ShentonSTAGE Daily for WEDNESDAY MAY 11

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Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE, coming to you this week from New York.

THE TONY NOMINATIONS

On Monday morning the nominees for this year’s 75th Tony Awards were announced — the full list is here. They saw A STRANGE LOOP leading the pack with 11 nominations, while MJ THE MUSICAL and PARADISE SQUARE got 10 each.

THE LEHMAN TRILOGY, imported from London’s National Theatre, was the most nominated in the plays category, with eight nominations, including three in the leading actor in a play a category for each of its stars, Adam Godley and Simon Rusell Beale (both reprising their NT roles, above left and centre) and Adrian Lester (newly joining them, above right).

Other imports from London that fared well in the nominations stakes included COMPANY (nine nominations, but not including Katrina Lenk for leading actress in a musical, who was chosen to replace Rosalie Craig who had created the female Bobbie in London), SIX (eight nominations), GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY (seven), HANGMEN (five), and CAROLINE, OR CHANGE (three).

A new Broadway production of MACBETH scored a nomination for Best Leading Actress for Ruth Negga, but not for Daniel Craig in the title role for Best Leading Actor. (The production also secured nominations for lighting and sound).

Also faring poorly: the Sonia Friedman produced revival of FUNNY GIRL (with a creative team newly overhauled for Broadway from the version she previously transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory to the West End), with a single nomination (for best featured actor for Jared Grimes, in a role played in London by Joel Montague); there was also just a single nomination for MRS DOUBTFIRE, for best leading actor Rob McClure. (It comes to the UK in September, launching at Manchester’s Opera House for a run from September 2 to October 1. Though not formally announced yet, I heard yesterday that the title role will be played here by Simon Lipkin).

In a column for the New York Times, the paper’s theatre reporter Michael Paulson and theatre editor Scott Heller noted,

“Of the 34 eligible shows, 29 got at least one nod, including the critically scorned Diana. But five new plays were completely overlooked. Most surprising: Pass Over, the well-reviewed and bracing drama by Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu, and also the first play to open after the pandemic lockdown. Also scoring no nominations: Birthday Candles, by Noah Haidle; Chicken & Biscuits, by Douglas Lyons; Is This a Room, by Tina Satter; and Thoughts of a Colored Man, by Keenan Scott II.”

But will the Tony nominations help some of the shows that have been recognised? for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf has received 7 nominations, but had already posted a closing notice for May 22 in advance of their announcement. There’s also already a Twitter campaign afoot to help it: as Page Six of the New York Post reported,

​As Prescod tweeted on May 5,

It may not be enough in itself to save the show, but it shows how individuals CAN pay their love of theatre forward, from critics to actors.

The Tony Awards are primarily these days a marketing tool, to promote shows now playing and Broadway itself. But they are not the only way to sell a show, of course. And on Monday, Second Stage’s revival of RIchard Greenberg’s baseball drama Take Me Out may have deservedly picked up four Tony nominations, including three out of five of the nominees for Best Featured Actor (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Michael Overholtzer and Jesse Williams), but it was a late evening tweet that created even more publicity. when Grey’s Anatomy star Williams found his anatomy on full intimate display on Twitter. Even though theatregoers are asked to put their phones in a sealed zip-lock bag when they arrive at the theatre, someone snuck a picture of him in the shower sequence — and posted it online.

Second Stage posted a statement condemning the breach of this protocol:

But what has been seen online can’t be unseen, and the internet doesn’t quickly forget. Actors may now think twice about appearing naked on Broadway stages ever again.

Finally, an interesting sidebar to the Tony nominations is who actually make them. In a feature for Broadwayworld, Cara Joy David pointed out that only 29 out of the 54 people who are official nominators this year made it the final table: as she pointed out, “While voters can abstain from categories where they missed a nominee, nominators cannot generally recuse category by category, it’s all or nothing…. It seems nominators were most troubled by actually having to see every eligible production or performance. Eight nominators dropped out in recent weeks alone. These include dancer/choreographer JoAnn M. Hunter and Dance Theater of Harlem’s Anna Glass. There is no transparency into exactly why this occurred, but inside sources say it was the end of season crush, and Covid issues impacting both nominators and potentially nominated actors, that caused these nominators to drop out.”

Patti LuPone back at the Beaumont

Patti LuPone — who already has two Tony’s, for EVITA (1980) and GYPSY (2008) and was previously already nominated for five more — is Tony nominated yet again this year for her performance as Joanne in the current revival of COMPANY (for which she took an Olivier in London) .

And on the same day this was announced, I saw her in concert at Lincoln Center’s VIvian Beaumont, a stage she has previously spectacularly graced as Reno Sweeney in the 1987 revival of ANYTHING GOES. I’ve seen every one of LuPone’s Broadway appearances from that show onwards,which have also embraced plays like MASTER CLASS (which she subsequently brought to the West End, briefly), David Mamet’s THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD and THE ANARCHIST (again, briefly) and a revival of NOISES OFF. I’ve also seen her in such original musicals as WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN and WAR PAINT, both of which she premiered on Broadway, plus a cabaret evening with her original EVITA co-star Mandy Patinkin.

Monday’s show was a one-off charity benefit at the Beaumont Theatre, to honour Eric Mindich, the departing chairman of Lincoln Center Theatre, in which she sang songs whose titles and order were chosen from a hat! (As she sings in COMPANY on other nights of the week, “Does anybody still wear a hat?”) This kept the evening spontaneous and informal.

She gave us the belters she’s previously performed in this theatre like the title song to ANYTHING GOES in which she made her Lincoln Center Theatre debut in 1987; and “Invisible”, the quirky song she introduced in the company’s 2010 production of WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN at Broadway’s Belasco Theatre.

There’s nothing invisible about LuPone’s immense stage presence; but she was at her exquisite and dramatic best with quieter classics like Pal Joey’s “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “I could write a book”, as as well as “Small Hotel” from On Your Toes; she really burrows into the heart of each song’s tender wistfulness.

And she ended a too-short but simply gorgeous concert with a microphone-free rendition of Bernstein’s “Some Other Time” from On the Town. How lucky we are to be alive and here in this town, today, to hear LuPone in such stunning voice.

COCK continues to price gouge theatregoers…..

My friend (and general social media nuisance) Carl Woodward — whom I affectionately call Carl Wayward — pointed this out on Monday on Twitter:

This is even after losing its original headline star Taron Egerton, who departed the show after just two weeks in it, many of the performances of which he missed. (I’d LOVE to see his replacement Joel Harper-Jackson in the role, but not at THESE prices…..!)

Of course, commercial theatre ISN’T a charity, and the first responsibility of Elliot Harper is to their investors, not the theatregoing public; except that the company also collected a Cultural Recovery grant during the pandemic shutdown.

So they’ve had PUBLIC money to make the PUBLIC pay through the nose to see their show.

However, in a statement to The Stage, Elliot Harper defended the prices, stating:

“Since the production went on sale last year, 15% of all tickets sold have been at £20. There is a daily lottery for every performance where more tickets are also priced at £20. As the show nears the end of its run, the remaining premium ticket seats are based on supply and demand.” 

But just because you CAN charge premium prices at those levels doesn’t mean you SHOULD. As Olivier nominated actor Carly Mercedes Dyer asked on Twitter yesterday,

Naked greed and opportunism isn’t a good look for the theatre, especially now. There are plenty of structural inequalities in the way the theatre is already run; this only amplifies that, for audiences and actors alike.

SEE YOU ON FRIDAY

If you can’t wait that long, I may also be found on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/ (though not as regularly on weekends).

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