Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2012 Tony Awards: Best Orchestrations

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.

BEST ORCHESTRATIONS

1. ONCE
Martin Lowe

2. NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT
Bill Elliott

3. NEWSIES
Danny Troob

4. THE GERSHWINS’ PORGY AND BESS
William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke

Only a category since 1997, Best Orchestrations is a bit of a sticky wicket for me, much like that pesky Sound Design. But I shall do my best.

I’m certainly not going to enflame Mr. Sondheim’s ire by placing Porgy and Bess anywhere but at the bottom of this list. William David Brohn (Tony winner for Ragtime. Ahem.) and Christopher Jahnke (Legally Blonde, Les Mis) “streamlined” the orchestrations, forcing this 1935 American folk opera in a more jazzy direction that’s supposedly more “appropriate” for a Broadway theatre. When I should have been hearing warm and full, richly glorious spiritual numbers, I heard tinniness. Dislike.

Danny Troob’s work on Newsies has the bouncy, earnest energy  and tone of any good Disney musical, which makes sense considering Troob also orchestrated The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

There are few good things to be said about Nice Work If You Can Get It, but thankfully, first-time nominee Bill Elliott’s work is one of them. Let’s hear it for the Gershwins, only this time they sound as they ought considering the 1920s tuners that Elliott strung together to form an old-fangled sounding songbook score. Luscious and authentic in sound, Elliott even craftily incorporated Gershwin instrumentals, and with a wink, a burst of “Rhapsody in Blue” accompanies every onstage kiss.

Apparently ineligible for Best Score, Once will rightly be rewarded here. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s beautiful songs, full of heartache and resignation, are not only sung by the performers, but played by them as well (thanks, John Doyle, your gimmick lives on). Beloved numbers like the Oscar-winning “Falling Slowly” and “Leave” often begin with a quiet acoustic before slowly building with the additions of choral voices and instruments. Making his Broadway debut, Martin Lowe’s thoughtful orchestrations and vocal harmonies elevate the numbers with an intimate understanding of the heartbreak infused within. Subtle and sublime, Once feels and sounds like a winner.
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This entry was posted on June 3, 2012 by in Award Predictions, Broadway, Musical, Theatre, Tony Awards and tagged .

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