Wednesday, June 8, 2016

History Was Made: Now What?

Back in 2008, I was a huge Hillary Clinton supporter. I had the sign on my lawn. I was very vocal in my support for her when many of my friends (and the country) got behind the 1st year senator from Illinois. When Obama became the nominee, I jumped behind him and gave him my full support and continued that support throughout his presidency. For me, it's a no-brainer: you support the candidate you believe will not only be best for the country as a whole, but also believes in your rights as a citizen and doesn't want to send you tumbling backwards (and in my case - back in the closet).

Here we are 8 years later and while I wasn't thrilled with candidates on either side of the aisle at first, I got behind the nominee that I believed would move our country forward. Not only do I believe Clinton has the country's best interest at heart, I fully believe she stands with me as someone in a same-sex marriage. (Something I know not one person in the Republican party can get behind.) While many will debate the way the Democratic Party counts delegates for days and weeks to come, she has more pledged delegates than Obama had in '08, she has the majority of pledged delegates in this election cycle, and yes - the super delegates will put her over the needed amount (same as Obama in '08 when he was declared the winner on June 3, 2008 - well before the convention that year). I was thrilled to watch her as she made history as the first female to become the presumptive nominee for a major party and I love reading the stories of parents with little girls all across the country that stayed up to watch her speech.

I admire the passion that people have for Mr. Sanders (even if I don't admire or believe all of his false promises). I love how he changed the discussion in our country and he has brought up many important topics that need to stay in the forefront as we move forward. As a senator, he can have a much more powerful platform now. AND if he had been the Democratic nominee, I would have gotten behind him 100%. Yet those that have worshipped Bernie and felt his burn all these months can't do the same thing that many of us did in 2008. I'm saddened by those that can't do the same thing now. That WON'T do the same thing.  

Instead, they feel Hillary is not a good choice and they want to tear apart the democratic party and rally behind an independent. I firmly believe our system needs to change so we are not a party system - but for now: WE STILL ARE. Putting your vote behind an independent (who, btw, used the Democratic Party for months to gain publicity and a following), is handing the election to Donald Trump. A man that will make us a laughing joke to other countries and frankly, could take us into WWIII with his ego.

But if that's more important to you than a woman who has a political record, who believes in our country and who WILL lead (even though many will write me about her horrible past and please don't bother repeating those same talking points to me) - then I guess I have to be ready for us to move backwards and for me to end back up without rights in our country. When that happens, it will be hard for me to look at those friends who enabled this 'independent revolution' to occur which ended up bringing our great country down under Trump's reign.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Tony! Tony! Tony!

It's that time of year where all theater geeks make their predictions for the Tony Awards honoring the best of the past Broadway season. So here are mine (along with some links to my reviews of some of the shows). Also, click to hear a great discussion about the Tony Awards with myself, Keith Price and, Paul Winkler on Keith's curtain call Tony Awards Prediction Show.
Best Play
Eclipsed Author: Danai Gurira
The Father Author: Florian Zeller
The Humans Author: Stephen Karam
King Charles III Author: Mike Bartlett
Loved them all, but I'd go with King Charles III - I bet The Humans will get it though.
Best Musical
Bright Star
School of Rock-The Musical
Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Well, this is Hamilton's & totally deserves it. (Though I wish American Psycho would have gotten a nomination - it's just as revolutionary in a completely different way even though it closed this past Sunday.)
Best Revival of a Play
Arthur Miller's The Crucible
Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge
Long Day's Journey Into Night
Noises Off

I was greatly disturbed by Blackbird, laughed so hard at Noises Off, but I'm betting it's A View From the Bridge

Best Revival of a Musical

The Color Purple
Fiddler on the Roof
She Loves Me
Spring Awakening
I'm torn between the two reimagined productions of Color Purple & Spring Awakening.
Best Book of a Musical
Bright Star - Steve Martin
Hamilton - Lin-Manuel Miranda
School of Rock-The Musical - Julian Fellowes
Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed George C. Wolfe
Tough category because some of these in this list are what was talked about as being the weakest part of the show (and yet they still got nominated) - but Hamilton will win for Lin-Manuel's 6 years of writing this masterpiece.
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Bright Star - Music: Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Lyrics: Edie Brickell
HamiltonMusic & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda
School of Rock-The Musical - Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics: Glenn Slater
Waitress - Music & Lyrics: Sara Bareilles

Hands down - this is why Hamilton deserves to be where it is this year. That score!! YES!

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Gabriel Byrne, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Jeff Daniels, Blackbird
Frank Langella, The Father
Tim Pigott-Smith, King Charles III
Mark Strong, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge
This is such a hard category for me as I love so many, but have to go with Frank Langella who gave me a masterclass in acting.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Jessica Lange, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Laurie Metcalf, Misery
Lupita Nyong'o, Eclipsed
Sophie Okonedo, Arthur Miller's The Crucible
Michelle Williams, Blackbird
So many good ones! Glad that Laurie Metcalf was remembered for early in the season and Michelle Williams blew me away, but thinking it's Jessica Lange.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Alex Brightman, School of Rock-The Musical
Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof
Zachary Levi, She Loves Me
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Leslie Odom, Jr., Hamilton

This is tough for me as I honestly believe Benjamin Walker should have been in this category over (dare I say it) Lin-Manuel. So since he's not, I have to go with Leslie Odom, Jr.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Laura Benanti, She Loves Me
Carmen Cusack, Bright Star
Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple
Jessie Mueller, Waitress
Phillipa Soo, Hamilton
I am so happy by this category with so many amazing women! I'm torn between Carmen and Cynthia for completely different reasons. 
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Reed Birney, The Humans
Bill Camp, Arthur Miller's The Crucible
David Furr, Noises Off
Richard Goulding, King Charles III
Michael Shannon, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Great actors here and I'm thrilled that David Furr made this list! But I'm going with Reed Birney.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Pascale Armand, Eclipsed
Megan Hilty, Noises Off
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans
Andrea Martin, Noises Off
Saycon Sengbloh, Eclipsed

Another great category - but Megan Hilty's performance stuck with me from early in the season.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress
Jonathan Groff, Hamilton
Christopher Jackson, Hamilton
This is another category where I could have put several other actor's names on this list from musicals this season (Paul Alexander Nolan) and not sure Hamilton should have run the category the way it did. That said, Christopher Jackson is my guy (though I bet Daveed Diggs will get it). 
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me
Jennifer Simard, Disaster!
Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Could this category BE more different in performances? As much as I love them all - I have to go with my girl Jennifer Simard for going there in Disaster!
Best Scenic Design of a Play
Beowulf Boritt, Thérèse Raquin
Christopher Oram, Hughie
Jan Versweyveld, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge
David Zinn, The Humans
That set for Hughie was amazing (even though hardly anyone saw it in such a short run). I'm going with Christopher Oram.
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Es Devlin & Finn Ross, American Psycho
David Korins, Hamilton
Santo Loquasto, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
David Rockwell, She Loves Me

Es Devlin & Finn Ross created a world that was completely different from anything else in the category and I'm going with them for American Psycho.

Best Costume Design of a Play
Jane Greenwood, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Michael Krass, Noises Off
Clint Ramos, Eclipsed
Tom Scutt, King Charles III

Usually I have one that jumps out at me, but none of these do this I'm going to pick Noises Off - Michael Krass.

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Tuck Everlasting
Jeff Mahshie, She Loves Me
Ann Roth, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Paul Tazewell, Hamilton

I got to see these up close & personal backstage and they are just as amazing there...Paul Tazewell for Hamilton.

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Natasha Katz, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Justin Townsend, The Humans
Jan Versweyveld, Arthur Miller's The Crucible
Jan Versweyveld, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge
Justin Townsend had a challenge lighting this set and did an incredible job at making it all real. Going with him.
Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Howell Binkley, Hamilton
Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Ben Stanton, Spring Awakening
Justin Townsend, American Psycho
I have to go with Justin Townsend again showing a completely different way of working.
Best Direction of a Play
Rupert Goold, King Charles III
Jonathan Kent, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Joe Mantello, The Humans
Liesl Tommy, Eclipsed
Ivo Van Hove, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge
I just loved how King Charles III moved & everything about it which points to Rupert Goold. (He was also amazing directing American Psycho...obviously, I have an obsession with this closed show.)
Best Direction of a Musical
Michael Arden, Spring Awakening
John Doyle, The Color Purple
Scott Ellis, She Loves Me
Thomas Kail, Hamilton
George C. Wolfe, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
I think Michael Arden & John Doyle did amazing work reimagining those shows, but Thomas Kail's work on Hamilton made it what it was. 
Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton
Savion Glover, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Hofesh Shechter, Fiddler on the Roof
Randy Skinner, Dames at Sea
Sergio Trujillo, On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan

Andy Blankenbuehler showed us things we've never seen before and helped create a phenomenon. It's him. 

Best Orchestrations
August Eriksmoen, Bright Star
Larry Hochman, She Loves Me
Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton
Daryl Waters, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
A different sound - a unique voice - I'm going with August Eriksmoen for Bright Star.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Opening Night: This One's For You, Dad

Dad as a Young Man
I've seen this all before...many times in my life I've experience the rush of an opening night and all of the butterflies that go with it. As I had done 3 years ago when I returned after a hiatus to do Next To Normal, I had once again sworn off getting back onstage - but was pulled in when 4th Wall Theatre announced one of my favorite shows from the past 5 seasons on Broadway...Big Fish. I made my strong feelings for this show known in an article I wrote for the Huffington Post when I begged people to see it before it closed on Broadway.

With Alexander Wolfe
Yet this one feels different. It's more personal. It's not just getting up and doing another show and oh, wasn't that fun. It's been a journey like one I can't fully describe. Playing Edward Bloom is a roller coaster of a night (where director Kate Swan even has me dancing on stage...ME!) and going back and forth in time from older and younger. (I play from 10 years old to 59 years old in this play...without makeup or wigs.) :-)  It's a joy. It's a rush. It's an exhaustion like I've never known. It's a love story to fathers and sons. In playing him, I'm attempting to honor the man that molded me into the man I am today.  The one that truly believed I could do anything I put my mind to. I wonder what Dad would think of the things I've marked off my bucket list since we lost him 13 years ago. 

With Chris Traina
I can't say thanks enough to 4th Wall, Kate, Markus, Gwen, Martha - all those that made this dream a reality for me. There are those in life that believe in you even when you don't believe in yourself...and they believed I could handle this marathon. THANK YOU!  Big Fish teaches us to dream bigger and I suppose that's what I've done. This was one more challenge and mountain for me to climb as I complain of getting older and not able to remember lines, music, etc as well anymore. (Fingers crossed no one will notice if I go up on one or two!)

This cast and crew is incredible!! (Yes....HUGE shout out to crew, especially Liana and Lawrence backstage helping us in herculean costume changes.) Every person involved in this show has been amazing. "A man is as rich as his friends..." and with this production, I've been able to work with old friends and make new ones as well. I am so happy to have taken this journey with them all. It's something I'll never forget and I can't wait for audiences to experience the tall tales of Edward the next two weekends.  
With Laurice Grae-Hauck

If you have nothing to do June 3,4,5, 10,11,12 - visit us at the Westminster Arts Center, stop and smell the daffodils, and be transported with a beautiful story about life, love, and those we leave behind.

This one's for you, dad.

Photos by Carl Schmidt