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This article by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the June 4, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
On Broadway: It’s Tony Time
For a short period of time you might consider taking
a break from fuming about conflict in the Middle East and about the
troubling political and social issues here at home. One remedy is
to give your attention to the tension surrounding the Middle West
Side of Manhattan, as the nominees in each of the 22 competitive categories
compete for the American Theatre Wing’s 57th Annual Antoinette Perry
"Tony" Awards. The ceremony, which will be broadcast live
from Radio City Music Hall on CBS Television, Sunday June 8, from
8 to 11 p.m., may once again affirm that the writers, artists, craftsmen,
and artisans who provide what we know as Broadway entertainment, are
in a world of their own.
Although there is admittedly some fluff for diversion, the BEST, which
this event is celebrating, also speaks to the heart and soul of humanity.
From the sports world ("Take Me Out"), dysfunctional family
turbulence ("Long Day’s Journey Into Night"), the ravages
of war ("Movin’ Out"), and communities that build bridges
between cultural and racial differences ("Hairspray"), Broadway
illuminates the diversity in our world, our common concerns, and search
for connections and peace. My biggest regret is the lack of Tony recognition
given to Broadway’s first and sensational "slam," which addressed
all these issues, "Russell Simmon’s Def Poetry Jam."
women from various social classes, who sojourn for a month of respite
and renewal at an Italian villa in 1920 in "Enchanted April,"
won’t include any discussion on why monotheistic religions and societies
have little use for cultural diversity. In the one-man play "Say
Goodnight Gracie," Frank Gorshin, as comedian/monologist George
Burns, will certainly get you to stop worrying about whether the Kurds,
Sunni, and Shia Muslims, who have mostly been assaulting each other
for the past 1,200 years, are now likely to band together in solidarity.
In "Vincent in Brixton," the young Vincent Van Gogh in 1873
is far more obsessed with his sexual dalliance with his much older
landlady than he is with art. And this leads us to think about our
government’s unconscionable lack of protection for the art and artifacts
of Iraq, home to a brilliant culture that goes back 5,000 years. "Take
Me Out," a terrific play about bigotry and the glimmer of hope
for cultural tolerance through a love of baseball, wins my choice
for Best Play.
"Amour," to which France then retaliated by brushing off the
US at the UN. "A Year with Frog and Toad," is a gentle musical
(based on the child-friendly books) that is pleasing precocious pre-schoolers
and their guardians with disposable income. Set to the pop tunes of
Billy Joel, "Movin’ Out," is a gritty all-danced drama about
Vietnam vets readjusting to society that, back in those days, did
not yet have to worry about laws legalizing the carrying of concealed
handguns. My vote goes to "Hairspray," an amusing musical
valentine to the 1960s: a time that not only gave birth to rock and
roll but also (let’s not forget) saw the creation of the National
Endowment for the Arts, dedicated to investing in the nation’s cultural
of musicals, has its share of bumps and grinds; "Man of La Mancha,"
once again finds Cervantes’ Don Quixote in the dungeon and his Dulcinea
in the dung heap; "La Boheme," is technically not a revival
since it has never before had a Broadway run. "Nine, The Musical,"
gets my nod by answering the question whether a spa filled with beautiful
seductive women can help cure an Italian film director suffering from
takes credit for producing a worthwhile revival of Peter Nichol’s
"A Day in the Death of Joe Egg," as does Lincoln Center Theater
for the care its lavished upon the antique "Dinner at Eight."
Who could not love the hot-off-the-skillet romance between a short-order
cook and a waitress in "Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune"?
But nothing can stand in the way of the dramatic thunderbolt that
is the not-to-be-missed Eugene O’Neill’s "Long Day’s Journey
Bernadette Peters ("Gypsy") is on, everything comes up roses,
but when she’s off (more times than you care to know), there’s the
understudy; Melissa Errico ("Amour") delighted us with her
beauty and her lovely voice; Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio ("Man
of La Mancha") proved she could sing the unsingable songs; Elizabeth
Parkinson ("Movin’ Out") demonstrated how dance can speak
louder than words. My choice is the rock and roly-poly Marissa
Jaret Winokur ("Hairspray"), proof that you don’t have
to be slim to be sensational.
Fierstein in dowdy drag in "Hairspray"; Malcolm Gets "Amour";
Brian Stokes Mitchell has an impossible dream in "Man of La Mancha";
John Selya’s moves like a dynamo in "Movin’ Out"; but Antonio
Banderas scores with a perfect ten in "Nine."
("Tartuffe"), can do Moliere in his sleep; Paul Newman ("Our
Town") showed us around Grover’s Corners. Stanley Tucci ("Frankie
and Johnny in the Clair de Lune"), had a great partner in "The
Sopranos’" Edie Falco. Eddie Izzard ("A Day in the Death of
Joe Egg") was impressive in his Broadway debut. Brian Dennehy
("Long Day’s Journey into Night") given a Tony towering performance
in the Eugene O’Neill classic.
in "Enchanted April"; Victoria Hamilton nurtures "Joe
Egg"; Claire Higgins inspires "Vincent in Brixton"; Fiona
Shaw sees red in "Medea". But Vanessa Redgrave rules
as the disintegrating matriarch in "Long Day’s Journey."
Cavanaugh ("Movin’ Out"); John Dossett ("Gypsy");
Corey Reynolds ("Hairspray"); Keith Roberts ("Movin’ Out");
Dick Latessa ("Hairspray").
Blanchard ("Gypsy"), Mary Stuart Masterson ("Nine");
Chita Rivera ("Nine"), Ashley Tuttle ("Movin’ Out"),
Jane Krakowski ("Nine").
Jefferson Byrd ("Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom"); Philip Seymour
Hoffman ("Long Day’s Journey"); Robert Sean Leonard ("Long
Day’s Journey"); Daniel Sunjata ("Take Me Out"), Denis
O’Hare ("Take Me Out").
Ebersole ("Dinner at Eight"); Kathryn Meisle ("Tartuffe");
Michelle Hawk ("Hollywood Arms"); Marion Seldes ("Dinner
at Eight"); Linda Emond("Life (x) 3").
Joe Mantella ("Take Me Out"); Deborah Warner ("Medea");
Robert Falls ("Long Day’s Journey").
Baz Luhrmann ("La Boheme"); Twyla Tharp ("Movin’ Out");
Jack O’Brien ("Hairspray").
Frog and Toad"; "Flower Drum Song"; "Hairspray."
"Amour"; "Urban Cowboy The Musical"; "Hairspray."
Begins at Home"; "The Play What I Wrote"; "Prune Danish";
"Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam on Broadway."
Santo Loquasto ("Long Day’s Journey"); David Rockwell ("Hairspray");
Catherine Martin ("La Boheme").
Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie ("La Boheme"); Catherine
Zuber ("Dinner at Eight"); William Ivey Long ("Hairspray").
Brian MacDevitt ("Nine The Musical"); Kenneth Posner ("Hairspray");
Nigel Levings ("La Boheme").
Song"); Jerry Mitchell ("Hairspray"); Melinda Roy ("Urban
Cowboy"); Twyla Tharp ("Movin’ Out").
Out"); Nicholas Kitsopoulos ("La Boheme"); Jonathan Tunick
("Nine"); Harold Wheeler ("Hairspray").
— Simon Saltzman
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