Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Eleventh Annual David Desk Awards, plus Thoughts on B'way Reopening

Today normally would have been one of the best days of the year, Tony Award Day! But because of
the COVID-19 pandemic, Broadway theaters have been shut down since March 12 and are not likely to
reopen until January 2021 at the earliest. In a May 25 interview with Tim Teeman of the Daily Beast, Broadway League president Charlotte St. Martin was cautiously optimistic about the Main Stem lights being relit. But she stressed social distancing and playing to half-empty housing would not fit with the Broadway economic model which requires packing in as many bodies as possible for maximum profit. A few shows such as Plaza Suite, MJ: The Michael Jackson Musical and 1776 have announced opening dates for the spring of 2021, but those may be aspirational like Trump saying he wanted packed churches on Easter.

Without a vaccine or even treatment for the coronavirus, theatergoers will probably be reluctant to return. What would Broadway look like without a vaccine? It might mean closing the entire Times Square area off from cars so that the side streets from 42nd to 50th could be used for long lines of patrons to get their temperatures checked and handed face masks as well having their bags searched. (The latter practice started just a few years ago in the wake of various terrorist threats.) Getting into the theater could become just as time-consuming as going to the airport with patrons making sure to show up two-to-three hours before curtain time.

There's also the threat to performers. Will actors have to wear face masks and maintain a separation of six feet? The British play Lungs will have the only cast members Matt Smith and Claire Foy keeping apart. Audiences will be watching (and paying) on line. But that's a two-character play. How will huge cast musicals function? Singing at full volume causes potentially virus-laden droplets to be propelled to cast mates. A church choir practice was one of the super-spreader events in the early stages of the American outbreak. The choreographer of Mrs. Doubtful recently posted she was restaging all of that show's dances with social distancing. But will that be enough?

In addition to no Tonys today, the digital versions of the Drama Desk and Obie Awards, as well as several digital Tony tribute substitute programs and theater benefits, have been postponed for an undetermined period because of the nationwide protests against racial injustice and the murder of an unarmed African-American man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer. The DDs were going to be handed out on NY-1 last Sunday May 31, but the local all-news channel opted (correctly) to run ongoing coverage of the demonstrations.  Drama Desk co-presidents Charles Wright and David Barbour issued a statement in support of the protests and Black Lives Matter. The Obies were to be presented online on June 4 and their presenters came to a similar decision. It's not clear when these awards will be shown as the protests and the conditions that sparked them continue to enfold.

So with no Tonys, Drama Desks or Obies, here are my personal choices for the best of the truncated on and Off-Broadway season.

72 Miles to Go.. (Hillary Bettis)
Eureka Day (Jonathan Spector)
Michele Pawk, John Zdrojeski, and Zoe Winters
 in Heroes of the Fourth Turning
Credit: Joan Marcus
Heroes of the Fourth Turning (Will Arbery)
The Inheritance (Matthew Lopez)
Linda Vista (Tracey Letts)

Jagged Little Pill
Soft Power
A Strange Loop

Musical Revival
West Side Story

Actor (Play)
Ian Barford, Linda Vista
Frances Jue, Cambodian Rock Band
Kyle Soller, The Inheritance

Actress (Play)
Jane Alexander, Grand Horizons
James Cromwell and Jane Alexander in
Grand Horizons
Credit: Joan Marcus
Liza Colon-Zayas, Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven
Judith Ivey, Greater Clements

Actor (Musical)
Joshua Henry, The Wrong Man
Larry Owens, A Strange Loop
Isaac Powell, West Side Story
Conrad Ricamora, Soft Power

Actress (Musical)
Alyse Alan Louis, Soft Power
Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
Karen Olivo, Moulin Rouge
Shereen Pimentel, West Side Story
Elizabeth Stanley, Jagged Little Pill
Adrienne Warren, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
Adrienne Warren in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
Credit: Manuel Harlan

Featured Actor (Play)
Edmund Donovan, Greater Clements
Paul Hilton, The Inheritance
Samuel H. Levine, The Inheritance

Featured Actress (Play)
Julia McDermott, Heroes of the Fourth Turning
Lois Smith, The Inheritance
Jennifer Van Dyck, The Confession of Lily Dare
Zoe Winters, Heroes of the Fourth Turning

Featured Actor (Musical)
Jay Armstrong Johnson in Scotland, PA
Credit: Nina Goodheart
Jay Armstrong Johnson, Scotland, PA
Christian Borle, Little Shop of Horrors
Danny Burstein, Moulin Rouge

Featured Actress (Musical)
Yesenia Ayala, West Side Story
Kathryn Gallagher, Jagged Little Pill
Lauren Patten, Jagged Little Pill

Director (Play)
Stephen Daldry, The Inheritance
John Ortiz, Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven

Director (Musical)
Stephen Brackett, A Strange Loop
Phyllida Lloyd, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
Diane Paulus, Jagged Little Pill
Leigh Silverman, Soft Power
Ivo van Hove, West Side Story

Set Design
Derek McLane, Moulin Rouge
Clint Ramos, Soft Power
Narelle Sissons, Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven

Costume Design
Anita Yavich, Soft Power
Catherine Zuber, Moulin Rouge

Lighting Design
Justin Townsend, Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge
Hugh Vanstone, The Height of the Storm

Video/Projection Design
Luke Halls, West Side Story

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Jagged Little Pill
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, West Side Story
Travis Walls, The Wrong Man

No comments:

Post a Comment