The Producers of Hair did what?

Back when I was in the middle of my ATPAM apprenticeship and studying for my NMAM exam (the test that gets you your company management stripes and a piece of the annuity fund), I learned that the #1 rule of managing a show was . . . never cancel a performance!

We were always pushed to come up with creative solutions to problems to prevent mass refunds due to canceling.

For example . . .

Q:  What do you do if your production of Oklahoma is performing outside at The Muny and the temperature has dropped below the approved AEA temp for performing?

A:  Turn up the lights to full to heat up the stage!  Or put space heaters next to the footlights!  Hold the curtain to see if things warm up (not a good idea if it’s at night)!

Q:  What do you do if your one truck of scenery on your bus and truck of Cats jackknifes in Toledo and you’re in Pittsburgh and 8 hours from curtain?

A:  Do a concert version!  Dress the stage with spare “junkyard”-type items!  Have any other theaters nearby done the show recently that you could ask for some spare set pieces?

There were no right or wrong answers (obviously).  It was all about training the mind to think outside the proscenium.  And it worked.

So here’s another one . . .

Q:  What do you do when one of your Tony nominated principal actors is an activist for the gay marriage movement and wants to take a show off and march on Washington?

A:  Well, you cancel the show, so the whole cast can go, of course.

(insert head shaking that make your lips go bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu here)

Yep, you read that right.  And that’s exactly what the Producers of Hair did.  They listened to the passion of their employees, realized that the show had already surpassed their wildest expectations in terms of financial success, and gave up about $50k worth of profit.  They have, of course, benefited from the press, which they will receive even more of on the day they walk down Constitution Avenue.

So I’m sending out my Kudos to the Producers, the Creative Team, the Cast and Mr. Creel himself.  Guys and Gals, if this were an ATPAM exam, you would have gotten this question wrong.  But sometimes, doing something wrong is the only way to ACE an even more important test.

Oh, and let this be a lesson to all of us (including me) that generalize.  Not all actors have egos.  Not all stagehands watch TV while they work.

And not all Producers are greedy.

My Top 5 Tony Moments from Last Night’s Telecast

In no particular order, here are my top 5 favorite nuggets from last night’s Tony Awards Ceremony:

1.  The “Is He Ok” Moment

Not sure what the cameras caught, but Bret Michaels of Poison took a little too much time on his exit after his rockin’ opening number . . . and caught an incoming drop in the head.  It knocked his cowboy hat right off his head, and the hat stayed on stage for several minutes as a reminder of the carnage we had all witnessed.

2.  The “Did You Forget Something” Moment

Did anyone else notice that Liza didn’t have an envelope when she went out to announce the winner of Best Musical?  Why do I get nervous every time I see her do anything?

3.  The “When Did They Write That” Moment

Kudos to the writers for drafting that clever closing number while the show was going on.  Ok, I’m sure they wrote some stuff in advance, but, nevertheless, it’s always great to go out with a few laughs.  And there were some doozies in there.

4.  The “You talk.  No, you talk.  No, you talk” Moment

Watching and waiting for one of the Billys to speak after they won their historic award was some of the finest silence on television.  Those kids are a living example of, “They don’t even have to do anything.  They just have to stand there.”

5.  The “I Made A Big Star Blush” Moment

Hugh Jackman made Sarah Jessica Parker blush years ago when he got her involved with a Boy From Oz number.  This year, it was Gavin Creel all up in Anne Hathaway’s bizness during the Hair number, and when he crawled off her, she buckled over with laughter and let out a big smile like she was a 12 year old girl at a combination Miley Cyrus/Justin Timberlake concert . . . with backstage passes.  And guess who showed up at the Hair party later on . . .

I had a lot of favorite moments from last night’s ceremony.  Overall, I thought it was a terrific show (although from what I “hear”, there were a ton of sound problems that we didn’t experience at the show itself).  How do I judge it?  Well, I think back to when I was a teenager and used to watch (and tape) the Tonys from my small hometown in Massachusetts, which seemed thousands of miles away from Broadway.  If I think “the kid inside” would have liked the show, then I give it a thumbs up.

And this year, the 16 year old had a blast and would have played it over and over again on his VCR.

I’ll have the results of the Tony pool soon. Stay tuned.

And tomorrow I’ll tell you how I did in my predictions, and where and why I went wrong.

What did you think of last night’s Tony Awards?  Comment below.

My Tony Award Predictions

Ok, here they are, as promised:  my predicts for what the 800 or so Tony Voters will select as the winners of this year’s Tony Awards.  To clarify, this is not what I think should win, nor is it what I necessarily voted for myself, but rather this is who I expect to be standing on that stage on Sunday night.

Drumroll, puhleeze.

BEST PLAY:  GOD OF CARNAGE

The French can be snooty and smelly, but neither of those adjectives apply to French writer Yasmine Reza or her work of “Art.”  Her star-studded, super-grossing ($900k for a play?), smart yet accessible comedy (complete with barf jokes) will win out over the primary competition, Labute’s reasons to be pretty.

BEST MUSICAL:  BILLY ELLIOT

The Best Musical landscape is similar to Best Play.  Another import, this one British, squares off against a smaller, perhaps more challenging, American musical, Next to Normal.  Unfortunately for all you patriots out there, the British and Billy will take the big prize of the evening.  And seeing the 147 kids in the show storm the stage at the end will be a sight to see, so stay up!

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:  TOM KITT & BRIAN YORKEY, NEXT TO NORMAL

The Americans strike back here, as N2N deservedly picks up the score trophy.  This award also comes with a note from many voters that reads, “Sorry we didn’t vote for you for Best Musical.  We loved your show, but . . .”

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL:  LEE HALL, BILLY ELLIOT

For awhile, I thought N2N would pull a Urinetown or Falsettos split (and take both score and book while giving up the big prize to a more commercial choice, Millie and Crazy for You, respectively), as the voters like to reward writers of challenging work.  The upset of the night would be if the voters tipped their hat to Hunter Bell and the TOS crew with an award.  But frankly, I just don’t think enough of them saw the show last fall to make that happen.

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY:  THE NORMAN CONQUESTS

Great revivals were like foreclosures this year . . . on every block!  (Too soon?)  This category would have been even tougher to pick, had the nominators not forgotten about some of the fall shows (specifically, The Seagull).  Norman gets the girl in this category, partly for its great production, and partly because of the degree of difficulty in staging three British comedies and running them in rep  (I’d also bet that a bunch of voters voted for Norman while only seeing one of the plays.)

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL:  HAIR

The Most Improved Show award goes to Hair this year.  Luckily, West Side doesn’t need it with its Wicked-like grosses (it’s a revival!).

BEST SPECIAL THEATRICAL EVENT:  LIZA’S AT THE PALACE

Obviously, I’m praying that I’m wrong with this one.  Will’s got a chance, thanks to the phenomenal success of the run and because it’s fresh in everyone’s memory.  But a Hollywood A-lister bringing down Broadway royalty seems like a long shot to me, so I’m putting my money on the safe bet. That’s ok.  I’m still happy having put my investors money on the other guy.  🙂

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN  A PLAY:  GEOFFREY RUSH, EXIT THE KING

This is the easiest to call, which is unfortunate for Raul Esparza, who deserves to have a couple of trophies on his mantle.  But God knows, he’ll have more chances to get up on that stage, as I don’t see him making an exit anytime soon.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN  A PLAY:  MARCIA GAY HARDEN, GOD OF CARNAGE

There is a 60 second section in God of Carnage where Marcia doesn’t utter a word.  But you can practically read her thoughts as if they were written in a bubble above her head.  She wins for that moment alone.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN  A MUSICAL: THE THREE BILLYS, BILLY ELLIOT

Tatum O’Neal, Daisy Eagan , Anna Paquin.  Voters love to give a kid a trophy.  And the only thing better than one kid nominee  . . . is three.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN  A MUSICAL:  ALICE RIPLEY, NEXT TO NORMAL

In an example of the Hollywood Rain Man syndrome (where playing a challenged individual of any type, physical or mental, gives you a boost at award time), Alice will win for her terrific portrayal of the challenged mom in N2N.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN  A PLAY:  JOHN GLOVER, WAITING FOR GODOT

This one could also be called the Best Spitter Award (previous winners would have included Jonathan Groff in Spring Awakening).  John wins for saying the most with the least to actually say.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN  A PLAY:  ANGELA LANSBURY, BLITHE SPIRIT

There is currently only one woman who has won five Tony Awards.  After Sunday, there will be two.  Watch for the standing ovation when Angela takes the stage.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN  A MUSICAL:  CHRISTOPHER SIEBER, SHREK

The guy is on his knees for the whole show for Shrek’s sake!

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN  A MUSICAL:  HAYDEN GWYNNE, BILLY ELLIOT

Hayden hits a trifecta here:  Outer Critics, Drama Desk, Tony.  That much momentum can’t be stopped.

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY:  MATTHEW WARCHUS, GOD OF CARNAGE

For awhile, I thought Matthew’s two noms would split his vote, but then I saw I took another look at God’s grosses ($900k for a play?), and realized that he would take the Tony on the back of the show’s success, and deservedly so.

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL:  STEPHEN DALDRY, BILLY ELLIOT

For awhile, I was calling a bit of an upset here, because without Diane, Hair would not be the hit it is.  But at the end of the day, I think the majority of voters will give it to Daldry for the sheer magnitude of the work he did in directing Billy.

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY:  PETER DARLING, BILLY ELLIOT

When dancing is a major part of your plot, you better win choreography!  Hands and toes down, Darling is the winner.

BEST ORCHESTRATIONS:  MARTIN KOCH, BILLY ELLIOT

Big show + big score = Tony.

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY:  DEREK MCCLANE, 33 VARIATIONS

The other nominees in this category are mostly stationery sets, so Derek’s “musical” set wins.

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL:  IAN MACNEIL BILLY ELLIOT

They had to drill a giant hole in the basement of the theater to allow for that house to come up through the ground, like a man from a mine, but it’ll earn this man a Tony.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY:  DALE FERGUSON, EXIT THE KING

Whenever Kings and Queens are in a play, the odds for winning a costume award jumps up tremendously.  Normally, I’d say give this one to Mary Stuart, but I’m going with Dale, for the absurdist suit of armor.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL:  TIM HATLEY, SHREK

Costume awards go to designs that stand out, and in a field of nominations that include one show about the 60s and two shows about the 80s, Shrek certainly stands out.

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY:  HUGH VANSTONE, MARY STUART

On Broadway, “rain” is an electrician and a lighting designer’s job. It rains in Mary Stuart. And that’s cool and memorable. So it’ll rain a Tony on Hugh.

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSCIAL:  RICK FISHER, BILLY ELLIOT

With the design awards, sometimes bigger is better.  The bigger the show, the bigger the budget, and the more toys the designers have to play with.  In this case, bigger is Billy.

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY:  RUSSELL GOLDSMITH, EXIT THE KING

This is a tough one.  Your guess is as good as mine.  I went with the sounds of a dying king.  Creepy.

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL:  PAUL ARDITTI, BILLY ELLIOT

Paul will win for excellent work, yes, but also for a syndrome I call, “Tony By Association.”

So that’s it!  Make sure you tune in on Sunday to see how I do!  And don’t forget to make your picks on my Tony pool!  There is only 2 days left to play and win $500!  Click here.

If you’re not following me on Twitter, click here. Just like last year, I’ll be tweeting from my $900 seat (yep, that’s how it costs – crazy, huh?) and I’ll fill you in on everything that’s going on from inside Radio City, including the not-suitable for airing, in between commercial breaks stuff.

If you don’t yet have a place to watch – try Times Square!  The Tonys will be on the Big Screen!  With the new blocked off streets, it should be fun.  Tweet me from there if you go. I’d love to hear what the party is like.

Oh, one more prediction before I sign off:  during the telecast, I predict there will be two Jeremy Piven jokes.  🙂

What’s the difference between Best Musical and Best Revival of a Musical?

This question came in over the weekend, after a reader noticed my tweet about going to see the new Broadway revival of West Side Story.

Obviously, the person who asked knew the basic difference between the two awards categories, but she was more interested in how revivals were judged.

It’s a great question – considering that shows like West Side or Hair or Guys and Dolls may have been seen countless times by the voters of The Tonys, Drama Desks, Outer Critics, etc.  These shows have been on Broadway, on tour, in dinner theaters, in high schools, on cruise ships, etc.  Many of the voters have probably performed in these shows at one point in their life!  (When I was working on the Rosie O’Donnell revival of Grease, I mentioned to Author and Greased-Lightning Zillionaire Jim Jacobs, that I once played Kenickie in summer stock. His response?  “Ken, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t done Grease.”)

With such familiarity and such an emotional (or lack thereof) connection, how do voters (and reviewers, for that matter) distinguish one revival from another?

This question reminded me of the end of the season awards banquets my high school baseball team used to have.  Every year when the season was through, we got together in the high school cafeteria. After some bad pasta and some bad speeches, the coaches gave away two awards:

Most Valuable Player . . . And Most Improved Player.

And that’s what a great revival is to me; the most improved.  It’s a take on the material that makes it seem even better or more relevant now than it ever was.

The trouble is that it takes a lot of sweat to be an MIP, in baseball and on Broadway.

And if you’re not ready to go “sweatin’ with the oldies,”well, then stay away from producing revivals.

Because, without an MIP mentality, you’ll just end up being another one of the millions of Kenickies out there.

 

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