2009 Tony Award Predictions


This and blogging about it next week will probably be the extent of me being ebullient for the Tonys. So here they are, presented with who I think will win and who will win in the event of an upset. Special thanks to my father who aided in the predictions for musicals.

Best Musical
-“Billy Elliot”
In the event of an upset: “Next to Normal”

Best Play
-“God of Carnage”
In the event of an upset: “Dividing the Estate”
Hey, it’s an American play.

Best Revival of a Musical
In the event of an upset: “West Side Story”
I really, really doubt that “Hair” will lose the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. But if any of the nominees beat out “Hair”, it would probably be “West Side Story”

Best Revival of a Play
-“The Norman Conquests”
In the event of an upset: “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”
I’m going with those two because they’re the two most critically acclaimed revivals, but I really doubt that “The Norman Conquests” won’t win the Tony.

Best Book of a Musical
-Lee Hall, “Billy Elliot”
In the event of an upset: Brian Yorkey, “Next to Normal”
Let’s just say that I’m predicting that if any show upsets “Billy Elliot”, it will be “Next to Normal”.

Best Original Score of a Musical
-Elton John and Lee Hall, “Billy Elliot”
In the event of an upset: Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, “Next to Normal”

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
-Geoffrey Rush, “Exit the King”
In the event of an upset: Jeff Daniels, “God of Carnage”
I adore Raul Esparza, but I’m not holding my breath for him to win a Tony this year. But if he does win, you’ll know about it.

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
-Marcia Gay Hardin, “God of Carnage”
In the event of an upset: Janet McTeer, “Mary Stuart”

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
-David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, Kiril Kulish; “Billy Elliot”
In the event of an upset: Gavin Creel, “Hair”
If the three Billys don’t win, that will be quite the upset.

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
-Alice Ripley, “Next to Normal”
In the event of an upset: Josefina Scaglione, “West Side Story”
I might be over confident that Alice Ripley will win. Watch me be wrong.

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
-Roger Robinson, “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”
In the event of an upset: Stephen Mangan, “The Norman Conquests”

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
-Angela Lansbury, “Blithe Spirit”
In the event of an upset: Hallie Foote, “Dividing the Estate”

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
-Gregory Jbara, “Billy Elliot”
In the event of an upset: Will Swenson, “Hair”

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
-Karen Olivio, “West Side Story”
In the event of an upset: Haydn Gwynne, “Billy Elliot”
I am maybe overly confident that Karen Olivio will win this, but if not, Haydn Gwynne.

Best Direction of a Play
-Matthew Warchus, “The Norman Conquests”
In the event of an upset: Bartlett Sher, “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” or Phyllida Lloyd, “Mary Stuart”
Statistically, Matthew Warchus has the best chances of winning.

Best Direction of a Musical
-Stephen Daldry, “Billy Elliot”
In the event of an upset: Diane Paulus, “Hair”
What is it with Stephen Daldry and juggernauts?

Best Choreography
-Peter Darling, “Billy Elliot”
In the event of an upset: Karole Armitage, “Hair”
I really doubt that Peter Darling won’t win the Tony Award. Come on, the show is about a boy who want’s to do ballet.

Best Orchestrations
-Martin Koch, “Billy Elliot”
In the event of an upset: Larry Blank, “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas”
From now on, “In the event of an upset” means “If this show doesn’t win, it will be this show”

Best Scenic Design of a Play
-Rob Howell, “The Norman Conquests”
In the event of an upset: Derek McLane, “33 Variations”

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
-Mark Wendland, “Next to Normal”
In the event of an upset: Ian MacNeil, “Billy Elliot”
What? Did you think I was going to say “Guys and Dolls” for an upset?

Best Costume Design of a Play
-Dale Ferguson, “Exit the King”
In the event of an upset: Anthony Ward, “Mary Stuart”

Best Costume Design of a Musical
-Michael McDonald, “Hair”
In the event of an upset: Nicky Gillibrand, “Billy Elliot”
I just think it’s safe to put “Billy Elliot” in.

Best Lighting Design of a Play
-Hugh Vanstone, “Mary Stuart”
In the event of an upset: David Lander, “33 Variations”

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
-Howell Binkley, “West Side Story”
In the event of an upset: Kevin Adams for either “Hair” or “Next to Normal”
Again, statistics.

Best Sound Design of a Play
-Paul Arditti, “Mary Stuart”
In the event of an upset:I have no clue.
There is a thunderstorm that happens in “Mary Stuart”.

Best Sound Design of a Musical
-Brian Ronan, “Next to Normal”
In the event of an upset: Paul Arditti, “Billy Elliot”
I read Hilton Als review of “Hair”. And every review I’ve read on a blog of “Rock of Ages” has said the show was loud.

Best Special Theatrical Event
-“Liza’s At the Palace”
In the event of an upset: “You’re Welcome America: A Final Night With George W. Bush”
My father: It’s Liza. ‘Nuff said.

Remember to come back here next Sunday when I’ll be live-blogging, or more or less blogging during the commercial breaks.

“Up” is Amazing


There are two things that I rarely do. One, is that I rarely cry, particularly in public places. If I’m viewing a movie or I’m seeing a play and I’m moved to tears, I cry quietly. The second one is that I rarely come out of a film bubbling with over-the-top praise.

Congratulations to the people at Pixar for managing for those two things to happen.

In my mind, I keep a catalogue of some films that made a strong impact on me and I watch, or would be willing to watch, over and over again. Among that list is “All About Eve”, “Ratatouille”, “Wall-E”, “Henry Fool”, “No Such Thing”, “The Great Mouse Detective” –which I once wrote an analysis of, “Some Like It Hot”, “Manhattan”, “The Umbrella’s of Chernbourg”, and “Milk”. I can say with strong support that “Up” is joining that list.

Why would a film that has a talking dog, a cantankerous old man, and a “Wilderness Explorer” make that list? Because it is a work of art.

Sure, the film has a very simple plot. As a young boy, Carl Fredricksen (voiced for most of the film by Ed Asner), has a taste for adventure after seeing newsreels of his hero Charles Muntz. Carl meets a young girl named Ellie and they have adventures and eventually get married. She wants to go, someday, to Paradise Falls, where Muntz has returned in search of a bird. They save up the money, but due to events they keep having to break the jar. Eventually, she dies, leaving Carl alone.

Their rather picturesque house is situated in the middle of a construction zone. They want Carl to go away, he doesn’t want to do so. One day he smacks a crew person with his cane and is told to go to the nearest retirement community. (Shady Oaks. God bless those people at Pixar, the brochure looks like one I’ve seen for communities in the city I live in.) Carl, a former balloon salesman at the zoo, decides to hoist his house high in the sky and go off to Paradise Falls.

However, he has a stowaway; a rather pudgy young boy named Russell (Jordan Nagai) who is in need of his “Assisting the Elderly” badge. They get to South America and encounter a (female) bird named Kevin and a talking dog named Dug (voiced by Bob Petersen). What happens there is a very slow melting of Carl’s heart and the coming to terms with the villainy of Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer).

Yes, it might sound cliched with the old-man-not-being-so-grumpy plot, but the visuals and how the story is told is incredible. The film does not feature that much dialogue, nor does it feature the rather grating pop culture references you find in so many animated films. (Although, I laughed at Carl commenting about doing something without “rap music and flash dancing.”)

I also had the privilege of seeing it in 3-D. I happen to have a strong disdain for 3-D effects after seeing “The Jonas Brothers 3-D Concert Experience” and the previews were annoying for me with flying objects coming towards my face. But here the filmmakers utilize 3-D to give the film depth and texture.

And, mainly because of the fact that Pixar never lowers the bar (except with Cars), it has so much detail. From the eyebrow hairs on Carl’s eyebrows, to the fur and texture on the dogs, to Paradise Falls. The shot of that place when they land looked so real, I thought that maybe it was live action.

What also helps the film is Michael Giacchino’s score, which for most of it is a rather light waltz, or so it sounds, with several variations. It adds mood and gives it a poignant feel with the main theme and a sense of fear when there needs to be with differing music. To be honest, the main melody keeps dancing around my head.

To say the least, I think “Up” is one of the best films I have ever seen. I could say this year, but I’ve only seen four films so far and it being better than one of them doesn’t say much.

So, quick go and get a ticket. It’s so good, I intend to try to catch it again in the movie theater.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Young Audiences?


Summer can mean multiple things for Iowans. Among them, the pools are open, kids are out of school, summer festivals, the state fair, and teenagers doing hard labor.

But to those who enjoy theater in Iowa, there is the knowledge that numerous theater companies have several shows opening during the summer.

One might think that the lack of school being in session might entice younger audiences to attend plays, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case.

There will always be the parents taking their children under the age of 10 to family friendly plays, regardless of the season of the year. But how do you attract teenagers to the theater?

As someone who just recently graduated from high school, I happen to have first hand experience observing the fact that teenagers have difficult time finding out when some plays open. For example, many people regretted missing the Waterloo Community Playhouse’s production of “Into the Woods” last summer, but they didn’t know when it was.

This isn’t to say that WCP didn’t advertise the show. I know from the exclamations of my sister that they had billboards and it was listed on the signs at banks in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area. But due to the fact that people in the city of Cedar Falls drive like lunatics, I tend to be more aware of the road, not what boarders the road. I hope that my peers tend to do the same thing.

Granted, if I’m talking up a show I’ve raved about, they tend to know about it better. Sadly, by the time I’ve seen the show and I’m back at school, it’s either closed or it’s running in Cedar Rapids, which is an hour away.

But they seem to be more aware of theater in Cedar Rapids than in the area they live in. Several people I know were aware of “Hair” running at Theatre Cedar Rapids because they heard about it on the local public radio station, KUNI. In fact, most of the people I conversed with at school listened to KUNI on a daily basis for several hours a day. Supporting that station to a). help keep it running and b). get the word out about a show is ingenious. Why don’t most theaters do this?

Well, some theaters do buy ad space on some stations, but teenagers have never heard of these stations because they don’t play rock music, contemporary music, nor is it public radio. I myself only listen to two stations in my car while driving: KUNI and, when I’m in Cedar Rapids, KCCK, a jazz station.

The future of theater in Eastern Iowa lies with getting teenagers and young adults to attend shows. It is really annoying when I’m at a play, reviewing it, and the next youngest person in the audience is in their 40s.

And it’s not that that age group isn’t interested in serious theater. After performing my scene from The Pillowman from acting class, I discovered that my classmates, not all of whom do theater, were amazed by it. Why? Because it was like nothing they had ever seen.

The main way to bring this age group to theater without their parents is to try to give them an incentive. The best way would be with ticket prices. Teenagers and college students are much more interested in a play if a ticket is going to cost them $5-$15 instead of $25.

And how will they find out about ticket prices? Many theater companies, including several in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City area, have Facebook groups where you can find out about the upcoming shows. One of the theater companies in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area has a group that you must be approved to join. (I’ve tried joining it and I can’t get approved.)

So what can be learned here? To get people who need to be going to theater, you need to market it in a much more accessible way and try incentives of lower ticket prices. If you do this, they might come.

Theatre in the Amanas

If you’re looking for something to do and you have the money (which I do not have), there are two plays that just opened in the Amana Colonies.

At the Old Creamery, The Odd Couple is running and the leads received a very positive review in the Gazette, however she was critical of the use of Corridor celebrities as the poker buddies.

The Iowa Theatre Artists also have a show that opened last night. It is entitled “Squabbles” and they have a much better synopsis on their website than I could provide. They’re a very new Equity company and tickets for that are $25 for adults, $10 for students. Which is not that bad, mainly for the student tickets.

I am going to try to see it before it closes, I just need money.

So, Neil Simon and a rather unheard of comedy. Sounds good to me!

Some Thoughts on Celebrity Casting

In one of Michael Riedel’s columns today, he discusses Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman in an upcoming play about two cops entitled “A Steady Rain.”

And, while celebrities in plays could appear as though they sell tickets better, I would like to step in and say something:

Are people seeing “God of Carnage” simply because James Gandolfini, among others, is in it?

There were celebrities in “Impressionism” and “Desire Under the Elms” and yet those shows closed early.

Is having celebrities of the film and tube in plays really helping sell tickets?

After all, Wicked doesn’t seem to need glossy celebrities in the leads to sell tickets.

If it really doesn’t help get butts in the seats, could Broadway producers, directors, EPAs, etc., please hold off on the celebrity casting until David Tennant is in a show?

“ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway”


Over the course of my Memorial Day weekend, my dad and I viewed the documentary “ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway.”

The film, directed by Broadway producer Dori Bernstein, is a look at four shows on Broadway in the 2003-2004 season, “Wicked”, “Avenue Q”, “Taboo”, and “Caroline, or Change”. Of those four shows, only two of them are still running.

Bernstein’s film looks at the shows at all different angles: we see the composers hard at work, the actors rehearsing, the producers fretting, the directors, well, directing; Rosie O’Donnell fawning over “Taboo”, which she produced; Michael Riedel being hated, and the critics discussing the plays.

At the very least, the film gives one a greater appreciation for what goes on into putting on a Broadway musical. Particularly from the creators, as we see Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori working on the music for “Caroline, or Change.” (I recommend you watch the bonus footage; there is an talk with Stephen Schwartz discussing him writing the music for “Wicked” and the numbers being cut out.)

What is also incredible is how much love everyone seems to have for their works, as exhibited in Bernstein’s film. As annoying as O’Donnell’s attitude about “Taboo” is, she clearly cares very much for the show. What does the show mean for those involved? It’s rather mind shattering when Idina Menzel discusses thinking of the kids that send her fan mail to give her motivation to go onstage when she’s fighting a cold.

The commentary on Broadway as a business is given by producers, marketing people, theater owner Rocco Landesman, and the critics (plus Michael Riedel). In fact, the scenes where we see the critics gathered to discuss the shows–those critics being Linda Winer of Newsday, Jacques le Sourd, formerly of Gannett, Patrick Pacheco of the L.A. Times, and Charles Isherwood, then of Variety (this was my second time watching the documentary. The first time I was ill and very confused by it saying that Isherwood is the chief theater critic for Variety. He was the chief theater critic for Variety.)–are rather interesting to watch. Mainly because they make their points and predictions of the shows. Riedel predicted “Avenue Q” to last until January of 2004 because of apparent lack of audience. Although, he poses the question about “Taboo”, which ran for 100 performances, as to who the audience was and gets the response of people who experienced the 80’s drag club scene from Isherwood.

(Also, one of my favorite moments of editing is when talking to a marketer, who’s name I can’t remember, he says “I don’t see the point of that guy at the Post” and there is a quick cut to a shot of Riedel walking down the street talking.)

And as for “Wicked”, which did not open to positive reviews and I personally don’t like that much, Riedel remarks about the fact that it was, and to this day still is, bringing in $1 million a week, “Shows you just what we know.” (The film also talks to John Lahr and Ben Brantley, who do not assemble with the other critics and theater reporters.)

The film zips along quickly, although I’ve never seen a documentary that hasn’t done that, and seems a bit rushed towards the end when we get to the Tony Awards. But ultimately, anyone who has a deep interest in theater, mainly Broadway musicals, should watch the film.