Ellen (ennienyc) wrote,
Ellen
ennienyc

Tony awards and stuff I saw

I watched the Tony awards Sunday and had actually seen a few shows (yay, "Memphis"). It was disturbing that so many awards went to Hollywood big names. I have not seen any of those performances so don't know for sure if the awards were well-deserved, but it just seemed fishy. I was pleased when the lesser-known "La Cage" star won.

For all I know, best leading musical actress Catherine Zeta-Jones was amazing. Still, I had to leave the room when she sang "Send in the Clowns." I heard Judy Collins do it live at Town Hall in March, and there was no comparison. I've loved Judy since high school and finally went to see her. I had a cold at the time and had to cough twice - sorry, rest of audience, I had water with me and tried to hold it in! One cough was during the opening act, Kenny White, who had some interesting and amusing topical material. Judy herself still sounds great. She opened with "Both Sides Now" in a slightly different rhythm (similar to this other recent performance; she was even wearing the same outfit). The sound was not too loud (my usual complaint), but a little echoey which made her voice seem even more ethereal. She chatted between songs about the '60s, Leonard Cohen, and other topics, making the large hall seem more intimate. The music gave me goosebumps, and she still sounds wonderful (unfortunately, the lady behind me singing along did not sound wonderful - yeesh). She played guitar at first with a piano accompanist, and took over the piano later on.

Back to CZJ, I did see her excellent competitors Montego Glover in "Memphis" (yay) and Sherie Rene Scott in "Everyday Rapture." The latter was the same afternoon as the Times Square bomb scare later that evening. The play is an almost-one-woman (with backup singers, band, and a memorable young man) autobiographical musical about Scott's journey from Mennonite Kansas to Broadway. Very entertaining.

I also saw best play actress nominee Linda Lavin in "Collected Stories." Her acting was so good that she aged and weakened before your eyes (or maybe it was the makeup). The play, about an eager-beaver student who learns fast (Sarah Paulsen), and her mentor-professor (Lavin), was pretty good, too. Another nominee was Valerie Harper channeling Tallulah Bankhead in "Looped" which was a total hoot about old Hollywood. Zingers like "I'm bisexual -- buy me something, and I'm sexual" came fast and furious. The second act bogged down a bit with a subplot about another character, but it was Harper's show all the way.

In the same theater as "Looped," I previously saw "In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play" which got some nominations. I was in the second row far left, so could not always see that next room (and missed the full frontal male nudity at the end, though I did get a full backal view). The play, supposedly based on real technology at the dawn of the electrical age, felt hokey. I won't make jokes about buzz, but it was about a doctor who tried stimulating patients (both male and female) to cure hysteria. Meanwhile, in the next room, he never noticed his wife had needs, too. The wife was my pal (not really; we were once at the same small wedding and never spoke) Laura Benanti and while this wasn't a musical, she briefly sang as part of the plot.

Quincy Tyler Bernstine played a wet nurse in the vibrator play, and appeared again in "Family Week" recently at the Lortel. The color-blind casting was just confusing (Bernstine is black), and it took a while to realize she was not a friend but the sister of the main character Claire (played by Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel in the movie "Rachel Getting Married"). Claire is in rehab and the family's there for family week. There were some big names behind this play (written by Beth Henley, directed by Jonathan Demme), but it was mostly a downer. Reviewers agreed.

Another disturbing family drama was "Oliver Parker!" (why the exclamation point?) at the Cherry Lane (now closed). John Larroquette played the title character, a former chauffeur for a wealthy family now living in boozy squalor. The family's son takes care of him (for reasons I fail to understand, given what is revealed to have happened in the past), and the kid wants to get laid. There's a female senator and her aide, and while there were a few humorous moments, it was mainly dark and icky.

Continuing in that vein (maybe I should not see disturbing family dramas) was "That Face" at City Center. A schoolgirl prank goes bad, and Mia goes back to her really dysfunctional family in London. The family is not only disturbing (booze, insanity, maybe incest), but unlikable. Get me away from these people! In the same theater I saw Lynn Redgrave wonderfully channel her maternal grandmother in "Nightingale." The actress performed seated due to an unexplained illness, and has since died.

Another best play Tony nominee was "Next Fall" which I saw at a recent Wednesday matinee. Normally I have to keep Wednesdays free for NYT work, but we were early that week. The play was about a very different (mainly, in their religious outlook) gay couple and what happens when one is in an accident and his parents (who don't know he's gay) and friends converge at the hospital. Much is told in flashbacks and it's intelligent and surprisingly humorous given the premise.

"Lend Me a Tenor" got some nominations, including the hysterical (as in funny) Jan Maxwell (beat out by ScarJo). Actually, the whole play was pretty hysterical with fast talking, mistaken identities and slamming doors. I was there opening night, but from high up in the balcony never saw the Olsen twins and other luminaries later seen in the Wireimage pictures.

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