Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2011 Tony Awards: Best Original Score

Note: My personal rankings are listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite, while predictions for the actual winner will be in orange.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

1. The Scottsboro Boys
John Kander

2. The Book of Mormon
Robert Lopez 

3. Sister Act
Alan Menken

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
David Yazbek

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is terrific fun, and I enjoyed The Full Monty, so I was looking forward to Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, but unfortunately, I didn’t catch it before its January closing. Even more unfortunate, many critics likened David Yazbek’s score to Latin Muzak. Ouch.

In the 1990s, Alan Menken could do no wrong. Man was on a hot streak — The Little Mermaid (ok, that was ’89), Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Hunchback, Hercules. But those were all scores for Disney films, and Menken’s only had one solid theatre hit: Little Shop of Horrors. But like Little Shop, Sister Act‘s score really isn’t as magical as Menken’s ‘toon work. It’s full of flavors — soul, funk, disco — but none of them are truly satisfying, except for the proclamatory “Take Me to Heaven!” And I hate to say it, but I couldn’t possibly have been the only one missing the songs from the film (“My Guy (My God),” “I Will Follow Him”).

So the question here, of course, is: do you honor a legend or the runaway hit of the year? Tony voters will barely recollect a score they haven’t heard since at least December, though they probably won’t remember in much more detail the one they heard last week, either.

The Book of Mormon‘s plucky score — with African anthems and overly earnest ballads — by Robert Lopez (Avenue Q) lives to serve the comedy, as it should. Though it’s lively and fun, it’s not particularly memorable, so let’s hope John Kander’s work from his final collaboration with Fred Ebb (who passed away in 2004) is honored with a golden guy come Sunday night. The music of The Scottsboro Boys references jazz and gospel and, of course, cakewalks, with Kander’s signature razzle dazzle ominously highlighting the wrongness of it all as the grinning Mr. Bones and Mr. Tambo softshoe the tragedy as dark comedy. A fine and melodic score, it’s certainly the worthiest here.

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This entry was posted on June 9, 2011 by in Award Predictions, Broadway, Musical, Theatre, Tony Awards and tagged .

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