beautiful- The Carole King Musical” steps out of the jukebox genre to deliver a moving portrait of its eponymous heroine, and the times in which her art was forged.

For more informaton about “Beautiful,” please visit http://www.beautifulonbroadway.com/.