Thursday, May 28, 2009

Broadway Loves Twitter

I've started writing articles for the Theatre Development Fund (TDF) site. My first article, about how Rock of Ages and other shows are utilizing Twitter, can be read here.

More Theater Awards

I love this time of the year-- theater award season. And this year, I actually got to vote in the first ever Independent Theater Bloggers Association Awards. I'm particularly excited that my fellow bloggers voted reasons to be pretty, which was by far my favorite new play of the season, best Broadway play over God of Carnage.

The complete list of winners:
Best Broadway Play: reasons to be pretty
Best Broadway Musical: Billy Elliot
Best Broadway Revival of a Musical: Hair
Best Broadway Revival of a Play: The Norman Conquests
Best Off-Broadway Musical: Fela!
Best Off-Broadway Play: Ruined
Best Off-Broadway Revival: Our Town
Best Off-Off Broadway Play: Universal Robots
Best Off-Off Broadway Unique Theatrical Experience: Suspicious Package
Citation for Excellence in Off-Off Broadway Theater: Flux Theatre Ensemble

Friday, May 15, 2009

Really Drama League?

You thought Blithe Spirit was a better revival than Our Town, The Seagull, Speed-the-Plow, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Norman Conquests, and Joe Turner's Come and Gone?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Tony Time

Back in January when a show was closing everyday, it seemed like a dark time for Broadway, but this season was pretty incredible, especially in terms of acting performances. I really wish the Tonys had a best ensemble award. This year has had some of the best ensemble work I've ever seen (Hair, God of Carnage), and I haven't even seen The Norman Conquests yet. A best replacement category would also be nice so Norbert Leo Butz and William H. Macy could be nominated for their fantastic work in Speed-the-Plow. I can't say I'm pleased with all the nominations, but read them here, as well as some early predictions and some unsolicited opinion:

Best Play
Dividing the Estate
God of Carnage
Reasons to be Pretty
33 Variations
I missed Dividing the Estate, but I've seen the other three. I loved reasons to be pretty and it would be really great if it could win, since it's not doing well at the box office, but I think God of Carnage might take it. I loved the acting, but wasn't so crazy about the play itself. 33 Variations is probably the weakest of the lot and I think the least likely to win.

Best Musical

Billy Elliot, The Musical
Next to Normal
Rock of Ages
Shrek The Musical
What??? Rock of Ages got a nomination?! I'm outraged. This just shows what a weak year this was for new musicals. Rock of Ages is one of the worst musicals I've ever seen and the only thing that saves it is the supporting cast. I haven't seen 9 to 5 yet, but I refuse to believe it could be worse than Rock of Ages. Billy Elliot has 15 nominations, and I expect it will win best musical, which is fine with me, though I really liked Shrek.

Best Book of a Musical
Billy Elliot, The Musical
Lee Hall
Next to Normal
Brian Yorkey
Shrek The Musical
David Lindsay-Abaire
[Title of Show]
Hunter Bell
Yeah! Hunter Bell got nominated! I'm so excited for him! He probably wanted this more than anybody. If he won, it would be amazing, but I doubt it will happen. I'm guessing Billy Elliot or Next to Normal. I haven't seen the new and supposedly improved Next to Normal, but I hated the off-Broadway book.

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Billy Elliot, The Musical
Music: Elton John
Lyrics: Lee Hall
Next to Normal
Music: Tom Kitt
Lyrics: Brian Yorkey
9 to 5: The Musical
Music & Lyrics: Dolly Parton
Shrek The Musical
Music: Jeanine Tesori
Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire
I hope [title of shows]'s Jeff Bowen is happy for Hunter Bell and not too disappointed he didn't get nominated. 9 to 5 didn't get completely shut out. I love the Shrek score, but again, I'm not expecting it to win. It's a strange year when I'm more excited about the play categories than the musical categories.

Best Revival of a Play
Joe Turner's Come and Gone
Mary Stuart
The Norman Conquests
Waiting for Godot
Way to completely forget about the first half of the season. The Seagull should have been nominated. I also loved Speed-the-Plow, but this was a crowded year. All four of these are on my must see list, but based on the reviews, it will go to The Norman Conquests or Joe Turner.

Best Revival of a Musical
Guys and Dolls
Pal Joey
West Side Story
Hair will and should win. Its only competition is West Side Story and that's barely competition.

Best Special Theatrical Event
Liza's at The Palace
Slava's Snowshow
Soul of Shaolin
You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush
I've only seen You're Welcome America, which I really enjoyed, but I think Liza will take it, and I'm sure rightfully so.

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Jeff Daniels, God of Carnage
Raúl Esparza, Speed-the-Plow
James Gandolfini, God of Carnage
Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King
Thomas Sadoski, Reasons to Be Pretty
Finally a category I completely agree with. I loved all five of these performances. Rush will probably take it, but I wish they could give it to all of them. This was a competitive year, but I wish Daniel Radcliff could have been nominated as well. Equus was largely forgotten, and the excellent Seagull was completely shut out. Congrats to Raúl Esparza for being the only actor other than Boyd Gaines to be nominated in all four acting categories.

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play

Hope Davis, God of Carnage
Jane Fonda, 33 Variations
Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage
Janet McTeer, Mary Stuart
Harriet Walter, Mary Stuart
Will the votes be split between the Mary Stuart ladies? Jane Fonda is a sentimental favorite and much as I love her, I don't think she deserves it for this show. Marcia Gay Harden has a good shot too. Congrats to the cast of God of Carnage for all earning nominations.

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical

David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish ‚ Billy Elliot, The Musical
Gavin Creel, Hair
Brian d'Arcy James, Shrek The Musical
Constantine Maroulis, Rock of Ages
J. Robert Spencer, Next to Normal
Seriously??? Constantine Maroulis? The guy has no personality on stage. There are some great actors in Rock of Ages and he is not one of them. Brian d'Arcy James should get a special award for having to get into that costume every night. I would love to see him or Gavin Creel win, but the Billy Elliot boys might take it. I saw David Alvarez and loved his dancing and his acting, but not so much his singing.

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical

Stockard Channing, Pal Joey
Sutton Foster, Shrek The Musical
Allison Janney, 9 to 5: The Musical
Alice Ripley, Next to Normal
Josefina Scaglione, West Side Story
Alice Ripley is the favorite here and I'll refrain from commenting until I see Next to Normal on Broadway.

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
John Glover, Waiting for Godot
Zach Grenier, 33 Variations
Stephen Mangan, The Norman Conquests
Paul Ritter, The Norman Conquests
Roger Robinson, Joe Turner's Come and Gone
I haven't seen enough of these to comment yet.

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Hallie Foote, Dividing the Estate
Jessica Hynes, The Norman Conquests
Marin Ireland, Reasons to Be Pretty
Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit
Amanda Root, The Norman Conquests
Angela Lansbury hasn't won a Tony in 30 years and everyone loves her, so she will probably win. She was delightful in Blithe Spirit. Carey Mulligan should have been nominated for The Seagull, but I'm happy that Marin Ireland was recognized.

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
David Bologna, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Marc Kudisch, 9 to 5: The Musical
Christopher Sieber, Shrek The Musical
Will Swenson, Hair
I love these guys. I was not expecting David Bologna to be nominated, but he deserves it for his performance as Michael. I think Will Swenson should win, but Christopher Sieber stole the show in Shrek and could easily take it. Nominations I wasn't expecting but would have loved to see: Bryce Ryness, Hair; Curtis Holbrook, West Side Story; Wesley Taylor, Rock of Ages (you heard right, I said something nice about Rock of Ages).

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Jennifer Damiano, Next to Normal
Haydn Gwynne, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Karen Olivo, West Side Story
Martha Plimpton, Pal Joey
Carole Shelley, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Karen Olivo should win for owning the stage in West Side Story. Jennifer Damiano is extremely talented and she's still a teenager. Martha Plimpton was the best thing about Pal Joey. I wouldn't rule out Haydn Gwynne.

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Dale Ferguson, Exit the King
Rob Howell, The Norman Conquests
Derek McLane, 33 Variations
Michael Yeargan, Joe Turner's Come and Gone
I haven't seen these all yet, but didn't find the sets of 33 Variations or Exit the King particularly memorable.

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Robert Brill, Guys and Dolls
Ian MacNeil, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Scott Pask, Pal Joey
Mark Wendland, Next to Normal
Guys and Dolls, really? I thought it was an eyesore myself. Next to Normal should win. Shrek and 9 to 5 got ignored on this one.

Best Costume Design of a Play

Dale Ferguson, Exit the King
Jane Greenwood, Waiting for Godot
Martin Pakledinaz, Blithe Spirit
Anthony Ward, Mary Stuart
Based on pictures and reviews, I think Waiting for Godot will win this one.

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregory Gale, Rock of Ages
Nicky Gillibrand, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical
Michael McDonald, Hair
I love the Hair costumes. They are time-period appropriate without being too over the top. The Shrek costumes are the most show-y.

Best Lighting Design of a Play

David Hersey, Equus
David Lander, 33 Variations
Brian MacDevitt, Joe Turner's Come and Gone
Hugh Vanstone, Mary Stuart
I can't really comment on this one.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, Hair
Kevin Adams, Next to Normal
Howell Binkley, West Side Story
Rick Fisher, Billy Elliot, The Musical
I hope Kevin Adams wins for Hair and not Next to Normal.

Best Sound Design of a Play

Paul Arditti, Mary Stuart
Gregory Clarke, Equus
Russell Goldsmith, Exit the King
Scott Lehrer and Leon Rothenberg, Joe Turner's Come and Gone
I can't really comment on this one either.

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Acme Sound Partners, Hair
Paul Arditti, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Peter Hylenski, Rock of Ages
Brian Ronan, Next to Normal
Or this one.

Best Direction of a Play

Phyllida Lloyd, Mary Stuart
Bartlett Sher, Joe Turner's Come and Gone
Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage
Matthew Warchus, The Norman Conquests
Matthew Warchus for The Norman Conquests or Bartlett Sher. Ian Rickson should have been nominated for The Seagull.

Best Direction of a Musical
Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Michael Greif, Next to Normal
Kristin Hanggi, Rock of Ages
Diane Paulus, Hair
I'm really hoping Diane Paulus will win. Last year, Bartlett Sher won for his revival of South Pacific. That was the best possible revival of South Pacific and Diane Paulus is giving us the best possible revival of Hair. But will Billy Elliot sweep? Or will Michael Greif be rewarded for completely turning around his musical? I don't think Arthur Laurents deserved to get nominated for West Side Story, but I do kind of feel bad for him. He deserved it over Kristin Hanggi for Rock of Ages, anyway.

Best Choreography
Karole Armitage, Hair
Andy Blankenbuehler, 9 to 5: The Musical
Peter Darling, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Randy Skinner, Irving Berlin's White Christmas
White Christmas got some nominations. I think Peter Darling will win.

Best Orchestrations
Larry Blank, Irving Berlin's White Christmas
Martin Koch, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Michael Starobin and Tom Kitt, Next to Normal
Danny Troob and John Clancy, Shrek The Musical
I don't really understand award shows. Shouldn't the nominees for best score and best orchestrations be the same?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

JONAS or the Poor Man's Monkees

In the Disney Channel vehicle for the Jonas Brothers, aptly titled JONAS, the brothers play pop stars who go to school, but don't hide their identity. I guess they didn't want the best of both worlds. The show borrows a lot from The Monkees in that the brothers live in a cool apartment and get into crazy situations and the scenes are interspersed with music videos. In the first episode, Nick falls hard for a girl in the way Davy Jones used to fall in love with a girl in every episode.

It's not necessarily a bad thing that the show is basically Monkees redux, but the quality of the show is not very good. I'm not saying that The Monkees was a masterpiece, but it was entertaining. The Jonas Brothers don't look very comfortable in front of the camera when they're not singing. I admire the decision not to use a laugh track, but it does create an awkward silence in certain points where you can imagine the laughs should be.

Given the fact that tweens will not watch anything that the Jonas Brothers are in, Disney better step its game up.