Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Six Degrees of Nomination

Lucas Steele and Denee Benton waltz in
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.
First we should start with the caveat that there are four shows of the the 2016-2017 season I have yet to see: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (seeing it tonight), Anastasia (Thursday),  The Price (next week), and Hello, Dolly! (Saturday if I have good luck in the line for standing room). This means that I won't have much opinion on the relative negligence three of these four shows received from the Tonys, nor of the effusion the fourth received.

It's been a crowded season, which has its definite advantages (more for me to seeeeeee) and its disadvantages (more shows are left out in the cold, come awards season). There were thirteen new musicals, five musical revivals, ten new plays, and nine play revivals - with only four nominees in each category, that leaves nine musicals, six plays, and seven revivals (musical and play) without the big nomination. In previous Tony telecasts in recent years (starting under Neil Patrick Harris), they found a way to let even the un-nominated musicals perform (if a more abbreviated number), since this is the best national commercial for musical theater, but it might be too dense a year to pull that off this time around. Still, one can only hope.

Full list of nominees here, and now: on with the dish!


For Best Play, I can't quibble with three of the contenders - I loved Paula Vogel's Indecent and J.T. Rogers's Oslo; and Lynn Nottage's Sweat just won the Pulitzer, which is nothing to sneeze at. I wasn't particularly engaged with Lucas Hnath's A Doll's House, Part 2, but I seem to be in the minority there. Given the choice, I would swap it out for either The Encounter or The Play That Goes Wrong. For Best Revival of a Play, the only nominee I truly engaged with was August Wilson's Jitney, but I don't have specific qualms with The Little Foxes, Present Laughter, or Six Degrees of Separation. However, I would firmly trade in The Front Page against one of them, if I could find a way to figure out which one I liked the least.

Jennifer Ehle and Jefferson Mays in Oslo.

Receiving 0 nominations this season were Les Liaisons DangereusesOh HelloSignificant Other, and The Cherry Orchard. Meanwhile, Sweat, The Front Page, and Six Degrees of Separation received only two nominations, and HeisenbergThe Glass Menagerie, The Play That Goes Wrong, The Present, and The Price received only one each. The Encounter is getting a Special Tony Award for its innovative sound design (well-deserved, especially when that category is still absent), but is not up for any competitive awards.


With such a glut of new musicals, I was definitely worried as award season approached, but I wholeheartedly approve of the list of Come From Away, Dear Evan Hansen, Groundhog Day, and (WITH TWELVE NOMINATIONS, YAY) Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 for Best Musical. Though I've yet to see Charlie or Anastasia, for the others I have seen, the four nominees are distinctly superior in both craft and entertainment value. As for Best Revival of a Musical, I don't have a terribly strong opinion. Not caring overmuch for either Hello, Dolly! or Miss Saigon as pieces, I can't help but prefer Falsettos. While its ten nominations and the fact that it's still running may give Dolly the edge over Falsettos, I'm still rooting for those "Five Jews in a Room Bitching." For the two ignored revivals, Cats had too little new to say, and Sunset Blvd. had nothing to say beyond GLENN CLOSE YOU GUYS (which, to be fair - they have a point). Best Book of a Musical and Best Score of a Musical both have the same four nominees as Best Musical, and - yep, I am one hundred percent good with that. I don't want to be mistaken for thinking these four shows are perfect - I have issues with each (okay maybe not The Great Comet, I freaking love it) - but they each have something special.

Ben Platt, Will Roland, and Mike Faist in Dear Evan Hansen.

Receiving 0 nominations this season were Amelie, A Bronx Tale, Cats, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, In Transit, Paramour, and Sunset Blvd. Meanwhile, Anastasia, Bandstand, and Miss Saigon received only two, and Holiday Inn received only one. Sunday in the Park with George, with its abbreviated run, pulled itself out of contention for the Tonys earlier this year.


While there were a few performers I would have liked to see recognized (Anthony Azizi for Oslo, Simon McBurney for The Encounter, Janet McTeer for Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Jon Jon Briones for Miss Saigon), and a few nominees that made me shrug (Sally Field in the misguided Glass Menagerie), I'm overall okay with the list. I would swap out Denis Arndt in Heisenberg for McBurney, and probably Cate Blanchett in The Present for McTeer, but I don't know whom I'd kick out to make way for Briones or Azizi.  With not much carping, I'll instead list the people I'm most excited to see nominated (feel free to skip ahead, I guess?): EVERYONE from Falsettos (Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells, Brandon Uranowitz, Stephanie J. Block), The Great Comet MVPs (Josh Groban, Denee Benton, Lucas Steele), the I-can't-pick-between-them competition of Groundhog Day's Andy Karl against Dear Evan Hansen's Ben Platt, the trio from Oslo (Jefferson Mays, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Aronov), Come From Away's Jenn Colella, August Wilson's Jitney's John Douglas Thompson, and the alway-amazing Condola Rashad in A Doll's House, Part 2.

Brandon Uranowitz, Christian Borle, and Anthony Rosenthal in Falsettos.


I definitely don't have any swap outs for Best Director of a musical, but for play, I'd probably trade in either Simon McBurney (again for The Encounter - how did this bizarre but fascinating piece get so ignored?), Jack O'Brien (The Front Page, not that he needs my help), or Mark Bell (The Play That Goes Wrong - another ignored one, grabbing only one nomination, for Scenic Design), in exchange for Sam Gold (A Doll's House, Part 2 - at least he wasn't nominated for The Glass Menagerie?). Best Choreography and Orchestrations are about what I expected (this is where Bandstand gets its nods), and I don't see any glaring omissions here. I have similar reactions to the Design nominees for Scenic, Costume, and Lighting (I want The Great Comet to sweep these categories, and I want it desperately).

Paul Pinto and company in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.

That's all I've got! Tune in later this month for My Annually Inaccurate Tony Predictions! I won't be able to watch the ceremony live (I'll be in Paris - be jealous), but I look forward to catching up while jetlagged.

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