a theatre, film & pop culture review
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.
While the men of Follies offered perfectly fine performances, Sondheim and Goldman’s lush, pastiche-rich work, generally deserved better — a little more glamor and a lot more care. First-time nominee Ron Raines‘s despondent businessman was all elegant sophistication, though there was a graceful reveal of the weakness underneath. Critics fell all over themselves for Danny Burstein (who, by the by, made a terrific Luther Billis in the Lincoln Center revival of South Pacific), the Stage-Door Johnny who marries Bernadette Peters’s Sally, his performance as Buddy left me pretty cold until he finally — and most delightfully — grabbed my attention mid-second act as a manic clown in the vaudevillian “The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me Blues.”
It’s baffling that Norm Lewis doesn’t work more than he does, and that when he does grace the Broadway, it’s starring in such, um, quality shows as The Little Mermaid and Sondheim on Sondheim. Can we really not find something better to showcase that rich, gorgeous voice of his? Some folks — not Sondheim, obviously — may have thought that the much-anticipated revival of Porgy and Bess would rectify this situation, but alas, the disappointing production failed to bolster Lewis to award-worthy heights. As the crippled Porgy, Lewis brings a heart — and that beautiful baritone — bursting with pure joy to his rendition of “I Got Plenty of Nothin’,” but his kind of quiet dignity and subtle heartbreak is lost amidst the general dullness of the lackluster production.
Steve Kazee, on the other hand, draws focus like a knife in the musical adaptation of Once. Beautiful and beautifully voiced, Kazee makes you forget, for a time, Glen Hansard’s poignant portrayal in the original film. It certainly helps that the role of Guy — endearingly vulnerable — transferred from screen to stage largely intact (the same cannot be said for the role of Girl), and Kazee handles the minute character deftly, inflecting each song with his own brand of heartbreak. It’s a lovely, unshowy performance, and were it not for another general newcomer, he would be accepting his first Tony.
But then there’s Jeremy Jordan in Newsies. After surviving the crash and burn of his first Wildhorn vehicle (Bonnie and Clyde), Jordan makes bad (news)boy Jack Kelly his own with a rough bravado that carefully hides a sensitive artist. Ridiculously charismatic and exuding a kind of magnetic masculinity that is so rarely seen in a musical, you can’t tear your eyes off of him whenever he’s on stage. Little girls scream for him, critics applaud him, and absolutely no one misses Christian Bale’s precarious vocals. Tony voters will surely show Jordan lots of love come awards night.