Broadway’s greatest honors will be bestowed on a luck few at tonight’s Tony Awards, but we’d like to look beyond the red carpet to shine light on some of the season’s best (and worst) moments from this year’s musicals.
Deaf West Theatre’s revival of Spring Awakening (three nominations including Best Revival of a Musical) was a stirring reimagining of the original 2006 production.
While Deaf West has been lauded for its utilization of hearing impaired actors, let’s not forget the indomitable Ali Stroker—the first performer in a wheelchair to appear on Broadway.
Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, and George Takei led an enthusiastic cast in a new musical about the World War II experience of Japanese Americans. While the subject matter was stirring at times, a befuddled creative team (including theme park costumes by Alejo Vietti and overzealous choreography by Andrew Palermo) did little to solidify the musical’s brief Broadway run.
Dames at Sea (one nomination) couldn’t find its sea legs with Broadway audiences, but that doesn’t discount Randy Skinner’s electric choreography. Hamilton might win the duel for Best Choreography, but Skinner’s tap extravaganza was a treat to anyone who caught one of the production’s 85 performances.
You can’t have a compelling production of Fiddler on the Roof (three nominations) without a Tevye who can connect with the audience. Danny Burstein’s patriarch is infectiously charming, occasionally boyish, but with the gravitas needed to withstand the repercussions of his daughters’ love interests as well as the demands of his hard-edged wife, Golde (Jessica Hecht).
BEST (and WORST?)
Critics (including our own) have embraced the Roundabout’s revival of She Loves Me (eight nominations), but did anyone else notice a lack of minority actors in the company? Yes, it’s loosely set in 1930s Budapest but David Rockwell’s candy-colored sets and Jeff Mahshie’s high-slit dresses for nominee Jane Krakowski imply some creative liberties with the period. We doubt that audience members would be confounded by a more diverse cast. Note the same for their revival of Noises Off (5 nominations).
American Psycho (2 nominations) — Surprise… we actually really liked the production. So our “Worst” tag is directed at the Tony nominating committee, who overlooked Benjamin Walker as a nominee for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. No, he wouldn’t have won, but he was damn good and the oversight is a bloody shame.
You knew we’d get to Hamilton (16 nominations) eventually, but perhaps for a reason that you’re not likely to expect. Lin Manuel Miranda has been at the epicenter of the Hamilton phenomenon, but stand-by Javier Muñoz was a critical figure in the development of the title role. He’s been playing one performance per week and it hasn’t been confirmed if/when he’ll be stepping into the role permanently after Miranda’s departure. Fingers crossed.
Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo.