Posted in theater, Tony Awards, Tony winner

TONY (W)rap

I was wrong
Hamilton came on strong

Not seven
But eleven

Statuettes for lighting,
Orchestrations, and fighting

Cast and Lin
All win

Hamilton‘s got a token
Record’s still unbroken

Hamilton– 16 nods, 11 wins– trails
The Producers– winning 12– prevails

Their twelve wins no one’s topped
Even with just 11, Ham can’t be stopped

Try and get a ticket to see it, now– no!
That’s okay, it’ll still be there when you do go


It’s an annual ritual at VevlynsPen.com to have me flail around guessing who the winner will be on TONY’s big night. I am often wrong, and occassionally right. Congratulations, for instance, to Roundabout’s She Loves Me for a best for sets designed by David Rockwell.

But the business of TONY is a double-edged sword. The awards celebration attracts audiences– Hamilton, we might point out, did not need the boost– andthose not getting an award are dubbed TONY losers. Yes, I know, a TONY nominee is not a loser, but if you don’t win it…. well you know. It is in the musical category that productions are particularly vulnerable. (Plays are on their own time-table; very rarely would one last even 500 performances, although it may find a revival every few years.)

Not every musical is as resilient as Something Rotten! which chugs along with only the one lonely TONY winner, Christian Borle, in its cast. From this year’s crop, On Your Feet!, the Emilio and Gloria Estefan musical, has its own special appeal, and is selling tickets through next April.

American Psycho The Musical succumbed before awards night. The luminous Bright Star is closing before the July 4th holiday on June 26th; as CBS news confirms, it did not win the awards needed to keep the public’s interest. Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Broadway Sensation of 1921, and all that Followed is telling its story through October 9th at this point. We’ll see if it gets a second wind if and when Audra McDonald returns from her intermission from the show.

Since I mentioned plays, aka non-musical ones, earlier, it is good to remember that Eclipsed might have had a longer run had it gotten more love from TONY. The Father, which won a TONY for Frank Langella’s star turn, closed on schedule on father’s day.The Humans, this year’s best play will stay open at least through the end of the year at the Helen Hayes.

What can the TONYs do to help Broadway more? Should we all ease up a little on thinking of a TONY win as the pinnacle of a production’s success? In other, maybe TONY should matter less and the play be the thing…..

Posted in theater

Who will win at the 2016 Tonys?

NoLateSeating

My TONY predictions are up for debate and parley: what do you think?
http://www.vevlynspen.com/2016/06/on-tonys-night-gonna-be-fight-with.html
Almost as soon as I make a guess as to which will win what, I want to hedge my bet. For instance, although I suggested that Savion Glover’s choreography for Shuffle Along, or… would win this year’s award, I am now leaning towards Sergio Trujillo’s congas in On Your Feet as prize winning for choreography.

In the musical categories, there is one big show to beat, but it is not the only contender. Without a doubt, however, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliantly original Hamilton will be TONY’s BEST MUSICAL of 2016.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton. Photo © Joan Marcus
Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton. Photo © Joan Marcus

In other TONY expectations: look for Frank Langella to go home with a statuette for his performance in The Father. Likewise, The Humans looks good for Best Play, especially after its clinch at the Drama Desk Awards, although Danai Gurira’s timely and moving Eclipsed is also a nominee still in the running.

It is ever so tempting to blame the TONYs for early closings, but, honestly, American Psycho was steeped in red ink way before the nominations failed to acknowledge the hard work of its star, Benjamin Walker, or to credit the ingenuity of its creative team, particularly composer/lyricist, Duncan Sheik. TONY nomonations–or lack thereof– are not always the only problem productions face. Plays, especially “difficult” ones like Gurira’s, are often under-appreciated by theater-goers. (AP closed last week, and Eclipsed is scheduled to on June 19th. On Your Feet can carry on without substantial nominations and just its fan based audiences.)

My track record in guessing TONY finalists is not very good. So, let’s just hope for a lovely day and may the best play and players win!

 

 

Posted in comedy, drama, musical theater, theater, Tony Awards

TONY Business

Bringing home the TONY can mean the difference between shuttering a show and extending a run.

There are exceptions, notably, Something Rotten, which despite not being TONY’s BEST Musical of 2015, persists in entertaining audiences well into 2016.

There are plenty of other awards, keeping casts and creatives out late on school nights all through the spring each year. The Drama Desk and the Outer Critics add lustre to an artist’s or a show’s resume, but TONY is the ultimate Broadway party.

Tim Pigott-Smith & The Cast of King Charles III © Joan Marcus
Tim Pigott-Smith & The Cast of King Charles III © Joan Marcus

One Sunday in June–this year it’s the 12th, 8/7C televised on CBS and live from the Beacon Theatre— the theatrical community dresses up to cheer each other on. The Tony Awards celebration is Broadway’s Oscar night.

The five people and shows nominated in each TONY category are each a defacto winner, and will perpetually be labelled a Tony nominee. Anyone winning is, well, truly a winner.

Everyone loves a winner

Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Lauren Klein, Arian Moayed, Sarah Steele, Cassie Beck in a scene from The Humans. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe
Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Lauren Klein, Arian Moayed, Sarah Steele, Cassie Beck in a scene from The Humans. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

TONY is the big get for producers, as well as for stars and the creative team. Having a Tony enhances your star power and can take your show into the next year. Subscription houses can turn a TONY into a larger patron base and the sale of additional regularly priced tickets.

The most coveted prizes in the TONY panoply are for BEST Musical, BEST Musical Revival, then for BEST Play or Revival. When a production snags one of these, it’s the producers– not the author, actors, crew or director– who take the bow, and make the speeches. The investors have had the foresight to back a winner.

Without at least a TONY nomination, shows fold their tents and make untimely exits from the Great White Way.

How long can a mere shadow mimic life or fill a Bway house?

Alex Brightman and the kid band from School of Rock - The Musical Photo by Matthew Murphy
Alex Brightman and the kid band from School of Rock – The Musical Photo by Matthew Murphy

Straight plays are less likely to fill 500 seats over the long-run, the way a musical can do. TONY is here to help, but it can only go so far. August Osage County lives on in a film version, as does Driving Miss Daisy, for instance, but how many plays have the years of success like the musicals Phantom or Chicago? For playgoers, and those involved in putting on the shows, the TONY for BEST Play and BEST Revival of a Play are still much anticipated.

All The Way, the 2014 winning BEST Play, which also won Bryan Cranston the lead actor Tony, has been turned into a much-anicipated HBO film, premiering on May 21st.

Who will win?

Akosua Busia, Lupita Nyong'o, Saycon Sengbloh, and Pascale Armand in a scene from Danai Gurira's Eclipsed, directed by Liesl Tommy. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
Akosua Busia, Lupita Nyong’o, Saycon Sengbloh, and Pascale Armand in a scene from Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed, directed by Liesl Tommy. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Your guess may prove better than mine, but I have made some predictions and invite you to compare notes now, and then again on TONY’s night, to see how I did, and how you did. Also, follow along on VevlynsPen.com to see what I think the contest will look like. That story will be up soon.

For now, get the nominee list for the 70th Annual Tony Awards from http://www.tonyawards.com/.

 

 

 

 

Posted in based on a real world conflict, based on a true story or event, drama, theater

At home in a war zone

African politics can be a complicated business, most often decidedly unglamorous.

Pascale Armand, Lupita Nyong'o, and Saycon Sengbloh in a scene from Danai Gurira's Eclipsed, directed by Liesl Tommy. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
Pascale Armand, Oscar® winner Lupita Nyong’o in her Broadway debut, and Saycon Sengbloh in a scene from Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed, directed by Liesl Tommy. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Danai Gurira does not prettify the reality. The characters in her drama, Eclipsed, in midst of its Broadway transfer at the Golden Theatre, are all women cast into the scrum of war.

The women have no names, their personhood has been erased by strife. Each of them has a different attitude toward their fate. Each is locked in a cycle of brutalization.

They speak with a shocking matter-of-factness about pillaging, murder and rape. Each women in her own way has been debased and dehumanized.

Zainab Jah, Saycon Sengbloh, Pascale Armand, and Lupita Nyong'o in a scene from Danai Gurira's Eclipsed", directed by Liesl Tommy. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
Zainab Jah, Saycon Sengbloh, Pascale Armand, and Lupita Nyong’o in a scene from Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed“, directed by Liesl Tommy. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Wife #3 (Pascale Armand) remains charmingly naive despite the cruelty she has endured. Wife #1 (Saycon Sengbloh) has perserved a bossy tenderness. She tries to shield The Girl (Oscar® winner Lupita Nyong’o in her Broadway debut) as best she can.

Their husband is the unseen, off-stage C.O., whose position as commander provides his wives a measure of protection. One Wife –#2, (the outstanding Zainab Jah), has gone off soldiering in the bush. Her strength is a cynical determination to persevere and triumph against all enemies. She carries a gun like a man, but she too needs protecting in order to survive.

Akosua Busia, Lupita Nyong'o, Saycon Sengbloh, and Pascale Armand in a scene from Danai Gurira's Eclipsed, directed by Liesl Tommy. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
Akosua Busia, Lupita Nyong’o, Saycon Sengbloh, and Pascale Armand in a scene from Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed, directed by Liesl Tommy. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

There is hope for peace in the Liberian wild in which Eclipsed takes place in the person of Rita (Akusua Busia), a member of a helpful
interventionist women’s group. Her work at reconciliation is not necessarily welcomed in this balkanized place of internecine conflict and tribal hatred.  Here, war can be defined not as winning military victories but by its spoils.

The dialect of Eclipsed is so sing-songy and staccato as to feel foreign yet familiar enough to be clearly understood. The production has come mostly intact from the Public Theater, with Liesl Tommy directing the excellent ensemble.

Clint Ramos’ rustic sets circumscribe the compound in the jungle in which the women live. He has also designed the costumes. The original music and sound design by Broken Chord, which  punctuates scene changes, is integral to the atmosphere of Eclipsed.

Eclipsed is powerful and sad. Despite its grim subject matter, Eclipsed is full of humor and humanity.

To learn more about Eclipsed, visit www.eclipsedbroadway.com/

Posted in 2-hander, comedy, drama, musical theater, theater

Can’t stop making lists

Once you start making lists, it becomes a habit, an obsession, perhaps, and so you continue listing what’s good. Unlike the other lists we posted recently, this one is in anticipation. 2016 is upon us, and there will be so much more theater in the new year.

  1. Forest Whittaker is coming to the Booth Theatre as Hughie, with previews beginning on February 8th. Whitaker will star alongside Frank Wood, under Michael Grandage’s direction, in Eugene O’Neill’s two-hander.
  2. The Color Purple, starring  Jennifer Hudson–in her Broadway debut– is directed by John Doyle. This revival of the musical is coming to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre from London’s Menier Chocolate Factory, and is bringing both Danielle Brooks, and Cynthia Erivo from the British cast.
  3. This spring there’s more O’Neill is headed our way, when the Roundabout presents Long Day’s Journey into Night, starring Jessica Lange, Michael Shannon, John Gallagher Jr. and Gabriel Byrne under Jonathan Kent’s direction.
  4. The Public will have a Broadway transfer of last fall’s hit  Eclipsed by Danai Gurira, and starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o. Liesl Tommy directs at the Golden, with previews scheduled from February 23rd.
  5. The Roundabout has a Broadway transfer of its own with The Humans moving from the Laura Pels this past season to the Helen Hayes Theatre on January 23rd. Wide critical acclaim (including ours) and an unstoppable creative team and cast helped in the move.
  6. Fiddler on the Roof has begun its previews at the Broadway Theatre. Directed by Bartlett Sher and starring Danny Burstein as Tevye, and Jessica Hecht as his wife Golde, this revival is set to make a new “Tradition.”
  7. Any chance to see Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald together again is one we will grab. Shuffle Along, a musical that revolutionized Broadway back in the ’20’s, is being revamped and redone by George C. Wolfe, with choreography by Savion Glover. The new old musical hits the Music Box Theatre in March.
  8. Rebecca Taichman directs another play by Danai Gurira at Playwrights Horizons, Familiar in February.
  9. Two reasons to love Waitress, the musical version of the movie we saw recently, are the lovely off-beat script and Jessie Mueller who has been brilliant in everything from On A Clear Day… onward to Beautiful for which she won that Tony.
  10. Hanging in from the 2015 lists: On Your Feet! and School of Rock, along with Hamilton, because no list of New York theater is complete without this masterpiece for which we have posted multiple raves also at this site (see here.)