Musical Categories" - 6/1/00
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Tony Awards 2000
The Musical Categories

Last column Thomas Burke, our critic, and I discussed the Tony nominations and who we would pick as this year's winners of the Tony Awards. Today, we continue with our discussion.

VJ: Well, Thomas, let's start with some design awards and then get into the musical categories.

Bob Crowley (Aida)
Thomas Lynch (Meredith Willson's The Music Man)
Robin Wagner (Kiss Me, Kate)
Tony Walton (Uncle Vanya)

Thomas Burke: You can't let the Mouse go home empty-handed. Bob Crowley for Aida.

VJ: I suppose. What was Wagner thinking with Kiss Me, Kate? I've seen better sets on college stages. From the mezz they looked dreadful and cheap. As far as Disney, they had pyramids which didn't work in Atlanta and elevators which nearly killed two stars in Chicago, so I'll let them have the Tony for getting their safety act together.

Bob Crowley (Aida)
Constance Hoffman (The Green Bird)
William Ivey Long (Meredith Willson's The Music Man)
Martin Pakledinaz (Kiss Me, Kate )

Thomas Burke: You can't let the Mouse go home with just one. Bob Crowley for Aida again.

VJ: Yes, Aida certainly has costumes going for it. That's two for Mickey.

Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer (The Wild Party)
Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer (Marie Christine)
Peter Kaczorowski (Kiss Me, Kate)
Natasha Katz (Aida)

Thomas Burke: For sheer genius and artistry, Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer for The Wild Party.

VJ: An obvious choice as far as I'm concerned.

Craig Bierko (Meredith Willson's The Music Man)
George Hearn (Putting It Together)
Brian Stokes Mitchell (Kiss Me, Kate)
Mandy Patinkin (The Wild Party)
Christopher Walken (James Joyce's The Dead)

Thomas Burke: Brian Stokes Mitchell for Kiss Me, Kate.

VJ: I'll be damned for this, but I'm going with Bierko. Stokes is miscast and looks bored to me. He was quoted in a recent magazine article as saying they he wasn't too fond of the score prior to going into rehearsals but likes it now. I don't believe that for a New York minute! It's just not his type of material. If he gets it, then it's payback time from the Ragtime slight. Bierko has been compared with Preston, some even say it's a scary impression. Oh, please. He simply found the same character as Preston and has a voice to boot. Bierko it is!

Thomas Burke: In any other year I would agree with you. Bierko made the kind of splash on Broadway that legends are made of, and certainly deserves the award. And, you're right, Stokes is miscast, is probably bored to tears, and has more than a little difficulty selling himself in his role. However, Stokes signed a contract and is doing his level best to fulfill it, showing up and working his ass off in something he obviously isn't all that enthusiastic about. It's called being a professional. Believe me, the Tony voters are fully aware of the situation behind the scenes, and will reward him, if only to make a very clear statement about what it means to be a star to a few other "name above the title" performers.

Toni Collette (The Wild Party)
Heather Headley (Aida)
Rebecca Luker (Meredith Willson's The Music Man)
Marin Mazzie (Kiss Me, Kate)
Audra McDonald (Marie Christine)

Thomas Burke: Marin Mazzie for Kiss Me, Kate.

VJ: It's Heather all the way.

Thomas Burke: Sorry. Disney's lucky to cop a few design awards this year. Aida isn't getting a major award, no matter how good the nominee is. Toni Collette may have gotten it, if anybody thought a Best Actress in a Musical Tony would be enough to keep Wild Party open, but it's clear that Party is doomed no matter how many Tonys it wins. Audra McDonald may have gotten a fourth Tony if Marie Christine were still open.

V.J.I love Audra, of course, but three's enough for now. Where was Alex Korey? I thought she was great in The Wild Party

Thomas Burke: That was the other Wild Party...the one which didn't transfer.

V.J. I know. Just kiddin'. What a different ball of wax the season and the nominations would have been though. And where was Sherie Rene Scott's nomination for Aida? Major, major oversight here.

Michael Berresse (Kiss Me, Kate)
Boyd Gaines (Contact)
Michael Mulheren (Kiss Me, Kate)
Stephen Spinella (James Joyce's The Dead)
Lee Wilkof (Kiss Me, Kate)

Thomas Burke: Stephen Spinella for The Dead.

VJ: Three actors from Kiss Me, Kate? Talk about cancelling each other out. Through process of elimination, I'll have to go with Michael Berresse.

Thomas Burke: Berresse? You're kidding!

V.J. Just a hunch, let's say, based on the buzz.

Laura Benanti (Swing!)
Ann Hampton Callaway (Swing!)
Eartha Kitt (The Wild Party)
Deborah Yates (Contact)
Karen Ziemba (Contact)

Thomas Burke: Deborah Yates for Contact.

VJ: No way, it goes to Ziemba. Eartha is a big threat too, but it's Ziemba's year. Not only is she good, but she paid her dues, and everyone knows that. This is a tough category; Callaway and Benanti are no slouches either.

Thomas Burke: I'll grant that Ziemba is Yates' only real competition, and realistically it could go to either one of them.

Eartha isn't that much of a threat. She's going a darn good job, but she's playing herself, which is great but not enough to win an acting award. Likewise, neither Callaway or Benanti, as good as they are, have created any sort of major character that carries through their show. Only Yates and Ziemba have created characters, which is what this category is all about.

John Weidman (Contact)
Richard Nelson (James Joyce's The Dead)
Michael John LaChiusa (Marie Christine)
Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe (The Wild Party)

Thomas Burke: Richard Nelson for The Dead.

VJ: I'll go with LaChiusa, but for which show I don't know. It's a category that I would pass on if I were a wagering man in Las Vegas. Contact has a book, but a very different book which I'll mention again later.

Thomas Burke: No, LaChiusa is getting his encouraging pat on the back for Best Original Score.

ORIGINAL SCORE (Music and Lyrics)
Aida (Music: Elton John Lyrics: Tim Rice)
James Joyce's The Dead (Music: Shaun Davey Lyrics: Richard Nelson & Shaun Davey)
Marie Christine (Music & Lyrics: Michael John LaChiusa)
The Wild Party (Music & Lyrics: Michael John LaChiusa)

Thomas Burke: Michael John LaChiusa for The Wild Party

VJ: I half agree. It's LaChiusa, but for Marie Christine, hands down.

Thomas Burke: V.J., I don't know how to break this to you, but Marie Christine isn't winning anything.

VJ It seems fans are crazy for the score, much moreso than theatre-goers took to the actual production.

Thomas Burke: Then LaChiusa may win an award for Marie Christine for best Original Cast Recording, but not a Tony for best score.

Doug Besterman (Meredith Willson's The Music Man)
Don Sebesky (Kiss Me, Kate)
Jonathan Tunick (Marie Christine)
Harold Wheeler (Swing!)

Thomas Burke: Harold Wheeler for Swing!.

VJ: And I'm agreeing with that, although, I'm torn between Wheeler and Tunick.

Thomas Burke: Tunick? Not for Marie Christine.

Kathleen Marshall (Kiss Me, Kate)
Susan Stroman (Contact)
Susan Stroman (Meredith Willson's The Music Man)
Lynne Taylor-Corbett (Swing!)

Thomas Burke: Susan Stroman for Contact.

VJ: A no brainer, if ever.

Michael Blakemore (Kiss Me, Kate)
Lynne Taylor Corbett (Swing!)
Susan Stroman (Contact)
Susan Stroman (The Music Man)

Thomas Burke: Susan Stroman for The Music Man.

VJ: Nope. Susan Stroman for Contact.

Thomas Burke: No, Music Man needs a major award and this is it.

VJ: Read on, MacDuff!

Jesus Christ Superstar
Kiss Me, Kate
Meredith Willson's The Music Man
Tango Argentino

Thomas Burke: Kiss Me, Kate.

VJ: The Music Man. Kate simply bored me to tears. 12 nominations, I know, perhaps, it's just me. And to tell you the truth, I think Willson's score is much better. It's just a better musical all around including the corny book which holds up better than the creaky Kate. It's no wonder Kate hasn't been revived in 50 years!

Thomas Burke: Music Man? No way, too many ill-fitting band uniforms! Kate hasn't been revived recently because it's a much more difficult show to do right. As fun and slick as the current revival of Music Man is, I've seen University productions which would put it to shame.

James Joyce's The Dead
The Wild Party

Thomas Burke: Contact.

VJ: Without a doubt. Canned music, no book to speak of, but it does everything a Broadway musical should do. I don't know where it states that Broadway musicals must have live music. And Lord knows, dance is the universal language which just happens to be the book here, and it tells a strong story!

I often wonder where the musical is heading. When Triumph of Love, a rather smallish musical, didn't make it a few season's back, I took that as a major sign of the future. Can musicals like that ever make it, or do we need casts of 40 and huge budgets? What is it that the public wants? For us, it's quite apparent. We'll go see Marie Christine, both Wild Party's, The Dead etc. etc. Meanwhile, the bridge and tunnel crowd are seeing Jekyll & Hyde for the third time, or Saturday Night Fever or Jesus Rent Superstar.

Where is it heading Thomas? Sondheim says it's over and I somehow don't want to believe him. I want LaChiusa, Guettel, Lippa, Ahrens & Flaherty, Wildhorn, Nan Knighton and many others to continue and carry the torch. It just seems we're in the dark ages, or a time of change. With the decline of the British spectacle, which we are now dismissing, I think we need to encourage our writers on these shores and let them know we're out here and we're following them.

Thomas Burke: LOL! Reading all the posts on the All That Chat forum, I seriously don't think you have anything to worry about. The talents of LaChiusa, Guettel, Lippa, Ahrens & Flaherty, Wildhorn, Nan Knighton and all the others are debated so passionately, all their new projects anticipated so fervently, if anything I'm seeing more interest in the Broadway musical than I have in the last 30 years. You're right, it's a time of change - change for the better.

Oh well, another season, another reason for talkin' Broadway.

See you Tony Award Sunday!

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