Friday, May 29, 2020

2020 Drama Desk Award Predictions

Normally at this time of year, I would be making Tony and Drama Desk Award predictions. But the Tonys have been indefinitely postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent shuttering of all 41 Broadway theaters. In all likelihood, Broadway's top honor will not return until 2021 since the Main Stem will probably not be open again until next year at the earliest. If so, they might expand the eligibility window to combine the truncated 2019-20 season with whatever opens next spring. Voters will no doubt be invited back to returning shows such as West Side Story, Girl from the North Country, Moulin Rouge and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical. Shows that have closed such as The Inheritance and Grand Horizons will be out of luck, because they will have to rely on the memories of the voters who saw them. Closed productions are usually shut out of the Tonys even in "normal" times.

But the Drama Desk is still going ahead with their award presentation on NY-1's On Stage show on Sun. May 31 with Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), James Corden, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Beanie Feldstein (Hello, Dolly!), Santino Fontana, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jane Krakowski, Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, Cynthia Nixon, Ashley Park, Andrew Rannells, Ali Stroker (Oklahoma!), and Susan Stroman. Broadway and Off-Broadway are considered for all categories. Here are my predictions in the major slots along with my preferences (Disclosure: I am a Drama Desk voting member and have already cast my ballot)

Prediction: The Inheritance
Preference: Heroes of the Fourth Turning
Kyle Soller, Paul Hilton, and John Benjamin Hickey
in The Inheritance
Credit: Marc Brenner
The DD includes both Broadway and Off-Broadway in all of its multiple categories, but they usually go for the Broadway choice. With the shortened season, four of the five nominees in this category are Off-Broadway, but the voters will probably go for the only Broadway entry, The Inheritance, Matthew Lopez's two-part saga of the post-AIDS gay community loosely based on E.M. Forster's classic novel Howard's End. I voted for Heroes of the Fourth Turning, Will Arbery's drama of a reunion of graduates from a conservative Christian university in Wyoming, which had a short run at Playwrights Horizons and won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play.

Monday, May 18, 2020

The 2020 Tony Awards Fantasy Clip Show

The 2019 Tony Awards
CBS is breaking my heart as we enter the ninth week of lockdown (NYC is still in quarantine while the rest of the country rushes back to the beaches, malls and nail salons.) The Eye network had announced the 32nd season of The Amazing Race--my favorite TV show as you can tell from past recap-blogs--would premiere on this Wed. May 20. When I tried to DVR it, the listing was absent. It turns out they are pushing back the whole series until sometime later in the year because the network is saving a strong ratings performer like TAR for the fall or winter just in case there are no new shows in production because of the coronavirus.

CBS is also not running the Tony Awards. That's not their fault. The Broadway League and the
Joel Grey in Cabaret
American Theater Wing have opted not to present the awards at all because of the pandemic, unlike the Drama Desks, Outer Critics, Obies, Lortels, New York Drama Critics Circle, and Drama League which are going forward to honor the truncated 2019-20 season on various virtual and TV platforms. So I don't blame CBS, but they could have come up with a better substitute than a sing-along broadcast of the movie version of Grease. Why not a clip show of highlights from previous Tonycasts? I suggested the idea on Twitter and Facebook and the response was a resounding yes. Here are my suggestions and those of some Twitter and FB friends on what we would have included for ALL the previous nationally televised Tony shows. OK, the show would probably run for five hours if everything here were shown, but this is just a fantasy. Note: I tried not to go for the obvious every year and didn't always pick whatever show won Best Musical. Some years, they didn't even include numbers from the nominated shows.

1967--Wilkommen from Cabaret--Joel Grey

1968--Before the Parade Passes By from Hello, Dolly--Pearl Bailey

Jack Crowder, Sherri Peaches Brewer,
Pearl Bailey, and Winston DeWitt Hemsley in Hello, Dolly!
1969--Turkey Lurkey Time from Promises, Promises--Donna McKechnie, Baayork Lee, Margo Sappington

1970--Always Mademoiselle from Coco--Katharine Hepburn, George Rose

1971---(25 years of Tony-winning musicals) Shall We Dance? from The King and I--Yul Brynner, Patricia Morrison; Before the Parade Passes By from Hello, Dolly--Carol Channing; If I Were a Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof--Zero Mostel

1972--You Can Dance With Any Girl At All from No, No, Nanette--Helen Gallagher, Bobby Van

1973--Magic to Do from Pippin--Ben Vereen

1974--Upper Berth sketch from Phoenix 55--Nancy Walker, Harvey Lembeck, JJ Barry, Charles Nelson Reilly

1975--The Story of Lucy and Jessie from Follies--Alexis Smith; Everything's Coming Up Roses from Gypsy--Angela Lansbury

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show: Part Eleven: Salute to Character Actors

More news on the Carol Burnett Show front as we enter week 8 of lockdown. For my birthday, my
husband Jerry got me the 50th Anniversary Best of DVD collection which includes several episodes not on the Lost Episodes collection he got me for Christmas. The 50th Anniversary set was released in 2017, a half-century after Carol's debut in 1967 and includes segments from the entire series. So there are several from seasons 6-11 which have been in syndication for years as well as earlier ones not seen in their entirety since the original broadcast. In addition, the Shout! Factory website has announced they will be making available the entire 11-year run, launching with a marathon run of episodes on May 30-31. The press release states several of the episodes have not been available for decades and that Carol went over all the masters of the shows with Shout! Factory which would indicate that they would be showing complete episodes, not the hacked-up, edited half-hours MeTV and Amazon had been offering. One of the major issues seems to be the copyrighted musical material and that it has always been too expensive to include all the musical numbers. (Even some of the segments in the DVD collections are not the whole shows because some musical stuff is missing.) We'll find out in June if it will be possible to FINALLY watch the entire, unedited series. Here is a rundown of segments offered on my newly-acquired DVD collection and those on Amazon and MeTV. This blog salutes various character actors and performers such as Pat Carroll, Jane Connell, Alice Ghostley, Ronnie Schell, and Rich Little who were staples of TV during the 60s, 70s and into the 80s and 90s.

Season Two
Sept. 23, 1968: Jim Nabors, Alice Ghostley
Jim Nabors returns for the first episode of the second season. In the butchered MeTV/Amazon
Alice Ghostley (r.) with Elizabeth Montgomery on Bewitched
version, Jim and Carol are near-sighted strangers who refuse to wear their glasses on an almost-literal blind date. Good physical comedy with the two crashing into walls and missing each other as they attempt to snuggle. Alice Ghostley who is best remembered as Esmeralda, the clumsy magical nursemaid on Bewitched and the senile Bernice on Designing Women, appears as Roger's disapproving sister Mimi in the Carol and Sis sketch. Mimi would later be played by Kay Medford and Pat Carroll in similar bits. Those are the only two sketches we see. Isabel Sanford shows up in a maid's uniform during the goodbyes.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Theater Awards and Streaming in the Age of COVID

Theater and the arts continue despite the coronavirus pandemic. Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday was
Performers in Take Me to the World:
A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration
commemorated with Take Me to the World, a spectacular web-based quilt of performances presented by on April 26 and now available on YouTube. Though live performances on or Off-Broadway may not return for months, the annual award-dispensing free-for-all goes on, in different forms. The only prize-giving entity not heard from as of yet is the biggest of them all, the Tony Awards. This shows the fundamental difference between the Tonys and all other awards. While the Drama Desks, Outer Critics, Obies and Lortels are voted on by relatively small groups of Gotham-based critics and some industry insiders who will have seen all the eligible shows, a significant portion of the Tony electorate is made up of out-of-town road producers who come into New York at the end of the season to view as many candidates as possible. With no shows on, these people can't vote for anything. (The rest of the Tony voters are NYC producers, the board members of the various theatrical unions and about 20 members of the New York Drama Critics Circle.) In addition, the Tonys are not only a ceremony to honor artistic excellence, they are also a commercial TV venture to push Broadway's product. Again if there are no shows to push, CBS and the producers have no reason to put on a show, even a digital one with presenters and winners Zooming in.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Quarantine Diary 1: Incident at DD and RNC Call

As we end the fifth week of the COVID-19 quarantine, a dull lethargy has set in. The New York Times recently ran an article stating some Gothamites have given in to despair and just given up. I don't quite feel that way. I don't believe this state of affairs will continue forever. Sooner or later a vaccine
Judy Woodruff's bookcase
or treatment will be developed and people will feel safe enough to venture into movie and Broadway theaters. It's not going to happen by Memorial Day as Vice-President Mike Pence--or as we like to call him Race Bannon--cheerily predicted to Geraldo Rivera on Fixed Noise. (Where does he get this sunny optimism from? It's not based on data or statistics.) A return to "normalcy" may take a few years. There will be many deaths and economic hardships, and but eventually, gradually people will probably be packing into subways like sardines without a thought in their heads about climate change or pandemics. But citizens are getting a bit antsy. Two recent incidents are examples of the threads beginning to fray.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

B'way May Not Reopen Till Sept. or 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and its effect on the theater world will be felt for months and possibly years. Though parts of the country have begun making moves to "reopen" their economies and ease restrictions, large public gatherings such as concerts, sporting events, and live
When will the Broadway lights shine again?
theater, will likely be the last elements to return to normal. All Broadway theaters are closed until at least June 7. But in a recent interview with Deadline, Broadway League president Charlotte St. Martin averred that the date was never a definite marker for reopening. "We just said we were exchanging and refunding tickets up to June 7," she clarified. There is no certain date for reopening Broadway and St. Martin went on to say that September or later was a more realistic goal. First, it would be necessary to get permission from Governor Andrew Cuomo, then at least additional six weeks would be needed to prepare. Meanwhile, the mayor of Los Angeles and the governor of Ohio have stated there will probably not be live entertainment in their respective jurisdictions until at least 2021. The renewal of Broadway and other performing venues depends on testing and vaccines. Without preventive treatment for the highly contagious coronavirus, public events with more than 10 people would be dangerous. Even as the number of infections and hospital admissions decreases, there is still a risk there could be a resurgence of cases and deaths.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

NYDCC Vote 'Heroes' and 'Loop' Top Shows

Heroes of the Fourth Turning and A Strange Loop, two Off-Broadway productions presented by Playwrights Horizons, were voted Best Play and Best Musical respectively by the New York Drama Critic Circle. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the organization of New York-based theater critics met for the first time on the Zoom platform on April 15 and considered productions which opened before
This year's NYDCC Meeting on Zoom.
I'm on the extreme left, second row
Credit: Zach Stewart
March 12, when all Broadway theaters were closed. (Off-Broadway soon followed.) Both Broadway and Off-Broadway shows were considered. Sixteen voting members were present with four absent. The awards will be presented in a virtual ceremony on April 28. Special citations were voted to David Byrne and the Broadway production of American Utopia; Deirdre O’Connell for career excellence including her performance in Dana H.; and the New York theater community for perseverance in the face of loss during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heroes of the Fourth Turning, written by Will Arbery and directed by Danya Taymor, had its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons on Oct. 7, 2019 and closed on Nov. 17, 2019. The play focuses on a reunion of graduates from a conservative Christian university in Wyoming

A Strange Loop, book, music and lyrics by Michael R. Jackson, directed by Stephen Brackett, had its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons on June 17, 2019 and closed on July 28, 2019. The musical follows a young African-American gay man as he explores his past while working at his day job as an usher at The Lion King and writing an autobiographical musical.