Every year at this time I tell myself that, aged-in-the-wood theatre queen or no, I am not going to get excited about the Tony Awards. That it’s one thing to harbor a stifled theatrical ken but it’s another to act like the hooplah affects me personally. That I am invested in the biz that is show. That my opinion matters. But then the Tony nominations are announced and once again my bitter heart straps on its moldering tap shoes and beats out an eleven o’clock number. There certainly is no fool like an old fool. And there is no old fool like the Flaming Curmudgeon.
This year’s nominations hold few surprises. Christine Ebersole deserves two Tonys for her dual portrayals of Big and Little Edie in Grey Gardens, a striking drama hiding in a seemingly traditional Broadway musical. Her portrayals go beyond mere mimickry and she creates an eerie portrait of a talented and beautiful woman full of promise whose life went awry. Ms. Ebersole is a superb comedienne who knows how to mine the tragic in the comedy and vice versa. You can read my review of the show here. I am hoping that Mary Louise Wilson is also honored with a trophy for her delightful turn as Big Edie Beale in Act II.
It is hard for me to squelch my delight that Kristen Chenoweth was denied a Tony nomination for her ballyooed performance in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of The Apple Tree. I have never fallen for this siren’s supposed talents. She can sure hit high notes but I feel no feeling from her. In short – pun intended – she annoys me. I remember being dumbfounded when I witnessed her grasping ambition when she accepted her Tony award several years back for You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. She had just performed her big number from the show in costume with curly wig. She ran back onstage in a slinky gown with her own hair and expressed her determination that she was not going to accept the award in costume. Fine, great story, but sadly lacking in humility. Yeah, sure, maybe everyone in town was sure you were a shoo in, but telling us during your acceptance speech just shows pure conniving ego. Which is all I ever see when this little spitfire performs. I can see her thinking “Look at me, I’m just terrific!” I don’t get that sense of something new happening from her performances. She always seems to be competing, to be striving, like a lifelong pageant contestant who will win at any cost instead of like a character coming to life out of the nothingness right before our eyes. Ever worked with a lifelong pageant contestant? I have. Years ago I worked with a woman who had worked the Miss America Pageant circuit not once but twice. I was surprised that this was even legal, but she did it. She had on her resume that she was the most talented non-finalist in one of the years. Now that’s grasping!
Last year I was floored when The Drowsy Chaperone did not take home the award for Best Musical because it just elated me. Jersey Boys — ?? Please. I’m sure it’s a delightful evening in the theatre but a Best Musical it ain’t. I don’t see how a musical with a new score can be considered less good than a musical the score of which is comprised of pop songs from another era. We curmudgeons, flaming or otherwise, are purists. Or is it that we purists are inevitably curmudgeons? Which brings me to the only other musical I think might possibly upset Grey Gardens’ chances in the Best Musical category. Spring Awakening. It’s received rave reviews across the board. It’s young. It’s new. But I’ve heard the score and, so sorry, but though some of it is lovely in a redundant sort of way, it doesn’t soar to the heights that theatre music ought. And to give it a nomination for orchestrations is beyond ridiculous. There are accompaniments but there is little orchestration. Listening to the cast album I enjoyed two selections more than the others because these had strings in the orchestrations. Then I read about the recording and discovered that strings were only used for these songs on the recording, there are no strings in the show. Strings are what tug at our heart strings. Use them.
And that perfectly young adorable Jonathan Groff is nominated for Best Actor in a Musical. Perfect. Can’t wait for my mother to send me articles from my hometown newspaper about this. See, this perfectly young adorable Jonathan Groff is from my hometown. When Spring Awakening was getting all that good press my mother would clip out articles from the hometown paper and send them to me. She took some sort of pride in this kid, who is a stranger to her. The pride she never took in me when I wanted a career in show business. And, yes, it rankles. This kid is who I wanted to be. My mother will never understand that. She never will understand the scars she left tap dancing on my dreams.
So it’s not so surprising I’ve taken to photographing the neighbors under dark of night.