“Fun Home” and “Curious Incident” Win Big at the Tony Awards

Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth Host at Radio City Music Hall

alan cumming and kristin chenowethLast night, the 69th Annual Tony Awards took place at Radio City Music Hall, hosted by Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth. After much excitement, the winners were revealed, amidst many gorgeous musical numbers performed by shows that were nominated, as well as by shows that received no nominations. At the end of the night, the final and most anticipated award was announced: Fun Home took home the Tony Award for Best Musical. Arguably the most prestigious and meaningful award among a list of huge honors, this award will ensure that Fun Home continues to run for at least another year if not many more. After transferring from the Off-Broadway Public Theater, Fun Home has been playing at the small Circle in the Square Theatre since March 27, 2015. Though it has been playing to sold out houses, it has not been reaching the top of its money earning potential. This past week, the week ending June 7, 2015, it made only 87.60% of its gross potential. That is sure to change immediately, as the tiny venue can only accommodate 776 people, by far the smallest house on Broadway. Time will tell whether the show will need to transfer to a larger venue to meet demand, or whether it will just become an extremely tough ticket.

Best Play, Best Revivals, Best Actors, and Best Directorscurious incident

The other very prestigious honor at the Tony Awards is that for Best Play, which was earned by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Having transferred to Broadway from the National Theatre in London, this show took home 5 of the 6 awards for which it was nominated. In addition to Best Play, it won the awards for Best Direction of a Play for Marianne Elliott, Best Actor in a Leading Performance in a Play for Alex Sharp, Best Lighting Design of a Play for Paule Constable, and Best Scenic Design of a Play for Bunny Christie and Finn Ross. As for revivals, the award for Best Revival of a Play was earned by Skylight, which did not earn any of the other awards for which it was nominated. These include three acting awards, for Carey Mulligan, Bill Nighy, and Matthew Beard, none of whom took home an award for their performances, as well as the award for Best Direction, which Stephen Daldry lost to Marianne Elliott. The award for Best Revival of a Musical was given to The King and I. That show also earned the award for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, given to Kelli O’Hara. This is the sixth time this wonderful actress has been nominated for a Tony Award, and the first time that she won. The award for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Play was given to Helen Mirren for The Audience, and the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical was given to Michael Cerveris for Fun Home. Finally, Sam Gold took home the award for Best Direction of a Musical, also for Fun Home.

Writing and Composing Awards

fun homeWhereas the creators of straight plays are honored through the awards for Best Play and Best Revival of a Play, separate awards are given to the book writers, as well as the composers and lyricists, of musicals. These awards are in addition to the awards for Best Musical and Best Revival of a Musical, which are generally accepted by the producers. The award for Best Original Score was given to Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, who wrote the music and lyrics respectively for Fun Home. The award for Best Book of a Musical was also given to Lisa Kron for Fun Home. Whereas this year the award for Best Musical served basically the same purpose as these two awards, sometimes the recipients do differ. In this case, the three separate honors proved irrefutably that Fun Home is the most exciting new musical of the year. Something Rotten!, which was the only show nominated for Best Musical not based on a previous work, was only recognized once, when Christian Borle took home the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical. Still, that show was nominated for a total of ten awards, which is certainly no small honor. As for An American in Paris, which was considered to be the next most likely show to win Best Musical, it only took home the awards for Best Choreography for Christopher Wheeldon, as well as Best Orchestrations, Best Scenic Design, and Best Lighting Design, showing that the Tony voters ultimately considered it to be a beautiful ballet show, but not dramatically substantial enough to win the highest honor of the event.

“The King and I” Extends and Announces National Tour

Nine Tony Nominations and Indefinite Extension

the king and iWhen Lincoln Center’s current revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I opened on April 16, 2015, it received a full round of rave reviews from critics. Then, it received nine Tony Award nominations, including those for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for Ken Watanabe, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for Kelli O’Hara, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for Ruthie Ann Miles, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, Best Lighting Design, Best Direction for Bartlett Sher, and Best Choreography for Christopher Gattelli. Ken Watanabe received this nomination in his Broadway debut, and Kelli O’Hara received her sixth Tony nomination; perhaps this will be her first and long-awaited win. Furthermore, since the nominations were announced, the box office has broken the million dollar mark for the weekly grosses, and there it has stayed for three weeks and running. With all of this good news, Lincoln Center announced that the musical will be extended indefinitely at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. This is big news for the 51 member company, who will continue to play for months to come.

National Tour to Commence November 2016the king and i

In addition to the news of the indefinite extension, the producers announced that this revival of The King and I will embark on a national tour to begin in November of 2016, launching in Providence, Rhode Island. Throughout the 2016 to 2017 season, the show will play a mixture of multi-week and single week runs in different cities throughout the nation. It has not yet been announced what the cast will be, or whether it will be an Equity or non-Equity tour, which is always a matter of some discussion given the costs and benefits to both producers and company. Comparably in 2008, Bartlett Sher directed another revival of a timeless musical – South Pacific – also starring Kelli O’Hara and also produced by Lincoln Center Theatre. That show, too, was a huge success, extending at first indefinitely and ultimately running for 996 performances, in addition to 37 preview performances. When South Pacific began its national tour, it did so in a non-Equity production with a smaller orchestra in order to save costs. It is possible that The King and I will follow suit, although that may stir some controversy.

Rave Reviews and Excellent Box Office

Upon the show’s opening, Ben Brantley of The New York Times found The King and I to be impressive and resplendent, relishing in the detailed revival. David Cote of Time Out New York found the show to be majestic, pointing out the timelessness of this masterpiece. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter found the revival to be breathtaking and magnificent, praising not only the large scale of the production but also its fine quality. Steven Suskin of The Huffington Post enjoyed that the show was produced as written, rather than taking unnecessary artistic liberties, thereby preserving the classic. Robert Kahn of NBC New York was equally smitten by the production, impressed by the cast of over 50 and deeming Kelli O’Hara’s performance astonishing. Following suit, the box office has been excellent. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending May 31, 2015, The King and I brought in $1,095,371, which is the largest weekly gross in the run thus far. This is still only 89.90% of the show’s gross potential, but it shows much promises to continue increasing in upcoming weeks. With a top ticket price of $297.00, that week’s average paid admission was $130.77. Therefore, audience members are willing to pay top dollar to see the revival of this classic, with such a breathtaking production and magnificent reviews.

“The King and I” Begins Previews on Broadway

A Lincoln Center Production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Hit

the king and iOn March 12, 2015, the 2015 revival of The King and I will play its first performance at the Vivian Beaumont Lincoln Center. Opening night is scheduled for April 16, 2015. This is the fifth time this musical will have played on Broadway, the original having premiered on March 29, 1951. With music by Richard Rodgers, and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, the show is based on a novel called Anna and The King of Siam by Margaret Landon. At the time of its premiere, the musical was a huge hit and won the Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Actress (Gertrude Lawrence in the role of Anna Leonowens) and Best Featured Actor (Yul Brynner as the King of Siam). It was then revived in 1977, 1985, and 1996. The 2015 production therefore marks the fourth Broadway revival. This production is produced by Lincoln Center Theatre at their Vivian Beaumont Broadway venue. It is directed by Bartlett Sher (The Bridges of Madison County, Golden Boy, South Pacific), and the choreography is the original by Jerome Robbins, with the revival’s musical staging by Christopher Gattelli (Newsies, Godspell, South Pacific). The production stars Kelli O’Hara (Nice Work if You Can Get It, South Pacific, The Bridges of Madison County) as Anna, and Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai, Memoirs of a Geisha) making his Broadway debut as the King of Siam.

A Classic Story for a Modern Audienceken watanabe kelli o'hara

The timeless tale of Anna and the King revolves around a British schoolteacher in 1862, who is hired by the King of Siam (now Thailand) to come to Bangkok and tutor his children. The King has many wives and has other traditional customs, but he has hired Anna to help modernize his country. Still, he is very resistant to this effort, and at first there is great tension between the two. Nevertheless, Anna is persistent, and she not only succeeds in introducing some Western customs to Siam, but she and the King ultimately also fall in love. The show includes many timeless and beautiful songs such as “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Hello, Young Lovers,” “A Puzzlement,” “Getting to Know You,” “Something Wonderful,” and “Shall We Dance?”. This Lincoln Center production is sure to let its audiences relive the original magic of this gorgeous show, complete with the original choreography and elaborate traditional costumes.

A Déjà Vu of “South Pacific” at the Vivian Beaumont

In spring 2008, Lincoln Center mounted another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre: South Pacific. This production shares much more than the composer and librettist in common with this revival of The King and I. First of all, the director is the same: Bartlett Sher. Secondly, the same leading lady will take center stage: Kelli O’Hara. What’s more, Sher has reunited his entire creative team from that production: set designer Michael Yeargan, musical director Ted Sperling, lighting designer Donald Holder, costume designer Catherine Zuber, and sound designer Scott Lehrer. Fortunately, South Pacific was such an enormous hit that this bodes well for The King and I. In 2008, South Pacific brought home a phenomenal seven Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Director (Bartlett Sher), Best Actor, and all four design categories: costume, set, sound, and lighting. Therefore, The King and I is sure to be a delightful and magical production, reuniting a team who know each other well. There won’t be too much “Getting to Know You” necessary at the first rehearsal.

“Peter Pan Live” Airs on NBC

Allison Williams and Christopher Walken Star

Peter Pan Live!On December 4, 2014, NBC continued its now annual tradition of airing a theatrical production filmed exclusively for television. Last year, NBC had a stupendous success with their airing of a live production of The Sound of Music, amassing 22 million viewers for the special, which was produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (the producers of the Oscars as well as many musical films such as Chicago and Hairspray). This year, the same producing team mounted a production of Peter Pan, adapting the version first produced in 1954. Following in a tradition led by Mary Martin and Cathy Rigby of a female portraying the young boy, Allison Williams (Girls) was cast as Peter Pan. In addition, Christopher Walken (A Behanding in Spokane, Hurlyburly) portrayed Captain Hook, Christian Borle (Peter and the Starcatcher) played Smee, Kelli O’Hara (The Bridges of Madison County) played Mrs. Darling, and Minnie Driver played the adult Wendy and the narrator. The broadcast, though not as successful as last year’s The Sound of Music, brought in 9.129 million viewers.

Sometimes Growing Up Is Not So Bad photo

Allison Williams is a star who has recently skyrocketed to national recognition, and this performance certainly took her notoriety one step further than the already immense fame she has garnered for her supporting role on Lena Dunham’s Girls on HBO. It’s not an accident that her father is Brian Williams, managing editor and anchor of NBC nightly news for over 20 years. Still, it’s hard to resent the nepotism involved here, because both father and daughter are so sweetly earnest. This photo is a screen shot of a recent facebook post Allison Williams made on her personal profile, showing how she has yearned to play this role since the age of 2 and a half. And her father was the first to announce the casting on his news show, adorably citing how this is a role she has always longed to play, and he should know, as he’s her father. This was an interesting way for Williams to foray into professional stage performance, as the broadcast had elements of both stage and screen performance. Whereas the musical was written and principally staged for the full-scale live stage performance, there were also elements that were only possible due to the filmed format, such as a larger set and cast and more diverse camera angles. Walken was cited to express ambivalence about this duality of performance methods, as he wasn’t thrilled about having a stage show broadcast to millions without the usual weeks of rehearsals and previews given to a Broadway show, and also that he’s never quite sure when the camera was even on him.

Firmly Mixed Reviews

peter panEven prior to the airing on Thursday evening, Williams conducted several interviews in which she predicted that many people would “hate-watch” the special, but also expecting that once they sat down to view it, it would be difficult to realize the “hate” part of the equation. Perhaps her self-aware semi-cynicism stems from her friendship with fellow millennial stars such as Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke, who would never be caught dead performing in such a classically un-ironical role such as this one (though Dunham probably wishes she could be a musical star, but she cannot sing and her comedy stems from a very different place; Kirke honestly would never wish this upon herself). Anyway, Williams was thrust amongst these fellow girls, and does offer a nice juxtaposition to their sentiment on the HBO show, but in this case, she proves herself to be paving the way to a very different career. As for actual reviews, some people loved it, and some people genuinely despised it, but most were somewhere in between. Alessandra Stanley in The New York Times said that Allison “ruined hate-watching,” because she convincingly pulled off the role after all. The Hollywood Reporter lauded Williams’ performance, and considered the entire special a success. Still, musical theatre lover Adam Feldman in Time Out New York came out with perhaps the most objectively accurate response, critiquing the entire show of Peter Pan for not being a first-rate show in the first place, but also critiquing Zadan and Meron for minimizing the inherent theatricality of the piece. Still, he expressed a sincere wish that NBC try again with the live television musical theatre concept next year, which the network has already expressed their intent to do.

“The Bridges of Madison County” to Close on May 18

Based on the 1992 best-selling novel by Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County is a musical with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (Parade, Songs for a New World), a book by Marsha Norman (‘night, Mother), and directed by Bartlett Sher.  Though the show was a highly anticipated transfer from the Williamstown Theatre Festival where it ran in summer 2013, it will unfortunately close on May 18, 2014 after consistently moderate sales.  The musical opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on February 20, 2014 after 37 preview performances, and it will have run 100 regular performances by the time it shutters its doors.

The musical was not helped by its schedule, hbridges of madison county musical kelli o'hara steven pasqualeaving opened in the midst of a very cold winter.  Furthermore, it received mixed reviews from critics, despite considerable appreciation for the performances of its two stars.  Kelli O’Hara, who has received Tony Award nominations for her roles in The Light in the Piazza, The Pajama Game, South Pacific, and Nice Work if You Can Get It, starred alongside Steven Pasquale, who is known for his television roles on Rescue Me and Six Feet UnderThe Bridges of Madison County received four Tony Award nominations in 2014, including those for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Kelli O’Hara), Best Original Score (Jason Robert Brown), Best Orchestrations (Jason Robert Brown), and Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Donald Holder).  Despite this appreciation from the theatre community, it did not manage to attract enough ticket-buyers to keep it afloat.

Financially, the show’s highest weekly gross was $476,374, but it generally grossed around $350,000 per week.  This is hardly enough to sustain a musical, even though its capitalization was a modest $8.5 million.  In general, it only amassed enough sales to reach 30 to 40 percent of its gross potential in a given week.  Since early March, it has been on a steady decline, and this past week it grossed $64,998 less than the week before.

The novel is one of the bestselling books of the 20th century, having sold 50 million copies worldwide.  It is the story of an Italianbridges of madison county kelli o'hara steven pasquale bed scene woman named Francesca who lives in Madison County, Iowa in the 1960s.  The story takes off when she starts an affair with a National Geographic photographer focused on covered bridges in the area, and it follows the couple for several years afterward.  In addition to this musical adaptation, the novel was made into a film in 1995 directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

This is a very competitive season for new musicals.  In addition to the four that were nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Aladdin, After Midnight, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – this season also saw the premiere of Bullets over Broadway, If/Then, and Rocky the Musical, as well as the Broadway premiere of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Violet (though these two shows have had Off-Broadway runs in the past).  In addition to the slew of musical revivals and plays both new and revived, it was particularly difficult for a new musical to find its audience, even one with such name recognition as The Bridges of Madison County.

New CD To Benefit Broadway Impact

Jeremy Jordan

Jeremy Jordan

A new recording titled Here For You – Ballads For Broadway Impact, featuring the music of Jonathan Reid Gealt, will be released on April 30. The proceeds of the album will benefit Broadway Impact, an organization made up of theater people who support marriage equality.

The CD will feature the talents of many Broadway performers, including Jeremy Jordan (Newsies, TV’s Smash), Kelli O’Hara (Nice Work If You Can Get It), Adrienne Warren (Bring It On), Rachel Potter (Evita), Katie Thompson (Big Fish), and Caissie Levy (Ghost the Musical), as well as The Voice finalist Loren Allred.

Here For You – Ballads for Broadway Impact will be launched with a special concert being held at The Cutting Room on April 29 at 10pm. Tickets are $20 if purchased ahead of time, or $25 at the door. Get tickets by visiting www.thecuttingroomnyc.com or calling 212-691-1900.

Broadway Musical Carousel To Be Presented in Concert on PBS

Kelli O'Hara headshot singer actressThe classic Rodgers & Hammerstein Broadway musical Carousel is being staged at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall from February 27 to March 2 in a concert version that will feature the world-famous New York Philharmonic. Fortunately for those who aren’t able to see the concert staging in person, PBS has announced it will broadcast the event as a part of its “Live from Lincoln Center” series.

Carousel will feature Tony Award-nominated Broadway actress Kelli O’Hara (Nice Work If You Can Get It, South Pacific) as mill worker Julie Jordan and Nathan Gunn as troubled carnival barker Billy Bigelow. The cast of Carousel will also feature Broadway actor Alexander Gemignani (Sweeney Todd) and Stephanie Blythe (The Ring Cycle, Carmen). John Rando will direct the event, Rob Fisher will serve as conductor of the orchestra, and Warren Carlyle will provide choreography.

Carousel boasts some of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s most beautiful and memorable songs, including “If I Loved You,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” and “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over”. Tickets to the Carousel concert are $65 and can be purchased at www.nyphil.org or by phone (212-875-5656).