Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2012: Tony Awards: Best Musical Revial

Note: My personal rankings are listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite, while predictions for the actual winners will be in orange. Those that are listed but not ranked are productions that I was not able to see.

 

BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL


1. EVITA

2. FOLLIES

3. THE GERSHWINS’ PORGY AND BESS

4. JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

Dear lord, this category is horrific.

Honestly,  I didn’t care for a single one of these productions, so I ranked them based on how well I like the material and — gasp! — ALW is above Sondheim. Am I drunk? Did I really just do that? ….Oh well, it’s true.

I may have a soft spot for Eva, but I can’t ever get behind Jesus Christ Superstar (sorry, Andy). Sure, the cast sounds great, but the show is ridiculous, and director Des McAnuff takes it all way too seriously (zero camp = zero fun). Plus, the show’s only other Tony nom is for a performer who missed half his performances. Sorry, JCS, but voters won’t know how to love you, either.

Suzan-Lori Parks and Diane Paulus are major teases. Promised a revisionist Porgy and Bess that would make Sondheim foam at the mouth, all we got was a tinny-sounding score and a Porgy sans goat cart. Quite possibly the most underwhelming re-interpretation ever (even Steve must’ve been disappointed — where’d our happy ending go?!), it boasted a typically fine Audra McDonald and finally — finally! — a Tony nod for the under-appreciated Norm Lewis who had plenty o’ good moments in this perfectly competent production. P&G is the only possible spoiler for the category, but it’s highly unlikely.

Evita: How could something so hypothetically right go so very wrong? For her first return to Broadway since premiering in 1979, the Donmar Warehouse crew came together to create a beautiful-looking production: gorgeous lighting by Neil Austin, lush sets and costumes by Christopher Oram, and thrilling choreography by Rob Ashford. Where do we go from here? Well, director Michael Grandage wasn’t quite sure. With no point of view — except that everything is very, very serious — Grandage drained the feisty Evita of all her energy. Performed at a glacial pace (or was that just the musical direction?), Evita (Elena Roger) can’t sing (the part), Che (Ricky Martin) can’t stop smiling, and Michael Cerveris’s hair piece can’t stop looking you directly in the eye. Somehow, ALW’s best musical became Broadway’s biggest disappointment.

I know, I know, I’m the only one who didn’t like Follies. Sorry. Uneven performances (Jan Maxwell’s great! When she’s not dancing), Kai Harada’s cheesily ghostly sound design, Derek McLane’s skeletal set design, Natasha Katz’s lighting scheme of dark, darker and darkest (unforgivably hiding Gregg Barnes’s gloriously bedazzled costumes) — this revival sadly disappoints on nearly every level. Frankly, Sondheim and Goldman’s lush, pastiche-rich work deserved better — it deserves a little more glamor and a lot more care. But that ain’t no thing, because Follies is gonna win.

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