Broadway has returned to live performances with a vengeance and it shows with the many wonderful Tony Award nominees.
I’ve previously reported on Paradise Square, Company and Take Me Out…all of which found favor with Tony voters. But here are a few other standouts for the season that are vying for various awards.
A Strange Loop, which leads all shows with the most nominations (11) is truly something special. I saw it on my first day in New York and I knew I wouldn’t see something I liked better and I was right. It’s one of those cool shows that transfers from Off-Broadway that sometimes gains popularity (Rent, Hamilton to name a few) vs. those cool transfers that for some reason got lost in transition like Be More Chill.
But Loop delivers and it has the Pulitzer Prize to prove it. Writer Michael R. Jackson creates a modern masterpiece in this story of an overweight gay black theatre usher who dreams of writing a musical while he is on stage with his thoughts. Almost literally as the rest of the cast is a troupe of actors who play his inner thoughts—sometimes conversations he has with his parents in his head and other times he imagines what he might say to a potential date.
Best Actor nominee Jacquel Spivey is a marvel in the role. I know I am rooting for him to win even though he’s up against the super-talented Hugh Jackman.
This show is inventive, irreverent and irresistible. Its success at the box office is yet to be seen as it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The senior women on a bus trip from New Jersey might not find a story of a gay black man who feels he has an inner-white girl appealing especially with a few R-rated scenes, dialog and songs. Still the rest of us should be delighted and savor in the inventiveness of the story and songs and how it unfolds on the stage. Check it out at https://strangeloopmusical.com.
Speaking of Hugh Jackman, he is so appealing in the musical revival of The Music Man, also starring nominee (and former winner) Sutton Foster who brings a new freshness to the role. The musical, nominated for six Tony Awards, is quite the opposite of A Strange Loop. This classic story of a grifter who comes to a little town to swindle its citizen is as old-fashioned as you can get. While the story sounds serious, it’s really endearing and made even more appealing thanks to its two stars.
The cast is uniformly amazing—especially all of those young kids who can dance their butts off. An interesting note is the multi-racial cast. While that is no big thing from first look, but it has people who have children of different races and it’s not a thing or a topic even addressed—it’s just casting the most talented people. Get tickets and info: https://musicmanonbroadway.com/
MJ: The Musical wasn’t high on my list as I was fearful that the audience would sing along to all of the Michael Jackson songs used in the show. Surprisingly, they did NOT sing along and I am so happy for that. Why would anyone pay good money to hear an amateur sing over the paid professional? I also find that disrespectful of the people who are hard at work on the stage. That’s a no no in my book—even if you’re Sherri Shepherd who admitted to singing along on TV!
All of that aside, this 10-time Tony-nominated show brings back the spirit of Michael Jackson, mostly thanks to the great dance moves and mastering MJ’s mannerisms of Tony-nominated star Myles Frost.
Between the great songs, amazing lighting and all the glitz that would be connected to an MJ show, is a wonderful ensemble cast, supporting Frost. One stand out is Quentin Earl Darrington who plays two roles amazingly well: Michael’s tough and stern father and then the more sensitive and supportive Rob of Michael’s management team. Wonderful stuff here: https://mjthemusical.com