Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tony follow-up thoughts

So, obviously, In the Heights won big on Sunday night. But even if it hadn't taken home the top prize, I suspect it would have seen a major box-office bump after the telecast, thanks to Miranda's endearing and attention-getting acceptance speech and their terrific musical number. I rewatched it last night, and the camerawork drove me crazy (as it usually does) -- Andy Blankenbuehler deserved that Best Choreography Tony, but you couldn't tell from all the random close-ups and cuts on TV. When multiple people were singing, the cameras didn't know what to do. I think that's a good time to show the whole stage, but what do I know. Still, in spite of how badly it was shot, the number came across really well: it featured most of the cast, and it gave new audiences a solid picture of what the show is about, what it looks like and how it sounds. And it was exciting.

By that same token, Passing Strange missed out in a big way on Sunday, and not just because its only win (for Best Book of a Musical) wasn't shown live. I've been turned off all along by the attitude I've heard from Stew and his fellow creators in interviews -- a lot of "we don't really belong on Broadway" and "we're not really doing a Broadway musical" stuff, which comes off, to me at least, as not terribly grateful, and also ignorant of what "Broadway musical" really means (as opposed to what people not actually involved in the world of Broadway musicals sometimes assume it means). A lot of people, at TWoP and elsewhere, have been hearing it the same way, and what we saw (or didn't see) on the Tonys didn't help: Stew being unprepared to give a speech when he won his award; Stew wearing goofy glasses when his Leading Actor in a Musical nomination was announced. But the musical number was where Passing Strange really failed, I think. Yesterday, commenter Mariusky said, "I totally do not get Passing Strange." I felt the same way, honestly, right up until I actually saw it (I promise you'll hear about that soon!). I'd heard good things, but I couldn't get any idea of what was so special about it from what I'd read or seen. And if I hadn't seen it before the Tonys, I wouldn't be in any more of a hurry now, after seeing that number. (I was similarly underwhelmed by "Mom Song" when I saw it on the "Tonys Preview Concert" last week -- but then, that whole thing was underwhelming at best.) They did a cutting of "Amsterdam" -- I think? -- that didn't tell much of the story, and made the music seem repetitive and the staging haphazard. It was high-energy, but it didn't seem polished, and it didn't really show off any of the performers as well as it might have. I don't know what I would have done if I had to produce Passing Strange's Tony performance, but it wouldn't have been that.

The evening's other big loser, despite a few major wins, might have been Boeing-Boeing -- its Best Revival of a Play Tony wasn't even broadcast, and nothing during the show, including Mark Rylance's baffling "speech," gave TV audiences any clue what the show is about or why they should want to see it. Meanwhile, Xanadu won nothing, but made the most of the opportunity. Their number represented the show perfectly, and Cheyenne Jackson's powerhouse performance has so many people chattering about him, his ears will be ringing for days. Way to work the system, Xanadu.

4 comments:

Mollie said...

Dear Mollie,

I'm just wondering if you are, in fact, me. There are not a lot of people named Mollie, and to find another one in New York writing about theater is a little disconcerting (unless you're one of the only two other Mollies I've ever met--I've ruled out the first, since I think I would have picked it up from the Tony coverage if you'd gone to high school with me, since I went to high school with Lin-M M, but you could be the other one, maybe--ever spent any time in Germany?). I am hoping this is not some sort of multiple-personality issue, especially since much as I have lots of affection for Lin, I also found his Score acceptance "freestyle" rehearsed-sounding despite enjoying the Sondheim reference (and the shout-out to Dr. Herbert, an English teacher at our high school). So, this Mollie thing: funny coincidence or high-concept movie fodder?

Best wishes,
Mollie

Mollie said...

Dear Mollie: This is intriguing! I definitely did not go to high school with LMM (and if I had I would be bragging about it all over the place right now), and I have never been to Germany. But still, I may need convincing that I'm not just talking to myself. Tell me: do you see Martha Plimpton on the street with surprising frequency? Do you ever shop at Esprit, and if so, how do they spell your name on the dressing-room door?

John Malkovich said...

Malkovich? Malkovich!

Mollie said...

Dear Mollie,

I have to say, my (our) name has never been misspelled that badly. I mostly just do a lot of "No, with an I-E." I see little of Martha Plimpton whilst out and about, though I see a fair amount of Nathan Lane in the neighborhood where I grew up (Chelsea). So maybe we are two separate people after all. (Maybe.)

Anyway, congratulations on a great blog! I'm going to put you on my blogroll--one of my frustrations as a very new culture-and-criticism blogger is the lack of an ongoing discussion, an interplay, and you seem to have really built one here. I'll be reading from now on! And as to the Passing Strange Tony performance, I think they were told that they couldn't do "We Just Had Sex," their original pick.

Mollie