Friday, February 12, 2010

More Tony politicking

Tonight I thought I'd continue my series on how I arrived at my picks for the upcoming Tony nominations.  Tonight's topic ... Best Musical.

This year, picking the nominees in this category is significantly easier than it has been in the past.  First of all, with only seven new musicals scheduled to open this season (and only two of them having done so at the time of this writing), picking the best four of them to nominate is not all that difficult.  Based on the almost unanimously outstanding notices that "Fela!" received on its opening night, it is a clear cinch for a nomination, and may even be the frontrunner in the category.  The other new musical this year that seems pretty clearly destined for a nomination this year is "Memphis".  Even though it received mixed reviews for its writing (and its score was pretty well panned), it and "Fela!" are the only two entirely original new musicals opening this season.  All the other new musicals scheduled to open are adaptations of music or characters taken from other places.

That being said, "The Addams Family," based on the cartoons by Charles Addams and the movie adaptations from about 15 years back, is looking to take the third nomination slot in the Best Musical category based on its grand scale and star performances ... something that I think "Young Frankenstein" tried to do a few seasons back, when that show was a weak contender facing much stronger competition for a slot than "The Addams Family" seems to have this year.

The fourth slot is a toss-up this year.  I've ruled out "Sondheim on Sondheim" because, though it will star many well respected theater veterans (including the legendary Barbara Cook) and will feature the songs of one of the musical theater's greatest composers, reviews of this sort almost never get even the honor of a nomination.  The celebration of all the talent involved is the award here.  I have also ruled out "American Idiot" because it's the latest in a string of jukebox musicals that have declined in quality and popularity over the years and, from what I understand of it so far, is going to be more like a rock concert than a musical anyhow.

That being said, however, whether the fourth Best Musical nomination will go to "Million Dollar Quartet" or "Come Fly Away" is up for grabs.  Twyla Tharp had great success with "Movin' Out" a few years back, in which she applied her unique story-through-dance concept to the songbook of Billy Joel.  Now applying that to the songs and recordings of Frank Sinatra, in my mind a much bigger star and a MUCH more popular performer than Billy Joel, she may have even greater success.  However, if this show turns out to be anything like Tharp's previous Broadway outing, "The Times They Are a Changin'", this show may be out of luck come nomination time.  The other show that has a good shot at a Best Musical nomination this year is "Million Dollar Quartet".  This is the kind of show that, like "Come Fly Away", has the opportunity to be either wonderful or awful.  It's got a great concept -- the story of what really happened during the recording of a jam session of the combined talents of Johnnie Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis -- and some great music.  The success of the show, however, will rely on how seriously the show takes its subject matter.  In other words, all the difference will lie in whether or not this show makes cartoons of the singers and people involved.  I have gone with "Come Fly Away" for the moment only because of Twyla Tharp's previous success on Broadway with "Movin' Out", but I will definitely be  updating my predictions because once the shows officially open and the reviews are out, because it will be easier to determine who will get the nomination at that point.

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