Tag Archives: Tony Awards

Revivals

One of the most exciting things about Broadway theatre is the anticipation of that next big smash hit. We have seen it come from the plains of Africa with the Lion King. One time it came in the form of a green girl from Oz and most recently in the form of the ten-dollar Founding Father. But what about the musicals that came before?

We live in a world of movie reboots, re-do’s and sequels. Most get upset upon hearing the news that their favorite childhood film is being rebooted for today’s kids but what about Broadway revivals? If the recent box office record setting sales of the Broadway revival of Hello Dolly staring Bette Midler tells us anything, it’s that the Broadway community welcomes revivals with open arms.

Hello Dolly

This Broadway season was full of big revivals. What is it that keeps us coming back to these classic pieces again and again? Is it nostalgia or is it seeing a new version of an old favorite? There are too many spectacular revivals to mention so we took a look at the four that were nominated for the Best Revival category for the 2016 Tony Awards.

The Color Purple walked away with two Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Actress in a Musical. Not only is this show still running on Broadway but it has pulled in some of the best reviews from the country’s top papers. Below the cast of The Color Purple performs at the 2016 Tony Awards

“My spirit was profoundly moved” Los Angeles Times

“This is a show that pierces and shakes the soul!” Arts Desk

“A mircale on Broadway. A glory to behold!” New York Times

 

The most recent revival of Fiddler on the Roof did quite well for itself earning three Tony Award Nominations for Best Revival, Best Performance by a Lead Actor, and Best Choreography. The show also walked away with two Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Actor and Outstanding Director. Below is the cast of Fiddler on the Roof at the 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

 

In 1964 She Loves Me made it’s New York debut. In 2016 the revival ended up with 8 Tony Nominations and walked away with Best Scenic Design. Television stars Jane Krakowski and Zachary Levi lent their talent along side Lara Benanti to pump new life into this classic. Below the cast of She Loves me performs on the Today Show.

 

If any one revival was unique in its own way it was Deaf West’s Spring Awakening that combined the beauty and music of the 2006 production and added the element of American Sign Language to the coming of age tale. The show ended up with three Tony Nominations for Best Revival, Best Direction, and Best Lighting Design. Below see a collection of clips from the show.

 

What classic Broadway shows would you like to see revived and who would you cast in the lead roles?

And The Nominees Are….

As we are sure many of you are aware the Tony Nominations were announced this week and to no one’s surprise Hamilton came out on top with a record breaking 16 nominations.  However, Hamilton wasn’t the first show to receive an outstanding number of nominations and hopefully, it won’t be the last! We thought we would share some other Tony Award records and interesting facts with you on this monumental week!

Before Hamilton, The Producers (2001) and Billy Elliot (2009) were tied for the most nominations for a Broadway musical at 15. The Producers hold the record for most Tony Award wins at 12 while Billy Elliot only won 10

The musical revival with the most Tony Award nominations was Kiss Me, Kate (2000) with 12. The musical revival with the most wins was South Pacific (2008) with 7.

Chita Rivera holds the title of actress with the most nominations at 10 but there is a tie for actress with the most wins between Audra McDonald and Julie Harris who both have 6. Audra has won for: Carousel (1994), Master Class (1996), Ragtime (1998), A Raisin in the Sun (2004), Porgy and Bess (2012), and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (2014). Julie has won for: I Am a Camera (1952), The Lark (1956), Forty Carats (1969), The Last of Mrs. Lincoln (1973), The Belle of Amherst (1977), and a Special Lifetime Achievement Award (2002).

tumblr_mbextkAYmX1qh0yodo1_1280 Audra McDonald, vocalist
(Above: Julie Harris and Audra McDonald )

Harold Prince holds the record for individual with the most Tony Awards at 21. Eight of his awards were for directing, eight for producing, two as producer of the year’s Best Musical, and three special Tony Awards. Some of his most known work includes: The Phantom of The Opera (1988), Evita (1980), Sweeney Todd (1979), Fiddler on the Roof (1965), Damn Yankees (1956) and many more.

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Harold Prince

Composer with the most Tony Awards goes to Stephen Sondheim with 8. Those wins include: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1963), two awards for Company (1970), Follies (1971), A little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd (1979), Into the Woods (1988), Passion (1994), and a Lifetime Achievement Award (2008).

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Stephen Sondheim

Bob Fosse is noted as the choreographer with the most Tony wins at 8. The shows he’s won for include: The Pajama Game (1955), Damn Yankees (1956), Redhead (1959), Little Me (1963), Sweet Charity (1966), 2 for Pippin (1973) one for choreography and one for direction, Dancin’ (1978), and Big Deal (1986).

Bob-Fosse

Bob Fosse

Phantom of the Opera goes in the record books as the longest-running Best Musical (1998- )

The theatre that has housed the most Tony-winning Best Plays and Best Musicals is none other than the Nederlander’s own Richard Rodgers Theatre, which is currently home to Hamilton. The Richard Rodgers Theatre has housed 10 Tony-winning shows including:  In The Heights (2008), Lost in Yonkers (1991), Fences (1987), Nine (1982), Raisin (1974), 1776 (1969), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1962), Redhead (1959), Damn Yankees (1956), Guys and Dolls (1951)

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The Richard Rodgers Theatre on 46th St. New York

Angela Lansbury has hosted or co-hosted more Tony telecasts than any other individual, with five telecasts (1968, 1971, 1987, 1988, and 1989). In second place, with four telecasts each, are Neil Patrick Harris (2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013) and Hugh Jackman (2003, 2004, 2005, and 2014).

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Angela Lansbury

For more interesting facts about the Tony Awards, winners, and nominees visit The Tony Awards website: www.tonyawards.com

Brian Yorkey’s “If/Then” Moment

Evan Henerson

Once you’ve written a musical that centers around choices and consequences, the subject of paths taken and forsaken is going to circle back. Members of the cast and crew of “If/Then” have their own, unique If/Then stories. So does Brian Yorkey, the show’s book writer and lyricist. In fact he’s got several.

But on the occasion of “If/Then” coming to the Hollywood Pantages Theatre featuring Tony nominated star Idina Menzel and several members of the Broadway company, one particular series of Yorkey choices seems particularly noteworthy.

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(from left) Anthony Rapp, James Snyder, Idina Menzel and LaChanze recording the cast album for If/Then.

Yorkey was a student at Columbia University who had already written a few college musicals. Overseeing the university’s Varsity Show for returning alumni, Yorkey was in a bind when the program’s music director went abroad, accidentally taking the music with him and leaving the varsity show producers in need of a pianist to play the show for a summer reunion performance.

A friend and classmate, Rita Pietropinto, had heard rumblings of a hotshot freshman who could tickle the ivories: kid by the name of Tom Kitt.

“So Rita knocked on Tom’s door and he agreed to play the show,” recalls Yorkey. “Tom listened to a cassette tape and played the rehearsal that same night which is ridiculous. She introduced us and at first I was like ‘I don’t want to write with some punk-ass Freshman kid. I’m 23 and he’s 20. What’s that about?’”

Yorkey laughs at the memory. As history would play out, by introducing Kitt to Yorkey, Pietropinto altered several lives. Kitt and Yorkey began writing songs together and that creative partnership led to the team winning the 2009 Tony Award for Best Original Score and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for “Next to Normal.” “If/Then,” their subsequent show ran for 401 performances on Broadway and the duo are currently at work on an adaptation of the film “Magic Mike.”

Book writer and lyricist Brian Yorkey, left, and composer Tom Kitt, pose for a photograph in front of the Booth Theatre on Broadway in New York, Monday, April 12, 2010. Their musical, "Next to Normal," won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama Monday. The musical is about the complexity and heartbreak of a woman's mental illness and its effect on her family. "This is a show about real people and what they are going through, exploring their pains and also their joys on a level that musicals don't often do," Yorkey said. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Brian Yorkey, left, and Tom Kitt, pose for a photograph in front of the Booth Theatre on Broadway in New York.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Kitt’s arrival worked out well for Pietropinto as well; she ended up marrying and having three children with the composer. “In that sort of little random piece of chance, Tom got a wife and a professional colleague for decades,” Yorkey said. “It did not seem significant at the time, for sure.”

Another reverberation from the new Kitt-Yorkey partnership involved the Columbia Varsity Show’s music director who was displaced by Kitt’s arrival. Yorkey and this budding musical theater man had already written a handful of musicals together and had dreamed about writing for Broadway. After the varsity show, Yorkey e-mailed the friend, a Rhodes scholar who was studying at Oxford, and asked his friend’s permission to team up with Kitt on a musical.

“He said, ‘You know it’s fine if you do one or two things with him as long as you don’t abandon me for a new partner,’ and of course I said I would never do that kind of thing, and that’s kind of what I ended up doing,” Yorkey said.  “I did not behave well, and I was a little bit embarrassed about that and we didn’t speak for a few years.”

Who was that jilted pianist? Fellow by the name of Eric Garcetti.

The two men have long since reconciled and Yorkey is hopeful that, schedule permitting, the Mayor of Los Angeles will take in a performance of “If/Then” at the Pantages.

“I said to Eric at the time, ‘Look, what I have to do for this world is write. That’s what I can do. You have many other things to offer that are more important than writing Broadway musicals,’” Yorkey said. “That’s already proven to be true. It all worked out the way it should be, but not without a little drama along the way.”

Yorkey came to Los Angeles in the hopes of writing for film and TV, and he made his living pre “Next to Normal” by writing a series of screenplays which were never produced. But he has never had to make an If/Then style choice between chasing Broadway and the silver screen success. Yorkey took both paths.

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Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey Tony award winners for best original score for “Next to Normal”

Theater success came first. Post college, Yorkey ended up back in Issaquah, Washington where he had attended high school. He linked up with the Village Theatre, first as an artist with the theater’s KIDSTAGE program and later as the company’s Associate Artistic Director for six years. Five of Yorkey’s musicals have been staged at the Village including “Funny Pages” (1993), “Making Tracks” (2002), “The Wedding Banquet” (an adaptation of the Ang Lee film) (2003), “Play it by Heart” (2005), and “A Perfect Fall” (2007). “Next to Normal” also received a workshop at the Village Theatre back when it was still titled “Feeling Electric.”

“If/Then” would have no workshop phase out west, not after Idina Menzel came on board. The idea for this project came from Kitt who dreamed up the notion of a young woman coming to New York to restart her life. Producer David Stone suggested that the team consider reworking it to make the woman closer to 40, thereby raising the stakes of her choices.

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(from left) Tom Kitt, Idina Menzel and Brian Yorkey at the 2014 Tony Nominee press junket.

Kitt and Yorkey agreed, and Stone informed the team that Idina Menzel was interested in coming aboard and possibly making the play her first return to Broadway since “Wicked.” With Menzel on board, except for a pre-Broadway engagement at the National Theatre in Washington D.C., the play would develop in the city of its genesis: New York. Which is fitting, given how much of a role the city plays in the final product.  “If/Then” builds around the choices made by city planner Elizabeth, and the two divergent paths that she takes as Liz and Beth based on those decisions.

“If/Then” may have been conceived of as a valentine to the Big Apple –  a tale that could only take place in that specific city –  but Yorkey has since discovered that regional audiences from other places have taken possession of the musical.

“It surprised me is how profoundly many people have read their own lives into this story,” Yorkey says. “It was very much, we felt, a New Yorker’s show and the characters in it certainly sort of have a certain New York-ness to them, but the people who came to Broadway who loved it most were from other places. I got to sit with audiences in Denver and in Seattle. There is something about the experience of New York that I think New Yorkers, if it’s not their experience of New York, they judge it as inauthentic.”

“I’ve talked to people in Denver and Seattle and they have also able to read their own cities into the story of a woman who was tired of not living in a city and moved back to a city,” Yorkey continued. “That song ‘Map of New York’ is really a story about how cities are wonderful places to make a life happen, and I think that watching audiences from other places and in other places embrace that sort of New York set story has been surprising and really gratifying.”

The Pantages geography certainly suits Yorkey who moved to Los Angeles in the early 2000s and is now bicoastal with a home that sits five minutes from the Pantages. His series “13 Reasons Why” will go into production for Netflix in 2016.

Asked about the quintessential Los Angeles musical, Yorkey demures.

“I don’t think it’s been written yet. Maybe if Steve Martin has a good experience with ‘Bright Star,’ he can write the musical of ‘L.A. Story.’” Yorkey said.

There’s another option. Yorkey cops to the fact that before the dissolution of the Garcetti-Yorkey musical team, the duo was at work on a musical set in the City of Angels.

“We may finish that musical some day,” Yorkey said with a laugh. “He’s a little busy right now.”

Until that reunion, musical theater watchers can continue to wonder what if…

 

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Evan Henerson has been writing about theater in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. He was the Theater writer and critic for the Los Angeles Daily News for nine years and has written for Playbill Online, Backstage, American Theatre and Stage Directions.You can read his reviews on TheaterMania, CurtainUp and Examiner.com.