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.
A Christmas Story The Musical (which I didn’t see) is just happy to be invited to the party, and Bring It On: The Musical — where the heck did THAT come from? The show has its faults — superfluous, forgettable ballads (thanks, Tom Kitt); cliched high school types — with a book that softens the sassy snark of the original films and pushes the generic lessons (teamwork! friendship! honesty!). The well-intentioned musical is more glittery jazz hands than cutting cat fight, but it’s lots of catchy, sparkly fun with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s signature hip-hop rhythms and savvy, winking rhymes. But let’s all be honest: The show stands largely on director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and cheer consultant Jessica Colombo’s crazy-town cheer stunts; without those, it doesn’t amount to a whole lot.
Of course we all know that this is really just a competition between two. Kinky Boots is a fun and super-warm-hearted production — full of strong performances (nominees Billy Porter, Stark Sands and Annaleigh Ashford), fabulous frocks by Gregg Barnes, and lots of sassy swaggering by drag queens — but at its bones, it’s just an average show. Cyndi Lauper’s score has its share of fans, but Fierstein’s book really doesn’t. If it wins — and there is a very decent chance it will, as it has the most nominations of any show this year with thirteen– it’ll be for all its flashy trappings and its earnestness, not for the musical’s overall craft.
Matilda The Musical received the higher critical praise, but it’s also had some growing dissension amongst the ranks. Will there be backlash to the backlash? My guess is yes. The show, with a faithful and clever book by Drama Desk winner Dennis Kelly, is just too good not to be recognized for Drama Desk winner Tim Minchin‘s tongue-tying lyrics and jaunty, Dahlian tunes and that irresistible mix of snark and sweet. Couple that with its wondrous, bookish design by nominees Rob Howell and Hugh Vanstone; clever, energetic direction by nominee Matthew Warchus and the cross-dressing genius of nominee Bertie Carvel, and this British import, boasting a total of twelve nominations (also including nods for Featured Actor and Actress, Choreography and Orchestrations) should largely clean up come Tony night.