Thursday, May 25, 2023

Broadway: Tony Award Predictions – May 2023

Kimberly Akimbo (c) Joan Marcus

With the Tony Awards back on track to be televised on Sunday, June 11, here are my thoughts of who might be leading in winning the big award. I will give actual odds for my final prediction in June, but in this column, I am ranking them by most likely to least likely as of this moment in each category. This is no indication of the quality of each nominee, but just how I feel each category will shake out based on statistics, other awards given and just the good ole Interested Bystander hunch. 


Monday, May 15, 2023

Theater Review: Two “Romeo and Juliet”s, Both Alike in Dignity, Imagination and a Love of Pop Music (Be It The Backstreet Boys or Prince) Are Worth Catching

Romeo and Juliet (c) Julieta Cervantes

Theater: Romeo and Juliet 
NAATCO (in partnership with Two River Theater) 

On the heels of winning the Lortel Award for writing and directing the imaginative Wolf Play last season, Hansol Jung and Dustin Wills, respectively, have set a goal to reimagine Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which has been saturating the market in revisions recently including Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning West Side Story remake, as well as other musical adaptation like Romeo and Bernadette (exorcising Juliet) and & Juliet (canceling out Romeo). So, it’s kind of nice to actually just watch Bill’s original with both leads intact, even if Jung has supplemented the original verse with some modern lingo, like cougars, ghosting and the music of Prince. Like Wolf Play, the staging and set (by Junghyun Georgia Lee) at first feels very cluttered and chaotic, but everything comes together by the end and utilized in some way or another. The very talented and exhaustive Asian-American cast of nine, switch roles nimbly and run up and around the stage with ease, including two openings in the middle of the playing area that could possibly be a wrong turn drop. Major Curda plays Romeo as a more sensitive soul with a guitar, annoying his friends, a very energetic – and maybe slightly in love with Romeo – Mercutio (Jose Gamo) and levelheaded Benvolio (Zion Jang), to no end. Still mooning over the unseen Rosaline (who herself is the hero of her own movie on Hulu), Romeo is soon smitten with the young (notice her footwear) Juliet (the headstrong Dorcas Leung), who may not be thinking of an arranged marriage, but also falls for the swoony Romeo, with the help of her ever-trusting Nurse (Mia Katigbak).

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Theater Reviews: Musicals About Young People in the Big City ("New York, New York" on Broadway and "Oliver!" at Encore!) in Productions With Determination and Spunk

New York, New York (c) Paul Kolnik

Theater: New York, New York 
On Broadway at the St. James Theatre 

It’s been many years since I’ve seen the 1977 film New York, New York, but I always remembered it certainly wasn’t a feel-good experience, considering it was from director Martin Scorsese and includes artists from the hardly happy Cabaret (actor Liza Minelli and songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb). So, it’s not surprising that book writers David Thompson and Sharon Washington and director and choreographer Susan Stroman have only kept the bare bones structure of the film, opting for a more Ragtime kaleidoscope narrative of many aspiring musicians trying to be successful in the titled city, post WWII. Like the film, most of the musical’s focus is on Jimmy (Colton Ryan), a jack-of-all-trades musician whose hot-headedness keeps him from keeping the gigs he gets, and Francine (Anna Uzele), a fresh-off-the-bus singer with a dream. They meet at an audition, and from there Jimmy makes it his mission to make Francine, who is African American, a star. But this central love story is now populated with other musicians from their orbit, including an African American trumpet player (John Clay III) who encounters his fair share of racist club owners; a Cuban drummer (Angel Sigala) who wants to introduce Latin music to the city’s musical landscape; and a Polish immigrant (Oliver Prose) who has dreams of playing violin at Carnegie Hall. If anyone can keep all these stories afloat, it’s Stroman. She fills the St. James stage with life, bustling with action and vibrancy, a love letter to the city that never sleeps, going from one NYC landmark (like Central Park) to another (like the Brooklyn Bridge) with breakneck speed and clarity. Her most breathtaking moment (for a rather superfluous number) includes the setting sun-through-the-skyscraper phenomenon known as Manhattanhenge before there was ever such a term. It is simply magical. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Theater: Recipients Announced For The Lortel Awards, Theatre World Awards, NYC Drama Critics Circle Awards and The Pulitzer Prize in Drama 2023

Wolf Play (c) Julieta Cervantes

The 38th Annual Lortel Awards

The Lucille Lortel Awards were handed out on Sunday, May 7.  The Awards honor artistic achievement Off-Broadway.  I am a member of the Nominating Committee.

Here are the nominees and winners:

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

2022 - 2023 Tony Award Nominations Announced. Musical "Some Like It Hot" Gets the Most with 13

Some Like It Hot (c) Marc J. Franklin

The 76th Annual Tony Award nominations have been announced and as usual, there are plenty to discuss. I wasn’t able to do a final predictions post before today’s big announcement, but I figured I would make some comments on some of the categories today. 

The 2023 Tony Awards will be presented on June 11 on Pluto TV and then CBS at the live event at United Palace Theatre in Washington Heights, hosted again by Oscar winner Ariana DeBose. The production with the most nominations was Some Like It Hot with 13 nominations followed by a trio of shows with 9 nomination: & Juliet, New York, New York and Shucked.