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Tony Nominees 2014: The Good

Welp. Here we go. The nominations have been announced, the feteeing and campaigning and dress shopping is about to begin, and basically everyone in the Theater District just went on an even stricter diet or added a few extra push-ups to their daily regimen so they’re in ship shape for the big show on June 8th. (Okay, except Ramin Karimloo and Andy Karl, who are pefect as they are and will not fit in tuxedos if they get any buffer.) Before things get any crazier, we’re going to give y’all a quick run down of our feelings — the good, the bad, and the totally baffled — because… that’s what the internet is for.

A Gentleman’s Guide to getting all the nominations, forever and ever…
Do you know why this show got ten Tony nominations? Because it’s perfect. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is funny, sure, and dastardly clever. But this weird little musical has been heaped with accolades because it represents something relatively rare: It shows an audience what it means to perform musical theater at its absolute highest level. This is a show without bum notes, without lags in its efficiently trotting action, and without a single song that doesn’t work directly in service of the story. Even the costumes are flawless; they deftly channel goofiness or refinement or madness, all with a kind of effortless restraint. It is a technical marvel, a kind of Ferrari of musicals, and it inspires one of our favorite adjectives that we use whenever we see this in a show: It’s Mormon-y. Does all of this blaze of flawlessness occasionally leave us a little cold? Sure. After all, craptacularity, shirtlessness, and abject sentimentality should always be the highest goals in musical-theater-making. But frankly, if the nominations committee needs to heap prizes on a single show this year, this is the one that deserves all of them.

Bullets Over Broadway stays where it belongs — out of the Best Musical category…
We try not to cheer too loudly when bad shows fail. But we do when bad shows are given fair treatment by awards committees who have, in past years, been keen to heap trophies on terrible shows for their commercial potential instead of their artistic merit. Bullets Over Broadway’s omission in the Best Musical and major acting categories felt right this year. It didn’t feel awesome. But it felt right. To put Zach Braff alongside Jefferson Mayes or Andy Karl in the Leading Actor in a Musical category would have felt silly – and undeserved. Hooray for Hollywood and everything, but the nominating committee did well to keep this year’s major categories filled with the good stuff, instead of the flashy stuff.

Rocky gets some love for its staging…
There were some problems with Rocky, to be sure. Namely, a totally boring score whose absolute highlight was a pop-song featured in a movie like, thirty years ago. But those problems did NOT extend to the creative work done in bringing Rocky Balboa’s North Philly world to life on stage. With an utterly jaw-dropping set inspired by Trainspotting/Nine Inch Nails/David Fincher, an actual fucking boxing ring that rolls right on out into the audience, transforming the Winter Garden into the Philadelphia Spectrum, and some full-contact fight choreography the likes of which Broadway has never seen, the team behind Rocky’s staging — Christopher Barecca, Christopher Akerlind, Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine — totally knocked it out of the park. We were stoked to see their work recognized, which was a least something of a panacea for our Alex-Timbers-snub-shattered souls. (Alright, it wasn’t, but it was real nice, okay?!)

In which we throw Jason Robert Brown a bone or two…
Being what is basically the opposite of a fan of Jason Robert Brown, I (The Mick) am the last person on earth who ever thought she’s say this, but THANK GOD JRB got nominated for Best Score and Best Orchestrations for his work on The Bridges of Madison County. In a season where the nominating committee was incredibly hard on musicals with completely original scores, and even harder on Bridges in particular, it’s just good to see that at least SOMEWHERE this beautiful, emotional, adult musical gets a shot at glory. Besides, JRB’s score is gorgeous, and his lyrics are so swoon-worthy that I’m debating having some of them tattooed on my back using Steven Pasquale’s blood as ink. Too much? WHATEVER. IT ALL FADES AWAY BUT YOU.

Dear Broadway, let’s practice pronouncing Ramin Karimloo…
If you had told us, sitting before the disastrously delicious original London production of Love Never Dies, that its handsome star Ramin Karmiloo would be nominated for a Tony Award a scant three years later, we would have believed you. In fact, we would have thought it would happen sooner. Ramin’s talent, you see, is simply too huge and strange and expectation-defying to be confined to those tiny British Isles. Here on Broadway, he hasn’t just given Jean Valjean a youthful facelift (and ab-lift, as it were). He’s given the hoary old man a hit of adrenaline, a fastidiously religious soul, and a whiff of carefully controlled violence. His inclusion on the nominations list is surprising, entirely deserved, and hopefully the first of many — if we can keep him on this side of the pond. We would say “hats off!,” but of course what we really mean is, “panties off!” to this nomination.

Andy Karl makes the cut…
And for once, that cut doesn’t involve having his eyelid sliced open… We already had an enormous boner for Andy Karl going in to Rocky. And then we saw his gentle, finely-crafted performance as Rocky Balboa, the big dumb jock with a hell of a heart, and oh damn were we ass over teakettle in love with that man. Watching Karl’s performance as Balboa was, in turns, swoon-inducingly sweet, squirm-inducingly awkward, and cheer-inducingly brave. We cringed as he clumsily fought for Adrian’s affection, held our breath as we waited for them to kiss, and cheered him on as he prepared for the final bout. Karl took us on a journey, man. But it was the small things — the way he embodied Rocky the outsider, the loner, the galoot — as much as his championship performance and big voice that we loved. Needless to say we’re glad Karl made it through all 15 rounds and snagged that nomination.

Is the sixth time a charm for Kelli O’Hara?
Will someone just give this woman a damn Tony already? She’s been nominated five times without a win, and we can’t help thinking that Kelli’s lonely housewife in The Bridges of Madison County is the one that will clinch the prize for her. And the performance is a stunner, too, a journey from frustration to liberation to understanding, all done in a pretty Neapolitan accent. If she doesn’t win this year, we’re not sure what she has to do, or which role she has to play – Hedda Gabler: The Musical? – to actually take home the prize. Hopefully the Tony voters will spare us, and Kelly, the agony this year.

Hell yeah, Joshua Henry!
It’s not just that Joshua Henry is handsome. Or that some small part of us is still 100% gutted by his 2011 Tony-Nominated performance as Haywood Patterson in The Scottsboro Boys. Or that he looks real good in a uniform, as proved by both 2010’s American Idiot and this year’s Violet. We’re damn glad to see Mr. Henry managed to snag a slot in the Featured Actor category not just for his well-wrought performance as Flick, a military-man vying for Violet’s heart, but because he sang his everloving face off . Like, we almost had to be scraped out of our seats after his performance of “Let It Sing.” And THAT is Tony-worthy to us.

Samuel Barnett is remembered…
In a production where it would have been incredibly easy for Mark Rylance to suck all the air out of the room, and all the awards-season attention from the cast around him, Samuel Barnett’s performance as Viola — a man, playing a woman, playing a man — was a thing of beauty. Marked by the careful grace of his movement and an expressive face that opened like a window into Viola’s soul, and imbued with an intelligence, sensitivity and utter humanity that completely transcended gender, there was just nothing about Barnett’s performance that was not a complete home-run. Needless to say we were thrilled to see it remembered, even months after Twelfth Night closed. So, huzzah to that! (And huzzah to hopefully seeing more of Barnett’s beautiful face this awards season. He’s our favorite flavor of smart, sensitive, talented cutie, and we never want to stop looking at him and fantasizing about drinking tea and reading books in a sunny window seat beside him, so… Yeah. We’re pleased.)

Nick Cordero is gangsta…
Ok, so Bullets Over Broadway made our eyes and ears bleed with all of its shouty pointlessness and creepy/dirty humor. But hiding in the midst of it was Nick Cordero giving a splendid performance as a gangster-turned-writer who plays book doctor to a pretentious play. His nomination feels spot-on, and not just because it injects a bit of actual charm and pathos into a train wreck of a show. It stands easily on its own as one of the best of the year.


Photo: Joan Marcus

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • cat May 5, 2014, 4:36 pm

    So, I’m getting the feeling I need to finally see A Gentleman’s Guide… Also, I’ll be pulling for Kelli O’Hara on Tony night. No question about that.

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