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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."

Best Play: Be assured that the chatter of four English

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.

Best Musical: Broadway gave the brush-off to French import

"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

life.

Best Musical Revival: "Gypsy," the "King Lear"

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

writer’s block.

Best Revival of a Play: The Roundabout Theater Company

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

Into Night."

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical: When

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.

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical: Harvey

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."

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play: Brian Bedford

("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.

Leading Actress in a Play: Jayne Atkinson is transformed

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."

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical: Michael

Cavanaugh ("Movin’ Out"); John Dossett ("Gypsy");

Corey Reynolds ("Hairspray"); Keith Roberts ("Movin’ Out");

Dick Latessa ("Hairspray").

Best Performance by Featured Actress in a Musical: Tammy

Blanchard ("Gypsy"), Mary Stuart Masterson ("Nine");

Chita Rivera ("Nine"), Ashley Tuttle ("Movin’ Out"),

Jane Krakowski ("Nine").

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play: Thomas

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").

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play: Christine

Ebersole ("Dinner at Eight"); Kathryn Meisle ("Tartuffe");

Michelle Hawk ("Hollywood Arms"); Marion Seldes ("Dinner

at Eight"); Linda Emond("Life (x) 3").

Best Direction of a Play: Laurence Boswell ("Joe Egg");

Joe Mantella ("Take Me Out"); Deborah Warner ("Medea");

Robert Falls ("Long Day’s Journey").

Best Direction of a Musical: David Leveaux ("Nine…");

Baz Luhrmann ("La Boheme"); Twyla Tharp ("Movin’ Out");

Jack O’Brien ("Hairspray").

Best Book of a Musical: "Amour"; "A Year with

Frog and Toad"; "Flower Drum Song"; "Hairspray."

Best Original Score: "A Year with Frog and Toad";

"Amour"; "Urban Cowboy The Musical"; "Hairspray."

Best Special Theatrical Event: "Bill Maher: Victory

Begins at Home"; "The Play What I Wrote"; "Prune Danish";

"Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam on Broadway."

Best Scenic Design: John Lee Beatty ("Dinner at Eight");

Santo Loquasto ("Long Day’s Journey"); David Rockwell ("Hairspray");

Catherine Martin ("La Boheme").

Best Costume Design: Gregg Barnes ("Flower Drum Song");

Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie ("La Boheme"); Catherine

Zuber ("Dinner at Eight"); William Ivey Long ("Hairspray").

Best Lighting Design: Donald Holder ("Movin’ Out");

Brian MacDevitt ("Nine The Musical"); Kenneth Posner ("Hairspray");

Nigel Levings ("La Boheme").

Best Choreography: Robert Longbottom ("Flower Drum

Song"); Jerry Mitchell ("Hairspray"); Melinda Roy ("Urban

Cowboy"); Twyla Tharp ("Movin’ Out").

Best Orchestrations: Billy Joel and Stuart Malina ("Movin’

Out"); Nicholas Kitsopoulos ("La Boheme"); Jonathan Tunick

("Nine"); Harold Wheeler ("Hairspray").

— Simon Saltzman


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