Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily.
Last night saw the presentation of this year’s Tony Awards in New York, with Tom Stoppard’s LEOPOLDSTADT anointed Best Play; it was Stoppard’s fifth Tony, breaking his own record, after previous wins for ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, TRAVESTIES, THE REAL THING and THE COAST OF UTOPIA in a Tony career that began in 1968. (No other playwright has ever won more than two Best Play awards; the seven writers who tie with a pair of awards each are Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Neil Simon, Peter Shaffer, Terrence McNally, Yasmina Reza and Tony Kushner)
It was a big win for producer Sonia Friedman, who had opened it cold in the West End, without the benefit of a prior subsidised partnership, and then taken this huge play direct to Broadway. And it was her fourth Best Play win in the last five years, after HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD, THE FERRYMAN and THE INHERITANCE — the same set of plays also won the Olivier for Best New Play across four consecutive years from 2017 to 2020.
Amongst its four wins in total, LEOPOLDSTADT also saw director Patrick Marber win for Best Director of a play. In a press statement, Friedman commented, “New writing is at the heart of what we do at SFP – collaborating with writers at the very top of their game, and bringing that work into the West End and Broadway to make quality writing accessible to everyone. To have our work recognised in this way over multiple years is testament to the dedication and brilliance not only of the writers, but also creatives, actors, all those backstage, and team at SFP, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
Jodie Comer (pictured above) won the Tony for Leading actress in a play, reprising her West End debut role in the solo play PRIMA FACIE (alas, she won’t be able to add an Oscar to her wins as her role has been snagged by Cynthia Erivo for the film version that was recently announced). Other British winners included designers Tim Hatley, Andrzej Goulding, Tim Lutkin and Carolyn Downing (for their work on the transfer of LIFE OF PI).
Americans, meanwhile, dominated the musicals category, with KIMBERLY AKIMBO the big winner for Best Musical, as well as for star Victoria Clark (best leading performance), pictured above, amongst five awards it took home, the biggest catch of any show of the night. SOME LIKE IT HOT won four Tonys, including for non-binary star J Harrison Ghee, who took the Tony in the gendered category for Leading Actor in a musical; fellow non-binary actor Alex Newell also won in the gendered Featured Actor in a musical role for SHUCKED (the show’s sole win).
The revival of Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry’s PARADE was named Best revival of a musical, with director Michael Arden winning the Tony for best director of a musical. And TOPDOG/UNDERDOG was named best play revival in the sole win for the long-shuttered production.
Sean Hayes (pictured above) took the Tony for leading actor in a play for GOOD NIGHT, OSCAR, but other big shows received less recognition in the big categories — SWEENEY TODD only won for lighting and sound and NEW YORK, NEW YORK only for Beowulf Borritt’s scenic design. & JULIET, another import from London, went away entirely empty-handed; so did the revivals of INTO THE WOODS, CAMELOT and A DOLL’S HOUSE
THE PLEASURES OF BEING A SERIAL REPEATER
A few years ago, a fellow critic asked me what I liked to do for fun, when I wasn’t going to the theatre for “work”. I replied, “I like to go see BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM again”, the Howard Goodall scored musical version of the film that was playing at the time.
I’m a serial repeat viewer of shows I adore. I just found another, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, pictured above, that opened officially at Southwark Playhouse’s Elephant venue last Thursday, four years on from premiering in the Little, their smaller theatre at their Borough branch. I’d seen it twice then — and for its return, I’ve already now seen it three times in the space of eight days, including once each on either side of s designated press performance. (So I actually bought tickets for two of those three shows).
I have a Facebook friend who has been four times already, so I’m not alone in my love for it. And last Thursday afternoon, I met two people – who weren’t there together, either – who were both seeing it for the second time each.
And last Thursday I also saw the return opening night for GROUNDHOG DAY at the Old Vic, marking my 12th viewing of the show — 3 times during its original Old Vic run in 2017, then eight more times on its short-lived Broadway transfer, then again at its first preview at the Old Vic a few weeks ago, before the first night! My full review for PLAYS INTERNATIONAL is here: https://playsinternational.org.uk/groundhog-day-old-vic/
On Saturday, I saw two productions for a second time each: the Open Air Theatre’s revival of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND on Saturday afternoon (in blazing sunshine, though fortunately my seat was stage right which was mostly shaded for the first hour, before drawing some sun for the final half hour): then Dickie Beau’s Re-Member Me at Hampstead Theatre in the evening.
And on the day in-between, last Friday I caught the new production of Sondheim and Weidman’s ASSASSINS at Chichester Festival Theatre — and on Saturday immediately went online to book tickets to see it twice more, this coming Thursday matinee and again on Monday June 19, too.
When I was a more regular ‘working’ critic, some people resented me paying attention to shows I’d seen before by spending time seeing them again, instead of catching and therefore drawing attention to other new shows. But given that I was routinely seeing anywhere between six and twelve shows a week, I was already covering more new shows than the majority of my colleagues, most of whom would cover somewhere between two and four or five shows a week. Susannah Clapp, in the Observer, rarely covers more than three; Quentin Letts, in the Sunday TImes, typically only covers one or two openings a week.
So my return visits were effectively on my ‘nights off’; not that I am accountable to anyone in this, but who are they to judge?
You also, of course, often get a richer, deeper experience the more you see a particular production; but you almost always get a DIFFERENT one, too. Every theatre performance is unique in some way, whether it’s in the delivery of the lines or particular cast members; when I recently revisited OKLAHOMA! to see new cast member Sally Ann Triplett in the lead role of Aunt Eller, two other key roles were played by understudies, as well.
A few years ago I drew some twitter wrath when I posted my intention to cancel a proposed return visit to KINKY BOOTS in the West End because an understudy was on; I meant no disrespect to the understudy at all, but the REASON for my return visit was to see Oliver Tompsett in the lead role; I’d seen the production, between Broadway and the West End, at least six or seven times already, so I wasn’t going to see the show itself again but a particular actor in it.
But there have been many occasions when I’ve stayed to see an understudy, and been thrilled; I’ll never forget, for instance, trying to see LIza Minnelli’s last original Broadway show, THE RINK, a second time, and each time I attempted to do so she was off. On my final attempt, an announcement was made just as the show was about to begin that she was off again; I stayed, and I saw Mary Testa play the role instead. She has long become a favourite performer, whom I will search out to see in anything she’s in.
SHOWS AHEAD IN LONDON, SELECTED REGIONAL THEATRES AND ON BROADWAY
My regularly updated feature on shows in London, selected regional theatres and on Broadway is here: https://shentonstage.com/theatre-openings-from-w-c-june-12-2023/
This week’s openings include a new play by Jack Thorne (WHEN WINSTON WENT TO WAR, opening at the Donmar Warehouse tomorrow June 13); IDIOTS ASSEMBLE: SPITTING IMAGE THE MUSICAL, Rebecca Frecknall’s new production of ROMEO AND JULIET and a revival of 42ND STREET (opening at the Phoenix, Almeida and Sadler’s Wells respectively on Wednesday), as well as a regional opening for a new play with Ian McKellen and Roger Allam (FRANK AND PERCY at Windsor Theatre Royal, also on Wednesday, pictured above); and a West End transfer for the National’s most recent revival of THE CRUCIBLE, which follows the RSC’s last revival of the play into the same West End address, the Gielgud.
I’ll be at several but not all of these, for obvious reasons; and will be writing about them in my column on Friday.
See you here on Monday
I will be here on Monday. If you can’t wait that long, I may also be found on Twitter (for the moment) here: https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/ (though not as regularly on weekends)