|By George Spelvin
ALL ABOUT TONY (AND I DON'T MEAN TONY SOPRANO): If you're a theater insider, you will tape the finale of "The Sopranos" and watch the Tony Awards live instead, your carefully-completed ballot in hand. Last year at this time, I wrote that I expected to be wrong about at least three of my Tony predictions, and I was right about that much — I was wrong about SEVEN of last season's 24 Tony winners. For instance, I thought Sweeney Todd was a lock for Best Musical Revival, but I (and a number other pundits) were surprised by the popularity of Roundabout's Pajama Game.
However, it's doubtful that Roundabout will see a repeat win this year, despite the fact that its revival of 110 in the Shade is richly deserving. A big bloc of voters is pissed off at Roundabout for leasing its third Broadway theater (the soon-to-reopen Henry Miller). Commercial producers are frustrated at having to compete against so many nonprofit shows (which have lower union costs), and they may well vote for this year's Sondheim entry, Company — in part to make up for Sweeney's loss, and in part to punish Roundabout.
After all, we all remember the rules of Tony voting, don't we? They are: (1) vote for yourself; (2) vote for your friends; (3) vote against your enemies; and (4) vote your conscience. Me, I'm voting for what I think will win. Here's hoping I do better this year:
AND THE WINNERS WILL BE (I THINK)…
· Spring Awakening, the most nominated musical of the season, will win 7 awards: Musical, Score, Director, Choreography, Featured Actor, Orchestrations, Lighting
· The Coast of Utopia, the most nominated play in Tony history, will win 7 awards: Play, Director, Featured Actor, Featured Actress, Sets, Costumes, Lighting
· Grey Gardens will win 4 awards: Actress, Featured Actress, Book, Costumes
· Company will win 2 awards: Musical Revival, Actor
· Journey's End will win for Play Revival, bittersweet on the day it closes
· Frost/Nixon's Frank Langella will win for Best Actor, in the tightest contest of the year
· The Little Dog Laughed's Julie White will be the surprise winner for Best Actress
· Mary Poppins' Bob Crowley will win for his sets, his second Tony of the night (he'll also win for Utopia, shared with Scott Pask)
· Kiki and Herb will win Special Theatrical Event
· No prizes for the 19 other nominated productions of A Chorus Line, The Apple Tree, Butley, Coram Boy, Curtains, Deuce, Heartbreak House, High Fidelity, Inherit The Wind, Jay Johnson: The Two and Only; Legally Blonde, LoveMusik, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, A Moon For The Misbegotten, 110 in the Shade, Radio Golf, Talk Radio, Translations, and The Year of Magical Thinking.
THE VERY MODEL OF A MODERN MAJOR MUSICAL? Look to Milburn, New Jersey where previews began last night for the 'new' musical Pirates! (based on the 128-year-old Gilbert & Sullivan operetta The Pirates of Penzance) at Paper Mill Playhouse. As anyone who reads this column undoubtedly knows, Paper Mill is clawing its way out of some desperate financial straits and it could really use a hit. This show certainly has all the ingredients of a modern major musical. Tie-in with a successful movie franchise (i.e., Pirates of the Caribbean)? Check. Easy-to-transfer concert staging like the Encores-to-Broadway versions of Chicago, Wonderful Town and The Apple Tree? Check. Enhancement money to Paper Mill from interested commercial producers? Uh… where's the check?
Although the non-profit Goodspeed Musicals — which co-commissioned this show — has generously donated the props and costumes from its own production earlier this season, commercial producers who have been circling this show are taking a wait-and-see attitude. For the record, Penzance has been on Broadway an astounding 24 times since its debut in 1879, usually for very limited runs, although the last time was a 1981 Joe Papp production that ran for almost two years at the then-Uris (now Gershwin) Theatre.
THE SUMMER OF (FREE) LOVE. As many will remember, that Joe Papp Penzance started out as a free ticket at Central Park's Delacorte Theater, where audiences fell in love with it. Love — or "free love" as the ubiquitous ads around town promise — is the theme of this summer's Delacorte season, where the runs of the currently-playing Romeo and Juliet and the upcoming A Midsummer Night's Dream have both been extended by an extra week to allow more people to see them for free. Groovy.
NO REST FOR THE WEARY. After the crazy-busy spring of show openings, summer is usually when many theater folks take a breather. But not this year. Notable openings include 10 Million Miles, Atlantic Theater's follow-up collaboration with its Spring Awakening co-producers Tom Hulce and Ira Pittelman, opens next Thursday. The aforementioned Roundabout unveils two shows this month: Beyond Glory on June 21 and Old Acquaintance on June 28. Xanadu — which some have already dubbed "Xana-Doomed" — opens June 26. Patti LuPone plays yet another of her idol Ethel Merman's roles when she takes on Mama Rose during the limited run of Gypsy at City Center, opening July 12. (What's next, Happy Hunting?) Last and least, the reality-show stars of Grease open on August 19.
THE DISABLED LIST. And speaking of that Grease reality show, one of the finalists was Reed Prescott, who was scheduled to star this summer in an off-off-Broadway show called I Google Myself, in which he was to play a gay porn star. Prescott, said to be recovering from back surgery, has been replaced by Nathan Blew (your joke goes here). Also on the disabled list is Adam Salter, part of the enormous company of the musical Lord of the Rings in London. During a recent performance, Salter's leg got trapped inside the production's elaborate scenery which involves three turntables and 17 lifts within the stage floor. Salter is going to be okay, and after some "modifications" to the set, the show has resumed performances without further incident. Finally, my thoughts go out to actor Evan Pappas (pictured), who is slowly recovering from a terrible car accident in Phoenix last February while he was on tour with On Golden Pond.
ON A MUCH LIGHTER NOTE… Here's a fun fact: the 1761-seat Broadway Theatre, which is now home to The Color Purple starring American Idol winner Fantasia, was a movie theater early in its life. The Broadway's notable film premieres included Mickey Mouse's 1928 debut in Steamboat Willie and another Disney movie which introduced stereophonic sound to cinemas in 1939 called…Fantasia.
FESTIVAL FIRST: The inaugural National Asian American Theater Festival kicks off Monday with some of the "hottest, cutting-edge Asian American theater" presented at venues all over Manhattan, as well as in Queens and Staten Island. The two-week event will feature more than 25 companies and individuals from around the United States, with backgrounds from Cambodia, China, Japan, Korea, Laos, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam reflected in their work. Some of the actors, writers and directors give a preview of their shows here.
JUST ASKING: Will Broadway's internecine struggle over the content of this year's Tony broadcast be the last straw for CBS? The network brass wanted to include the telegenic Legally Blonde and they're peeved this couldn't be worked out. So I won't be surprised if the awards end up on a cable channel next summer, where it will be seen by even fewer people than now. Which leads me to ask (and not for the first time): Why can't Broadway producers get their act together? Are they so self-destructive that they are willing to lose their one major showcase on network TV?
[Main Photo Credit: Joan Marcus for Spring Awakening]