The Tony Awards are this Sunday and, depending on the winners, some shows could close as soon as the award’s show is over.
Shows performing in mid-capacity and have a lot of Tony nominations hold out until the awards hoping a victory brings in a bigger audience. Sometimes, that just doesn’t happen.
Still, I am happy that I have seen all of the eligible musicals for this current Broadway season (but I did miss one revival, “Kiss Me, Kate”). If you’re planning a trip to New York, here’s a quick review of the musicals currently running.
Playing to 100% capacity and likely the big winner on Sunday night, this show isn’t going anywhere. A story of two pairs of lovers, star crossed and otherwise, that have emotional attachments on earth and the hell below, is innovative and full of a lot of good songs. At the beginning in which each character are introduced, it reminded me of “Cats” (oh no!) due to the way they were introduced and wondered if there would be a song about the “devil side layer.” Fortunately, it didn’t go in that direction and definitely won me over. The trio of fate singers are standouts among the Tony nominated cast.
When I saw this last winter, it too started off a bit rocky but soon found its groove. Not only is it completely exuberant and features a couple of bear-ish actors, the theme of same sex kids going to a prom is completely topical. There’s also one song about committed “sins” and it shows you can’t pick and chose when you use the Bible to back-up your anti-gay agenda unless you make it all inclusive including no divorce, tattoos, pre-marital sex, etc. This should be around for awhile – Tony wins could only help its 80-90% capacity.
This is likely going to win two Tony Awards including Best Actor Santino Fontana so expect its 80-90% capacity to increase after the awards. It’s source material is also a popular 1980s movie, which is updated to be more current and makes likely an award winning book of a musical. Box office wise, men in drag often run along time on Broadway and this fun show likely won’t change that.
A musical also based on a movie, in many ways this is better than the movie. I could have left after the amazing opening number and still have felt I got my money’s worth. But Tony nominee Alex Brightman is amazing and a bigger than life actor who makes this character his own and keeps the energy high and the laughs coming. I also see the thumbprints of Broadway’s best director Alex Timbers all over this. This may not last forever as its Tony victories are slim and it’s at 80% capacity most weeks which may not be enough to sustain longevity.
Ain’t Too Proud
This has everything needed to be a long running hit: a built-in following for fans of the group Temptations and a formula that has worked to Tony victor for other band shows like “Jersey Boys.” But this has something more going for it: it’s fantastic! This is the musical that “Motown” from a few seasons ago wished it was. “Motown” was good but it covered too much ground and barely scratched the surface. “Proud” is focused and has emotional depth. It also has a great cast (three Tony nominees) and theatre royalty behind the scenes: Director Des McAnuff and choreographer Sergio Trujillo. It’s 100% capacity means this is sticking around for awhile.
The old Rodgers & Hammerstein classic from the 1940s has a beautiful modern facelift – creating a techy modern stage using multi-media to enhance scenes and staging and a Tony nominated cast (except oddly the wonderful Rebecca Naomi Jones who should be nominated). It is only playing a limited run and has been extended to January 2020 already. It will likely stay at the 98-100% capacity for awhile and its the favorite to win Best Musical Revival.
The Cher Show
I reviewed this last winter and said if you’re gay and don’t like this, you’re legally dead. That still stands true. Stephanie J. Block is a lock for Best Actress and even if there’s an upset, she is so amazing in all she does that seeing the show for her performance is reward enough. Of course, the likely Tony win for Best Costume for Bob Mackie (Cher’s actual designer) is also a good reason to catch this feel good show. Keep this around! The show is only playing at 70% capacity. The good thing is it still seems to be a money maker and may get a nice push from Tony victories.
Be More Chill
This is quite the interesting show – kind of the “Dear Evan Hansen” of the year, meaning it gets love and support from social media which helped make it one of the hottest tickets when it was Off-Broadway. This fun story of a geeky nerdy kid who takes a pill that looks like a tic tac only to become the cool kid on campus (complete with cool guide) is genius and fun. But it lost some of its luster when it transferred to Broadway – maybe the cool kids who support the show liked the more subversive idea of being Off Broadway and less in the mainstream. While nominated for 8 Drama Desk Awards, the Tony love was minimal with just one nomination. It’s irratic 60-80% capacity makes it seem this won’t be around forever. So seek it out while you can.
This giant of a musical has taken the love story of beauty and the beast and brought it to great heights – literally. “Kong” as a character is a spectacle to be seen and has already made this show the first Tony winner for the season as it won a special award for its puppetry. Visuals that make your mouth drop and a nice score and performances has kept “Kong” alive but its three technical nomination and its novelty wearing thin, it’s bubbling under 70% capacity may not be enough to keep the show around. It takes a lot of people to make the mighty giant come to life and that is likely one hefty payroll.
This is the only musical from this season still on the boards that has no Tony nominations. Pity. This retelling of the popular movie has a lot going for it including a great recreations of some of the movie’s most famous scenes and costumes. Lead actor Andy Karl usually receives Tony nominations and he is in great forum here. His love interest Samantha Barks also dazzles. But it’s odd that Orfeh and her big powerful voice didn’t get a featured actress nomination and more shocking that Eric Anderson, a scene stealer in many roles, was also overlooked. But Tony Awards doesn’t define a show and this is fun in any event and is playing to 70-80% full houses.
To get news on these shows, future shows and anything theatre related, I love www.playbill.com.
There’s even a club in which you can get discounted tickets (for shows not playing at 100%) which is easier than standing in the TXTS line. TodayTIX and StubHub apps are also good for that – or for tickets to sold out shows in which people are reselling them.
While I am not a Tony voter, but since I did see (almost) all musicals this season, here’s how I would have voted. We can call these the Kevo Awards.
Ain’t Too Proud
Be More Chill
Santino Fontana, Tootsie
Alex Brightman, Beetlejuice
Derrick Baskin, Ain’t Too Proud
Brooks Ashmanska, The Prom
Damon Daunno, Oklahoma!
(Bet Will Chase in Kiss Me, Kate would be good here too but that’s the one show I didn’t see)
Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show
Rebecca Naomi Jones, Oklahoma!
Eva Noblezada, Hadestown
Beth Leveal, The Prom
Bonnie Milligan, Head Over Heels
(I’m sure Kelli O’Hara from Kiss Me, Kate is a good inclusion)
BEST FEATURED ACTOR
Eric Anderson, Pretty Woman
Ephraim Sykes, Ain’t Too Proud
Jeremy Pope, Ain’t Too Proud
Andy Groteluschen, Tootsie
Jay Klaitz, Gettin’ the Band Back Together
(I hear Corbin Bleu is good in Kiss Me, Kate)
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS
Amber Gray, Hadestown
Sarah Stiles, Tootsie
Mary Testa, Oklahoma!
Peppermint, Head Over Heels
Teal Wicks, The Cher Show
Orfeh, Pretty Woman