Tuesday, May 05, 2009

TONY Award Nominations / Movie Connections

The Tony Award Nominations are upon us. As is my inconsistent tradition, I thought I'd share a little bit about a movies you can rent or think about to create an unfulfilling celluloid guilty-by-association approximation of the Broadway experience of the 2008/2009 season before the TONYs roll around on June 7th. Not everyone gets to New York to see the shows. And even if you live here, like me, you don't get to them in your financially challenged years. Tony Winners Cynthia Nixon (who seems to be everywhere lately, right?) and In the Height's man Lin-Manuel Miranda are announcing them live any minute now.

If you want a reminder of what's eligible which you can use to see who got snubbed check out this eligibility chart.

Joe Turner's Come and Gone
This is the 2nd in August Wilson's famous 10 play decade by decade cycle of the African-American experience. The themes are identity and migration. There is sadly no great movie epic about The Great Migration (That's a missed opportunity A list writer/directors. Get on it!). The original production starred Delroy Lindo and Angela Bassett so you can rent one movie from each. Only one (!?!) of Wilson's plays has been filmed: The Piano Lesson with Charles S Dutton and Alfre Woodard in the lead roles.

Mary Stuart
Imagine a whole movie about Samantha Morton's doomed Mary Stuart instead of Cate Blanchett's cousin-killing Elizabeth in The Golden Age. Although maybe you wouldn't like to think about the Golden Age right now or ever again. My apologies!

A sampling of actresses who've played Mary: Helen Hayes, Vanessa Redgrave, Samantha Morton and Janet McTeer. Scarlett Johansson was set to play her in an upcoming film but that seems to be off her schedule now.

Better yet, rent Vanessa Redgrave's Oscar nominated turn as Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) with Glenda Jackson as her rival. Oscar nominee Janet McTeer (Tumbleweeds) is Mary of Scots in the Broadway revival. Further reading about Bess & Mary

The Norman Conquests
This comedic trilogy by Alan Ayckbourn was filmed in the 70s for television but it's not on DVD.

Waiting for Godot
This Beckett classic has been staged countless times and filmed a few times for television. It's so theatrical and abstract by nature (two men wait in vain on an empty country road. The end!) that it doesn't really invite the screen treatment. The current revival stars Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin. When I interviewed Bill Irwin (who shoulda been Oscar nominated for Rachel Getting Married) last year we talked about this a bit. I figured he could handle Nathan Lane what with all that sparring with Kathleen Turner already under his belt. I heartily recommend renting Beckett on Film in which interesting directors interpret Beckett's work. At the very least you'll get to see Julianne Moore doing Beckett's insanely great monologue piece Not I (see previous post)

Guys and Dolls

The 1955 movie version starring Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons isn't really definitive since it's not particularly well loved and there are some singing issues. The current revival stars familiar actors from TV mostly (Oliver Platt, Lauren Graham and Craig Bierko). When they revived this musical comedy in London 4 years ago the Brits got two actors who fill me with glee: Ewan MacGregor and Jane Krakowski. No fair!

I LOVED this production (see previous post) but if you can't get to NYC to see it, you can always watch the 1979 Milos Forman film version.

Pal Joey
This got the film treatment back in 1957 with Frank Sinatra as star, so you'll want to rent that. Here's two videos to give you a slice of musical heaven this fine Tuesday morning...

Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak. That combo is almost too beautiful to look at. Double mmmmm. Stockard Channing and 80s teen star turned ubiquitous Broadway player Martha Plimpton are the "mice" on Broadway.

West Side Story
I really want to see this rare revival of my favorite musical of all time. But I could always watch the movie a gazillionth time.

Dividing the Estate
This isn't a new play but this family drama from Horton Foote is having its first Broadway run, therefore eligible for "best play". Foote died just two months ago but in his long career he wrote many plays and screenplays, too (including that film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird which marked his first Oscar win). His most successful play-to-screen transfers happened in the 80s with the Oscar winners Tender Mercies and The Trip to Bountiful.

God of Carnage
A friend of mine has already seen this one three times. The play is about two sets of parents who meet to discuss an altercation between their childen. The civilized meeting goes haywire and everyone behaves very badly. The couples are film and tv regulars Hope Davis and Jeff Daniels and awards magnets James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden (yay! my love grows)

reasons to be pretty
This is the latest provocation from Neil Labute also from my alma mater BYU in which a boyfriend's offhanded comment about his girlfriend's beauty-deficiency gets back to her sparking much trouble in their social circle. Thematically this is supposed to close an unofficial trilogy which started with The Shape of Things (which was made into a film with its original cast intact: Rachel Weisz, Paul Rudd, Gretchen Mol and Fred Weller) and continued in Fat Pig. LaBute's film career started strong with the vicious In the Company of Men which introduced movie audiences to Aaron Eckhart (another BYU alum) but lately he's been sliding: Lakeview Terrace and Wicker Man? Really... that's what you got?

33 Variations
This is the play that brought Jane Fonda back to Broadway. It's a story of a mother and daughter relationship and also a story about a composer: it spans 200 years from contemporary New York to 19th century Austria... plays aren't as literal as movies, you know.

Fonda is a nominee for Best Actress. Why can't somebody give her another shot at a third Oscar? Streep shouldn't be the only one giving Katharine Hepburn a run for her 4 Oscar record.

<--- Here's a photo from Jane Fonda's blog of 92 year-old Oscar winning supporting actress superstar CELESTE HOLM (!) visiting her backstage. This photo makes me so happy.

Billy Elliott
You've already seen the movie but why not watch it again. I'm still confused about how it makes a stage musical. If everyone is singing and dancing what makes little Billy so special. He's no longer out of place which was sort of the whole emotional point. That said, reviews are strong so maybe they worked magic.

Oh and yes, this will easily be the Slumdog of TONY night. It's up for 15 prizes including a special 3-way nomination for Best Actor

Film to Stage: It takes three boys to fill Jamie Bell's talented shoes

Next to Normal
A family in crisis (the mother is bipolar)... sings. More than 30 original songs. Alice Ripley (Side Show) headlines.

Rock of Ages
This is a head banging musical comedy (lots of famous songs from 80s radio) which unfortunately continues the trend of putting American Idol stars in Broadway roles -- this time it's Constantine Maroulis. Since this is a send up I guess maybe This is Spinal Tap! could be a vaguely connected movie rental choice. Or, go see Anvil! The Story of Anvil in theaters. It's a goodie even if its comedy is less intentional.

Shrek the Musical

I am in the tiny .001 percentile of the population that finds the whole Shrek phenomenon completely overrated and disheartening. I still think it's embarrassing that the movie beat Monsters, Inc to the Oscar . This musical doesn't have a prayer of accomplishing a similar feat, thank goodness. Small comfort because I am tremendously annoyed that my beloved Sutton Foster keeps wasting her bankability and starpower playing roles in mammoth productions that don't need a star of her calibre to sell tickets and for which no one will remember her. If your name alone can generate press and sell tickets why not harness your power for good and support new composers and smaller shows?

Here she is yukking it up at Joe's Pub last year and on Rosie O'Donnell in 2002 when her star first exploded in Thoroughly Modern Millie

(sigh) I love her so. It's so weird to me that she's never made a movie though she has finally done a bit of TV (Flight of the Conchords)

That's it! Whew. I'll talk about the actors and actresses soon (in brief) Have you seen any of these productions? If not, what's the last Broadway or touring show you saw?


martha said...

well, not in the big screen adaptation of Rabbit Hole, but Dianne Wiest is (good casting)

Anonymous said...

Three words...Kristen Scott Thomas. Not nominated. Unbelievable. (Also her costar, Carey Mulligan.) Shameful. Shocking. This after the Oscars suggests she must not play the game...or something?!


yeah. i'll get to the actors in a minute

Andrew said...

Next to Normal is pretty amazing, I'd definitely recommend you see it.

Re: The cost of shows - thats what rushing is for. Unfortunately, its a hassle.

Rob said...

Next to Normal is easily the best thing nominated out of all the plays and musicals.

Catherine said...

Never been to B'way. Some day!

Last musical I saw live was Evita in Dublin last year. I was kind of 'meh' about going because I'm not a huge ALW fan and I hated the Madonna version. I'm so glad I ended up going, though, it was amazing. Totally turned around my perception of that musical.

And I have tickets to see Trevor Nunn's A Little Night Music in London in June (along with the Ian McKellen/Patrick Stewart Godot and As You Like It at the Globe. Yeah, I cannot wait for June!).

Enjoying these Tony updates, Nathaniel.

Robert said...

Next to Normal for the win, please. One of these smart, mature shows has to win eventually, right? The only thing holding it back is the collective bad taste left from last year's misguided Off-Broadway run. Yeah, a Bipolar Dramedy, emphasis on the "edy." Not smart.

It wasn't rushed like LuvMusik (oh if that show had only spent a little more time in development), or pot-driven like Passing Strange, or so cutesy and gimmicky that people didn't get the genuine backbone like ...Spelling Bee.

Shrek is awful. Rock of Ages is worse. And Billy Elliott only has more nominations that Next to Normal because the cast is gigantic and seemingly everyone was nominated.

I've seen the revivals: It's Hair's to lose. West Side Story is too subtle, Pal Joey is all but forgotten now, and Guys and Dolls is the biggest turd on Broadway since In My Life.

Wayne B. said...

'Mary Stuart' sounds interesting; Elizabeth I has always been a fascination for me especially because of the relationships with her fellow queens/family Mary I and Mary of Scots. That's a beautiful picture of Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson from the movie.


Trent -- thanks for all the thoughts. I really need to see NEXT TO NORMAL now. I didn't know about its long and shifting pre-Broadway run.

wayne b -- isn't it crazy that redgrave and jackson played the roles that Morton and Blanchett recently played and that Scarlett Johansson and ??? were supposed to be playing soon.

Wayne B. said...

Nathaniel - I'm actually kind of glad that the Scarlett Johansson version will not get made. Not trying to hate on her but I don't think she's at the level yet to communicate Mary's internal struggles effectively. Redgrave and Morton are both masters at using very little to communicate massive thoughts and feelings. I picture Scarlett Johansson as being more a "Lady Jane Grey" type.
Who else could play a young Mary of Scots?

Anonymous said...

Monsters Inc is a million times better than Shrek

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel - you MUST see Billy Elliot: the Musical. Probably the best stage show ever!

Andrew K. said...

Nat, I did not know that you like Sutton Foster. That's good though. I don't hate Shrek, but I heard some of the songs and they are rather uninspired. Good, for a first sitting but no sense of longevity. I just wrote a piece featuring Sutton...