Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Talking Tonys

As Spring Awakening (pictured) basks most deservedly in its 11 Tony nominations today it's "the bitch of living," to quote one of its song titles, for the passed over and just plain overlooked. Playbill has the honor roll; All That Chat, meanwhile, has succumbed to the theater version of the rage virus from 28 Weeks Later, as the chatterati get their licks in about the Kristin Chenoweth "snub" (to which I say, ha! Bad show, bad show) and other issues.

Setting aside my own viral and visceral reactions for the moment, I can say that the Tonys did iron out a few quirks in the Drama Desk nominations, though given the wider range of my group it is an apples and oranges comparison. Early ardor about the insipid LoveMusik clearly, and correctly, cooled; turning the turbulent pairing of composer Kurt Weill and performer Lotte Lenya into the jukeboxed story of another bickering Broadway couple was a seriously sophomoric idea, and for this lack of vision director Harold Prince and book writer Alfred Uhry were rightly denied turns at the dais. (Somewhere in the cosmos, you can hear Bertolt Brecht, a cartoon character in the show, laughing his heinie off at the gross sentimentalization committed by the author of Driving Miss Daisy.)

It was nice--being nice now--to see that Translations, a stunning revival that seemed to have been lost in a fog of amnesia where end-of-season honors were concerned, is up for best revival. Maybe its multiple nominations, including best revival, will finally rouse an audience for the shattering Journey's End, which is in the boxoffice trenches. I suppose my not seeing the revival of Inherit the Wind makes a monkey out of me, but it's unlikely to evolve into an award winner.

Weeks after seeing it I'm having a hard time remembering anything about Curtains, the musical that nominators who couldn't bring themselves to pencil in the peppier and more engaging Legally Blonde went for. Not that Elle was snubbed but, omigod, the producers must be having a cow that they won't get a big production number on the Tonys telecast. 110 in the Shade's Audra McDonald mounts a strong challenge to Grey Gardens' Christine Ebersole in the musical performer races but as I predicted last year Ebersole will hold fast, though I suspect Spring Awakening has the edge for top musical honor. It's a shame, though, that Lea Michele couldn't have bumped Curtains' Debra Monk and LoveMusik's miscast and performance-missing Donna Murphy from the competitive actress slot.

Let's break it down. Nominations that surprised me, in a good way: Newcomer Stark Sands, from Nip/Tuck to Journey's End, plus its exquisitely naturalistic set and lighting design; Ethan Hawke, the best thing about the best part (Voyage) of The Coast of Utopia; Kevin Adams' Drama Desk-overlooked lighting for Spring Awakening.

Nominations that surprised me, in a not-so-good way: The inevitable but not really worthy Angela Lansbury, phoning in Deuce from courtside; Swoosie Kurtz in the forgotten Heartbreak House revival; the featured actress nominees of the curious Coram Boy, a nice piece of theatricalization but one that did not come off as an involving drama. I'm tough on the ladies this year.

And add a close-to-ridiculous and Misbegotten Kevin Spacey as a performer who I was glad not to make the cut. Harrumph.

Some snap winners on June 10, when the Tonys are telecast on CBS: Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon; Eve Best for A Moon for the Misbegotten; The Coast of Utopia for Play; Spring Awakening for Musical; Raul Esparza for Company; and Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson for Grey Gardens. I can't snap winners fast enough in other categories, where given multiple nominations for performers in shows or nods in multiple categories vote-splitting could be rife.

The Tonys, by the way, are up against another Tony, Soprano, as he kisses HBO goodbye that night, but he'll forgive you if you DVR him for a night.

For a few final thoughts on the close of the Broadway season 2006-2007, click here.

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