and the winner is…

The New York Times critics released their picks for the Tonys quite early (so it seemed) which also included who they thought were snubbed. These are always fun to read.

I’ve seen almost all of the best musical/play nominees, except for Nice Work If You Can Get It which I still have yet to decide whether or not I want to pay nearly $40 to see it. Gershwin is an American legend, but he’s not anywhere near the top of my list of favorite  composers. So everyone’s anticipation can be put to rest, as I now present to you with my opinions on who was nominated, who I think should win, and who I think was tragically overlooked.

Best Musical: The nominees include Once, NewsiesLeap of Faith, and Nice Work If You Can Get It. Who do I think should win? Once. It is an artistic masterpiece. It is visually stunning, emotionally moving, and the score is one of the best out there. What will win? If Once doesn’t get it, Newsies most certainly will. It has a worthy opponent, but there’s something about Once that strikes a deeper chord with me. I think it’s more universal, plus it needs the win to do well on tour. What should’ve been nominated? Hands down: GhostGhost is visually stunning and I was never bored for one minute of the two and a half hours. Leap of Faith was, with all due respect, a visually horrendous bore. 

Best Play: This category is going to be tough. Each nominee is fantastic: Clybourne ParkVenus in FurPeter and the Starcatcher, and Other Desert Cities. My first instinct is to say that Clybourne Park will take this one, but there is a chance that Other Desert Cities or possibly Peter and the Starcatcher might slide in. Although I absolutely loved Venus in Fur, I don’t think it has touring potential and it’s a limited run, so the award wouldn’t help it in any way. What should have been nominated was The Lyons. I find this show hilarious but maybe not all of the nominating committee has had a Jewish grandmother before. Or Theresa Rebeck’s Seminar definitely deserved a nod as well. (This snubbing was, I think, her punishment for writing Smash.)

Best Book of a Musical: The nominees are Lysistrata JonesOnceNice Work If You Can Get It, and Newsies. Given that Once and Newsies aren’t original books, so to speak, I’m going say that Lysistrata Jones has a pretty good chance of snagging this one much to everyone’s surprise. Is their book the best? No, not at all. The show didn’t work very well on Broadway. Or Newsies could very well start sweeping the awards and take this as well. What should have been nominated? Bonnie and Clyde. Sue me, but I really enjoyed that show and I thought the book was engaging the entire time. 

Best Original Score: The nominees are Bonnie and ClydeOne Man, Two Guv’norsNewsies, and Peter and the Starcatcher. I would love for Bonnie and Clyde to take this one, but it never will because the voters hate Wildhorn too much.  Newsies will probably sweep it because the other two are plays and that would be kind of sad for a play to take Best Original Score. (Though the score in One Man, Two Guv’nors was quite good.) What should have been nominated? Wonderland. (No, just kidding!) I don’t think there were any other truly memorable great scores written in the past season. I don’t remember the music to Lysistrata Jones. But part of me remembers a lot of the music from Newsies being in the movie too, and in that case, Once should also have been able to be nominated for Best Original Score.    

Best Revival of a Play: The nominees include Death of a SalesmanThe Best ManWit, and Master Class. First a huge congratulations is in order to MTC for scoring two nominations in this category. Each one of these nominees was a pleasure to sit through (though you never quite believed that Cynthia Nixon was a scholar in Wit), but I’m going to say that Death of a Salesman gets this one, if the voters don’t decide to be total star-fuckers for ratings and award The Best Man instead. Although there are a fair number of stars in Salesman too, but I just thought Salesman was better than The Best Man. I don’t think there were any shows that should’ve been nominated in this category. 

Best Revival of a Musical: The nominees this year are EvitaFolliesThe Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and Jesus Christ Superstar.  Jesus Christ Superstar and Follies were my favorites this year, and I’m going to put my money on Follies winning. It was a favorite this year, but Porgy and Bess was also a beautiful production, though it bored me to tears, and I could see it sneaking in from behind and taking the award.

Alright, the rest of these will be short…. Click through!

Best Performance By an Actor in a Leading Role in a PlayWill win: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Death of a Salesman). Should win: James Corden (One Man, Two Guv’nors). [Really, I’m okay with either one winning.]

Best Performance By an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Will win: Nina Arianda (Venus in Fur). Should win: Nina Arianda (Venus in Fur). [Again, all of these nominees were memorable and fantastic, but you just have to see Arianda’s performance to believe it.]

Best Performance By an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Will/should win: Danny Burstein (Follies). If you saw him in this show, you’ll know that’s true. I also thought Jeremy Jordan (Newsies) was fantastic. 

Best Performance By an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: I think this is a toss up between Jan Maxwell (Follies) and Audra McDonald (Porgy and Bess). I hope it’s Maxwell’s year, finally. Cristin Milioti (Once) could sneak through and win though because her performance is so heartbreaking. 

Best Performance By an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: I think Christian Borle (Peter and the Starcatcher) should win, but if the voters are starf*ckers, Andrew Garfield (Death of a Salesman) might win instead. 

Best Performance By an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: I think Judith Light (Other Desert Cities) or Linda Edmond (Death of a Salesman) will walk away with this award, but I’d love to see Spencer Kayden (Don’t Dress For Dinner) or Celia Keenan Bolger (Peter and the Starcatcher) win this. 

Best Performance By an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: David Alan Grier (Porgy and Bess) or Michael Cerveris (Evita) will take this one, but I’d love to see Josh Young (Jesus Christ Superstar) run away with it. His Judas is brilliantly sung and acted. 

Best Performance By an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: This is a toss-up, I believe, between Judy Kaye (Nice Work..) and Jessie Mueller (On A Clear Day..). I didn’t see either of these two women perform, but I heard that they were both brilliant. 

Best Direction of a Play: Roger Rees and Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher) will hopefully take this. Their direction is original and innovative. Mike Nichols (Death of a Salesman) could pull through though. 

Best Direction of a Musical: I hope John Tiffany wins for Once, though I won’t be surprised if Jeff Calhoun takes it for Newsies

Best Choreography: Everyone else can go home, Christopher Gattelli for Newsies will take this one. 

Best OrchestrationsWill win: Danny Troob (Newsies). Should win: Martin Lowe (Once).

Best Scenic Design of a Play: Daniel Ostling (Clybourne Park) better win this. The transformation between the first and second acts is amazing. I know a lot of people are going to say Donyale Werle (Peter and the Starcatcher) should win because his idea for the set was so innovative, but it was also extremely minimal and there wasn’t much a set designed. 

Best Scenic Design of a Musical: I hope George Tsypin (Ghost) takes this. His set was visually stunning, but I won’t be surprised if Tobin Ost and Sven Ortel (Newsies) win either. 

Best Costume Design of a Play: William Ivey Long’s (Don’t Dress For Dinner) costumes stand out the most over the other nominees, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Paloma Young (Peter and the Starcatcher) wins.

Best Costume Design of a Musical: If the voters will award any award to Spider-man, I believe it will be this one to Elko Ishioka. The costumes are pretty out there. If not, I’m predicting Gregg Barnes will win it for his gorgeous work in Follies.

Best Lighting Design of a Play: Jeff Croiter (Peter and the Starcatcher) better take this one. If not, Brian McDevitt (Death of a Salesman) is a strong contender as well.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical: I believe Natasha Katz (Follies) would still have a good chance if it were still open – I’m pretty sure the lighting was quite haunting – but it’s not, so I’m putting my money on Hugh Vanstone (Ghost) or Natasha Katz (Once).

Best Sound Design of a Play: I didn’t notice the sound design being remarkable for any of the nominees, but I’ll say Darron L. West (Peter and the Starcatcher) will win this one.

Best Sound Design of a Musical: This is a toss-up for me between Clive Goodwin (Once) and Kai Harada (Follies), and I really have no idea which way the critics will go. 

There’s my long-winded prediction for the winners this year. Who do you think will win?

photo credit: me

My Top Ten Moments of Theatre in 2011

It’s always hard to pick just five moments of New York theatre a to wrap up a year. But it’s especially difficult when you’ve seen and processed the most recent season so I thought I’d do a Top 10 list.

1. First on this list is obviously Sleep No More, presented by Punchdrunk. I’m glad I got in on this before people caught on to what was going on down in Chelsea. If you’ve gone to see Sleep No More, you know what it’s like and if you haven’t seen it, there’s really no way to explain it without sounding like a crazy person about why it was such an amazing experience. Save up your money and go buy yourself a ticket for 2012.

2. The next thing that instantly came to mind was Once, currently showing at the New York Theatre Workshop. Based on the indie movie of the same name, it’s a touching story of how one girl helps a musician achieve his dreams (and they kinda-sorta fall in love too). This was such a unique piece of theatre because it starts an hour before “curtain” time. The cast, who doubles as the band, is playing, singing, and dancing onstage for an hour before the actually story starts (and don’t worry, you’ll know when the show starts). They announced their transfer to Broadway hours before they opened off-Broadway, which is pretty amazing. It’s Spring Awakening for adults and it’s theme is to not live your life without pursuing your dreams – which is a pretty important one, if you ask me.

3. Next up comes The Hallway Trilogy presented by the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre and written by my favorite, Adam Rapp, which I just realized I never actually wrote about and that’s probably because there was no way to translate the experience into words. This was a hundred year history of this one hallway from the time of Eugene O’Neil to a time 50 years in the future when New York was disease free and now financially strapped individuals could make money being injected with ‘old fashioned’ diseases in a museum for the rich to come and witness.

4. I still can’t believe that American Idiot closed only this year; it all seems like so much longer ago. Whenever I think back to one of the most ridiculously energetic performances I saw, I immediately think back to February 27th, 2011 – the night John Gallagher Jr., Michael Esper, and Billie Joe Armstrong left the show. It felt like every single person in that theatre was there for those three guys and you could hear the love pouring out from them. It was just a ridiculous and amazing night, one that I will not soon forget.

5. An incredible moment that makes this list happened only last week. A benefit for Royal Family Productions, Anthony Rapp performed a reading of his brother Adam Rapp’s script Nocturne at Symphony Space, a few blocks from where I live on the Upper West Side in a night titled “Rapp Reads Rapp.” Nocturne was one of the few plays of Rapp’s that I had no familiarity with but oh boy is it amazing, and Anthony did an incredible job with it. By the end he was in tears.

6. I thought Thomas Sadowski was pretty good in 2009’s reasons to be pretty but he left me speechless in this season’s Broadway transfer of Other Desert Cities. His character was so complicated and went through so many emotions that I was absolutely exhausted and heart broken watching him from the front row. 

7. When you try to think of the most fantastic actress discovered out-of-the-blue in the last five years, you’d be hard pressed to think of someone more talented of Nina Arianda and her performance in Venus in Fur. Her performance is a tour-de-force and isn’t to be missed. I’m not sure how to use words to describe it actually. It has to be seen and not described. She crashes through the door ten minutes into the script and the whirlwind that she creates onstage never stops.

8. When I think of Norbert Leo Butz, I will always think of him as my first Roger in Rent in 1998. The next moment I’ll think of is his performance in this year’s Catch Me If You Can. Catch Me was a [mostly] bore of a show that had all the makings of what should’ve been a great musical, but the only reason I saw it twice was to watch Mr. Butz. He danced and moved in ways that I didn’t think he could during the song “Breaking All the Rules.” Watching him on the Tony’s, and then win his second Tony, it was a great thing.

9. I missed Boeing Boeing a few years ago and after seeing Mark Rylance in both La Bete and Jerusalem this year, that will forever be one of my great theatre-related regrets. I will still stand my ground that Mark Rylance was even better in La Bete than in Jerusalem, but for the purposes of doing a review of the year of 2011, I’ll talk about his performance in Jerusalem.  Playing a modern day pied piper in England, you loved him, you felt bad for him, you loved listening to his rambling. Like I said back in April, Rylance might be one of the great actors of our day.

10. I’ve been a fan of Jan Maxwell since I worked at Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang in 2005 and I’ve seen almost everything she’s done since. She’s never won a Tony but this just might be her year with her mouth-dropping turn in this season’s revival of Follies. She brings down the house in Act 2 like I’ve never seen her do. I never knew she could dance like she does, and she’s absolutely heartbreaking. Follies isn’t my cup of tea when it comes to musical theatre, but I’d see it again to watch her onstage.   

So, I think that’s it. Honorable mentions go to War Horse (breathtaking, just absolutely mind-blowing), The Normal Heart (after the 2010 reading, this production was magnificent), The Book of Mormon (I’m glad I saw this in previews), How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Mr. Radcliffe blew me away with his moves, and after wanting to see this show revived again for so many years, this is a great production), and The Amoralists (a fantastic theatre company that produces really unique theatrical experiences such as this one and this one). 

I won’t deny the fact that there was a ton of crap produced on and off-Broadway this year, but it’d be silly to neglect to acknowledge the amazing moments that I was fortunate enough to see too. We’ll see what 2012 holds.

photo taken in April 2011

Another play I missed off-Broadway at Lincoln Center last season was Other Desert Cities.  ODC may be the most perfect family drama to be written in a very long time (possibly I enjoyed it more than ‘07’s August Osage County).  It’s the timeless tale of what happens when the scarred daughter of a famous political family writes a tell-all about her brother’s suicide (which was largely, she believes, due to her family’s political doings), and what happens when she comes home for the holidays to tell her family the news that it’s been picked up to be published.

The cast is outstanding. Thomas Sadowski is absolutely heart-breaking as the brother, and Judith Light is hilarious and relentless as the helpless, alcoholic, semi-estranged aunt. The rest of the cast, including Rachel Griffiths, Stockard Channing, and Stacy Keach, are all outstanding in their own right.

Family secrets are revealed and (main character’s) life is turned upside down, her beliefs are completely leveled. I don’t want to give anything away, but ODC is inexplicably brilliant. If you’re under 30, you can get tickets via LincTix for $30 (which is what I did, and I wound up in the front row!). So do yourself a favor and get yourself over to the Booth Theatre ASAP.