Beau Salant ‘18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
As Broadway’s Spring season is preparing to rev into full gear, it’s time to reflect on the now-gone Fall season and look ahead to what the warmer months have in store as we begin to predict the 2015 Tony Award races!
Best MusicalThe strongest contender to emerge from the Fall season is Honeymoon in Vegas, which opened to strong reviews from critics and positive reactions from audiences. However, the musical is proving to be a financial disaster, with its average weekly gross being in the $350,000 range (a mere fraction of the theater’s $1.2 million gross potential) and only filling 66.5% of the house’s seats. Unless the show pulls off a money miracle and starts drawing larger crowds, it will likely close before Tony voters even get the chance to see it.
The only other major contender from the Fall is The Last Ship, which was eagerly anticipated as composer-lyricist Sting’s first foray on Broadway. That anticipation quickly evaporated as, like Honeymoon in Vegas, the musical quickly found itself hemorrhaging money despite receiving critical acclaim. The show closed in late January due to its financial struggles. Premature closings often spell doom for Tony chances, but The Last Ship could make a case with the reviews it received.
As for the upcoming Spring season, fans and critics alike are heavily anticipating the Broadway transfer of Fun Home, which played off-Broadway last year to overwhelmingly positive critical reception. The musical features a book and lyrics by Lisa Kron and music by Jeanine Tesori (who, with four previous nominations, is criminally overdue to take home a Tony), will feature staging by Sam Gold and will star Broadway favorites Michael Cerveris and Judy Kuhn, as well as newcomer Sydney Lucas. Numerous critics have already named Fun Home the Best Musical frontrunner for 2015, but many are also watching out for…
Something Rotten! Early word on the street about this production is that it’s uproariously funny and that the producers are so confident in it that they decided to skip the customary out-of-town tryout that most musicals have a few months in advance and take it right to Broadway! Tony voters love a good musical comedy (previous winners A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and The Producers can attest to this) and Something Rotten! is poised to be the breakout laffer of the year. Perhaps most importantly, the show is being staged and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, whose previous credits include The Book of Mormon and Aladdin, two of Broadway’s biggest hits. Is Nicholaw about to three-peat?
Other contenders include the highly anticipated Finding Neverland, the Broadway transfer of the French hit An American in Paris and the long-awaited Broadway premiere of The Visit, the final musical written by the legendary songwriting duo of John Kander and Fred Ebb prior to Ebb’s death, which could prove to be this year’s sentimental favorite.
Best PlayTwo new plays opened to critical acclaim and huge financial success this Fall: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Constellations. Both shows have been praised for their lavish productions and for the performances given by their leading actors (Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson have already been named frontrunners in the acting categories for Constellations by numerous critics). Both shows will likely secure a slot in the competitive Best Play category, but will have to face some serious competition from the onslaught of Spring plays.
The first of those is Fish in the Dark, the Broadway debut of Larry David, most famous for his work on Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. David, who wrote and stars in the play, has been longing to take his talents to Broadway for some time now and early word is that Fish in the Dark is a major success. The show, currently in previews, has been making over a million dollars a week, indicating that audiences are very interested in seeing David on stage and that the show will have a long, healthy run. Could a Tony be coming its way next?
Another major star taking her talents to Broadway this year is Helen Mirren, who is reprising her Oscar-winning performance as Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience. Also currently in previews, the show is a similar financial success to David’s, and word has it that Mirren is giving the performance of a lifetime.
One play that doesn’t have a major name attached to it but is stirring up massive hype is Hand to God, a quirky comedy about a socially awkward young man who communicates his dark thoughts and inner musings through a sock puppet that he never removes from his hand. The play, starring (soon-to-be major star?) Steven Boyer and written by Robert Askins earned acclaim at play festivals and off-Broadway for the past year, and is building buzz as the show that’s bringing puppetry back to Broadway for the first time since Avenue Q (which won the Tony for Best Musical in 2004). Hand to God could be the breakout winner of 2015.
Best Revival of a MusicalThe Fall brought us two musical revivals of note: On the Town and Side Show. In what appears to be the recurring trend of the musicals of the Fall season, both shows opened to great reviews but struggled to bring in an audience. Side Show so regularly played to half-empty houses that the producers stopped selling tickets for the balcony section of the theater altogether, fearing that patrons would buy the less expensive seats in that area only to move to an empty seat in a pricier section during the show without paying. The production, which I saw and liked a lot, closed less than two months after it opened due to poor ticket sales. On the Town has also found itself struggling to fill the theater every night, but that show’s producers are gritting their teeth and have kept the show open regardless. If they manage to keep the show open through the Spring, it could be a strong contender for the Tony.
This Spring will see another slew of musical revivals, most notably the Lincoln Center’s mounting of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved The King and I. Lincoln Center has hired director Bartlett Sher to stage the production, and knowing both of their reputations for lavish, grandiose productions, it’s highly likely that The King and I will be a major player come Tony time. Kelli O’Hara and Ken Wantanabe head up the production.
In competition with The King and I will be the always reliable Roundabout Theater Company’s production of On the Twentieth Century. The production will be the musical’s first revival since it premiered on Broadway in 1978, and stars the critical and audience favorite Kristin Chenoweth in the lead role. With the formidable creative team behind it (acclaimed director Scott Ellis is staging) all but guaranteeing a strong production, theater lovers will flock to it to see this classic musical and tourists will flock to it to see Chenoweth on stage again after a five-year hiatus. The battle for the Best Revival Tony will likely be between On the Twentieth Century and The King and I.
Best Revival of a PlayFall saw two major play revivals: the critical and commercial success A Delicate Balance and the absolute critical and commercial smash hit The Elephant Man. Both shows are all but guaranteed a slot in this category, which doesn’t look to be too competitive this year. The Elephant Man, which featured mega movie star Bradley Cooper in the lead role, was one of the most successful productions of a non-musical play in recent history, taking in over a million dollars a week and playing to completely filled theaters on a nightly basis. A Delicate Balance also featured a star-studded cast including Glenn Close, John Lithgow, Martha Plimpton and Bob Balaban. While the show is not nearly as successful as The Elephant Man was, it has still had quite the success story.
The only problem with both shows is that they only played limited engagements (ironically, they both played their final performance on the same day). Tony voters don’t like giving awards to productions that aren’t running at the time the awards are given out. This benefits Skylight and The Heidi Chronicles, the only other revivals currently scheduled to open on Broadway this season. Both are opening this Spring season and will (hopefully) be running at the time of the Tony Awards telecast. Like A Delicate Balance and The Elephant Man, both feature a star-studded cast (Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan are headlining Skylight, Elisabeth Moss and 2014 Tony Award nominee Bryce Pinkham is leading The Heidi Chronicles) that will likely attract audiences and bring in a good amount of money. But if these productions fail to make a critical splash, Tony voters may have to grit their teeth and go for one of the acclaimed but closed shows. It will be a photo finish.
As we get further into the Spring season and closer to the Tony Awards, we’ll take another look at these categories, see which new contenders have emerged and also make some picks as to which actors and actresses may find themselves nominated for Broadway’s biggest award this year.