It’s That Time of Year

It’s that time of year again. The weather is getting warmer and staying that way. The promise of summer is in the air. For me though, as someone who dreads the heat of summer, my excitement for this time of year falls to a different season: Tony Season! The nominations were announced at the beginning of May (of course I got up to watch the announcement live) and now we’re just a couple of days away from the Awards themselves!

I think this has been a really exciting season on Broadway and I’m so happy that some of my favourites received nominations, namely SpongeBob with 12 nominations and Once On This Island with 8 nominations, and that Ethan Slater and Hailey Kilgore were both nominated for their amazing debuts. And really, I’m just so excited for all of the nominees in every category, whether they be first timers or veterans.

Since I’ve only seen two of the nominated shows this season (SpongeBob and Once On This Island) I can’t really comment too much on the other nominees or what should/shouldn’t have been nominated (or win). I can only go off of what I’ve heard about the shows, what I’ve seen in clips and pictures, what I’ve read or heard on cast recordings. I am a little surprised though that Frozen didn’t get any nominations in and of thethe acting or design categories. I really don’t know who’s going to win this year. Sure I’d be happy if my favourites won but all of the other nominees are good too. And I’m sure if I had seen more of the shows I would have even more favourites in each category and it would be even harder to pick (not that my favourites or picks mean anything anyway).

It’s great that the Sound Design Tony Award has finally been brought back this year. That’s the one category in which I do actually have an idea of who I want to win. I really want Walter Trarbach (Sound Designer) and Mike Dobson (Foley Designer) to win for SpongeBob (and I think it’s great that they were jointly nominated). The use live/Foley sound effects in that show is amazing and I’m glad that at the very least it’s getting recognition through the nomination. Every time I hear someone from the show talk about the Foley work I’m more and more impressed by it.

I was happy to see SpongeBob nominated for Best Score as well, mainly because I wanted to see how it would work with all of the different artists who contributed music for the show. (Did you ever think you’d hear the phrase “Tony Nominee T.I.” or “Tony Nominee Plain White T’s”?!). I think we should also acknowledge the fact that Tina Landau, director of SpongeBob, is the only woman to be nominated in the Best Director of a Musical category and one of only two women to be nominated between the two directing categories.

I like that, at least from what I can tell, there isn’t a clear “big winner” this year.  Two years ago we had Hamilton which was obviously going to be a big winner in the majority of (musical) categories. Last Year wasn’t quite as obvious, but it was pretty clear that Dear Evan Hansen was going to win pretty big. Come From Away was a good contender though. And now this year, there are a lot of shows getting a lot of hype and there is so much variety between the nominated shows. It is interesting to note that in the Best Musical category this year, all of the nominees are based on/inspired by something else (ie a movie or TV show). I can’t wait to see who’s going to come out on top!

I am looking forward to seeing Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban as hosts. I think it’s going to be great and I’m looking forward to the inevitable Great Comet and Waitress references! Maybe Josh will even bust out the accordian! (We can only hope!)

As always I’m really excited for all of the performances. Considering this year’s nominees in the Best Musical and Best Revival of a Musical categories, I can’t wait to see what they bring to this year’s broadcast! So far I know which song the SpongeBob cast will be performing and that the Once On This Island cast will be performing at 10:06 (and that the goats and chicken will be there!).

So whether or not you’re excited about the looming summer, there’s no denying it’s an exciting time of year when you’re a Broadway fan!

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They Tell the Story

And they tell it so well!

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After the BroadwayCon Closing Ceremony I made my way back to TKTS to get tickets to a Sunday night show, this time going in knowing and getting a ticket for my top choice: Once On This Island.

This show was very different from SpongeBob, but I also loved it, so much! Like SpongeBob I didn’t know the show going in to it. I was an Ahrens and Flaherty fan already (particularly Anastasia (movie and musical) and Rocky) but I wasn’t that familiar with this show that had been their Broadway debut. It also felt like a fitting show with which to end the day after attending the “Journey to the Island” panel at BroadwayCon and meeting Lynn Ahrens at the BroadwayCon Marketplace.

Once On This Island is playing at Circle in the Sqaure. I’ve seen one other show there (Godspell in 2012) and it was cool seeing the space with a different set up. It was still in the round but the space was completely transformed. While Godspell had a circular wooden stage, Once On This Island has a longer, oval, almost rectangular, shaped stage area with sand covering the floor and a pool of water at one end. I knew it was a versatile space but it was cool actually getting to experience it. Theatre in the round also always offers such a unique experience. You can’t help but notice the other audience members and you know that each seat in the theatre offers a different viewing experience. I would love to go back and see it again from a different spot (and just to see it again in general).

I am a fan of Michael Arden’s so I was really happy to actually see a show he directed and it was such a beautiful show. The set, the staging, the music, the lighting, it was all so good! I love when the movement of the set, and in the case of this show some of the lighting, is part of the performance. The actors moved set pieces, lit candles, created all these different moments. They’re telling this story and the way they set the scenes becomes a part of that.

One of my favourite scenes was with the song “Rain”  particularly the staging for “Rain.” The way they created the image of a car with the combination of individual pieces and the dramatic ending of the scene with the lighting and rain falling onto the stage. It was stunning. Each time I listen to the original cast recording I remember so many amazing moments, if I tried to write them out it would probably just end up as a description of the entire show!

Now let’s talk about this cast! The talent on that stage was amazing to witness. Hailey Kilgore was wonderful as Ti Moune (and she’s making her Broadway debut!). Isaac Powell is great as Daniel. The ensemble are all incredible. And the gods: Tamyra Grey as Papa Ge, Norm Lewis (who was actually my first Phantom) as Agwe, Alex Newell as Asaka and Lea Salonga as Erzulie. Wow! I’m so happy that I got to see Leas perform live! I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time and to even just be in the same room as her was amazing. Speaking of amazing, Alex Newell’s Asaka is incredible. I saw Alex sing “Mama Will Provide” twice that day, once at BroadwayCon and then during the show and it was outstanding both times (and there was a matinee between those too, so if he had to sing it three times that day, that is impressive!). The gods each brought such a commanding presence on the stage, even when they were just watching the scenes playing out before them (which makes sense since they are the gods) and just brought such strong performances all around.

It’s interesting going back and listening to the original cast recording, now being more familiar with the revival especially hearing the original Papa Ge and Asaka. Originally Papa Ge was played by a man (Eric Riley) whereas Tamyra Grey (and Merle Dandridge, whom Tamyra replaced due to a contractual leave) plays that character in the revival and Alex Newell (who is gender non-conforming) is playing Asaka, a part originally played by a woman (Kecia Lewis). I think that’s one of the great things about this revival, and theatre in general, the ability to switch things up and add new elements to the characters. There’s no reason why the “Demon of Death” can’t be played by a woman and the “Mother of the Earth” be played by someone who is gender non-conforming. And like I mentioned before, their performances are incredible!I cannot wait for the release of the revival cast recording later this month!!

If you get a chance I would highly recommend seeing this show and experiencing the beautiful storytelling that is brought to the stage.

You’ve also got to love a show that includes a chicken and goats in its cast!

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I’m so happy that both of the shows I saw on this trip are part of the current Broadway season. It’s going to make things even more exciting come Tony time!