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5/4/16

Tony Nominations 2016 - The Suitable

Spring Awakening is RECOGNIZED - It’s revival may have endured some heavy-scrutiny since it was less than seven years since the original, mega-hit closed on Broadway, but Spring Awakening - featuring a deaf cast and the use of American Sign Language - received its rightful nod for "Best Revival of a Musical." It was a stunning, and dare I say, flawless production, resulting in one of my all-time favorite theatre-going experiences. And major congratulations are in order to Michael Arden for earning his way into the highly-contested “Best Direction of a Musical” category. Had Spring Awakening opened in the spring, he would have been a contender for the statue a solid second place to the Hamilton juggernaut. Which, by this year’s standards, is pretty much as good as winning.


Alex Brightman Takes Us to School - The first time I saw Alex Brightman perform live was at a Ryan Scott Oliver concert over three years ago - where his mini-bio read "Alex Brightman will be drinking bourbon during and after this performance.” I love anyone who doesn’t take him or herself so seriously and I loved Alex ever since (he also performed his heart out that night, but that goes without saying). And after several years of ensemble and understudy roles, someone in casting had the good sense to give him a crack at a lead role on Broadway - and in School of Rock, Alex is SHUTTING. IT. DOWN. and giving a season’s best performance as the charismatic rocker, Dewey Finn. As far as I’m concerned, he earned his slot on my Tony ballot a few minutes into the show, after he CRUSHED “When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock," and then proceeded to be his typically awesome self for the rest of the show. Cheers to Alex and kudos to the Tony Nominators for recognizing the offbeat and unconventional - but no-less-talented - leading man.

How about them Best Play Front-Runners? - How fantastic are The Humans and Eclipsed? Send them to Broadway mere months after they played Off-Broadway in the Fall! And both shows are astonishing pieces of writing, directing and performing. Stephen Karam's The Humans takes the tried-and-true "family reunion during the holidays" set-up and makes it feel personal and modern. Danai Gurira's Eclipsed, about sex-wives in Liberia, is unlike any show I have ever seen before. And the performances from all five women were stellar - with Lupita Nyong'o going from meek, 'new wife' to GUN-TOTING BADASS, Pascale Armand providing much-needed comedic relief and Saycon Sengbloh's nurturing care-taker all staking their claims to the ballot. I'm curious to see how this will shake out.

Jennifer Simard RISES UPPP - Disaster’s existence on Broadway made no sense to begin with and after seeing the show (and LOATHING it), my confusion remains to this day. One thing is certain though…Jennifer Simard stole the show and never gave it back. As the guitar-playing nun, who may or may not be a reformed gambling addict, Simard took every line and rung them for laughs with her droll disposition. Her performance may have been too good for such a throwaway of a show, but here’s hoping people took notice of her comedic chops and she’s cast in more roles in the future. Sonia in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike immediately comes to mind.

Yay Blackbird! (Ewww) - Until I saw Waitress this past weekend, Blackbird was my favorite show I’ve seen all spring. Oh sure; it’s dirty and uncomfortable as fuck - the story revolves around a woman confronting her statutory rapist almost 15 years after their affair - but I sat on the edge of my seat and got completely enraptured by the story (THE. ENDING. WOAH). The show’s nomination for Best Revival, plus a nod each for Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams' first-rate acting, is all well-deserved. I’d recommend you go see this show, but you may want to take a shower or seven afterwards to cleanse thyself.

Cynthia Erivo is Not Fucking Around - Amidst John Doyle’s understated, nicely-done revival of The Color Purple is this season’s most-buzzed about performance - Cynthia Erivo’s Celie. As if the pain and heartbreak she projects wasn’t enough to endure throughout the show, she performs her empowering anthem “I’m Here” and levels all of Manhattan with a YASSS KWEENNN moment for the ages. Cynthia may be the front-runner to win come Tonys night, but what I really want to do is be her bestie and have a knitting circle with her because obvi. Call me, Ms. Lady!

Tony Loves Her! - "OMG, SO PRETTY" is as cliché a hyperbole you could find out in the Interwebs, but it couldn't describe Scott Ellis' revival of She Loves Me any better. The Tony Nominators seemed to agree, awarding the show with 8 nominations, the most of any musical revival. From the get-go, David Rockwell's set and Jeff Mahshie's costumes created a 1930's Budapest I'd live in myself. And performance-wise, while I'm happy for Laura Benanti and Jane Krakowski securing nominations after being away from Broadway for so long, Zachary Levi's turn-up in the Lead Actor category was nice to see because it wasn't a sure-bet and he almost didn't essay the part in the first place (he filled in for Josh Radnor after the latter withdrew a few weeks or months before previews started). Considering he is notorious for being a sweet and charming guy, it's nice that good karma did right by him.

Long Days of Masterclass Acting - Clocking in at close to three hours and 45 minutes, Long Day's Journey Into Night needs fine performances to sustain an audience's interest throughout the doom-and-gloom that is the Tyrone family. Well...mission accomplished, for the most part (side-glance to John Gallagher Jr.). Hand the show seven Tony nominations because that is how harrowing it was to witness, but its three acting nominations is what made this production top-tier. Jessica Lange's performance as Mary was EVERYTHING, as she looked like a vintage stage siren dramatically emoting all over the place. Michael Shannon was, of course, intense in the role of Jamie - his second act boozing and antics grew more horrifying to watch as he became more and more unhinged. But the biggest surprise of all is how Gabriel Byrne - earning his second nomination for an Eugene O'Neill character - made James and his 1st world, middle-aged white guy problems actually matter, earning my sympathy that I don't dole out often.

Hats Off to Noises Off - Several months after closing, I appreciate this HILARIOUS revival of Noises Off a lot more then I did at the time, it's five Tony nominations feeling perfectly appropriate. You could chalk that up to a high-quality, but somewhat somber season (Amiright? I feel like most offerings were epically depressing). Not this show, though...Noises Off only knows classic, physical comedy and with an ensemble of heavy-hitters - including a perfect Megan Hilty - this show was the real deal. I'd never thought I say this, but I can't wait for the next revival in 10 years!


Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

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