Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Tony Awards are almost here! While it's always fun to anticipate, exciting to watch, and I'm THRILLED to be going this year, I'm often disappointed with Tony's night. I'm anticipating anger and I've already had to get over disappointment with nominations. (Makes you want to keep reading, right? Nothing hooks a reader like pessimism, except maybe sarcasm. check and check). It's supposed to be a night to celebrate theatre, I know. But they're as political as anything else and I'm too critical and opinionated of a fan to celebrate every winner when I feel another is more deserving. A show with bigger touring potential or a star who's hot at the moment could win while a more artistic, interesting one gets nothing. I get it ($$$), but it still upsets me. I know, I'm so dramatic. Fitting. Time to be more upbeat...

I am not one of those theatre fans who loves everything she sees. Actually, I typically leave disappointed. (Okay, so I lied about being more upbeat. I'll try harder.) So why keep going? Why do I love it? I'm always hoping to have one of those rare, special experiences that creates an emotional memory. I go in wanting to be moved in some way... to laughter, to tears, even discomfort or anger, to feel my heart in my throat, an uncontrollable smile, or to alter my perspective on things. I love the irony that by slipping into someone's pretend life and world, great theatre has the potential to make you feel more alive and connected than actual life. Going in with these grand hopes and expectations means I'm often walking away disappointed. Most shows are just shows, but it's that sliver of hope that maybe the show I'm about to see will have even just one thrilling moment that steals my breath. Theatre is subjective and I'm pretty non-emotive (it takes a lot to make me laugh or really move me), but I often sit there, waiting to be excited by a show. It's so rare that I'm able to just sit back, breathe a sigh of relief and be wholly entertained or involved. I've experienced a small handful of shows, or single moments within shows, that are something truly special and memorable. This season may not have been outstanding for musicals, but it gave me three of these moments where I could sit in the audience and be completely taken in. And only one is likely to be rewarded. I'm fiercely opinionated (or fiercely apathetic) about shows I see, so I'm often disappointed with the Tony outcomes. The lead up and anticipation is almost more fun, as is often the case. So here I am, having fun, making predictions. Enough unnecessary preamble, time to get to it.... musicals only, because that's all I know.

Best Musical:
(Nominees: Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Beautiful, Aladdin, After Midnight)

Should Win: Gentleman's Guide
Will Win: Gentleman's Guide
May Steal It: Beautiful

I'll be shocked if it doesn't go to Gentleman's Guide or Beautiful just because it's where all the buzz is. Honestly, I'll be pretty upset if it goes to Beautiful. I saw it and just don't get it. To me the first act was fluff and show and typical jukebox musical and the second act turned it around and was human (but no fun). It felt disjointed and slippery and it never grabbed me. If Beautiful wins it's because it has more mass appeal and has the most money making potential. But Gentleman's Guide blows it out of the water in every way and it will be such a shame if it doesn't win. I'd be satisfied (but really surprised) if it went to After Midnight... it's the only show I've seen where I was so impressed that I jumped to my feet at the start of curtain call. (This coming from someone who detests standing ovations and reluctantly feels compelled to stand when the leads come out). And if Aladdin were to win... well it won't. I'd be beyond stunned.

Best Revival:
(Nominees: Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Violet, Les Miserables)

Should Win: Hedwig
Will Win: Hedwig
May Steal It: no one

There's no doubt in my mind that Hedwig is a (stiletto) shoe-in. I enjoyed pieces of Violet but it's predictable and Sutton Foster annoyed me to the point of physical frustration (every time she sang she became Sutton Foster instead of the character, losing any trace of the accent and turning on her typical spunky confidence and pretty voice... and I'm generally a fan). And Les Mis is just been there, seen that for me. Can Broadway handle more than a few years without Les Mis? Hedwig will definitely win.

Leading Actor in a Musical:
(Nominees: Neil Patrick Harris, Ramin Karimloo, Andy Karl, Jefferson Mays, Bryce Pinkham)


Should Win: I want to just put Jefferson Mays here. But I think Neil Patrick Harris is also deserving.
Will Win: Neil Patrick Harris
May Steal It: Jefferson Mays

Neil Patrick Harris will take it because of all he's done for the Broadway community and the Tony's in recent years (and because of the type of role it is and his performance, though I honestly think this is secondary). If only because it's so expected I'd love Jefferson Mays to pull an upset, and I think it would be a well deserved one. I can't think of many actors who have the versatility to pull off those 8 roles that well or in such an entertaining way. Sorry Andy, Ramin and Bryce (and probably Jefferson). At least you got nominations. Norbert Leo Butz and Steven Pasquale didn't.

Leading Actress in a Musical:
(Nominees: Mary Bridget Davies, Sutton Foster, Idina Menzel, Jessie Mueller, Kelli O'Hara)


Should Win: Kelli O'Hara
Will Win: Jessie Mueller
May Steal It: Kelli, Idina or Sutton. Only Mary Bridget Davies would shock me.

I'm really, really, really hoping Kelli O'Hara pulls off this win. I think it's high time she gets a Tony and hope the role wasn't too quiet to get her one. Of course her voice was phenomenal but it was nuances in her performance, effortless delivery of bits of subtle, never contrived humor and commitment to character that won me over. I believed and felt her 100%. I liked Jessie Mueller but didn't walk away raving like so many others. Maybe I just don't know Carole King enough to fully appreciate her performance. Idina wouldn't shock me because it would be a welcome back, and she's hot off Frozen (intended), and broadway loves Sutton. But I'm crossing fingers for Kelli.

Featured Actor in a Musical:
(Nominees: Danny Burstein, Nick Cordero, Joshua Henry, James Monroe Iglehart, Jarrod Spector)

Should Win: I kind of reluctantly say James Monroe Iglehart
Will Win: James Monroe Iglehart
May Steal It: Danny Burstein

Talk on the town is this one's a done deal. If I'm being honest, I found the Genie to be annoying, though it think it's more due to the writing than the actor. I'm probably the only one you'll talk to who was not blown away by Friend Like Me and I really feel like I'm missing out on this phenomenon of entertainment I just didn't see. Maybe I was just in the wrong mood that day? I don't know. But then again the flying carpet completely floored me (unintentional carpet/floor thing). But I still say he's most deserving because it ain't easy to fill Robin Williams' shoes, especially with a role that insane and larger than life. He managed to make it his own, rightfully not trying to imitate, but it's not so far removed that we don't recognize any of the zany charm of the movie Genie we loved so much. The biggest chance of an upset is if the talented Danny Burstein manages to finally get a Tony, but it doesn't seem likely. 

Featured Actress in a Musical:
(Nominees: Linda Emond, Lena Hall, Anika Larsen, Adriane Lenox, Lauren Worsham)


Should Win: I don't have a strong opinion in this category
Will Win: Lena Hall
May Steal It: Lauren Worsham or Linda Emond

My guess is Lena Hall because voters love genderbenders. Seriously though, her voice and transformation are impressive. But I still think it's a close call. No one winner would shock me. Lauren Worsham and Anika Larsen share the drama desk. I LOVED Lauren Worsham's voice and enjoyed her performance but was more taken by Lisa O'Hare (while I'm slightly bitter she didn't get a nod I think it improves Lauren Worsham's chances). Anika Larsen I did not think was anything special. I haven't seen Cabaret yet but have heard only good things about Linda Emond. And while Adriane Lenox was wildly entertaining and commanded the stage during her two songs, they were only two songs and I don't think it's enough to have her win.

(Nominees: Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Beautiful, Aladdin, Bullets over Broadway)

Should Win: Gentleman's Guide
Will Win: Gentleman's Guide
May Steal It: I really hope no one

Gentleman's Guide is the most clever, refreshing show Broadway's seen in a while and its book is intelligent and full of wit and charm. I don't even want to talk to the others. Beautiful had one great line that hit me, but one line won't do it. Aladdin was insanely geared for the kiddies and added in silly bits of pop culture that did not work. I haven't seen Bullets but I've heard the book is a weak point in an average show. 

Original Score:
(Nominees: Jason Robert Brown (Bridges of Madison Country), Tom Kitt & Brian Yorkey (If/Then), Steven Lutvak & Robert L. Freedman (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder), Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice & Chad Beguelin (Aladdin))

Should Win: Gentleman's Guide
Will Win: Gentleman's Guide
May Steal It: Bridges of Madison County

The wit and intelligence of Gentleman's Guide's book is just as apparent in its lyrics. The melodies are catchy, varied and fun. It seems every week I'm humming one of the songs from this show and the last time I saw it was in December. I think Bridges has one of the most beautiful ballads I've heard and a couple of inspired lush moments within songs, but otherwise it was the actors voices that impressed me more than the music and lyrics. I saw it twice and I can only really remember the one song. Still, I wouldn't be shocked or disappointed if it won. If Aladdin pulled it off it would be to honor Howard Ashman. If/Then doesn't deserve it. Nowhere remotely close to Next To Normal. My guess is Gentleman's for score, Bridges for orchestrations. 

Scenic Design:
(Nominees: Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Rocky, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Bullets Over Broadway)


Should Win: Rocky
Will Win: Rocky
May Steal It: Gentleman's Guide

Rocky's set and how it moved and was used was one of the more interesting parts of the show. Actually, I think the set got more applause than the actors, between the boxing ring, flying meat, and iconic stairs. It was well thought out and well executed. I also loved Gentleman's Guide and its clever, straight out of a vintage Christmas card (complete with pop-ups) set. However, it has to lose some categories.

Costume Design:
(Nominees: Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, After Midnight, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Bullets Over Broadway)



Should Win: Gentleman's Guide
Will Win: None would surprise me but I'm guessing After Midnight
May Steal It: Hedwig

This is a total up in the air for me. I loved the intricate period pieces and quick changes in Gentleman's, wasn't as impressed as I expected with After Midnight (but people love Isabel Toledo) but Hedwig and Bullets both have some crazy costumes too. Anyone's game. 

Lighting Design:
(Nominees: Rocky, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Bridges of Madison Country, After Midnight)


Should Win: I think they're all deserving, but possibly After Midnight less so than the others 
Will Win: Hedwig
May Steal It: Rocky, but unlikely

Hedwig is a rock musical which equals exciting lighting. Rocky has solid, fun and ambient lighting and Bridges was beautiful and dramatic. I don't remember a thing about After Midnight's lighting which could mean it was effortless or just forgettable. I was too drawn in to the dancers to pay attention to lighting.  

Sound Design:
(Nominees: Beautiful, After Midnight, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Les Miserables)

Should Win: Hedwig 
Will Win: Hedwig
May Steal It: Beautiful

I don't know much about what goes into sound design but I believe rock musicals typically require a rock solid one which is why my vote is for Hedwig. I won't pretend to know any more on the subject. My "steal vote" is for Beautiful just because it's a jukebox show and that makes me think of sound. Makes no sense but that's okay; I'm no expert. 

(Nominees: Warren Carlyle (After Midnight), Michael Mayer (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Leigh Silverman (Violet), Darko Tresnjak (Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder))

Should Win: Darko Tresnjak (Gentleman's Guide)
Will Win: Darko Tresnjak (Gentleman's Guide)
May Steal It: Michael Mayer (Hedwig)

I think Gentleman's Guide could have easily been too campy too work. At times it is campy but very purposefully so which makes it brilliant. I think the material needed a really strong eye and vision to have it realize its potential and it got it in Darko Tresnjak. I think he deserves recognition. Hedwig is also a contender but I believe its success is more due to Neil Patrick than Michael Mayer. I appreciated and recognized certain choices of Leigh Silverman in Violet but disagreed with others and while After Midnight was great to watch, I attribute it more to the performers and Warren Carlyle's choreography than his direction. 

(Nominees: Warren Carlyle (After Midnight), Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine (Rocky), Casey Nicholaw (Aladdin), Susan Stroman (Bullets Over Broadway))


Should Win: Warren Carlyle (After Midnight)
Will Win: Warren Carlyle (After Midnight)
May Steal It:No one

Personally, I think After Midnight has some of the best choreography I've seen in a show. It has every thing I love and look for. It's exciting, beautiful, doesn't take itself too seriously, makes me laugh, is period & pays tribute where it should, modernizes where it should, uses the stage fully, gives the eye plenty to look at without overwhelming, celebrates its dancers, makes me hear intricacies in the music and feel the emotion of the music... I could keep going. It was totally up my alley, incredibly enjoyable, and if it doesn't win I'm not sure what I'll do.

(Nominees: Bullets Over Broadway, Bridges of Madison County, Beautiful, Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder)

Should Win: Jason Robert Brown (Bridges)
Will Win: Jason Robert Brown (Bridges)
May Steal It: Steve Sidwell (Beautiful)

I may not remember the melodies or words to 90% of the Bridges of Madison County music but I remember hearing an intricately layered use of instruments that created a gorgeous, lush sound. It made me feel like I was listening to something special and ahead of its time in its virtuosity. I couldn't put my finger on why it was so captivating or even decide if I enjoyed it or just appreciated it. It reminded me of how the music from the Phantom's opera is described: at first haunting, but over time intoxicating and emotional; overall so complex that it's misunderstood in its genius. Anyway, it made an impression on me and I hope it wins for this. 

There's my summary (a long winded one). Let's see if I'm right or if I'm left with any major disappointments. I just have to add, if Audra wins and breaks two records and I'm in the audience to see it happen, my life will be complete. COMPLETE. 

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Just when you thought I was done for good (all two of you who ever read me)... I'm back(!),  two years later, surprising you with what may be the only post for the next four years! A big life change or two has occurred since I was last here. New city, new job, new New Yorker. That's right, decided to live in New York City for a bit. Not to chase a dream, but just to have the experience of living and working in such an exciting place. I know, I know, super thrilling (insert tired, sarcastic "woooooo"). Just about everyone I grew up with has moved here; I'm not exactly a pioneer. But it's a fun slice of my journey. I've been here about.... uhhh.... 8 months now and I'm past the point of starting to feel like I have the hang of the place. There are some things I love and some things I don't care for, but nothing I hate, which is pretty fantastic. There are some things I expected and some things surprised me. Like, hey, my apartment is actually pretty quiet! And pretty big! And there's no roaches! Or rats! And I can afford it! But I think we just lucked out in the apartment aspect. Moving on...

I decided to create a list of the best and worst things about living in New York City. Contrary to my typical nature, I did not over-analyze, make and remake lists, or research what others think to create this best and worst post. I'm just typing things out as they sporadically come to me... no hierarchy, no deep research. There are probably better and worse things about this city than what I came up with, but these little nuggets are top of mind. I know, the anticipation is nail-bite worthy, admit it... your nails are becoming half-bitten stubs while you wait. As a great author once wrote... it was the best of times, it was the worst of times... so let's start with the best. I know, I make little sense when I'm allowed to type freely.

Best things about living in NYC

1. Musician Street Performers: Sometimes it can be annoying, but more often than not, it's enjoyable, and sometimes even the highlight of my day. Every day I encounter at least one street performer, and usually several. As a result, it's like I have a little mini soundtrack playing as I journey throughout the city (picture a guilty pleasure romantic comedy montage where city girl walks down the street, sunglasses on her face, iced latte in her hand, and fun, sunny song playing). I haven't heard one, single bad musician/vocalist on the street since moving here, and I'm much more likely to encounter someone amazing than someone who's just "fine" to listen to, and that's shocking to me. I know, I'm sure I'll come across a bad one eventually, but I mean, everyone so far is good or great! If they were bad, this would easily belong on the "worst things about living in New York City" list. But I get free mini concerts everyday! It does wonders for my mood. One couple who frequent my subway stop in the morning is incredible. One plays the guitar and the other plays the violin and sings. I spend most mornings hoping it will be the day they show up with CDs to sell. I mean, sometimes it's annoying. Like if you encounter a band of bongo players on your train early in the morning or really late in the evening... who are sitting right next to you... and playing loud enough for three cars down to hear. But 9.5 times out of 10, street musicians and vocalists make me happy.

Notice I say musicians. Other street performers annoy me. Dancers create crowds that make it impossible to maneuver (or end up kicking people on the subway which creates a never fun, sometimes scary, subway argument you can't escape until the next stop). One group of street performers who frequent Central Park spend about 25 minutes collecting money from people (albeit with clever jokes and a scripted interactions with people) and then do one flip and that's the show. Which is just annoying (or clever). But musicians add songs to my day and never create crowds (unless you're that insane one-man band guy with 20 instruments strapped to you... he always attracts a crowd). One of the lovely little bonuses about living in New York.

2. You never know what to expect... the unexpected is expected: I can see so many crazy things in a day that little turns my head anymore. Sometimes it's shocking but mostly it's refreshing; to be somewhere where anything goes. I could walk down the street in the most ridiculous outfit of hot pink tights, a polka dot skirt and sequined and fringed yellow sweatshirt and no one would give me a second glance (if I wanted). People I see on the street intrigue and inspire me. After seeing one person I even felt compelled to write a song, which I've never done before, because I was so struck by her and my imagination of her life intrigued me. Before I knew it words were coming to me, and a melody, without even trying. Probably the only thing I've actually stopped to look at lately was a man who was walking with a cat on his head. Almost nothing stops me in my tracks, but a lot amuses and inspires.

3. Little things are expected and you can rely on them: I just finished saying you never know what to expect here. In a place like that it's oddly comforting to have some things that don't change each day. Despite trains coming every 3 minutes during rush hour in the morning, I always see the same woman waiting at the same point of the platform as me and getting on the same train as me, every morning. Walking to work, I see the same cat lingering outside of a pet shop, watching everyone go by. There's the same guitarist at the same street corner as my walk continues. And that's just my morning. It brings a bit of comfort and predictability to a largely unpredictable city. It makes this giant city feel a little more intimate and connected, like any other neighborhood in any other small town.  

4. There's something for everyone, and everything for someone: Anything you want to do, eat, be, find, see, or hear is here. I don't take advantage of what this city has to offer nearly as much as I should but I don't take it for granted either. The other day I made an Indian dish for dinner and was easily able to buy all of the ingredients at an amazing Indian grocery store. Every week I can take dance classes taught by principal dancers of Alvin Ailey or someone I've seen on stage and in movies. If I wanted to try out archery, I could. If I wanted to take a pottery class while sampling wine, I could. If I wanted to take a Jedi class and wave around a light saber, I could. If I wanted to take a hot air balloon ride over the city, I could. I think you get it. And it's amazing.

5. In a city of skyscrapers and traffic there's still lovely bits of nature: There may be more trees in CT but to find a substantial bit of nature to explore I generally would have to travel a few miles to a park. Here, there are great parks minutes away. There's a beautiful park near our apartment I could explore for hours, with a view of the river and plenty of grass, trails, and gardens. Beyond parks, many areas of the city have lovely little flowerbeds, gardens or trees. It's not nearly as "brick and concrete" as I expected it to be.

6. You can walk anywhere and everywhere: Walks that would have seemed daunting to me before hardly phase me now and I love that I automatically add in a little bit of walking exercise each day. I easily walk 2 miles everyday, just in my day-to-day activities. I remember a time my cousin suggested walking from Grand Central to the Met, swearing it wasn't that bad of a walk. 1 hour later I wanted to die. Now, I'm so used to walking that I'd happily walk from work on 18th st. up to the Met. by 82nd. It's nice to not have to drive or sit in traffic, and pretty cool that I could theoretically walk almost anywhere I want to go. Some weekend day with gorgeous weather I'm determined to walk the length of Manhattan, which shockingly should only take a few hours. 

Moving on....

Worst things about living in NYC

1. People who can't walk: By far, my biggest pet peeve in the city is people who walk 1 mph, stop in the middle of the sidewalk, or walk 3+ people across, making it impossible to pass by them. I hate sauntering. I don't understand sauntering. Just walk a normal speed. Or if you want to saunter, stay by the side of the sidewalk and let people pass by you. I understand why they say tourists flock to Times Square and New Yorkers avoid it. Crowds there are expected and unavoidable, but when I'm in the rest of the city I want to be able to move.

2. People know how to look good: Despite what I said before about the fact that I could wear whatever I wanted and not turn any heads, a lot of people are incredibly put together or at least very purposefully and artistically disheveled. In CT the most expensive store in most malls is like... Express. In New York many wouldn't deign to wear Express, never mind H&M. Especially by where I work on 5th avenue. Truthfully, in a lot of the city if you can afford to live there you can afford luxuries like designer clothes. I mean, it's no Paris, but while there's all sorts of individuality, there's an upper crust here that would make you uncomfortable to walk around in sweatpants with damp hair in their presence. It hasn't made me overly envious or at all embarrassed, but it's made me think more about what I wear everyday. Somedays I wish I could just throw on whatever, with no makeup and a messy ponytail and walk about happily but it's harder to do here than in CT.

3. Every so often there's a crazy: While I love the individuality of people here and how you never know what to expect, there is the fear that it's a city, and it's dangerous and someone could just go crazy on you. Actually, I've encountered far fewer scary moments than I thought I would before moving here. I've never once felt unsafe on the street or had some guy start making comments or following me. But every once in a while there's someone you'd rather avoid. Usually it's on the subway and someone freaks out at someone else for no apparent reason, which can be frightening when you're stuck in the car with nowhere to go until the next stop. Rarely happens, but scary when it does.

Really, that's about all that I don't like about the city. I expected to get sick of constant noise and people and buildings and a rushed feel, but where our apartment is it's quiet, uncrowded and calm. It's a nice haven in a mostly loud, fast paced city. And just like that, this blog is ending. Thanks for sticking it out to the end. If you did.