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 winners will be in orange.
The relatively joyless revival of Annie, dryly staged and strangely cast (Katie Finnernan as a sloppy Miss Hannigan) by James Lapine, has zero other nominations, and as such, no shot at this award.
It could’ve played faster and zanier, especially in that first act, but come Act II and all that audience participation, the first Broadway revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood became a rollicking good time. Nominated director Scott Ellis deftly juggled a game cast of twenty and as many musical numbers, not to mention that tricky play-within-a-play component that doubles the cast of characters. Led by two nominees, a pantomiming Stephanie J. Block and mustache-twirling Will Chase, the game the cast had a splendid time with the melodramatic comedy, and so did the critics. But with only four other nominations (including Anna Louiza‘s beautifully painted period flats), an earlier closing and some stiff competition, Drood‘s chances here are lowered considerably.
A Broadway revival of a musical that never actually premiered on Broadway, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella is a largely enjoyable experience despite nominated bookwriter Douglas Carter Beane‘s “modernization” of the story (a foreward-thinking Ella purposefully leaves her slipper = good; political subplot and too many jokes = bad). The musical duo’s sincere and gorgeously retro score is sung beautifully by nominees Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana, as Broadway’s cutest couple, and Victoria Clark as the ethereal, exquisite Fairy Godmother, all dressed in a lush, technicolor array of costumes rigged for magically quick transformations by nominee William Ivey Long. With a total of nine nominations (also including Orchestrations, Sound and Lighting, but tellingly, not Directing), Cinderella would be a shoe-in here — despite Beane’s best efforts otherwise and some inconsistent staging by Mark Brokaw — if it weren’t that other nominee…
Cleverly staged as a circus show by nominated director Diane Paulus, Pippin boasts astonishing aerial acrobatic feats by Montreal-based troupe Les 7 doigts de la main, the Fosse-indebted footwork of nominated choreographer Chet Walker and a game — and often courageous — cast of twenty-plus including. The result is a dazzling visual feast, but also an overwhelming one. Stephen Schwartz and Roger O’Hirson’s show is not a great one, and so Paulus’s aggressive, overstimulating staging is a welcome distraction from a lot of mediocre songs and cheesy jokes. There are some fine, also nominated, performances from a brave and open-hearted Andrea Martin as Grandma; Terrence Mann as the bawdy, aging ruler Charlemagne and the inevitable winner Patina Miller as a flashy Leading Player. As enjoyable as all the spectacle is, it doesn’t shed any new light on the war-time fable about a boy searching for his “Corner of the Sky.” But with a total of ten nominations (also including Set, Costume, Lighting and Sound), Pippin‘s win here is a 100% guarantee.