Tony Nominations 2015 - The Substandard and the Overlooked

The Substandard

My Rant Against Wolf Hall - Eagle-eye readers who took a glance at my dream Tony ballot yesterday probably noticed the absence of Wolf Hall in some of the major categories. There is a reason; I didn’t see either part. In the overstuffed month of April, I avoided this show on principal because I wasn’t buying into that whole, “you can see and enjoy each show without the knowledge of the other…but yeah, you kind of have to see both for the full effect” bullshit. My time and money isn’t in abundance to justify seeing both shows and I’m certain I’m not the only one. Regardless of their quality, it is their inclusion throughout this entire award season that has made exactly ZERO sense. The OCC nominations? "Nominated for 'Wolf Hall’." Okay, fine, which part? Doesn’t matter apparently. The Drama Desk, Drama League and now, eight Tony nominations? “Nominated for 'Wolf Hall, Parts One and Two’.” Seems totally fair…two chances to impress voters with two separate shows that are being treated like one show. Show of hands: anyone else remember when repertory shows were competing against each other (in a "splitting the vote” way) instead of being evaluated as one effort? To go off that, anyone remember when Mark Rylance had to get two separate nominations for Twelfth Night and Richard III? And speaking of Rylance, I’m sure the reception and the convenience of the televised "Wolf Hall" series, starring him and Damian Lewis, played its part in generating buzz (although if I were a producer of Wolf Hall, that is an advantage I wouldn’t think twice about benefitting from. Okay, you win this round). I’m not saying that the show(s) should have been omitted entirely, it is just that the guidelines and specifications have been incredibly vague throughout and no one, as far as I can tell, even bothered to address it. So congrats Wolf Hall, your award campaigning cheated circumvented every standard we have come to know about the Tonys and every mention of your show will be met with my resting bitch-face. Hashtag “Bye Felicia.”

Why So Much Love for An American in Paris? - Even if I don’t like or love a show, I can usually come to terms with why other people do. An American in Paris? Do. Not. Get. It. Christopher Wheeldon’s ballet heavy dance-sequences are a spectacle, but go on for far too long (surprise, surprise…another choreographer/director where the focal point is the former). No matter how good the dancing is, it doesn’t compensate from the rest of the show’s problems. The book isn’t terrible, but feels a little underdone. There is notable lack of singing throughout the almost three-hour show and even when a Gershwin song starts to make its rounds, it feels like an afterthought. Picture an entire show where they pull some "Nowadays/Hot Honey Rags" “let’s sing for 30 seconds, then dance for five minutes” crap. Once or twice is fine, but it felt like the entire show. The cast isn’t to blame and Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope have their considerable charms, but An American in Paris receiving 12 nominations seems a bit much. It is even more of a disappointment when Broadway collectively felt like it shouldn’t default to rewarding the Gershwin retreads, jukebox-ey, movie-adaptation schlock that has run rampant in recent years.

This is Our Youth! Wait, What? - Many years ago or even this past summer, if you were to tell me that This is Our Youth would get a Tony nomination for Best Revival, I wouldn’t have questioned it. Cheers to Kenneth Lonergan because his play is great. Great characters, great themes and it is a gift to the under-25 crowd who too often, don’t see themselves as a focal point in a play or even represented at all. But after seeing Anna D. Shapiro’s LOLZ-heavy production, the idea of a Tony nomination shriveled up in my mind seconds after the curtain dropped. Because it was a pretty weak-sauce effort, with some of the dialogue going in one ear and out the other and Tavi Gevinson sucking the energy out of the show. I’ll tell myself over and over again that the strength of the source play is what is being honored here because nothing else makes sense.

The Overlooked

"Congrats on Your Tony Nomination Alysha Umphress-…FUCK” - Ouch, this one hurts, darlings. I might have jinxed it with my “Congrats Alysha” tweets and banners and excerpts all on standby. I’ve loved her for years and everyone I spoke to thought her Hildy was the best damn part of On The Town. Her omissions all award season pretty much indicated that she wasn’t on anyone’s mind, especially once the Fun Home empire came roaring into town. If she thinks she will just disappear for a while, she better think again…because more people know what she is capable of and bigger and better things are in store for her. Her Tony nomination will come one day; that’s fine…we’ll be patient. Now c’mon Alysha, let’s be besties and talk about how fabulous you are!

This is What Happens When You Axe Jeremy Jordan - No, I’m not defending Harvey Weinstein. His brash way of business has not been welcomed at all and he’s left a pile of burning bodies in the lead-up to this morning. But…was Finding Neverland truly awful? No, not really…if I feel sorry for anyone, I feel sorry for the cast and crew. Critics and theatre-folk should have assessed the show, not use it as a punching bag because their producer is a douschebag. I wouldn’t have mind had Laura Michelle Kelly’s performance or Diane Paulus’ direction or James Graham’s book was recognized by Tony. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be…I’m not saying casting Jeremy Jordan in lieu of Matthew Morrison would have deflected some of the resentment, but it wouldn’t have hurt.

Broadway’s Newest Adam Pascal - I’ve now seen Paul (Alexander) Nolan in two shows (oh, Broadway stars and your three names), the last revival of Jesus Christ Superstar and this season’s Dr. Zhivago. As far as the latter show - which like Neverland, wasn’t teeth-gnashingly awful even though you would have thought both productions caused a tuberculosis outbreak with how much people hate them - Paul’s charisma and thunderous belt brought the house down time and time again. He was Zhivago’s greatest chance for any sort of nomination (as far as I can tell), but a long-shot overall. I didn’t have my soul crushed (like Alysha Umphress’ oversight), but at the least, we need to get him in a great show and one where he is sangin’ on a regular basis. Maybe he can play the Adam Pascal part in upcoming The School of Rock musical. Casting people, you can have that one for free.

So, How Many Shows were Omitted Exactly? - In a sentiment that is echo-ing the Twitter commentariat, it is a little unusual that the nominations…like, weren’t distributed further around. About half of the shows got one nomination or zilch. Isn’t that the opposite goal of the Tonys? Guess we’re gonna see a fuck-ton of closings in the next few weeks (see ya, Living on Love). Chalk it up to a handful of shows over-delivering and making it a solid season overall. There’s been chatter about how it is a great time for theatre and now the Tonys, uncharacteristically, side-stepped the common pratfalls of mis-nominating for the sake of business or publicity or courtesy or whatever and the cream of the crop are swimming in nominations up to their necks. The nominations actually mean something, hooray! It really is a good time to Broadway. Over the next month, you will probably find me even broker with a Hoarder’s-like collection of Skylight, Hand to God, The Visit, Something Rotten! and Fun Home Playbills. Awesome times await, so full-steam ahead!

Photo Credit: Johan Pearsson

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