The Highs and Lows of the 2017 Tony Awards

Another opening, another show. Another chance to joke about the Oscars mix-up.

The 2017 Tony Awards, our annual Super Bowl, were last night and proved to be a journey of excitement and disappointment all at the same time. While I don’t think anything will beat the excitement from last year’s #HamilTonys, this ceremony did have its good bits, but for every good bit there was a bad Kevin Spacey one. Here are some of our highs and lows from this year’s Tony Awards.

Lows: The Opening Number

I know Kevin Spacey is a respected actor/human etc. etc. but…. I was just not left that impressed with his Groundhog Day-inspired montage, highlighting all the nominated shows (although 10 points for Griffyndor for the tap dance break). Is it because we’ve been blessed with James Corden and Neil Patrick Harris in the past few years? Yeah, probably. I just expect to be left in tears by the end of the opening number. I don’t want it to end with a pun including “Your host is found”, no matter how many Dear Evan Hansen refs I long for.

High: It’s Been A Long Time Coming For Gavin Creel

Longtime Broadway and stage star Gavin Creel FINALLY won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for Hello, Dolly! He was previously nominated for Hair and Thoroughly Modern Millie (which made his win even more special because Sutton Foster handed him his trophy) but he’s one of those actors that has been around for so long (he’s only 41) that he’s got a strong fan base (and support from fellow actors) even without the Tony. I saw him in the national tour of The Book of Mormon a few years ago and couldn’t stop raving about him. Did you watch him last year in She Loves Me? Come on. His speech was perfect and awkward (1:45 THAT IS ME) and admirable (SUPPORT ARTS EDUCATION!). I love when well-deserving actors who’ve been in it a while finally get recognition. Also goes for Dear Evan Hansen’s Rachel Bay Jones!

High: Performances to Give You The Chills

The Tonys are the only major award show that is site specific. You can easily go to your local cinema and watch an Oscar-nominated film. Turn on the TV and tune-in to an Emmy-nominated show. Pop in a cassette tape and listen to a Grammy-nominated album. But with the Tonys, you have to physically be in New York City to see these Broadway shows. So when the casts take the stage to perform, they’re performing for everyone around the world watching the show, who can’t necessarily get to the Big Apple. It gives a visual to fans who have only listened to the soundtrack, or maybe have never even heard the show at all. Which is why I always look forward to the actors getting a chance to show their talents off for the millions watching at home. Some standout performances this year were legend-in-the-making Eva Noblezada and the cast of Miss Saigon, Josh Groban and the cast of  The Great Comet throwing the best Russian party, and cast of Bandstand, making me want to take swing dance classes.

Low: Random Celebs

Former pro hockey player and Canadian Ron Duguay was the first rando to introduce the performance by the cast of Come From Away, because it takes place in New Foundland. And he is Canadian, you see. It makes sense. I was also confused because it kinda sounded like he went off script, and winged the intro… but what do I know, I’m American. And for some reason, Keegan Michael Key introduced the Great Comet cast, and I’m still trying to figure that one out. I love the guy but, if anyone has any insight, that would be supes helpful.

High: Playwrights in the Spotlight

As I previously mentioned, the Tonys are a chance for casts to give viewers a small sliver of what they do 8 times a week. But what about all the plays? It’s hard to just recreate a scene from a play just to show that they’re nominated for Best Play/Best Revival of a play. But this year, they did it right (or wright?) and had the playwrights take the stage and describe the show they wrote in their own words. More of this please.

High: Rachel Bloom, Future Tonys Host

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star and renowned Broadway geek Rachel Bloom served as a backstage correspondent and to quote someone on Twitter, “Rachel Bloom is actually hosting this year’s Tonys, briefly interrupted by a man doing dated impressions.” Rachel was basically representing all of us nerds watching at home, with no chill for how exciting it is to be at the Tonys. Please host next year. CW is in the CBS brotherhood.

High: Oh, Hello!

This particular part of the show was quite the rollercoaster. First, the Oh Hello dudes came on stage to bring some actual humor to the show. If you watched John Mulaney and Nick Kroll host the Independent Spirit Awards earlier this year, you already know how hilarious and entertaining they are as a co-hosting duo. So when they came on stage to introduce the Radio City Rockettes, it brought the show back up, and quite frankly much better than Kevin Spacey’s opening number ever was.

Low: Rockettes

Andddd then the Rockettes did a few high kicks – like I get it, they’re at Radio City – but why. Why? Oh, because it gave Leslie and Cynthia a reason to sing.

High: Leslie Odom Jr. & Cynthia Erivo Saving the Rockettes

Except it lasted approx 1 minute, which was way too short. They could’ve stayed on stage and sang all the winners and it would’ve been totally fine. Get these two in a show or on tour together, SOMETHING. I WILL GIVE YOU MY MONIES.

High: Dr. Biden and Joe

Dr. Jill Biden was on hand to introduce a performance by the cast of Bandstand, which centers on a group of veterans coming home after World War II. With Dr. Biden’s long support of the military and their family, it was a no-brainer that she was there. But what I loved is that she got a standing ovation, clearly in appreciation for her service, as well as the service of her hubs and the entire Obama administration, and it made me long for the days of pre-Election 2016 Tonys. But the best part? Seeing Uncle Joe in the audience proudly watching his wife on stage, just as her date and nothing else. God bless.

Low: Kevin Spacey’s Impressions

If you didn’t know that Kevin Spacey does a real good impression of Johnny Carson, well know you know (if you watched the Tonys). And because he needed material, of course he pulled out the wig, since a Carson impression is relevant to the interests of all the people watching the Tonys. It was then that I texted Molly and mentioned that Carson is one of the party tricks Spacey’s got in his bag, and as you’ll see in the message below, I totally called the next impression.

During his Clinton impression, he called out Ben Platt and made a few Hillary jokes because THAT’S STILL FUNNY. Us, and most of the people watching the bit:

And because third time’s the charm, he had to come out as fake U.S. President Frank Underwood (along with Robin Wright & Michael Kelly, for some reason – the bit didn’t need them tbh it still sucked) to hand LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA THE ENVELOPE FOR THE WINNER OF BEST MUSICAL. We had already been Lin-less for the entire show, I didn’t need Spacey to ruin this too. But alas, he did.

High: Bette Midler Refuses To Be Played Off

The Divine Miss M won her first Tony (she’s an O away from EGOT) for Hello, Dolly! and because she’s Bette Midler, she didn’t give a crap about playoff music. There are few people in the world that can get away with telling an orchestra to stop, and she is one of them. It was everything I expected and more.

Sidenote: The Tony producers are S A V A G E for getting Glenn Close to present the category, since there was a possibility that Patti LuPone (rumored rival) could’ve won. It might have been an epic face-to-face that us drama-loving nerds died over.

High: Words Fail for Dear Evan Hansen

Dear reader, it’s gonna be a good day, and this is why – Dear Evan Hansen won six Tonys and all is right with the world.

First off, the production went into the ceremony with 9 noms – 3 less than top show Great Comet, making me think DEH could be beat out by Josh Groban. But the show all about social anxiety and connection clearly connected with Tony voters, and won not only Best Musical, but Best Book of a Musical, Best Score (by our boys and La La Land’s Pasek & Paul), Best Orchestrations (BACK TO BACK WINS FOR HAMFAM ALEX LACAMOIRE), and acting prizes for Rachel Bay Jones (MOM) and dreamy angel of an actor Ben Platt. He was the favorite going into the show, but seeing this 23 year old win and give his speech was everything I wanted in a Tonys acceptance speech, including an inspiring quote that teens will be inking on folders today – “To all young people watching at home, don’t waste time being anyone but yourself, because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.”

And thennn earlier in the show, Ben, who was out of DEH for a few performances and put on vocal rest – made a triumphant return by singing signature song Waving Through a Window.

If you don’t have your tickets now, guess you’ll be waiting along with us until the tour (or when more Broadway seats become avail) and playing the soundtrack on repeat.

Low: Go Home Bobby Darin

Does Kevin Spacey think hosting the Tonys is going to help his Emmy For Your Consideration campaign? I feel like he treated the entire ceremony like a talent show. Between the impressions (did I mention he also did James Earl Jones in front of James Earl Jones – who won a lifetime achievement award? AND MORE AIR TIME WAS GIVEN TO SPACEY RATHER THAN JAMES EARL JONES??), mediocre bits and underwhelming opening number, it was all just a bit… trying too hard that it made me not like Kevin Spacey. And I LIKE Kevin Spacey!

But the thing that sealed the deal for me was the closing number, in which Kevin returned to his Golden Globe-nominated portrayal of 1950s singer Bobby Darin and invited Patti LuPone and all the winners to sing The Curtain Falls – a ballad, a FRIGGIN BALLAD. I don’t want to end Broadway’s biggest night with a ballad! Give me an uptempo! Give me a rap that was written minutes before by Lin-Manuel and included things that happened in the show! This isn’t a funeral. This is a celebration of all things theater!!!! In what I’m assuming was meant to be a lovely, community inspiring final song, it just came across as awkward since no one knew the song or even knew what was happening.

Spacey hosting proved that a host steers the ship to success. If he fails, then it kind of brings the entire show down. Sure, there were bright spots like Dear Evan Hansen and Bette Midler. But the best well-rounded award shows included hilarious and fun bits from the host – WE MISS YOU JAMES CORDEN – not just chuckle-worthy jokes and impressions you’ve been doing for years. Give me dance numbers, give me more singing, give me DRAMAAAAA – it IS gay pride month after all. Something Kevin probably should know about, right?

 

Who To Root For At The Tonys In A Post-Hamilton World

Congrats everyone who decided to enter the Tonys this season and not last season – Hamilton will not be dominating the awards this year. But will another show take its place instead?

The 71st Annual Tony Awards nominations were announced yesterday, and coming out on top was Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 with 12 nominations. For those of you reading this that may not be Broadway fans per se, but more of a “Hamilton changed the way I look at musical theater” type of person, I’m guess you’re less likely to watch the Tonys this year because Ham won’t be as featured as it was in 2016. But let me tell you, there are still plenty of fantastic shows that are worthy of your support, both on Tonys day and in the theater year round. Here are just some of our top picks for who to root for, and who’ll dominate come June 11th.

Dear Evan Hansen

9 nominations, including Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Ben Platt), Best Score (Oscar winners Benj Pasek & Justin Paul)

What it’s all about: “All his life, Evan Hansen has felt invisible. But when a tragic event shocks the community and thrusts him into the center of a rapidly evolving controversy, Evan is given the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to be somebody else.” {x}

Starring: Ben Platt, Laura Dreyfuss, Rachel Bay Jones

Why: Let’s just say it’s the Hamilton of 2017. Dear Evan Hansen has been winning acclaim ever since it premiered in D.C. back in 2015. When it was Off-Broadway, the show won five various awards, including an Obie for its star Ben Platt. Just for a second – we need to talk about TONY NOMINATED Ben Platt. The Pitch Perfect star may just be adding some hardware to his name come June because this is a freaking breakout role for him. If you haven’t yet, listen to the soundtrack, or at least listen to For Forever, which legit gave me goosebumps and made me cry in its 5 minute span. Another actor to look out for is Tony nominee Rachel Bay Jones, who plays Evan’s mom, a woman who just doesn’t know how to connect with her son. Her emotions pour out on So Big/So Small, and if you get to this point in the soundtrack/show without crying, this track will be the breaking point.

Speaking of which, the soundtrack debuted at number 8 on the Billboard chart, which is the highest debut by a cast recording since 1961. Hamilton didn’t even do that! It’s also worth noting that a number of notable Ham creatives are also behind DEH, including Alex Lacamoire (Music orchestrations and arrangements), David Korins (Scenic design) and Nevin Steinberg (Sound design). The first two also got nominated, but not Nevin because the Drama League is dumb and the category was taken out a couple years ago (but is being reinstated next year!). 

Come From Away

7 nominations, including Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score

What it’s all about: “Following the 9/11 attacks, 38 planes and 6,579 passengers were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland, doubling the population of one small town on the edge of the world. Based on interviews with locals, Come From Away is about how hosting this international community of strangers spurred unexpected camaraderie in extraordinary circumstances.” {x}

Starring: Jenn Colella, Rodney Hicks, Kendra Kessebaum

Why: Making a 9/11 musical is toeing a fine line between tacky and offensive and honorable. But Come From Away has gotten positive reviews that lean towards the latter, and in fact suggest that this story is what needs to be told in this shitshow of horrific times. Peter Marks of The Washington Post even noted Come From Away “an antidote for what ails the American soul.” And while the actors may not be household names, the ensemble is a mix of both veterans and newbies, who are all worthy of a Tony, including Jenn Colella, who is up for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical.

Miss Saigon

2 nominations, Best REvival of a Musica, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

What it’s all about: “Set in 1975 during the final days of the of the Vietnam War, Miss Saigon is an epic love story about the relationship between Chris, an American GI and Kim, a young Vietnamese woman. They are separated when the country falls, until she returns to his life years later, in this musical inspired by the opera Madame Butterfly.” {x}

Starring: Eva Noblezada, Alistair Brammer, Jon Jon Briones, Rachelle Ann Go

Why: This 25th anniversary production earned rave reviews when it opened in London in 2014, and finally three years later, it has made its way across the pond with most of its original revival cast, including Eva Noblezada, who plays the lead of Kim and earned her very first Tony nom yesterday. It’s no easy feat playing a role that Filipino royalty Lea Salonga originated, but 21-year-old Eva made the role her own and is set to become a star much like Lea did years ago. In fact, like Lea was discovered at just 18 (this video will never get old), Eva was 17 when she performed at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, and a casting director pegged her to play Kim for the London revival. The rest is history. But it shouldn’t be a surprise – here’s a vid of Eva at 14 giving Sutton Foster a run for her money .

War Paint

4 nominations, including Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Patti LuPone & Christine Ebersole)

What it’s all about: “Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden defined beauty standards for the first half of the 20th Century. Brilliant innovators with humble roots, both were masters of self-invention who sacrificed everything to become the country’s first major female entrepreneurs. They were also fierce competitors, whose 50-year tug-of-war would give birth to an industry. From Fifth Avenue society to the halls of Congress, their remarkable rivalry was ruthless, relentless and legendary—pushing both women to build international empires in a world dominated by men.” {x}

Starring: Patti LuPone, Christine Ebersole

Why: Um, Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole? Diva-off. 

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

12 nominations, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book, Best Direction 

What it’s all about: “Natasha is a beautiful ingénue visiting Moscow while she waits for her beloved fiancé Andrey to return from the war. In a moment of indiscretion, she is seduced by the dashing (but already married) Anatole and her position in society is ruined. Her only hope lies with Pierre, the lonely outsider whose love and compassion for Natasha may be the key to her redemption… and to the renewal of his own soul.” {x}

Starring: Denee Benton, Josh Groban

Why: I’ve heard nothing but great things about this show, and every clips I see makes me want to see it even more. The intimate setting, the creative blocking, the overall fanciful atmosphere might give it the edge over Dear Evan Hansen, which has long been considered a front runner for months.  Also worth noting – both its stars Denee and Josh Groban made their Broadway debuts with Natasha, and they’re both nominated for their first Tony awards. The girl from UnReal and Ally McBeal star Josh Groban could be Tony winners, y’all. 

Hello, Dolly!

10 nominations, including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actors (Bette Miller, David Hyde Pierce, Gavin Creel, Kate Baldwin)

What it’s all about: “A meddlesome matchmaker brings together the young clerk of a wealthy Yonkers merchant and his assistant with a widowed milliner and her assistant, while making sure she herself gets to marry the merchant, in Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart’s musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker.” {x}

Starring: Bette Midler, David Hyde Pierce, Gavin Creel

Why: We are bad musical theater nerds. Molly only saw the movie of Hello, Dolly for the first time recently, while I have seen neither stage musical nor movie. What I do know is that other more well-educated theater nerds have been v excited for this revival, mainly because of the return of Bette herself to the Broad-way. An established show with revered actors is bound to get some love from the Tonys, and with 10 noms it’s clear someone’s gonna go home with that trophy. 

Falsettos

5 nominations, including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actors (Christian Boyle, Andrew Rannells, Brandon Uranowitz, Stephanie J. Block)

What it’s all about: William Finn and James Lapine’s musical combines their Off-Broadway works The March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, which tell the story of a gay man named Marvin, his lover Whizzer, Marvin’s wife Trina and their extended family from the early ‘80s through the early days of the AIDS crisis.

Starring: Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells, Stephanie J. Block, Brandon Uranowitz, Tracie Thoms

Why: The OG version of this show premiered nearly 25 years ago, but its themes of gay relationships and the AIDS crisis are still hot topics of conversation today. In addition to the fact the story itself is so relevant, the stellar cast tells the Falsettos tale in a whole new way, and it’s definitely one to watch out for on Tonys night.

Kevin Spacey

2 nominations, 1 win

What it’s all about: Kevin Spacey is hosting the Tonys for the first time. Kevin Spacey! It seemed like kind of a random choice but I’m here for it! #MaybeHeWillAdmitHisLoveForTheaterGoesBeyondJustTheToeTappingMusical

Best Dressed: Tony Awards 2016

I swore we weren’t going to do this – devote yet another post to the 2016 Tony Awards, broadly, or Hamilton, generally – so soon, but the truth is, I’m not over it yet. The awards, the speeches, the performances – it was all too much and days later, I’m still sorting it all out as though it’s something that happened to ME and not just on my TV. So I hope you’ll forgive it, but it’s been four days and we still haven’t talked about outfits yet. I’m not in the mood for worst dressed because everyone looked fantastic, so here are a few of my favorites:

Lupita Nyong’o in Hugo Boss

Remember in the 80s and 90s when ladies would get their “seasons done” and go around telling you that they were a winter or whatever? Maybe I got that from Steel Magnolias or something? In any case, I love when Lupita wears cheerful spring-y, summer-y colors, probably because it goes so well with her overall fresh as a daisy-type look. I would love to get a closer look at this material because it’s sequined but doesn’t look too glitzy.

Phillipa Soo in Prabal Gurung

Over the course of the appearances and awards circuit for Hamilton, Phillipa has hit the nail on the head with everything from casual outfits to more dressed-up looks for interviews to formal gowns. Basically, I’d like her entire closet, thanks. She looks great in brighter blues and reds, too, but this white is absolutely stunning. The pop on the shoes is just the thing when you’re a Tony nominee, but also still in your mid-20s and able to be a little playful with it.

Laura Benanti in Oscar de la Renta

You know what? Maybe I SHOULD be one of those 1980s mall ladies who tells you what season you’re made of (still not sure how it works), because it is all about color with all of these dresses. This purple-magenta shade is beautiful but more than that, it makes Laura’s skin and eyes glow. It also takes the high-necked, lacy gown out of mother of the bride territory and keeps in firmly in the youthful starlet realm.

Sophie Okonedo in Zac Posen

Stop the presses. Or whatever the internet has. Balancing an avante garde cut on the shoulders and cuffs with a large, busy print – WITHOUT the whole look seeming over the top or loud or overpowering? It’s all down to the overall simplicity of the structure here, but it’s still no easy feat.

Lucy Liu in Zuhair Murad

The Tonys are one of the only awards shows firmly in the spring-summer months, and lighter looks like this are just perfect this time of year (sure, I know it’s usually warm weather at the Oscars and Golden Globes, but some colors and fabrics still feel seasonally ‘off’ in the winter). This couldn’t be more perfect for June, and that beading and that color — it’s like what angels would wear if they didn’t have to wear white.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Zuhair Murad

When I was a kid, I had a dance performance where we were instructed to wear a “party dress.” And I was kind of like, okay, what exactly is a party dress?

THIS. This is a damn party dress. It looks like confetti and moonlight.

(I think I just wore, like, an Easter-y dress.)

Cynthia Erivo

You already know that Cynthia can do no wrong in our book. And that we would have loved whatever she wore. But there’s something so amazing about choosing a dress that looks like an actual work of art over something that’s less interesting but more ‘pretty.’ The risk paid off, and she looks incredible.

Adrienne Warren in Alberta Ferretti

Love it. Love that it’s not long, love the beaded fringe, love the little clutch, love the loose hair. The only thing I don’t love: that I can’t afford this dress.

(Honest truth: I have a wedding next week where the theme is ‘1920s Hollywood Glam’ and it turns out nothing I own is particularly 1920s Hollywood Glam, sorry friends, it just isn’t, but this would be perfect.)

Pascale Armand in Delpozo

I love that this subverts the whole chiffon skirt/ satin-y bodice thing we’re so used to, and the colors and embroidery are to die for. We can add Pascale to the very short list of people who look wonderful in dark purple-y lipstick.

Renee Elise Goldsberry

It looks like Renee picked a different dress for the red carpet, but this is the gown that she decided to win in, and that’s exactly what it is: a gown to win in. The yellow and black combo is unexpected and very pretty and possibly a subtle nod to Broadway playbills? But probably not.

Daveed Diggs

I have no clue what’s going on but I like it?

Highlights from the HamilTonys

Last night, Hamilton: An American Musical went in with a record-breaking 16 nominations and by the end of the show, it left with 11, just short of tying The Producers’ record of 12 in 2001. But you know what, it doesn’t even matter. The fact that this groundbreaking, impactful, diverse show has done this well at all should be an accomplishment enough. It’s obvious we’re big fans of Hamilton here (see: #HamilWeek), but we’re also big fans of theatre in general, so if you happened to miss any of the show last night, here are some of the best moments you didn’t see, and some you’ll want to relive over and over again.

The Entire Opening Number

Let’s be real, half the people tuning into the Tonys this year don’t even usually know they’re happening. For theater nerds like us, the Tonys have always been our version of the Super Bowl. But I’m willing to bet for all these n00bs who watched the Tonys last night, it was all about Hamilton. So naturally, the producers pandered to their audience and gave them a whole lotta Hamilton, including the very first bit, which was a parody of Hamilton’s opening number, Alexander Hamilton. Except the lyrics were changed to fit host James Corden. After that, James launched into a medley of musicals that made me think he was gunning for some kind of Guinness World Record. The whole idea of the number was reminiscent of Neil Patrick Harris’ sentiments in his opening number a few years ago (starting around 5:44, makes me cry every time), but the feeling still rings true – the Tonys are a chance for those young kids in the middle of nowhere to know that their “weird” obsession with theater and musicals isn’t just them. The end features mini-mes of all the leading musical actors and actresses and that’s what really got me. Surprise, I cried.

Andrew Lloyd Webber Playing Tambourine in an All-Star Jam Band

In homage to #Ham4Ham, casts of nominated shows stood under the Beacon Theater marquee and paid tribute to iconic shows of the past. Kicking it off were the nominees for Best Score, what winner Lin-Manuel Miranda called a “jam band”, featuring himself, Sara Bareilles, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Andrew Lloyd Webber on tambourine. TAMBOURINE.

Audra McDonald, Queen of Tonys, Slays With Child

Even though she wasn’t nominated, six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald managed to still make headlines because she did this tap number pregnant. She’s 45. I want to be her when I grow up.

Cynthia Erivo & The Cast of The Color Purple

Listen, I can only spread the gospel of Cynthia Erivo so much (#WomanCrushWednesday and all), and her performance of I’m Here is, yet again, pick your jaw up off the floor flawless. Add in the rest of the cast of the Tony-winning The Color Purple – including newest addition Heather Headley – and you’re gonna need a few moments to gather yourself after your wig gets snatched.

Spring Awakening Takes Center Stage

The revival of Spring Awakening, which featured both deaf and hearing cast members, has been closed for three months. It was nominated for both Best Revival of a Musical and Best Director for Michael Arden (not Chris Fitzgerald), but in order to perform at the Tonys, you need to shell out literal thousands of dollars. Since the show isn’t open, Michael and the cast launched a crowdfunding campaign to get them to the Tonys and it worked! We got to see this inspiring new rendition of Spring Awakening and it was worth every penny. Thank God this show is going on the road.

Netflix Marketing Strikes Again

In the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Titus talks about auditioning (and ultimately losing) a role in Hamilton. Because Netflix folks are essentially marketing geniuses, they created an ad specifically featuring Titus in what looks like his legit audition tape trying out for Hamilton. This commercial was played during the Tonys. Amazing.

This Pre-Show Huddle

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Behind-the-scene pep talk at #TonyAwards

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One of my favorite things about the Tonys and Broadway in general is that there’s a real camaraderie between actors and genuine love within the community. Everyone seems to be supporting others in a way you’d think is odd in Hollywood. Prior to the show, members of Hamilton, On Your Feet!, Shuffle Along and more gathered for a pre-show pep talk/prayer circle because they’re all on the same team, striving to do their best on stage. You won’t see Oscar nominees doing this backstage.

Commercial Karaoke

 

 

I think it was Audra who told James Corden that the best advice she could give him is just to keep everyone in the audience entertained throughout the night. It’s a long show, so make sure the crowd enjoys it. It seems he took this to heart because during commercials, he instated Commercial Karaoke and recruited stars to sing the great hits – including Sean Hayes and Jake Gyllenhaal singing Aladdin. Don’t say I never gave you anything.

Jessie Mueller Goodbye

Also Sara Bareilles rolling out on the Tonys stage with her piano knowing full well she’s about to wreck us all.

The Fashion

Usually our post-awards show post is a Best/Worst Dressed situation, so to fulfill that quota, here are some of my faves from last night, starting with the absolutely gorgeous Laura Benanti in Oscar de la Renta and stunning Nicolette Robinson (Mrs. Leslie Odom Jr.) in a flowing Christian Siriano gown. Of course our patron saint Lupita Nyong’o didn’t disappoint, while Sara Bareilles, Jane Krakowski and Adrienne Warren all did their thang too.

*I took a page out of the Tony producers’ handbook and saved the HamilTonys for last suckasss

Kings & Queens of Social Media

Unlike major Broadway phenomenons with fervent fan bases of the past (A Chorus Line, Rent, etc.) Hamilton came in an era where social media reigns and fans from all over the world can send one simple tweet to Lin and he’ll respond in Internet-language like he’s your BFF. The cast members of Hamilton kill it when it comes to social media, and on Tonys day, they did not disappoint. From my fave Andrew Chappelle taking over the official Hamilton Snapchat to Seth Stewart sharing backstage videos to the MOST turnt Broadway warmup ever, to my boo Oak posting videos of the boys dancing (just look at his whole feed from Sunday it’s worth it). This is how you werk social media, y’all. I freaking love this cast.

RENEE

I attempted to count how many times I cried during the Tonys, and I stopped because I was already at an obscene amount prior to the show started (thanks to seeing rehearsal vid of the HamilCast’s Rent bumper). I def stopped the cry count because I was sobbing SOBBING during Renee’s speech.

LIN

A) His fistbump/fireworks explosion with Vanessa. Definition of #CoupleGoals. B) Lin casually writing a sonnet like it’s easy. Literal genius. C) EVERYTHING ABOUT THE SONNET.

What Kind of Day Has It Been

Lin has long said The West Wing is one of his favorite shows and thus a big influence on Hamilton (“looking for a mind at work” in The Schuyler Sisters is straight from TWW), so it’s not really a surprise that he snuck this sly move in. The signal was used in S1E22, What Kind of Day Has It Been and basically alerted President Bartlet of good news. Good news indeed.

History Is Happening In Manhattan

For the first time in Tony history, all four musical acting awards went to people of color – Leslie Odom Jr., Cynthia Erivo, Daveed Diggs and Renee Elise Goldsberry. Hey Oscars (and everyone else still sleeping) – stay woke.

Look Around, Look Around

Everyone who won for Ham had a great speech, but the best way to end the show was with a performance with the whole cast (because, pandering but also, history). It was the most joyous number because everyone was dressed in their formal gear and not in revolutionary costumes. For once it was the actors having fun and reveling in their 11 wins. I mean what other show has actors that dab on the stage after winning all those Tonys?

Right Hand Man: Meet Hamilton Tony Nominees

On a scale from one to “the other 51,” how energized are you for Sunday’s Tony Awards? We couldn’t be happier for Hamilton’s well-deserved 16 Tony nominations, and of course all of us have been rooting for Lin and Leslie, Phillipa, Daveed and Christopher and Renee. Nobody would argue that Hamilton isn’t #blessed with an incredible cast – but the musical’s success owes just as much to the behind-the-scenes team. Here are a few bios of LMM’s right-hand men:

Best Orchestrations – Alex Lacamoire

Alex Lacamoire is part of Lin-Manuel’s cabinet of geniuses, and incidentally all of them (+ Andy Blankenbuhler and Tommy Kail) happen to be nominated for Tonys this year. Alex has worked with Lin since In the Heights, the show for which he won his first Tony in the same category. Alex collaborated with Lin again for Bring It On the Musical, also serving as a co-orchestrator with Tom Kitt (Next to Normal). Needless to say, they’re trusted bros and work like one mind. And their working relationship is unconventional of sorts – usually an orchestrator begins collaborating with the show’s writer on pre-existing songs. But for Lin and Alex, it’s a team effort. Lin sends Alex a first draft recording of a song, and Alex constructs sheet music from there. Lin leads the way but Alex is in The Room Where It Happens from the jump.

“Lin is the architect. He builds the house. This is the foundation, this is the chord, these are the lyrics, this is the melody. I add the colors. It’s the back and forth. Lin leaves me spaces to contribute, and I’m thankful that becomes part of the song.” {x}

 

A perfect example of this is when Alex accompanied Lin to the White House in 2009 for the now-famous performance of what is now the first number of the show, Alexander Hamilton. Back then, the idea was just a Hamilton Mixtape – there was now musical in existence. They worked on that song and all the others to create what you hear on the soundtrack now. Also, if you’re a Hamilfan or just genuinely interested in the process of making a musical, watch that interview above. And read this interview. There’s a lot, kids.

 

Best Costume Design of a Musical – Paul Tazewell 

If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you have a copy of Hamiltome on your book shelf. Go to it and read the part about Paul Tazewell’s costume designs, and try to come away feeling anything but amazed. You can’t, can you? If you’re reading this there’s also a good chance you’re a regular Tony viewer, so the name Paul Tazewell probably sounds a bit familiar. His other nominations include A Streetcar Named Desire (2012), Memphis (2010), In The Heights (2008), The Color Purple (2006) and Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk (1996). Tazewell has experience designing both contemporary and period costumes, but Hamilton called for something a little different. The costumes in Hamilton are nothing short of amazing. They evoke the Revolutionary era, but they aren’t exactly straight out of Colonial Williamsburg, either:

How we used period influence in the costume design and the set design for HAMILTON was indeed the major question for the design team. Because HAMILTON is about an actual and year specific period of time that is very well known, it was important to decide if it would be a filmic recreation of the American Revolution/Colonial Period or if we would do the opposite and have the contemporary sound and telling of the story require me to design with a more modern style, as in contemporary fashion and street clothing. […]

[…]  I was also able to start to work out the look for the dancing ensemble which obviously needed to function well for movement and allow them to do everything that Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography required them to do, as well as create a neutral look that would be able to work seamlessly from Revolutionary Soldier, to men and women on the streets of Colonial New York City, to statesmen of the newly created United States of America. It also became important to have the principal characters stand out from the ensemble. [x]

To read more about Tazewell’s inspiration for specific characters’ costumes (like the Schuyler sisters and Thomas Jefferson), as well as the ensemble’s neutral parchment-colored look, read this excellent interview from Tyranny of Style.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical – Howell Binkley

Hamilton’s lighting design is courtesy of Howell Binkley, a five-time Tony nominee and one-time winner for Jersey Boys. One of those nominations was from In The Heights, so Lin was keeping it in the family yet again. For this production, Howell designed his lighting track by track, creating scenes based on the emotion evoked in each song.

“I gave each song a different look, as each song is a different story, and I wanted to give each one a different quality of light, different texture, and a different flavor,” Binkley adds. “The cast is often on stage watching the action, so I needed to sculpt them without taking away from the main characters. The color came from the mood of the song and the flavor of the music and the subject, rather than a motif for each character. For example, in the song ‘Hurricane,’ the palette is blue-green, turquoise, and yellow—vibrant but not always pretty, as Alexander Hamilton faces inner turmoil before he publishes his writings.” {x}

He also noted that designing the lighting for the show was “like a rock ‘n’ roll cueing sensibility yet with the subtleness of watching a sunset. It’s that extreme, sometimes right in your face, sometimes very intimate, from love scenes to duels.” This description is so on point – from hip-hop numbers to traditional musical theater songs, of course the lighting has to be different – just like the founding fathers, he’s building a nation in the middle of change.

Best Direction of a Musical – Thomas Kail

Tommy Kail is Lin’s Right Hand Man if there ever was one. Tommy was a few years ahead of Lin at Wesleyan University, where they both went to school and ran in the same theater circles. They co-created Freestyle Love Supreme (where they met Chris Jackson and Daveed Diggs) and directed In The Heights, for which he got a Tony nom. One of the great things I’ve noticed about interviews and such from Tommy re: Hamilton is how much he understands the story of the show. He’s not just directing a group of actors across the stage, he’s using them to convey a fairly untold story to an audience who will hopefully be just as moved and immersed in Hamilton’s take as the cast is.

LMM: When you hire Tommy as a director you get a two-for-one because he is also one of the best dramaturges around. He has such an incredible sense of story. A lot of the dramaturgical decisions that went into the structure of this show are from conversations with and suggestions from Tommy. It’s not just about making stage pictures or staging the show with him; he is with you every step of the process in terms of shaping the show and forming the show. He lets you know when you are treading water, if you can get somewhere faster. It’s actually kind of hard to overstate it. {x}

And since they’ve worked together so closely and for such a long time, their partnership works like magic and that magic shows on stage.

TK: One of the most striking things about Lin is his openness once he trusts you. That’s the fundamental difference between working now and when we first started; neither of us has to prove anything to each other in terms of our intention, which is always to make the thing better—to make the song better, to make the moment better, to make it sharper, to make it deeper. Lin knows implicitly that all I’m trying to do is service the piece. He learned that very early on with In the Heights. Effectively, our shorthand has gotten shorter. It’s now almost subliminal and non-verbal. There are times when I can just look at him and he knows exactly what I’m going to say and vise-versa. {x}

Best Choreography – Andy Blankenbuehler

On one hand, hip hop. On the other hand, an 18th century ball. HOW? If anyone was to figure out how to make it work, it would be Andy Blankenbuehler. Andy worked with Lin on In The Heights and Bring It On (noticed a theme yet?), and for Hamilton his choreography was informed by not just the music but also the setting and costumes – you move differently in heavy boots and jackets.

Blankebuehler’s big challenge in choreographing Hamilton was keeping the choreography from becoming repetitive while maintaining a cohesive style throughout. Andy solved this dilemma by creating several recurrent “movement phrases”  – I’m just like my country, I’m young scrappy and hungry, for example:

The ensemble is a choreographer’s chance to give voice to things that aren’t being said by the main characters, and for Andy, the ensemble’s point of view had to shift to emphasize different characters’ points of view:

The biggest collaborative thing was figuring out the ensemble’s perspective, the ensemble’s point of view because the strength of the ensemble’s point of view, I think, determines the strength of the musical. If their point of view isn’t clarified, the audience doesn’t invest in them as the lens for the piece. We had constant conversations with ourselves, but also with the cast of like “Right now you’re being Aaron Burr’s ego,” “Right now you’re being a jury that doesn’t have an opinion yet,” “Right now you’re being a jury that’s going to say, ‘Ok, I’m going to listen to Aaron Burr and see what he has to say and I’m going to stand in his shoes.”’  [x]

Modern audiences connect with Hamilton because some feelings and relationships are universal – and it was no different for Blankenbuehler:

I spoke at [the Drama Desk Awards] last year and I was really emotional because that week my daughter was cured of cancer. It was after three years of like chemotherapy every day. And so my family went through a fight for life for three years.

I said that that night in that speech. One of my favorite moments is the rowers and the end of the show when Hamilton’s dying and they’re rowing next to him. Literally, that’s how I felt because of my daughter. And so it’s those moments that are conceptual that I’m really proud of and I’m so thankful that the writers, Lin and [director] Tommy [Kail] and [musical director] Alex [Lacamoire], are trusting dance to accomplish that. [x]

 

Scenic Design – David Korins

Another previous collaborator (Bring It On), David Korins brings a decade of Broadway experience: he has designed sets for Dear Evan Hansen, Misery, Godspell and many more. For Hamilton, Korins took his inspiration from 18th century New York ship yards, the vestiges of which you can still see in the city. The set contains sturdy beams, ropes and platforms, similar to those a young immigrant Hamilton would have first encountered landing in the new country.  Then there’s the turntable, enabling the play to move forward and back through time, to spin faster as Hamilton’s world spins.

With more minute details, Korins shows the transition from the scrappy, under-construction colonies to a new country with a government and politics of its own:

“We go from rifles and racks to scrolls of parchment and maps and fine china, because now they are coming home to govern the country, and start writing laws.And you know, no one sees it. We lose ropes, we tie things off, we buoy and hunker down and become the fledgling nation that we are. No one sees it. They see the turntable, and they’re like, ‘Congratulations, you made a turntable!” [x]

 

Tony Nominations To Celebrate That Aren’t Hamilton

We established a while ago that we’re basically a Hamilton blog now (seriously, check out all our posts here), so we could easily make another post gushing over its historic 16 Tony Award nominations, or how Lin-Manuel is a precious cinnamon roll of a genius that created a new American institution, or dissecting every bit of this video of Daveed Diggs getting woken up this morning with news of his nomination. We could go on.

No, friends, we’re not going to do that (today). Today is all about the other shows nominated that deserve just as much attention as Hamilton. I imagine it’s bittersweet being on Broadway at the same time as a groundbreaking musical. Everyone wants a ticket to Hamilton and it’s all anyone talks about, but there are nearly 40 other shows open right now. Any one of those productions would love to see you in the audience. But it’s like when you’re up against an MVP player and you have to step up your game just to keep up. It might be a little frustrating along the way, but for the sport (Broadway) as a whole, it’s the best thing that could’ve happened.

But at the end of the day, theatre is not a competition. If anything, it’s a community. A smaller-than-you-think community of artists who support each other and cheer each other on instead of tearing each other down. It’s been an incredible year for theater in terms of the storytelling, quality production and the talent on stage, so in that spirit, we’re putting the spotlight on a few of the other shows we’re rooting for come Tony day, and the names you’ll need to know when they end up winning.

Waitress

Best Musical

Based on the 2007 movie of the same name starring Keri Russell, Waitress centers on Jenna, a waitress at a small-town diner who’s in a horrible marriage, but ends up preggo. Other affairs ensue. Waitress also made history with its all-female creative team, thanks to music & lyrics by Sara Bareilles, book by Jessie Nelson, direction by Diane Paulus, and choreography by Lorin Latarro.

I had the chance of seeing Waitress in Boston last year before it transferred to Broadway, and hearing all the positive reviews of the show didn’t do it justice in person. I laughed, I cried (way more than I expected), I left feeling like a warm blanket had swaddled itself around my heart… is that weird? This is the only show I’ve seen out of this year’s batch of nominees, and TBH, it sucks it’s up against Hamilton this year because it deserves so much recognition for making a musical out of a movie – and feeling like the movie never existed at all.

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

I can’t express to you how good this score is, and what a masterpiece Sara Bareilles has created. I can, however, direct you to her album, What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress, which features a few select numbers from the show. This was released after the Boston run and before they opened on Broadway, and so Sara’s version includes songs cut from the final show, including one of my faves, Door Number Three. This album is still in my rotation six months after its release. Sara uses that same talent she has to tug on your heartstrings with songs like Gravity and I Choose You and incorporates that same spirit in these songs. The official Broadway cast album comes out June 10th. Mark your calendars.

Jessie Mueller (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical)

Jessie Mueller, Tony winner and ethereal goddess, was the clear star of the Boston production, and she’s still the clear star in the Broadway one as well. Here she is singing the most emotional number from the show, so get a tissue ready JIC.

Other nominations: Christopher Fitzgerald (Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical)

Eclipsed

Best Play

Written by The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira, Eclipsed is set in 2003, near the end of the Second Liberian Civil War and tells the story of five Liberian woman and their survival against all odds. In another record for the Broadway history books, Eclipsed is the first play with not only an all-female creative team, but all-female and all-black cast as well.

Lupita Nyong’o (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play)

Listen, if you need to be educated on Queen Lupita, read this then go off on the Internet or watch her movies then come back. She is royalty. Royalty who is a step closer to an EGOT.

Other nominations: Pascale Armand and Saycon Sengbloh (Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play), Best Costume Design of a Play, Liesl Tommy (Best Direction of a Play)

Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Best Musical

Shuffle Along: A revue-style 1921 musical written, produced by and starring an all-black team. Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed: A new musical telling the story of all the challenges the Shuffle Along cast had in mounting the production, and its effect on race relations and Broadway. Stars little-known actors Tony winners such as Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter and newcomers Tony nominees Joshua Henry, Brooks Ashmanskas, Brandon Victor Dixon and Adrienne Warren.

Adrienne Warren (Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical)

Shuffle Along is only Adrienne’s second Broadway show, but on Tuesday she earned her first Tony nomination. She’s one of those young actresses you know has a bright future on Broadway and beyond. And if you’re wondering why she might look familiar, she was in an episode of Orange is the New Black as a wheelchair-bound inmate who Pennsatucky attempted to “heal”. *I saw her in Lin-Manuel’s Bring It On musical and she was just as fantastic IRL.

Best Choreography

Tap dancing and Savion Glover. That is all.

Other nominations: Best Book of a Musical, Brandon Victor Dixon (Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical), Best Scenic Design of a Musical, Best Costume Design of a Musical, Best Lighting Design of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Orchestrations

She Loves Me

Zachary Levi (Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Chuck is nominated for a Tony! Fun fact: Zachary replaced Ted Mosby who was originally supposed to star in the role of Georg, a perfume shop employee who is constantly at odds with co-worker Amalia. Unbeknownst to them, they’ve been secret pen pals the whole time. Sound familiar? It’s adapted from the play Parfumerie, which You’ve Got Mail (yes, with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks) is adapted from.

Laura Benanti (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical)

Cannot stress this enough: we love Laura Benanti. Love. Her.

Jane Krakowski (Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical)

Here’s hoping Jane channels Jenna Maroney if she wins.

Other nominations: Best Revival of a Musical, Best Scenic Design of a Musical, Best Costume Design of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Orchestrations

The Color Purple

Best Revival of a Musical

I mean, you know what The Color Purple is, right? It’s the same plot as the book. And the movie. And the OG Broadway musical.

Cynthia Erivo (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical)

If you don’t have goosebumps and/or tears in your eyes after watching that, check your pulse, because you’re probably dead. Cause of death: Cynthia Erivo. Look out for this one, y’all.

Danielle Brooks (Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical)

I don’t know what it is about Danielle Brooks but I cry anytime I think about her success. Or hear her sing. Or read an inspirational post on her Instagram. I’m so proud of her and I don’t even know her.

Other nominations: Best Direction of a Musical

Spring Awakening

Best Revival of a Musical

I admit I was a little surprised to hear Spring Awakening, featuring teens in late 19th-century Germany dealing with their sexuality, was being revived since it only closed on Broadway in 2009. But then I was totally game once I found out they were incorporating sign language and completely making the production its own. Fact: I saw the OG Spring Awakening U.S. tour thrice when it was in Boston for like, a minute. Another fact: I was a dumbass and didn’t see the revival in Los Angeles before it went up on Broadway, and am kicking myself for it. There’s supposedly another tour in talks. See ya there.

Michael Arden (Best Direction of a Musical)

Before Michael Arden earned his first Tony nomination as a director, he was known as an actor. I personally knew his name from the Off-Broadway musical Bare, but more so for this song, Run Away With Me. I don’t know how nerdy you and your friends were circa 2008, but there was a period of time when this Kerrigan & Lowdermilk song was THE JAM, and all the hot, young, theatre boys were doing their covers of it. Aaron Tveit, Jeremy Jordan, bright young high schoolers hoping for a shot of fame all uploaded their own versions of the song on the YouTube. Michael had one of my favorite takes on it, and this has nothing to do with Spring Awakening, I just want you to know he’s really talented.

Other nominations: Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Tony Awards 2015: Best Dressed

If you love both theater and fashion, the Tony Awards are just about the snazziest night of the year. Unless you’re me, reading tweets about the event while on flight delay at O’Hare, eating a $6 pile of kale – during 30 minutes of free wifi. 30 MINUTES. As though you can accomplish anything on the internet in the duration of an episode of Step By Step (with commercials). But while I’m basically in the developing world (in that there’s scant wifi and it cost 1/3 of my paycheck to buy two cups of vegetables), the stars are shining on the broad way. Here were the best dressed of the night. But be forewarned: due to cruddy bandwidth, the first time I saw these outfits they were on people so pixelated they looked like they were made of Lego.

Dame Helen Mirren in Badgley Mischka

Well, look who’s making sure you don’t forget the “dame” in front of her name. I love that Mirren never tries to dress too young, but she also doesn’t wear stuffy “lady of a certain age” outfits – nor should she. If you told me “dramatic lace sleeves” I would have told you “absolutely not,” but this actually looks great.

Jennifer Lopez in Valentino

I don’t know why 3/4 of the people on this red carpet are on it (Kendall Jenner: book for Finding Neverland? Costume design for Curious Incident ? No, she’s just there). J.Lo is at least taking this seriously, and this gold and midnight blue number is so event-appropriate. I also like that it’s not that one kind of dress she usually wears. You know the one.

Vanessa Hudgens in Naeem Khan

The musical Vanessa’s from is High School, but she looks Broadway-ready. I tend to think there are different levels of conventionality required for the different awards shows. You can take bigger risks at the Grammys than at the Oscars, for instance. I’d say the Tony’s are traditional, but not so much that a print seems out of place. Even Anna Wintour’s daughter wore one. Besides, a large print is one of those youthful looks that you may as well wear while you can. Great place to wear a less-known designer, too! 

Kelli O’Hara in Oscar de la Renta

I don’t know if Kelli KNEW that this was the year she’d break away from being a Broadway Susan Lucci, but she sure is dressed like she is. So on one hand, this gold and black dress is formal enough for the event. It actually reminds me of damascena jewelry. But on the other, the shorter length makes it look a lot fresher than a longer gown situation.

Sydney Lucas in Erin Featherstone

I haven’t seen Fun Home, but just from listening to the great soundtrack you can tell that Sydney Lucas isn’t just some kiddo belting Tomorrow (I know, some great actresses have played Annie, it’s just not a role with a lot of levels, you know? She’s more at a Daisy Eagan in Secret Garden-level). I’m so happy everyone got to see that when she performed at the Tonys! Plus, it’s adorable that she’s obviously a young lady who cares about her fashion. One of my favorite parts of the Tonys is seeing all of these actresses that you’ve only seen in costume getting to really shine, and this girl absolutely looks like a Broadway star.
 

Judith Light

I’m going to go ahead and use the passive voice to describe some of the fashion at last night’s awards, so I don’t put anyone in particular on blast. Risks were taken, and sometimes mistakes were made. This white suit was a risk worth taking, and reminds me that Judith Light is an honest-to-goodness, Tony-winning star (sometime in the past year, my top Judith Light association became that golden retriever from Broad City).

 Elisabeth Moss in Oscar de La Renta

When I first saw this white gown with floral accents, I felt like it was like a livelier, more fun update on that iconic Halle Berry Golden Globes gown from 2000 – remember, the one with the red flowers? The color scheme on this one could have looked a little Delia’s but it comes across as young and summery, instead.

Kristen Chenoweth in Zac Posen

It can be hard to have a lot of presence when you’re as small as Kristen Chenoweth. It can also be hard to look anything other than adorable. This dress pretty much does the trick though, right? 
 

Broad City: A Toast to Elaine Stritch

We lost a good one yesterday, folks. Elaine Stritch – actress, singer, and the ultimate performer – passed away at the young age of 89. Or at least that’s what she made it seem like, anyways.

Elaine was known for her brutal honesty. Her salty candor. Her tart tongue. Her brassiness (is that even a word?). Her refusal to wear pants. Her unwavering ability to tell it like it is and not apologize for it. She was the absolute definition of a broad (in the best way possible). Elaine was what a lot of women, and men too, I imagine, wished they had the courage to be. She was fearless and she was truthful, classy yet not, and admirable all at the same time. A true legend and icon that will never be matched in our lifetimes.

And then there’s her talent. Ooh did she have it. A lot of people from our generation or younger are most familiar with Elaine as the wise-cracking equally as opinionated and verbal Colleen Donaghy, mother to Alec Baldwin’s Jack. I think this clip properly summarizes her character on the show – behind the caustic exterior is a woman who is caring and loving, despite the fact she doesn’t show it. Like, ever.

But Colleen Donaghy was just a role towards the end of her impressive career. She made her Broadway debut in 1946, and went in to appear in Wonderful Town and a number Noel Coward plays. However it was Stephen Sondheim (Steve, she called him) that helped her become the iconic Broadway actress she is/was today. In 1970, she was cast as the vodka-stinger drinking Joanne in his show Company, a role she was born to play. Or rather, was born to play her.

The character of Joanne was not only written for Elaine Stritch, it was based on her, or at least on her acerbic delivery of self-assessment, as exemplified by a moment George Furth had shared with her: they had entered a bar at two in the morning and Elaine, well-oiled, had murmured to the bartender in passing, ‘Just give me a bottle of vodka and a floor plan.’”
— Stephen Sondheim in Finishing the Hat on the late, great Elaine Stritch (1925-2014)

Shortly after the show opened on Broadway, a documentary of the cast recording the soundtrack was released, and in a memorable scene, Elaine is shown recording her classic song Ladies Who Lunch to less than perfect recordings. She eventually got the hang of it, and  what resulted was an act of genius, both on Sondheim’s behalf and Elaine’s on point delivery.

Fast forward to 2002 when she opens her one woman show on Broadway, Elaine Stritch At Liberty (which you can view in its entirety here). She talks about everything throughout both her professional and personal life, like the time she had a horrible date with Marlon Brando or describing the pain she felt after her husband’s death with the only way she knew how – a song from Sondheim’s Follies. She won her first and only Tony Award for the show, and the same guy who made the Company documentary turned At Liberty to a documentary as well in 2002, earning her an Emmy for Best Performance in a Variety Special in 2004, providing one of the most entertaining acceptance speeches in Emmys history.

Elaine took on Broadway one more time in the revival of Steve’s A Little Night Music, and appeared in a number of cabaret shows, which she performed in a cabaret below her apartment. And by that I mean she lived at NYC’s Hotel Carlyle and performed in the cafe downstairs. Woman was still energetic even into her 80s (I mean, I’m obsessed with this interview from last year. Doesn’t miss a beat). In 2013, after being a New Yorker for years, Elaine decided to move back to her homestate of Michigan in a subrub outside of Detroit.

“She doesn’t miss New York? “You say that like it’s not true!” she says. “I feel good about being here. When the hospital sends for me, when the ambulance comes and I ease my way out of the world, I’d rather be in Detroit, Michigan, than Lenox Hill. Pfft.” She actually spits. – Interview with Vulture in 2013 {x}

With Elaine gone, there’s an Elaine-shaped hole in the world of Broadway, in the world, really. It’ll be hard to ever find someone like her on the stage again. But here’s a toast to what Elaine left behind. A legacy that will be cherished for years. The tears, the laughter, etc. etc. etc. She probably wouldn’t want too much hullaballoo and ass kissing during her time of mourning anyways. So, let’s just drink to that.

 “I pray that I may live expectantly. To live expectantly – what’s going to happen on Sunday, and on Sunday what’s going to happen on monday? In the meantime, stay where you fucking are and enjoy it the best way you know how.” – New York Times Interview, 2008 {x}

2014 Tony Award Winner Predictions (Based Solely On Headshots)

The all-powerful headshot can make or break an acting career. You thought it was talent, hard work, and luck? So did I – until I was 12. That was the year that all of my acting friends got the secret memo to wear makeup and flat-iron their hair before updating their photos. They all looked like they walked out of Seventeen magazine, whereas I looked like.. well, like:

Yep, that’s the headshot of someone who’s going to be stuck in child roles for a good while. The only way I would be playing a girl next door is if the main character happens to lives next door to a Victorian orphanage. So trust me, headshots matter. That’s why I’m pretty confident that the key to this year’s Tony wins is in the almighty 5×7. To be as impartial as possible, we are judging this year’s winners solely by the headshots available on the official Tony Awards website.

Best Performance By A Leading Actor In A Play

Samuel Barnett – Twelfth Night

Okay, the dabbled gray background is a little school portrait. But the icy blue, straight on stare says “I can play dramatic roles!” and the slight smirk says “but if the dialog gets a little funny, I’m on top of it!” The bright flash highlights Barnett’s pale complexion, as if to say “I can play British.”

Bryan Cranston – All The Way

The fuck, Cranston? No. NO. You’re like that one kid whose parents didn’t properly understand sending in a baby picture for that one section of your senior yearbook, and sent one from freshman year instead. You are the default silhouette picture from Myspace. Even Tom doesn’t want to be friends with that.

Remember Tom, everyone?

Chris O’Dowd – Of Mice And Men

Well as I live and breathe. Chris O’Dowd has out-Cranstoned Cranston. There are actual people in the actual background, and you know what? Blurring them out by enlarging the “blemish remover” function on iPhoto is just making me notice it more. Good luck winning a Tony with this Photobucket-quality headshot, buddy. Good freaking luck.

On the other hand, maybe this is clever. Maybe it tells us that he is too busy for headshots — busy going to events where he, and blurry others, wear suits.

Mark Rylance – Richard III

White sheet backdrop aside, this is art. ART. The lowered left eyebrow. The tremulous sidelong glance. The windswept locks. His mouth is even ever-so-slightly agape. It is like everything that Jay Manuel and Janice Dickinson told contestants to do on the early seasons of America’s Next Top Model, except for posing with limbs askew and pretending to have been murdered. I think we might have our winner. And that earring? That’s just boss.

Tony Shaloub – Act One

Like, is this photo editing, or does he have a legitimage twinkle in both eyes? Speaking of Tyra Banks: smizing. Notice how you sort of feel like Tony Shaloub has read the story of your soul, and would recommend it to a friend? It’s all in the smize.
The winner, based on headshot alone: Mark Rylance. That headshot has RANGE.

 

Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role In A Play

Tyne Daly – Mothers And Sons

Okay, now we’re cooking with gas. There’s a neutral but varied background. There’s warm, soft lighting. You know what this looks like? This looks like a headshot where the actress is at least TRYING. See the Shaloub-esque half smile?
Also, I think that, as in paintings by Renaissance masters, if you look at this from different points in the room, Daly’s eyes follow you.
Her face is so captivating that I almost didn’t notice that this photo almost reaches a Glamour Shot-caliber boob suggestion. Glamour Shots: Not the boob itself, but the idea of the boob.

LaTanya Richardson Jackson

FINALLY. Now it’s a contest. Look at this. It’s like Headshot Bingo. Or a headshot drinking game. Let’s count:
(1) Flowy wrap sweater
(2) Gently contrasting background
(3) Statement necklace
(4) HAND SHELF.
It’s like every headshot cliche in one photo. Ms Jackson, I salute you. Question, though: what is up with the curled-up, partially visible left hand?

Cherry Jones – The Glass Menagerie

I’m of two minds here. The first: the blurred background is, well… have we learned nothing from O’Dowd? It looks like Jones is in some sort of outdoor patio or porch situation, which is at least pleasant. Contrast that with O’Dowd, who is in some sort of formalwear context that is almost definitely not fun.
The second: Does she have the headshot smile down or what? Happy but not too happy. Warm without a photoshopped eye twinkle (unless that’s how Shaloub’s eyes are naturally, which… maybe, you know? Maybe.)

Audra MacDonald – Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar And Grill

Even if I didn’t know who Audra McDonald was, which I guess I’m trying to do here, I’d know this was the photo of a champion. That is the cozy sweater of someone who can play a mom or a business professional on a day off. Her hair is glorious. The background is neutral but, with the hint of light oak chair, not antiseptic. There’s gentle accessorizing. There’s nail polish. There’s attractive lighting, like in Barbara Walters specials.
Brava, Ms. McDonald.

Estelle Parsons

While I don’t deny that Estelle Parsons is probably a lovely person and a wonderful actress, this is simply not a Tony Award Winning headshot. That is the downward facing chin of a nominee, not the proud, upright chin of a winner!

Besides, it took me about 3 minutes to figure out that was a scarf tucked into her sweater and not some really weird collar or even weirder neck/chin situation. Tony voters don’t have time for that.
The Winner, Based On Headshot Alone: Audra. That’s the headshot of a lady who came to win.

 

Best Performance By A Lead Actor In A Musical

Now, for a little bit of the ‘man behind the curtain’ in the blogging world: my browser is doing something it’s never done before, and making text and photos appear straight on top of each other, and my curser is moving around will-nilly. So let’s just cut straight to the winner, shall we?
Winner, based on headshot alone:

Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig And The Angry Inch

 

This was a process of elimination win. Ramin Karimloo looked a little too ‘intentionally disheveled hot guy.’ Andy Karl was posed in front of some sort of industrial piping, which, like, you’re in Rocky. We know. Jefferson Mays looked like he was going to turn me into ice with his crystalline blue stare. Between Bryce Pinkham and Neil Patrick Harris, Harris’s headshot was a little edgier. Pinkham’s, shot in soft light with a white background, seemed to say “I’m here for the art, not to win.”

Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role In A Musical

 

Can we discuss these award category names? They are all roughly twice as long as they need to be, right?
The winner, based on headshot alone:

Sutton Foster – Violet

This was another process of elimination. Idina Menzel, bless her talented heart, almost tries TOO hard in her headshot. I’m talking about a wind machine. Jessie Mueller manages to look most like someone I’d want to hang out with in real life – meaning, unlike some theater people, she doesn’t look absolutely exhausting. But she does have the visible, photoshopped background person going on. Kelli O’Hara has so much blinding white light going on that I think she might be the first person I’m seeing after dying.  Mary Bridget Davies brought her A-Game, but Foster’s got the approachable smile down. She was probably smile-coached along with Cherry Jones.

 

So, was my 12-year-old self right? Can you tell a great actor by headshot alone? Tune in to the Tony’s on Sunday night to find out!

Come On and Sit Side by Side by Susan Blackwell

The 68th annual Tony Awards are this Sunday, which for everyone that isn’t a theater nerd like me, it’s basically our Super Bowl. In fact, I used to attend a Tonys party every year with my friends/co-workers from a theatre and it pretty much was our Super Bowl. I admit, I’m not a super geek like some of my pals, but I’m at a level where I watch videos of Broadway stars online in my spare time (or just, time).

A few years ago along my internet travels, I came across this magic web series called Side by Side by Susan Blackwell. Hosted by – you guessed it – Susan Blackwell, an actress who’s been on TV and film, but most notably in the theater world for her outstanding performance in the musical [title of show]. She recruits her fellow Broadway friends for an interview, but not just any interview, it usually takes place in an odd location and includes some kind of fun activity.

My first introduction to Susan was with this interview with Daniel Radcliffe while he was doing How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 2011, and he is legit cleaning her house. Yes, Potterheads, in this video, you see DanRad cleaning a toilet. Seriously. If that’s not enough to get you to watch this then IDK what is.

Actually I do. Susan is charming, hilarious, affable, and has a way to get her interviewees to talk about stuff that not many others can. Oh and she licks her guests on the face. The DanRad vid was a gateway drug into her other Side by Side interviews, so here now are some other standout videos from her collection.

Zachary Quinto

Where: Dog Park

Activity: Watching dogs in a dog park

Highlight: A rousing game of ‘Name That Dog’ and Susan ‘smashing ZQ like a pancake’ on a picnic table

Where: ZQ’s apartment

Activity: Having a sleepover

Highlight: Prank calling Jesse Tyler Ferguson & Smash star Christian Borle

Sutton Foster/Jonathan Groff/Laura Benanti

Where: In Bed/A Horse-Drawn Carriage/Hooters

Activity: Breakfast/Cuddling/Eating Wings

Highlight: Sutton lying in bed with her Tony gown and actual Tony/JGroff singing Left Behind from Spring Awakening/Susan handling Laura’s boobs

Jonathan Groff #2

Where: His parents’ farm in rural Pennsylvania (lit’rally Amish country)

Activity: Chillin in a hayloft, petting some horses and goats

Highlight: JGroff singing a part of Totally Fucked (from Spring Awakening) while shaking a bucket of corn kernels to get the goats to eat

Laura Benanti #2

Where: Ziva Meditation

Activity: Being zen on a couch

Highlight: Playing iPhone roulette and landing on a pic of her former Go On (RIP) co-star taking a nap in her own bosoms

Steven Pasquale

Where: Steven’s apartment

Activity: Using a Vitamix to make super healthy green juices

Highlight: Steven prank calling Taye Diggs and leaving a voicemail as Jim Carrey

Audra McDonald

Where: Great Jones Spa

Activity: Getting massages, drinking cucumber water

Highlight: Audra singing a fantastic version of the Spongebob Squarepants theme song

Norbert Leo Butz

Where: Strand Bookstore

Activity: Sitting in the parenting section

Highlight: Flipping through the pages of a book called Surgery of the Anus, Rectum and Colon

Andrew Rannells

Where: McKittrick Hotel

Activity: Playing with a Ouija board

Highlight: Imitating the pageant hosts on Toddlers and Tiaras