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Posts Tagged ‘Bobby Steggert’

What a season!  A superlative blend of four promising new musicals, three dynamite plays (and another really enjoyable one), and a play revival that reinvented what that play was about and another that had only excellent notices.  When it comes time to award this season, there simply aren’t enough trophies to go around.

Just a glorious season for Off-Broadway.

Oh, right, the Tony Awards are only for Broadway shows.  Yeah, that season was a letdown as a whole.  A few inspired performances and pieces, but as a composite, the NY Times’s two critics called it a B- season.  To me, its more along the lines of C+.  Barely-there books in the Musical category, Plays that sound better on paper than on stage, and revivals of a slate of classics that were generall more about competence than brilliance.

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I’d ballot in the morning.
I’d ballot in the evening.
All over this la-a-and.

Its Tony time again.  Nominations arrive on May 4 in the wee morning hours.  I was torn between writing this post on who I’d vote for this year, if I did indeed have a vote, or to write who I think will actually get nominated.  And, given that I am full of opinion, I was leaning towards just laying out my imaginary ballot.  But, alas, I’ve chosen to withhold my preferences until the esteemed official voting bloc does its thing.  Then I can complain loudly and proudly.

Looking over this year’s field, a trend I’ve noticed over the last few years has solidified into practice.  Two seasons ago, A Catered Affair reached Broadway.  It was an interpolation of an old Bette Davis-Ernest Borgnine-Debbie Reynolds film, spun by Harvey Fierstein and featuring strong performances from Faith Prince and Tom Wopat.  However, despite the obvious beauty of the show, it was clear watching it that it wasn’t quite baked.  It was rushed through development to get to Broadway.  It had its fans, but ultimately was overshadowed by long-developed shows In The Heights and Passing Strange, which both had extended Off-Broadway runs before facing off for Best Musical at the Tonys, along with also-well-developed Xanadu.  In The Heights took home the prize, and is the only new musical from that season still running.

Last year, the Best Play and Best Musical winners were both imports from Britain, God of Carnage and Billy Elliot, respectively.  In fact, both were well-loved shows across the pond before making their way here.  The development made them successful in both cities, and each easily dominated their category.  Carnage blew away very strong competition, challenge from Neil Labute’s Reasons To Be Pretty, Moises Kaufman’s 33 Variations, and Horton Foote’s Dividing The Estate.  Billy, however, faced no real challenge from its only major competition in the Off-Broadway transfer of Next To Normal.

This year, once again, the shows in contention for Best Musical are generally an imperfect bunch.  Addams Family is a morass of cut & paste.  All About Me wasn’t worth knowing.  American Idiot is a staged version of a punk album that doesn’t bother to name its female characters.  Burn the Floor was all smoke.  Come Fly Away does land enough.  Everyday Rapture should be the extinguished Special Event category, since it’s really a one-woman show.  Fela! doesn’t tell enough of Kuti’s story.  Memphis’s book completely falls apart in the second act.  Million Dollar Quartet is a stunt, aiming only at tourists’ wallets.  Each one could use some more development, but it’s no surprise the best two of the bunch (in my opinion) had Off-Broadway runs.  And the two best revivals are both British imports.  Once again, fully developed productions are few and far between.

Producers seem to be rushing shows to the big stage, rather than fully investing in a show’s development.  I read that Yank!, which I enjoyed, is coming up next season.  But, frankly, it’s not ready.  The second act needs work, and some of the songs need to be replaced.  Its simply too soon, despite a stellar performance from Bobby Steggert, for the show to make it to Broadway.

Bake it properly, and the show will rise well.  Take it out too soon, and it will fall.  Such has been the Broadway scene for the last few years.  Its economics, certainly, impacting the length of time an investor will wager on results, but the last few years have shown diminishing returns for those who don’t properly develop their shows.  And we all suffer when that happens.

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Seeing a new musical in its development cycle is something relatively new to me.  While I’ve seen things at Playwrights Horizons & Second Stage, I’ve never seen one so clearly still being worked on.  In fact, apparently during the run at the York Theatre Company, a song was dropped.

Yank! A WWII Love Story (as so printed on the ticket, so spoiler-phobes beware) is ultimately about a young man come to terms with being gay while serving in the military during World War II, and does indeed fall in love.  Given that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hearings are ongoing and a major political plot point in the news, its not all that surprising that someone (or some people as they case in fact is) has written a musical about someone who was gay in the military.

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The new production of Ragtime recently opened at the Neil Simon Theatre, freshly imported from a hailed run at the Kennedy Center in DC.  While the original production was considered bloated & inappropriately over-sized, sadly, I never saw it.  I was still in college when it opened, and didn’t move to New York until after it closed.  Of course, I did buy the soundtrack.  An English major &  fan of E.L. Doctorow, I also read the book (several times).

To start, the music here is excellent.  A well-toned score by Stephen Flaherty is easily the best thing about the show.  It may be a little “dialed up to eleven”, but the lyrics & book are dialed up to 20.  A bit clichéd with every plot development clearly telegraphed, the book is far too concerned with being important.  Terrence McNally is an excellent playwright, whose work has always explored emotional complexity.  Here, he’s a bit overwhelmed by the fact that the characters are essentially stand-ins for archetypes and doesn’t bring the deftness I expected.  That being said, his book & Lynn Ahrens’ lyrics do provide a few more than solid punches.

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