Saturday, June 19, 2010

Those "Hollywood" Types

We are a society that loves to label people, usually with a negative connotation. He’s a Liberal. She’s a Conservative. Feminist. Jock. Geek. Environmentalist. After this week’s televised Tony Award ceremony a new label is now circulating through cyberspace – Hollywood, as in “they’re from Hollywood.”

Anyone who viewed the Tonys knows there was a heavy presence of A-List Hollywood actors, both in the audience and in the winner’s circle. Carrying away the prized medallion were Denzel Washington (Best Actor in a Play for Fences), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Best Actress in a Musical for A Little Night Music) and Scarlett Johansson (Best Supporting Actress in a Play for A View From the Bridge). It’s no wonder that a backlash against “those people” has been building. Actor Hunter Foster has even started a Facebook group, Give the Tonys Back to Broadway!! Over 6,300 people have joined.

But has Hollywood really taken over Broadway? This past season there were many actors more associated with the film industry on stage then in year’s past. However, while movie stars sell a lot of tickets they don’t always receive the accolades and awards. Were either Hugh Jackman or Daniel ‘James Bond’ Craig nominated for their performances in A Steady Rain? Antonio Banderas, while nominated in 2003 for a Best Actor in a Musical Tony for his performance in the revival of Nine, lost out to a theater stalwart, Harvey Fierstein. The list can go on and on.

More importantly to the discussion--is the Hollywood label even accurate or fair? Let’s examine a couple of high profile examples. First, Angela Lansbury. Would anyone doubt Ms. Lansbury is anything but a person of the theater? She’s won five Tonys. However, she came to the world of musical theater when she was just about 40 years old, having first made a splash in such films as Gaslight, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Manchurian Candidate, among others. She was 41 when she starred in Mame. Were people hopping mad that this film star was taking away plum roles from theater veterans? Or should we label Ms. Lansbury a television personality? She did star in Murder, She Wrote for 12 years. The point is Angela Lansbury is an actress who easily moves between film roles, the stage and TV and, rightfully so, should not be pigeonholed into one specific category.

Next up—Hugh Jackman. We all know Jackman epitomizes movie stardom, with big budget action films and romantic period pieces. But Jackman began his career as a musical song and dance man in his native Australia, appearing in such shows as Beauty and the Beast and Sunset Boulevard. He hit the big time playing Curly in the acclaimed 1998 National Theatre’s production of Oklahoma in London. From there, the movie industry beckoned and two years later he was Wolverine in the blockbuster, X-Men. The rest, as they say, is history. So, when Jackman makes his occasional foray to Broadway is he seen as a Hollywood interloper, or a multi-talented actor looking to vary his career opportunities or go back to his roots? Remember, he did wow Broadway in his Tony award winning performance in 2004’s The Boy From Oz.

A more productive argument should be about the appropriateness of a role for an actor—remember Madonna in David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow--as opposed to silly arguments centered around classifying and labeling. All three “Hollywood” stars who won Tony Awards this year received rave reviews. They were well-suited for their roles. So, shouldn’t we be celebrating the opportunity to see them live instead of whining about “them” taking away plum roles from “theater people?”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

2010 Tony Award Musings

11:10 p.m.

Yes! I called it. The choice for Best Musical makes sense. MEMPHIS is the most straightforward of the four nominated shows and should tour well. MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET was never really in the discussion and while AMERICAN IDIOT and FELA! have substantial merits neither one of them garnered enough acclaim to merit snagging the big prize.

Final thoughts—

-Sean Hayes did better than I originally would have thought as host.

-The telecast finished on time. Not too shabby.

-The major presenters towards the end did have their speeches truncated. Why don’t they limit those winners at the beginning of the show?

-Big night for Hollywood stars. Good or bad?

-Overall grade: B-

10:55 p.m.

My ears are pounding all the way in Connecticut after the AMERICAN IDIOT number. I can’t wait to see the audience reaction when this show tours. You do have to admit it was a great song to promote the musical to the young masses.

So how does one get the stars of THE ADDAMS FAMILY—Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane--on stage? Get them to present the Tony for Best Actor/Actress awards. Whoa! Shocker. Catherine Zeta-Jones winning Best Actress. I had my money on Montego Glover for MEMPHIS. Well, at least Douglas Hodge puts normality back to the awards by winning Best Actor.

10:35 p.m. Posting--

Great number by Matt Morrison! Really injected some zip into the broadcast. Can you say 2011 Tony Award host? Was Lea Michele auditioning for lead in the projected revival of FUNNY GIRL? Put a windscreen on the microphone.

You have to say one thing for Sean Hayes, he does seem he is having a lot of fun out there.

Question--how many Broadway producers can you fit on the stage of Radio City Music Hall?
You can tell time is running short so keep those acceptance speeches short or experience the fate of the LA CAGE acceptors

10:15 p.m. Posting--

Was that Sahr Ngaujah wailing on the sax at the end of the spirited number from FELA!?

Bill T. Jones, a deserving winner for Best Choreography for FELA! COME FLY AWAY, while great dance routines, I prefer dance within the context of a book musical. I thought it was interesting that PROMISES, PROMISES was nominated in this category since one of my big complaints about the musical was its lack of choreography. Interesting about the number they showcased--it takes place during the show’s overture.

10:00 p.m. Posting--

The opening snippets of musicals was a bit bland. I love the musical GREEN DAY, but their mini-concert, while highly entertaining, was just a bit out of place. Good pyrotechnics, though!

First award—Best Featured Actress in a Play goes to Scarlett Johansson. Didn’t she say she couldn’t think of anything to say? So why was her thank you SO LONG?

I think the way the Best Play nominees were presented—short, staccato commentary by the two lead actors/actresses along with a computer generated set of the show--was very well done. The two guys from NEXT FALL were hysterical. Give them their own network television show.

Was it just me or were you also getting more and more uncomfortable as Terry Johnson went through his acceptance speech for the Best Director Tony for LA CAGE AUX FOLLES? Between not looking at the camera and manhandling the award I thought he was going to collapse.

Mark Sanchez, quarterback of the New York Jets did an admirable job introducing the MEMPHIS production number. By far the best of the night—energetic, tuneful song that enveloped the stage. Too bad the other excerpts weren’t as lively.

I love Kristen Chenoweth. Great bit with Sean Hayes introducing Best Featured Actor in a Musical.

Catherine Zeta-Jones is beautiful and delivered a haunting rendition of “Send in the Clowns.”

Best Revival of a Play introductions—ditto from the segments for Best Play.

Sean Hayes started off his hosting chores slightly off, but as the evening has gone on he’s had some great jokes and bits.