The 2019 Tony Nominations… And My Thoughts Are….

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year….. for Theater Fans!  That’s right folks, Tony Award Season is upon us! Can I get a “Heck Yeah!”.  This Broadway Season was one that I’d call quite amazing. We saw tons of new and original pieces for both musicals and stage plays, not so many for the revival side of musicals, but either way a lot of shows were involved in the 2018- 2019 Broadway Theater Season, to say the least.  So many so that as I am writing this article I still haven’t gotten around to seeing every single show I wanted to see from this current season, just yet.  I’m gonna need a minute.  I’ll just be that Theater Dork now crying over here because of the fact that I still haven’t seen every show I hoped I’d see at this point from this season yet already.  Okay, I’m good now.  Hopefully in time those remaining few shows that I haven’t seen from this season yet I will get to see in the next few upcoming months.

So enough about me, let’s go on and get to all the Tony Nominations of 2019 already!  One quick thing first about my thoughts on all this year’s nominations.  When it comes to predicting what shows and performers I think will take home awards for this season, I am going to be more knowledgeable for the musical side of Broadway.  For this year, as in every year, I mostly ended up seeing shows that were musicals on Broadway.

I love stage plays, but I just don’t get around to seeing nearly as many as I would like to see (hey theater these days is quite expensive, you know).  For the plays on Broadway this season, I saw two.  The first was Torch Song (revival), and Network (new).  Both excellent, by the way.  Torch Song has since closed, it was only scheduled for a limited run.  While Network closes Tony Award weekend, after having two extensions at the Belasco Theater.  Anyways, since I have seen mostly musicals I have more of an understanding for the categories involving that side, for what shows and performers I feel should pick up those coveted Tony Awards on Tony Award night.  As far as the play side, with the exception of seeing two stage plays this season, I can’t say I have as much of an understanding of what shows and performers should win for that side of the nominations.  Although, based on buzz and word of mouth about certain shows and performances, I’ll still give it my Theater Dork best to try and make some guesses for the stage play side of the nominations, as well.

Okay, so now on to the Tony Nominations of 2019, for real this time, promise.  I will be discussing every category of the nominations for both musicals and plays.  I know for most when watching awards show some might only want to hear of the “best of categories”, like shows and performers.  Although, it truly takes a village to putting on a production, so many talented people are involved in making a show happen, and I felt it was only right to recognize every single category of the nominations.

And. Away. We. Go!

                                            Best Scenic Design of a Play:

Miriam Buether – To Kill a Mockingbird

Bunny Christie – Ink

Rob Howell – The Ferryman

Santo Loquasto – Gary: A Sequel To Titus Andronicus

Jan Versweyveld – Network

My Thoughts:

Having seen Network, I can tell you it was quite a theatrical experience.  The set design for this production made you feel like you were actually behind the scenes of a newsroom television program.  You felt all the intensity, craziness, and politics of what it might be like backstage at one of these types of live network news shows.

                                        My Pick:  Jan Versweyveld for Network

                                            Best Scenic Design of a Musical:

Robert Brill and Peter Nigrini – “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations”

Peter England – King Kong

Rachel Hauck – Hadestown

Laura Jellinek – Oklahoma!

David Korins – Beetlejuice

My Thoughts:

I still haven’t yet seen Beetlejuice.  But let me tell you one thing.  Alex Timbers is the director of this musical and if you know his work, you know that when Timbers directs a show you can expect an amazing set design from the production.  I’ve seen pictures and clips of this show to hold me over until I can see this, and I can tell that the set for Beetlejuice is something else.  And what I mean by it’s something else, is that the set for this show is simply one of a kind.  One that is memorable, and oh so completely unique.

My Pick:  Hands Down, No Question About It, This Award Goes To:  David Korins for Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!

                                             Best Costume Design of a Play:

Rob Howell – The Ferryman

Toni- Leslie James – Bernhardt/Hamlet

Clint Ramos – Torch Song

Ann Roth – To Kill a Mockingbird

Ann Roth – Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

My Thoughts:

Hmmmm….  As I have mentioned I have only seen one of these shows as of yet, Torch Song.  And while I thought the clothes were well tailored and sharp, portraying the decade the show took place in through their clothing perfectly, I’m not sure when thinking of this award that show comes to mind.  So I’ll just have to go off of pictures I’ve seen for the other productions nominated and not based on actually seeing the show in person.

Gary is the only show that stands out for costume design to me.  Based on what the show entails, let’s just say the costumes featured, albeit crazy, are memorable.

                       My Pick:  Ann Roth for Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

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                                              Best Costume Design of a Musical:

Michael Krass – Hadestown

William Ivey Long – Tootsie

William Ivey Long – Beetlejuice

Bob Mackie – The Cher Show

Paul Tazewell – “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations”

My Thoughts:

What an amazing category of nominees!  As well as a tough category.  Out of these nominated productions I haven’t seen Beetlejuice, The Cher Show, or Hadestown, just yet.  But I’ve seen pictures of the costumes for all of those musicals, and feel I have a good understanding based on that for who I think should win in this category.

The costumes in “Ain’t Too Proud” are incredibly sharp.  Hadestown costumes have that vintage kind of feel.  Tootsie… that dress!  And The Cher Show brings back all of Cher’s incredibly memorable costumes that she’s worn over her remarkable career.

All of these shows have amazing costumes, thanks to all of the incredibly talented designers of these productions.  I think the costume designer that this award will go to will be Bob Mackie for The Cher Show.  In The Cher Show, Mackie once again recreates his amazing and iconic pieces, this time for the Broadway stage.  Effortlessly transporting audiences back to those moments in time just from his designs alone.

                                      My Pick:  Bob Mackie for The Cher Show

                                          Best Lighting Design of a Play:

Neil Austin – Ink

Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer – Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Peter Mumford – The Ferryman

Jennifer Tipton – To Kill a Mockingbird

Jan Versweyveld and Tal Yarden – Network

My Thoughts:

The only one of these shows I have seen is that of Network, so far, but honestly I think that that is the show to win for this category.  The lighting was in many ways key for this show.  It emphasized and heightened every emotion of every single character, especially that of the main character, Howard Beale (Bryan Cranston).  You saw, thanks to the production’s top notch lighting, every single thing he was feeling.  The lighting in this production highlighted Cranston’s emotional journey as Howard Beale throughout the entire show.

                          My Pick:  Jan Versweyveld and Tal Yarden for Network

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                                               Best Lighting Design of a Musical:

Kevin Adams – The Cher Show

Howell Binkley – “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations”

Bradley Kind – Hadestown

Peter Mumford – King Kong

Kenneth Posner and Peter Nigrini – Beetlejuice

My Thoughts:

Hmmm…  Having seen King Kong, the lighting was a big part of the production.  Regardless though, I think this category kind of goes hand in hand with set design.  And for Beetlejuice the amazing set comes to life with the lighting in the production, highlighting all of that craziness that ensues in the show.

                           My Pick: Kenneth Posner and Peter Nigrini for Beetlejuice

                                                  Best Sound Design of a Play:

Adam Cork – Ink

Scott Lehrer – To Kill a Mockingbird

Fitz Patton – Choir Boy

Nick Powell – The Ferryman

Eric Sleichim – Network

My Thoughts:

I feel like this is a category that could go to any one of these shows. With Network, (as it has now been established, is a show that I have seen) you felt all the intensity of what was happening in the show at every moment, and the sound design was a big part of that.

With the show Choir Boy (so incredibly bummed I missed out on this, but thankfully there are some show clips out there) there were moments after the actors would sing or perform a monologue where the sound was so clear and strong, that this production is also a heavy contender for sound design of a play, as well.

                                              My Pick:  Fitz Patton for Choir Boy

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                                                   Best Sound Design of a Musical:

Peter Hylenski – King Kong

Peter Hylenski – Beetlejuice

Steve Cannon Kennedy – “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations”

Drew Levy – Oklahoma!

Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz – Hadestown

My Thoughts:

There are a few categories in this season’s nominations that are kind of like slam dunks for certain shows.  So much to the point as for the other shows it really was nice just to be acknowledged and recognized with a nomination because that slam dunk show is most likely for sure going to win.  This is one of those categories with a clear cut winner.

                                             My Pick:  Peter Hylenski for King Kong

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King Kong is a show where the sound design was such a key to making you feel as though King Kong was right there.  You heard every roar, every moment, every loud and heavy step clearly.  There is no doubt that Hylenski did a fantastic job with the sound in King Kong, making you feel right next to all of the action that was happening on stage right in front of you with perfection.  I would be very surprised if he didn’t pick up this award on Tony night.

                                                            Best Choreography:

Camille A. Brown – Choir Boy

Warren Carlyle – Kiss Me, Kate

Denis Jones – Tootsie

David Neumann – Hadestown

Sergio Trujillo – “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations”

                                    Snubbed:  Spencer Liff for Head Over Heels

There were a few snubs for Head Over Heels, and best choreography is definitely a category this show got snubbed in.  The dancing in this show completely stood out, being incredibly amazing and fierce.  The opening number for the show was “We Got the Beat”, and it was so memorable thanks to Liff’s brilliant moves.  The choreography in this number just completely came alive and popped within every beat to every dance move.

My Thoughts:

I think the real competition for this category is between Hadestown and Ain’t Too Proud.  I haven’t seen Hadestown yet, but I’ve seen a few performances on TV.  And can tell that the dancing is there and stands out.  Although, Ain’t Too Proud is really something amazing when it comes to the choreography for this show.  It’s just so sharp, and so on point.  Trujillo recreates the memorable and classic moves of the original band of The Temptations, that are just so incredibly good and nostalgic.

                                           My Pick :  Sergio Trujillo for Ain’t Too Proud

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                                                          Best Orchestrations:

Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose – Hadestown

Simon Hale – Tootsie

Larry Kochman – Kiss Me, Kate

Daniel Kluger – Oklahoma!

Harold Wheeler – “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations”

My Thoughts:

This is an interesting category in the fact that every show, even those not nominated, are all really on the same level.  It’s weird to say one show is better than the other.  I think Ain’t Too Proud is a real contender in this category.  *Not sure this is really a spoiler, but slight spoiler here* There’s a full band all dressed to the nines on stage that you don’t see during the show, but this is revealed at the very end of the show *End of Slight, Probably Not Spoiler, Spoiler*.  With the great orchestrations from this show you are able to fully hear every note of music played completely, making everything sound just so incredible.

Although based on what I’ve heard of Hadestown I think that show has this category. The music in this new musical thanks to its orchestrations come away sounding full and rich within every medley played.

           My Pick:  Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose for Hadestown

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                                                          Best Book of a Musical:

“Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations” – Dominique Morisseau

Beetlejuice – Scott Brown and Anthony King

Hadestown – Anais Mitchell

The Prom – Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin

Tootsie – Robert Horn

My Thoughts:

You know how I mentioned before that there some categories here and there where you kind of just know what is going to win?  Well, this is one of those categories with a slam dunk from one show in particular.  That show is Tootsie.  There’s no question that after seeing this show that the book for it was done brilliantly by that of Robert Horn, who wrote a book here that was sheer perfection within every single word spoken.

Usually the book category for a musical is one that is most of the time overlooked for a show when there is music involved, but that’s not the case with the musical of Tootsie.  The book is a complete star in this show.  It stands out completely with that of laugh out loud (sometimes for minutes) kinds of jokes, that having you laughing non -stop from one moment to the next throughout the show’s two and a half hour run.  The characters Horn wrote have depth, but can also made you laugh.  The book for Tootsie is beyond funny with memorable moments that you remember long after seeing it.

                                                  My Pick:  Robert Horn for Tootsie

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                                                        Best Original Score:

Beetlejuice – Eddie Perfect

Be More Chill – Joe Iconis

Hadestown – Anais Mitchell

The Prom – music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Begeulin

Tootsie – David Yazbeck

My Thoughts:

To say wow what an incredible category filled with such an incredible amount of talent would by an understatement to say here.  This.Is.A.Tough.Category!!!!  Okay, I have only seen two shows here as of yet (The Prom, Tootsie), but I have heard songs and seen performances on TV from all of these nominated shows.  Beetlejuice songs are fun and kooky.  Be More Chill has gut wrenching songs about not feeling like you have a place in the world around you.  Hadestown has a completely unique and original sound, unlike what you might expect to hear when going to see a musical on Broadway.  Tootsie has a fun score with catchy songs that have you smiling literally the whole time.

And then there’s The Prom.  The Prom has an absolutely perfect score.  A score that touches at your heartstrings while it also uplifts your spirit.  Sklar and Begeulin are just amazingly fantastic storytellers, who are able to tell a story within every song in The Prom.  I have been a long time fan of their work after hearing their score for The Wedding Singer on Broadway.  Their work and talent once again shines in The Prom with songs that are catchy, that pop, that make you laugh, think, and shed a tear with their lovely words and tunes.  It be nice for these two to finally get that recognition with a Tony.  It be a very well deserved win indeed!

                             My Pick:  Matthew Sklar and Chad Begeulin for The Prom

                                                       Best Direction of a Play:

Robert Gould – Ink

Sam Mendes – The Ferryman

Bartlett Sher – To Kill a Mockingbird

Ivo van Hove – Network

George C. Wolfe – Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

My Thoughts:

Haven’t seen anything but Network here, but either way Network is the show to beat here.  The amount of thought and work that went into pulling off a show like Network was that of an enormous undertaking to take on.  And one by Ivo van Hove that was done with incredible skill.  Ivo van Hove, in the last few years has done an amazing job of establishing himself as a unique director, directing many shows that are done not in that of a conventional style you normally see on Broadway.

His productions stand out and are thought provoking, thanks to his style of staging a story.  Network is an incredibly intense story.  There are TV screens everywhere, clocks ticking down the time, close ups of faces.  As an audience member you are watching a story unfold before your eyes in the most bizarre, unique way. It’s a production that you will remember and with a show like this, direction was key to making that happen.

                                                My Pick:  Ivo van Hove for Network

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                                                      Best Direction of a Musical:

Rachel Chavkin – Hadestown

Scott Ellis – Tootsie

Daniel Fish – Oklahoma!

Des McAnuff – “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations”

Casey Nicholaw – The Prom

My Thoughts:

Can we just give an award here to every one of these amazingly talented directors!  Just give a Tony to everyone here!  The amount of skill that is involved in directing a piece of musical theater is a real task for one to take on.  When directing a musical, directors here have even more to take on than most directors because in musicals there are more elements involved in this type of show vs. a stage play.  The directors not only have to consider the acting side of the show, but also the singing and the dancing element to keep in mind, as well.  They have a few more things to consider and think about, and where exactly is the right moment for what.  It is a big feat for any one person to take on solo.  But here, all these directors took on that very task producing amazing shows along the way.  The two productions that really stood out to me this season for direction of a musical would be for Oklahoma! and Tootsie.

With Oklahoma! Fish directed a classic that everyone is familiar with, and changed it completely from that classic that we all knew adding a modern day spin to it.  He reinvented it, and made it relevant for today’s times.  I haven’t seen this yet, but from the pictures and clips I have seen, this isn’t the Oklahoma that everyone has come to know of.  Fish took a well known classic piece of musical theater, and made it for the modern age.  And that is something that should be recognized.

I also feel that Tootsie is a standout for this award with direction by Scott Ellis.  Real good musical comedy is something that is hard to pull off.  With so many of these kind of shows produced every season, sometimes some musicals can kind of just blend from one to the other, not really standing out.  But not Tootsie, and that was thanks to Ellis’s direction of the piece.  He directed a show here that every moment stood out and had its rightful place.  Obviously, that red dress is a big part of the show, along with the reveal of how Dorothy is really Michael.  Those two moments are moments that are a big part of the story and Ellis didn’t rush these big moments of the story in the show.  There was just the right amount of build up and time that lead up to those reveals, that was done simply perfectly.

                                                    My Pick: Scott Ellis for Tootsie

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                                                   Best Featured Actor in a Play:

Bertie Carvel – Ink

Robin de Jesus – The Boys in the Band

Gideon Glick – To Kill a Mockingbird

Brandon Uranowitz – Burn This

Benjamin Walker – All My Sons

My Thoughts:

Having seen none of these productions beyond that of show clips, I don’t have a whole lot of thoughts on what performances stood out to me.  Regardless of that, from the little that I have seen I think Benjamin Walker is the front runner here.  I have seen him in other productions, and this is an actor that always gives a part everything he has.  I am such a fan of his work (Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson and American Psycho), and from the little that I have seen of him in this part from show clips, it looks like Walker is once again delivering another stand out performance.

                                        My Pick:  Benjamin Walker for All My Sons

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                                                  Best Featured Actress in a Play:

Fionnula Flanagan – The Ferryman

Celia Keenan- Bolger – To Kill a Mockingbird

Kristen Nielsen – Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Julie White – Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Ruth Wilson – King Lear

My Thoughts:

Starting to feel like I’m probably sounding like a broken record over here, but here I go again and say “how I haven’t seen any of these productions”.  At least not yet.  I’ll give it my Theater Dork best guess anyways.  Kristen Nielsen is a comical genius.  She originally was to play a different part in Gary, and took over for Andrea Martin when Martin suffered an injury during rehearsals.  Then Julie White stepped into Gary last minute, and took over for the part Kristen Nielsen was originally slated to play.  And then Nielsen and White both got nominated, amazing!

Then there is Celia Keenan- Bolger who is an incredibly talented performer.  Her performance in the revival of The Glass Menagerie that I saw back in 2013, is still one that I remember to this day.  She has a depth to her acting that is done with ease, where I can only imagine she brings once again to her part in the play To Kill a Mockingbird.

                                 My Pick:  Celia Keenan- Bolger for To Kill a Mockingbird

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                                                  Best Leading Actor in a Play:

Bryan Cranston – Network

Paddy Considine – The Ferryman

Jeff Daniels – To Kill a Mockingbird

Adam Driver – Burn This

Jeremy Pope – Choir Boy

                                              Snubbed:  Michael Urie for Torch Song

I have been a major fan of Michael Urie’s ever since his time on the TV Series “Ugly Betty”.  Urie is a fantastic actor who has that ability to keep your attention.  In Torch Song, Urie takes center stage as the lead, portraying a part written and originally performed by Harvey Fierstein.  Urie had big shoes to fill, and he did so wonderfully.  He had many monologues throughout the play, and every single one was spoken with emotion and vulnerability.  It was a real surprise to see Urie’s name off the list for nominees for Best Actor for a Play.

My Thoughts:

I initially thought this category was one where the real competition was going to be between Cranston and Daniels.  But from what I have heard about The Ferryman, I don’t think you can count out Paddy Considine.

With having seen Cranston in Network, I can fully say that Cranston gives the part all he has, never once fading.  A performance where he gives his sweat, tears, and every ounce of his energy.  Cranston shows audiences a man who is in the midst of having an emotional break down right before their eyes.  He takes audiences on a roller coaster of an emotional journey non- stop for two solid hours.

If you were to have asked me a few months ago I would have said that based on buzz and word of mouth that Daniels was possibly inching just a little bit closer to the Tony, but as of late the more I have thought about it I really think Cranston is the one to beat here in this category.  It’s just a performance that you don’t forget.

The irony about Cranston vs. Daniels against each other for a Tony, is that a few years ago in 2013 they were both up together in the same category but for that of an Emmy Award.  The front runner at that time was Cranston, who was giving a brilliantly scary performance as Walter White on Breaking Bad.  Everyone assumed it was going to go to Cranston, being at the time Breaking Bad was the hottest show.  Instead the Emmy went to Daniels for HBO The Newsroom, a show that Daniels was brilliant on.  As a fan of both of theirs it’ll be fun to see who takes home the award this time around.

                                                 My Pick:  Bryan Cranston for Network

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                                                 Best Leading Actress in a Play:

Annette Bening – All My Sons

Laura Donnelly – The Ferryman

Elaine May – The Waverly Gallery

Janet McTeer – Bernhardt/Hamlet

Laurie Metcalf – Hillary and Clinton

Heidi Schreck – What the Constitution Means to Me

My Thoughts:

From what I’ve heard, all of these amazing actresses are all fantastic in the parts that they’ve been nominated for.  As I have seen none of these shows, let the Theater Dork guessing game once again begin.

I’ve seen a few clips of Annette Bening in All My Sons, and wow.  She really does bring a performance here in this revival of All My Sons.  What the Constitution Means to Me is a show that I was never planning on seeing, but Heidi Schreck has gotten a lot of acclaimed for not only writing this new piece of theater, but for also starring in it as well.  It’s gotten a lot of great buzz, so much so that an there was an extension of the show following its opening.

Although, I think this is Elaine May’s award to win for The Waverly Gallery.  The revival has since closed, but in the show May portrayed a woman who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, but still determined to live her life regardless. She got rave reviews for her part in the revival.  I think she is the front runner here.

                                           My Pick:  Elaine May for The Waverly Gallery

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                                               Best Featured Actor in a Musical:

Andre De Shields – Hadestown

Andy Grotelueschen – Tootsie

Patrick Page – Hadestown

Jeremy Pope – “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations”

Ephraim Sykes – “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations”

                                        Snubbed:  George Salazar for Be More Chill

It took awhile for “Be More Chill” to make its way to the Broadway Stage.  A few things remained intact for this production along the way though, and that was the praise for Salazar’s performance of Michael in the show.  Salazar sings his heart out in the song “Michael in the Bathroom” as someone who is losing their sidekick, their confidant, their best friend.  He has such heart, such emotion in his performance that it was a surprise to not see his name on the list of nominees for this category.  (I haven’t seen Be More Chill, but have seen his performances on TV with his solo number in the show, “Michael in the Bathroom”).

My Thoughts:

Another amazing category of performers.  Andre De Shields is a legend.  I wish I could say more here, but I haven’t seen Hadestown yet.  From what I’ve seen in clips it seems like De Shields is the narrator of the show.  He has a slick tone to his voice where you can’t help but wonder what he’s going to say next.  Even from just seeing only show clips alone, I can tell De Shields has a presence in Hadestown that keeps your interest.

Andy Grotelueschen is just hilariously perfection in Tootsie as Michael’s friend and roommate Jeff.  He has a number titled “Jeff Sums It Up” where his character more or less tells Michael how he pretty much just really messed everything up.  It’s funny, trust me.

Patrick Page is always perfect in everything he does.  As we all know at this point, “I haven’t seen Hadestown, yet”.  From what I have seen from Page’s past work in other shows is that he is that of an amazing performer on stage.  From show clips of Hadestown, I can tell Page’s presence is there, strong and bold, even somewhat scary.  Page is giving, what I can only imagine at this point since I have yet to see the show, a  complete powerhouse of a performance again.

Jeremy Pope has a fantastic voice with a range to it that is amazing.  Every time he sings on stage you can’t help but marvel at his brilliant singing voice.  In Ain’t Too Proud, Pope portrays real life band member Eddie Kendricks.  It’s remarkable just how much Pope sounds like Kendricks when he sings.  Pope’s singing voice is simply just a joy to hear.  Also, what a season this performer has had on Broadway this year.  He is not only nominated for his part in Ain’t Too Proud, but also for Choir Boy, as well.  Pope is only the sixth performer since the start of the Tonys to receive nominations for two different shows in the same season ever.  How amazing is that!

Ephraim Sykes in Ain’t Too Proud!  Wow, a performance he is giving as David Ruffin in Ain’t Too Proud.  In Ain’t Too Proud, Sykes portrays one of the real life members of The Temptations.  Sykes performance is incredibly strong.  Every time he’s on stage he gives it everything he has.  There are many layers to his performance that can make you laugh then make you cry.  He portrays a person that was extremely talented, but one that was also flawed.  He showed both of those sides of Ruffin.  He showed the side that the world knew as this talented performer, and then the side that only the people who really knew him saw.  I would love to see Sykes win here.  I think though, Sykes may have some competition with Andre De Shields for Hadestown, in this category.

                                           My Pick:  Ephraim Sykes for Ain’t Too Proud

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                                               Best Featured Actress in a Musical:

Lilli Cooper – Tootsie

Amber Gray – Hadestown

Sarah Stiles – Tootsie

Ali Stoker – Oklahoma!

Mary Testa – Oklahoma!

                                      Snubbed:  Bonnie Milligan for Head Over Heels

Milligan was just pure joy to see in Head Over Heels, making her Broadway Debut in this new musical.  In Head Over Heels, Milligan showed wit, humor, and the comic timing of pro.  She made a splash in this show, and if there was a snub for this category this talented performer was the one to get snubbed.

My Thoughts:

A great group of actresses here, giving stand out performances every night on Broadway.  I loved Lilli Cooper in Tootsie.  She brought spunk, independence, and smarts to her part as Julie.  She has an amazing tone to her voice.  She sings some of my favorite songs in the show, “There was John” and “Gone, Gone, Gone”.  “There was John” is my favorite song of hers out of the two solo numbers she sings.  It’s a song where she sings about how her life didn’t take that conventional turn that most might take because of her passion to be an actor, but at the end acting is what made her happy and that was that.

Sarah Stiles…..  OMG!  I knew after seeing Tootsie that she was going to get a nomination. She absolutely fantastic as Michael Dorsey’s neurotic ex-girlfriend, Sandy.  She has these moments in the show that will just make her laugh for minutes.  But where Stiles really shined in Tootsie, besides every moment on stage, was with her solo number in the show called “What’s Gonna Happen”.  The skill that it takes to sing that song in just the right timing is that of complete talent.  I knew immediately right after she sung that number that that moment in the show was going to get her a nomination.  Also, I’ve been a big fan of hers ever since seeing her in Hand to God, and so happy she’s getting acknowledge for her part in the musical Tootsie.

Can I get a ahem that the fabulous Mary Testa got nominated for Oklahoma!!  I haven’t seen her in this yet, but I know she’s a talent.  I saw her in Xanadu 11 times, where she was beyond amazing, and yet no nomination.  Me at the time after that came out, “No Nomination?!?!?!?!  Excuse me!!!!!  How?!?!?!?!”  So I’m so happy to see her getting one here in Oklahoma!

                                      My Pick:  Amber Gray for Hadestown

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I think this award at the end will probably go to Amber Gray for Hadestown.  There’s a uniqueness to her style of speaking and singing that stands out.  I saw her in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway a few years ago, and “Charming” was a number that I always remember because she has such an interesting style to her voice that you remember it.  Haven’t seen Hadestown yet, but it seems like her performance is one people are talking about.  There’s been just the right about of buzz behind Gray’s performance in Hadestown, that puts her to the top of this category to win.

I feel Gray is going to win, but I would really love to see Sarah Stiles take home the award for Tootsie in this category.

                                              Best Leading Actor in a Musical:

Brooks Ashmanskas – The Prom

Derrick Baskin – “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations”

Alex Brightman – Beetlejuice

Damon Daunno – Oklahoma!

Santino Fontana – Tootsie

My Thoughts:

I am literally such a fan of all these wonderfully talented actors.

Brooks Ashmanskas is an actor that I have been a longtime fan of.  I’ve seen him in numerous productions on Broadway, and he is always a complete stand out in every show he’s ever been apart of.  He is a great character actor.  Character actors are performers who play those memorable parts in projects, adding those moments in a story that you remember.  Usually though, those parts in a project are more on the side of supporting, and not that of the main role in a story.  But in The Prom, Ashmanskas finally gets to stand center stage as one of the leads playing Barry, and it is such a pleasure and a joy to see him finally get his due as leading man.  He is simply perfect in this new musical.  Ashmanskas gives a brilliant, funny, and heartwarming performance.  I am so happy to see this incredible performer receive a well deserved nomination as Leading Actor in a Musical.

Derrick Baskin is a talented performer that I have also been a longtime fan of.  He shined in the musical Memphis (one of my very favorites).  In Ain’t Too Proud, he portrays Otis Williams, the only surviving living member of the original The Temptations.  His performance has heart and depth.  Baskin as Williams, narrates the show telling how the group came to be, the ups and downs of the music business, the band members personal lives behind the scenes, and how the group evolved over the years.  Baskin gives a fantastic and meaningful performance in this new musical.  He speaks with emotion, feeling, thought, and heart within every word.  Very happy to see Baskin receive a nomination for his wonderful performance in Ain’t Too Proud.

Remember though when I mentioned about those slam dunk categories?  Well, as fantastic as everyone nominated here is in this category, this is one of those slam dunk category times.  That slam dunk win would be for Santino Fontana for Tootsie.  Most people these days probably know Fontana from the CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but before his time on that Fontana was a fixture on the Broadway scene.  Even receiving a nomination for his performance in the musical Cinderella.

Fontana is sheer perfection in Tootsie playing both parts of Michael Dorsey and Dorothy Michaels.  He is just pure brilliance in this new musical.  When Michael is tired of not getting the acting roles he feels he is right for, he comes to the thought of how maybe if he changed his persona that he might get those better parts.

So Michael decides he’ll become “Dorothy Michaels”.  You know at some point his decision to go through with pretending to be someone who he is not just to get better roles might be discovered at any literally any moment, you still find yourself wondering just how long he can really pull this off for before someone learns the truth about how Dorothy is really Michael.  Many thanks to updating the story to fit today’s time, Michael’s time as Dorothy helps him become a better man.  He realizes, learns, and becomes more aware along the way of how things aren’t quite the same for women as they are for men, even in the same set of circumstances.  Michael is a bit hard to deal with, being slightly egotistical at times.  But his time as Dorothy helps soften him, and it allows him to see the error of his ways.  Fontana portrays a person that goes from being someone quite arrogant, feeling that he was owed something to becoming more aware of his personal actions.  And that was all thanks to a little lady named Dorothy Michaels.

I could go on and on about the brilliance of Fontana’s performance in Tootsie for days and days and days.  His performance in Tootsie is one where right away, during, and after seeing it you say “This is a star making performance”, no doubt about it.  After seeing Tootsie I said, “Just give him the Tony now!”.

Fontana plays not only one, but two parts, and he does so effortlessly.  He has quick changes in the matter of only seconds, transforming from Michael to Dorothy, from Dorothy to Michael, several times throughout the show.  The range of his voice, along with his ability to switch from character to character in the matter of a flash is beyond brilliant and remarkable.  Fontana has charm, wit, and cleverness that he brings to both characters of Michael and Dorothy, in this new musical.  Dustin Hoffman is known for the movie, but Santino Fontana will be known for the musical.

                                    My Pick:  SANTINO FONTANA!!!!!! For Tootsie

                                                    Best Actress in a Musical:

Stephanie J. Block – The Cher Show

Caitlin Kinnunen – The Prom

Beth Leavel – The Prom

Eva Noblezada – Hadestown

Kelli O’Hara – Kiss Me, Kate

My Thoughts:

All Star Talent here!  I absolutely love that The Prom got two nominations here for both Caitlin Kinnunen and Beth Leavel.  Both absolutely fantastic performances.  Kinnunen brings such heart to her part with a voice that gives you hope for a better tomorrow.

Leavel is always such a joy to see on stage, especially here in The Prom.  In this musical, Leavel gives it her all.  Her character goes from being kind of “all about me” to really caring about the community she went to help.  Her presence is always known when on stage.  Her character Dee Dee Allen, goes on a journey, and becomes a better person along the way.  Leavel gives such a performance that after seeing The Prom, I definitely thought “Tony Nomination!”.

I haven’t seen The Cher Show just yet, so I can’t say much about the production itself.  What I can talk about is the talented cast of this show, as there are many amazing Broadway favorites in it.  Such as the amazingly talented performer of Stephanie J. Block.  The moment I heard Stephanie J. Block was going to be playing Cher, I thought “Genius!”.

If you are familiar with Block’s work, you know that not only is she as talented as they come, she is amazing with portraying real life icons.  I saw her back in 2003 in The Boy From Oz, where she portrayed Liza Minnelli.  And she was fan-flipping-tasic!  So I knew if there was anyone who could effortlessly pull off playing the iconic Cher, it would be Block.  I have seen a few performances here and there on TV, and she is Cher.  It’s really hard portraying real life people, to where the performance doesn’t come across cheesy, or an imitation.  But Block is Cher in The Cher Show.  It’s not a impersonation, but a portrayal.  She has all of Cher’s mannerisms, vocals, and iconic moves down pat.  This is Block’s award to win.

                                        My Pick:  Stephanie J. Block for The Cher Show

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                                                       Best Revival of a Play:

All My Sons

The Boys in the Band

Burn This

Torch Song

The Waverly Gallery

My Thoughts:

Seeing how I have only seen only one of these productions, this will now be that time again for me to have my “Theater Dork Guessing Time Once Again”.  I really wanted to see The Boys in the Band last spring, but I just waited too long to get around to seeing it.  Although, thanks to the wonderful TV Tycoon Ryan Murphy, the show is being adapted into a movie on Netflix with the Broadway cast, so yeah!  Since I missed out on seeing this revival I’m happy that thanks to the Netflix adaptation I can see still some form of this show.

I really want to see Burn This.  But it’s probably not going to happen.  It’s a limited run, and that limited run will be over in a little over a month from now.  But hey who knows.  I mean Felicity is in it, how can I miss this?!  But I probably will end up not getting to see this, and my TV Nerd heart is literally breaking knowing that.

I heard really good things about The Waverly Gallery.

I know this “My Thoughts” category was pretty bare, but like I said I only had seen Torch Song out of these nominated shows.  And honestly, I know I didn’t see the other productions, but Torch Song is a real strong contender in this category.  Having seen it I can tell you it was a fantastic and heartfelt production with strong performances.  Torch Song, despite being written decades ago still holds up, and is as relevant today as it was when it was first performed.  I am a fan of this show, and would love to see it walk away with the Tony for Best Revival of a Play.

                                                           My Pick:  Torch Song

                                                         Best Revival of a Musical:

Kiss Me, Kate

Oklahoma!

My Thoughts:

Okay, okay. I know I sound like a broken record again by saying this yet again, “but haven’t seen these productions yet either”.  I really do hope to make it around to seeing Oklahoma!, though. To be fair, I did see both of these shows last revivals in the early 2000s.  I know that doesn’t count for this time around with these productions, but I have seen these shows before on Broadway.  Just not the current ones, yet.

This wasn’t that big of a year for musical revivals.  It’s been awhile since this amount of revivals for a musicals played within one season.  For a second there it looked as though there was only going to be one musical revival (Kiss Me, Kate).  Then swooping in just in time to still be considered for this year’s Tonys, came a newly adapted staged revival of the classic Oklahoma! onto the current Broadway scene.  I’m not sure there’s ever been a year with only one revival of a musical, and for a second it looked like that was going to be the case this season on Broadway.  So thanks to Oklahoma! joining Kiss Me, Kate in the musical revival department, there is now some competition within this very category.

I may not have seen these productions yet, but I’ve seen a few performances of both and of course have my thoughts on both.  I recently saw Kiss Me, Kate perform a number on The Today Show.  My thoughts…. “eh”.  I came away thinking it was just okay.  I know you can’t base the whole production off of one number, but for now that will have to do.  I know the show has strong performances in it thanks to Broadway talents of both Kelli O’Hara and Will Chase.  And I know the show has been updated for today’s times as well.

For the most part with Kiss Me, Kate there are only a few tweaks here and there, but it’s basically the same show.  Then there’s the revival of Oklahoma!, here’s a production of a revival that’s been reinvented from the show everyone has come to know.

This production has been very talked about because it has taken a well known classic and turned it upside down.  When you walk into this revival you are not going to be seeing a carbon copy of the original.  There have been changes.  I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t really go into every detail of what makes this production different from the original, but the show as I understand it has been changed to be relevant for today.  The revival covers topics and issues to make it more adaptable for the current world we are living in today.  Making this production not just a revival but a reinvention of a beloved classic piece of musical theater.  It sounds that for most after seeing it that they either love it or they don’t.  Either way, that fact that there is so much talk about a classic made decades ago, is the kind of buzz worthy talk most revivals don’t normally stir up.

Revivals are shows that people go into thinking they’ll know what to expect.  With this revival of Oklahoma!, you don’t know what to expect.  Finally bringing some excitement to the category of musical revivals.  To change such a beloved classic was indeed a risky move to make.  And regardless of whether you like this revival reinvention or not, this is the revival that has been getting more talked about.  And in turn making those curious enough about it to go on and head on over to The Circle in the Square Theater, filling in the seats every night.

                                                    My Pick:  Oklahoma!

                                                                 Best Play:

Choir Boy

The Ferryman

Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Ink

What the Constitution Means to Me

                         My Thoughts / Snubbed:  Network and To Kill a Mockingbird

Okay this is an interesting category.  I haven’t seen any of these shows, broken record I know.  Anyways, I’ve heard great things about all of these shows and it sounds like they were all worthy of getting a Tony nomination.

But let’s get real here.  There obviously was something happening behind the scenes in the political kind of nature when it came to this particular category.  Yes, theater nerd folks, I’m referring to Network and To Kill a Mockingbird being left off of the list of nominees.  Like. What. The. Heck!?!?!!?  It makes no sense why two of the most talked about and money making shows were snubbed, other than it had to be political.  Two shows that have amazing performances in pieces that stand out.

Me, like most theatergoers, thought that not only would To Kill a Mockingbird get a nomination, but it was the front runner to winning the award for Best Play.  Even after the nominations were announced you could tell people were taken aback and surprised at this snub.  I was more so surprised at the snub for this than of Network.  To Kill a Mockingbird seemed like it just had this award in the bag, with a production that has been said to be as solid as they come.  One of the most bizarre snubs to come out of this year’s nominations.

So all that being said, the third play that was the most talked about this season was The Ferryman.  A London import from the talented scribe of Jez Butterworth.  I’m familiar with his work having seen Jerusalem a few years back with Mark Rylance (best actor of all of time).  It sounds like Butterworth made another quality stage play again with The Ferryman.

Any show that is over two and half hours can be a hard sell.  The Ferryman is three hours and fifteen minutes, and yet everyone that has seen it has said the show goes by in a flash.  That’s how good this show is that that much time feels like no time has passed.  It’s a show with a large supporting cast that takes place in the 80s in Ireland.  It’s a play that has been described as brilliant.  After playing for many months on Broadway now, this new and original piece of theater will end its successful run on July 7th.  This is my best guess to win the award for Best Play.

                                                             My Pick:  The Ferryman

                                                                Best Musical:

“Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations”

Beetlejuice

Hadestown

The Prom

Tootsie

                                                    Snubbed:  Head Over Heels

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I knew Head Over Heels getting a nomination was a long shot, but I literally had just the best time at this new show that I to acknowledge it getting snubbed.  This is the first musical on Broadway since Xanadu, that incorporated that kind of campy goodness in it that’s been almost nonexistent on Broadway in the last few years.  Head Over Heels was amazing, in all the best possible ways imaginable.  It was a show that took a risk, and it totally worked.  This new musical was original and unique, with heart and a rocking good score thanks to the classic tunes of the Go Go’s.

My Thoughts:

Solid category of amazing shows here!  Seen all but that of Hadestown and Beetlejuice, as of yet.  Regardless of having seen only three out of the five musicals nominated (as of now), I still feel confident enough to make my choice for what new musical I think might win for this category on Tony Award night.

Ain’t Too Proud was just a fantastic new musical.  These days the term “jukebox musical” gets thrown around a lot.  Pretty much so because of the fact that within this last decade or so there have been a lot of bio musicals about a lot of musicians and bands.  Some are eh.  Some are okay.  Some are good.  And then there are some that are absolutely just perfection.  Ain’t Too Proud is one of those that is just absolute perfection.  But it’s so much more than a jukebox musical.

If I had to compare Ain’t Too Proud to other Broadway shows that have handled telling a story about a musician or a group of performers that was told in exactly the perfect manner it would be for the shows of Jersey Boys and Beautiful.  With those shows the story of the real life people was as just as much the primary focus of the show’s story, as much as their well known pieces of music were.  With Ain’t Too Proud the story flowed within exactly the right amount of time to tell the story of each band member of The Temptations equally.  A musical group whose music is still music to many, many ears years after their songs were recorded.  It’s a show with heart that makes you feel.  It was a show that didn’t shy away from telling the story of went really went on behind the scenes, and how success doesn’t always mean fulfillment and happiness in one’s life.  How life is precious, and how sometimes doing what you love means life might pass you by along the way to that success.  But how the music will always remain, and lift you up when hearing it.  And that’s something.

It was a different experience seeing this show vs. Jersey Boys or Beautiful because there is only one surviving living member of the original band of The Temptations left, which is that of Otis Williams.  It was a different experience to see a show where you come to learn all about these talented men, and learn who they were and what that had to overcome and face, to discover at the end of the show that all had passed years ago, but one.

You come to know who they were, and learning how tragic it was at the end of some of their lives was saddening to see.  Dominique Morisseau wrote the show in a way where every band member had an equal amount of time on stage, and where you really got to learn about the real lives of the members from this well known musical group.  That part of the show wasn’t rushed, but given an equal and respectful amount of time to where the audience was given that proper introduction to these men behind the music, along with their personal life stories.

Tootsie is simply perfection!  To pull off a musical comedy like this hasn’t happened in awhile.  It’s just literally perfection in a show from the very first second to the very last.  It’s a high energized production with catchy funny numbers that keep you laughing every single second the show is playing.  With great direction, beyond fantastic performances, and songs that will have you humming along to them, Tootsie is a complete stand out for the 2018- 2019 Broadway Theater Season.  It’s a 10 out of 10!

The Prom is a heartfelt and uplifting new musical about equality for all.  It’s a piece of theater that is very relevant for our times right now with a story that needs to be seen and heard by all.  It’s show that portrays how at the end of everything we are all equals who all deserve respect and love.  And love is something we all deserve, no matter who we love.  It’s a show about how hope can come from the most unexpected of places and ways sometimes.  How that hope can come from people who might start off as strangers who can turn into the family that you’d never thought you’d ever get to have.

The songs are fun and delightful with charm and meaningfulness.  The performances are strong with wit, humor, and class.  It is a completely new and original show with such heart that you feel such joy by the time the curtain call rolls around.  It’s a show that lifts you up and gives you hope for a better today and a better tomorrow.

  My Pick:  The Prom! The Prom! The Prom! A thousands time The Prom!

IMG_20190601_051737And there you have it folks!  My picks for all of the 2019 Tony Nominations.  I, for one, can not wait for Tony Award Show night on June 9th on CBS.  Front and center I will be next to my TV, watching as Broadway’s best take center stage for their time to shine.  There’s nothing better than seeing a live show, but for those of us not making it to seeing the show in person at Radio City, seeing it on my TV will have to do.  I’ll be cheering my little fangirl heart away for all of Broadway’s best and brightest on the biggest night of the year for theater!

Author: Jodi Fisher

Hello, everyone out there in the land of blogs! My name is Jodi Fisher. A hopefully interesting yet quiet gal who wishes she could afford to live in the Big Apple. Some of you out there may be wondering why I decided to start a blog. There are so many blogs out there, that I didn’t think it was worth it for something nobody might even read. Although, with this new year I decided why not? So here I finally am with my own blog. So what is my blog all about? Well, as I previously have mentioned I am a fan of all things entertainment. Television, theater, and books are my very favorites out of pop culture. There is a chance if you were to ask me about a random television show or stage play, I will probably know if it’s worth viewing. I am also someone who loves nostalgia and remembering the better times from my past. I usually like to incorporate my love of entertainment and nostalgia together, when I wrote my blog posts. Along with my fondness of entertainment, I am someone, who tries to notice the simple things in life. So in ending this little tidbit about who I am, my goal in starting this blog is to just simply be me and write about things that I find interesting and entertaining.

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