Theatre Thursdays: Select 2013 Tony Performances

For the second year in a row I was unable to watch the Tony broadcast (grumblegrumble *work* grumblegrumble *adulthood*), so once again I must turn to YouTube to see the performances. Rather than posting all of them like I did last year, I’m just going to post the ones I was most interested in for this year’s ceremony.

Motown: The Musical

I’ve kept a tentative interest open on this musical since I first heard of it a few months ago. The story of black artists in the music industry is rife with drama and can certainly make for great musical theatre but I wasn’t sure to what extent this show would be a jukebox musical so I figured I’d wait and see some more from it. Would it include well-known songs in addition to an original score, or would it be entirely comprised of existing music?

Judging by the performance it seems to be the latter option, which doesn’t exactly thrill me. Just to be sure I checked out the show’s broadway.com page and found this in the description: “an explosive new musical featuring almost 60 of the most beloved hits in the Motown music catalogue.”

Good Lord, 60?? Even sung-through musicals barely reach that high of a song count! I don’t feel this is one I’ll personally try too hard to see, but the cast looks and sounds phenomenal and it’s been selling really well every time I check the Broadway grosses so there’s clearly an audience for it. Maybe it really comes together when seen as a whole so if it tours I might give it a shot.

Cinderella

Though nominated in the Best Revival category, this is technically the first Broadway production of Cinderella, despite it being over 40 years old. This doesn’t really have anything to do with the performance, I just found it shocking and thought it was worth sharing so you could be as dumbfounded as I was when I learned this little fact.

The performance here is lovely; this cast is great, but the biggest stars of the number are those costumes! I mean, did you see that??? Those dresses just morphed in front of your eyes! And they do that live and in person eight times a week! I understand the basic concept behind the design but the flawless execution is beyond my comprehension. It is simply magic. Thank God they took home the award for Costume Design.

Matilda

Beautiful performance. The cast has performed the “Naughty/Revolting Children” combo a few times already to promote the show on various television programs so I’m glad they also included “When I Grow Up” to make it a little more special for the Tonys and just because I love that song (or at least, what I’ve seen of it since I still haven’t seen this show). I love that it calls attention to the fact that “When I grow up” is kind of an ever-moving goal; we continue to grow throughout our lives and probably never really feel like the all-knowing, fearless, confident beings we thought we would become when we became “grown-ups”.

Guh, I just really love everything I’m seeing/hearing of this show and am dying to see it.

Bring it On: The Musical

I pretty much gushed about this show when I reviewed it so of course I was pumped up for their performance! I think this is the first time I’ve ever actually seen a show before it performed on the Tonys, so maybe that’s why I’m feeling like something is lacking from this showcase. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something seems off to me. Maybe it’s that the show closed and the cast hasn’t performed together in almost six months; maybe it’s the cuts made to the song to shorten it; maybe it’s that the lighting cues seem just a teensy bit behind; or maybe it’s just because this number was so phenomenal live and that can’t quite be re-captured when seen on video.

It’s probably that last one, since the experience is so great in my memory it just can’t be matched by anything other than a live, in-person performance. I’m glad this song was performed because it’s one of my favorites from the show and it shows off a decent amount of the cheerleading and most of the cast gets to shine, though it’s a bummer the song doesn’t feature Taylor Louderman’s character since she was more or less the lead and did an excellent job. I’m really glad Ariana DeBose got the spotlight for her section though, because she was one of the standouts for me when I saw the show but hasn’t gotten much mention in reviews I’ve read of the show (including my own, which I rather regret) so it was great seeing her work the stage in her featured part.

Kinky Boots

I think this show looks pretty great. Cyndi Lauper did the music; Jerry Mitchell the choreography; and it’s about the creation of the perfect drag boot so everything about it says it’s gonna be a fun night at the theater. This performance is exciting and though it doesn’t really revolutionize my view of the show, it reinforces my desire to see it.

Pippin

Still just in awe of this production’s seamless incorporation of the circus performance into the show. It works so well with the music and the Fosse-style choreography and I don’t have much to say about this that I haven’t said before: Patina is still flawless; the production is still gorgeous; and I still want to see it. Thankfully, it’s touring.

Well, despite my intentions I think I ended up talking about almost every performance. Whoops. Well, it was a night of great performances, what could I do? The ceremonies seemed pretty nice this year. I’m glad they were once again held in Radio City Music Hall because I love the grandeur of that huge performance space and i really liked that the casts of other shows introduced the performances. Even if the connection between the two shows was pretty forced at times, it was good to see them there to remind people that so many great shows are still running and gave a good sense of the community of Broadway. Hopefully something similar will be done at next year’s ceremonies.

And hopefully I’ll be able to watch them live, because I’m sick of having to rely on YouTube!

Theatre Thursdays: Tony Time!

Tony Award

Yes, once again it’s that most exciting season for Broadway fans: Tony Time! Nominations have just been announced, kicking off speculation and debate among thespians everywhere pulling for their favorite shows/performers/creators and lamenting the inevitable snub of those who didn’t make it onto the ballot.

You can check the nominees (and pick your favorites) here on the New York Times’ site. I’ve gotta say, I’m a bit surprised by the nominations for Best Musical. For one, there’s not a single original musical to be found in the group: Bring it On, Kinky Boots and A Christmas Story are based on movies and Matilda is based on a book. While I have no problem with musical adaptations of existing works (Wicked, The Secret Garden, and Billy Elliot are firmly in my top ten favorite musicals) I do believe that original musicals need the publicity boost that comes from a Tony nomination more than a musical with built-in name recognition does, and let’s be honest: these awards are a business. I enjoy the event and am glad when my favorites win, but I honestly don’t believe that these awards honor excellence so much as they honor marketability.

That, however, is another reason I’m a bit surprised by the nominations: two of the nominated musicals (Bring it On and A Christmas Story) were limited run events which have already ended and won’t be boosted by this PR, at least not as readily as the currently running shows. Bring it On is supposed to go back out on the road again and A Christmas Story is likely to return as a seasonal event like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but neither of those are happening right now and would probably sell very well with or without the nomination.

Do I sound too jaded? I’m a little jaded. Let’s throw it over to The Onion for their much more lighthearted, if still critical, article on Tony noms. As for me, I’ll do what I always do: watch the broadcast for the musical performances and take the actual awards with a grain of salt. Congratulations to all nominees and to fellow fans, remember: the award (or lack thereof) doesn’t prove or disprove the quality of the show/performer/creator, so try not to take it too hard if your favorite doesn’t win.

Theatre Thursdays: The Book of Mormon

The-Book-of-Mormon-poster-2

God Loves Mormons and He Wants Some More

The Book of Mormon is a nine Tony and one Grammy Award-winning musical by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who are well known for being the creators of the controversial show South Park, and Robert Lopez of Avenue Q who co-wrote and co-composed. The story is about two young Mormon missionaries off to their first mission ever. The first is Elder Kevin Price. Handsome and ambitious, he is positive he can be the best gosh darn missionary they’ve ever seen! While his partner Elder Arnold Cunningham, a not so handsome compulsive liar who has never actually read the book of Mormon, has lesser ambitions, he just wants a friend.

After completing their training the unusual pair are sent to a small village in Uganda. There, a brutal warlord is bullying the population, including mutilating women. Finally they meet their fellow Mormon missionaries who teach them an important lesson about suppressing feelings.Refreshed, the two naive and optimistic missionaries go off to get more Mormons for Jesus. However, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham ave a lot of trouble both connecting and converting the locals. Not only have the villagers heard it all before from other religions missionaries, they are far more worried about AIDS, famine, poverty, and war than what God thinks of them.

turn it off

When you start to get confused because of thoughts in your head. Don’t feel those feelings! Hold them in instead!

When I first heard of this musical I was a bit apprehensive. Religious satire is a tricky thing to pull off without outright offending people. It is especially tricky when the creators of said satire are not of the religion. However, The Book of Mormon not only lampoons the Mormon religion, but organized religion itself. For satire, it treats Mormonism with some respect, telling the truth about the church teachings. They show the people in this religion tend to be nice and clean cut people, but perhaps a bit too naïve and trusting.

However, this is the South Park and Avenue Q crew, so the musical has its share of naughty language—mostly shouted by the Ugandan people due to their crappy lot in life. I found the show very funny, what surprised me was how candid they were about the problems Uganda and many of the other countries in Africa have. This is especially shown in the song “Hasa Diga Eebowai.” I won’t tell you what it means because it’s far more fun to find out yourself, just be careful where you sing it.

NSFW

This was a very good musical, it was clever, very funny, and the music was great. However, if you are easily offended, especially by swear words, you may not enjoy it. Those of you who really like South Park and Team America: World Police will especially enjoy this musical. Go and see it before it says goodbye!

Theatre Thursdays: Tony Performances

I know Lady Saika already talked about the Tonys last week, but since I missed them and had to watch the performances on youtube I wanted to post them and talk about them a bit.

Revivals

Godspell‘s performance was nice and lively, but I kinda wish they hadn’t gone out into the audience. It just didn’t seem to work and felt uncomfortable watching the cast try so hard and the audience just kind of passively watch without (many of them) rising from their seats. Hair managed to pull it off a bit better a few years ago though, so I don’t know why this year’s attendees weren’t more receptive.

Follies I’ve never seen, though I very much want to. As such, I can’t say whether this number is indicative of the overall tone or quality of the show but I will say that if I weren’t already interested in the show this individual song may not make me want to see it. It’s funny and performed well but doesn’t tell me enough of the story or tease out enough interest to make me say “Ooh, I want to see more of that!”

The Jesus Christ Superstar revival. I love this show so much but I truly am not excited about this revival (BTW can we have a “woot woot” for Jesus’ presence on Broadway right now? Two shows at once!) Josh Young is very talented, as are the featured singers, but a show like JCS is so done and done and done that for me to want to see it on Broadway (at Broadway prices, especially) it’s gotta be pretty standout from the Community, Regional, and School productions that I could see easier and cheaper. Nothing about this presentation draws me in and I’m just kind of scratching my head over the costumes. I do like the way Jesus is overpowered by the singing though, kind of representing his own actual words being lost to what everyone else says about him.

You surely know by now that I’m super excited for the Evita revival and I love their performance. I wish Elena were featured more prominently though. Ricky Martin does very well though he seems a bit too…normal? I do my best to keep an open mind when celebrities are cast in musicals since so many people hate them on the principle of stunt casting so I don’t want to be too critical. He really does do very well but somehow he’s just not what I expect from Che. Like Enjolras, I want Che to be dynamic, someone who can stir me to revolution, and I just don’t know that I feel this way for Ricky. I wish they would have performed “Buenos Aires” and let Elena show off since she wasn’t nominated, or done “A New Argentina” which would showcase both Elena and Ricky, who I’m sure they want to expose as much as possible, but perhaps they didn’t since both those numbers were performed when the original production opened.

Porgy and Bess I honestly know nothing about, but Audra McDonald is a goddess so you know it’s good when she’s there. (Though if she’s gonna be singing to a swaddled baby, it’s cruel to not have it be “Your Daddy’s Son”) This performance definitely interests me in seeing the show someday, perhaps not running right out for tickets, but definitely on my “Try to see it if I can” list.

Originals

I’ve been really interested in Once and I think this is a beautiful performance. The show seems so different in presentation than most of what’s on B0roadway. It’s not so bombastic, the music is of the people, the choreography is simple but effective, and it just seems like an honest musical. This performance makes me even more interested in seeing the show. I get a feel for the tone and can kind of see some of the story.

Nice Work if You can Get It is not a revival but not exactly original either. The score is put together from the Gershwin songbook and the story is, if I remember correctly, based on a short novel. To be honest the only reason I want to see this show is for my favorite actress Jennifer Laura Thompson who’s playing a featured role. Still it looks good and I know nothing of the Gershwins’ work (Bad musical theatre fan! Bad!) so I’m glad to get something of a crash course in their work. The performances here are nice and give me hope that I’ll enjoy the show even when Jennifer is not on stage.

When I first heard Ghost was made into a musical I thought “Oh God, what next?” After seeing some clips though I got into it. The music sounded good and most shockingly I liked the projected sets (something I typically abhor) but I don’t know how well this number showcases the musical. It seems pretty muddled and I have no idea what’s going on except for knowing the movie.

Oh Raul Esparza, you are so talented. What do I know about Leap of Faith? Little. What’s my interest in seeing it? Almost none…prior to watching this. It’s so lively! From what I hear it’s entirely gospel music which will certainly be a turnoff for some people, and maybe 2+ hours of it will prove to be a turnoff for me, but this performance makes me excited for the show. I’ll definitely wait for a tour though.

Oh Newsies, how I love you! All i ever wanted from the movie was for “Seize the Day” to be a longer song and now it is! Unfortunately it’s longer thanks to an instrumental/dance break and modified but not really new lyrics. I still prefer the original. Still, this choreography is damn impressive and I can’t wait to see the show. If you’ve not yet seen the movie, BTW, I highly recommend it. It’s an incredibly enjoyable watch and features a young Christian Bale with a terrible New York accent.