The Five: The Hamilton-Free Tony Wrap Up

Anthony R. Miller checks in with everything else that happened at the Tony Awards.

Hey you guys, so while watching the Tony Awards last Sunday, there were moments where I felt kinda bad for everyone in a musical that wasn’t Hamilton. I mean, yay for Hamilton, but there’s no need to expound on its brilliance any further (many have done it for me). The fact is, there was some really interesting stuff that I think got a bit overshadowed by History’s Greatest Musical. I mean seriously, when THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES introduces the show you’re competing against, you lost. So today, let’s chat about some of the overlooked gems at this year’s Tony Awards, and yeah, there are five.

James Corden Is A Big Sack Of Sugar
From the pitch-perfect tribute to the lives lost in Orlando, to his self-deprecating humor, to his just lovable demeanor, I loved Corden as host, and my daughter was very excited the Baker from Into the Woods was hosting. It was then I decided this was not the time to discuss the finer points of Chip Zien, but I really wanted to, cause like seriously, Chip Zien, people.

That Waitress Musical Tho
When a famous person writes a musical, the results can be mixed. (I’m looking at you, Bright Star.) Sometimes, the songs are fine, but the storytelling isn’t strong, sometimes the songs aren’t good. So imagine my surprise when the cast of Waitress came on and it was…pretty great actually. Sara Bareilles should be given all the credit in the world. And while I’m here, I was also totally blown away by the revival of Spring Awakening, and School of Rock was really flippin’ charming. It’s a shame that they were practically afterthoughts.

Oh Wow, Chicago Has Been Running A Long Time
Bebe Neuwirth and the cast of Chicago came out to remind us that the current revival has been going for 20 years and is now the longest-running American musical (note the qualifier) on Broadway. Which is cool until you realize you were 18 when that show opened…

Apparently Only Actors Get To Make Speeches
Am I the only one that gets bummed out when the speeches by designers and choreographers are shown in clip form as opposed to all the “Best Actor” speeches? Am I the only one that would love to hear what the lighting designer has to say?

The Fact That Long Day’s Journey Into Night Still Gets Revived Gives Me Hope For the World
I will fight anybody that doesn’t put this play in their top 3, cause it’s brilliant. My hackles go up when someone says “Four hours?! Who would sit through that?” I’ll tell you who, anybody with a soul. In this day and age it’s hard to feel empathy for white people who own a summer home and drink too much. But Eugene O’Neill makes it happen. So the very idea that somewhere a couple of Broadway producers got together and said “You know what would make a truckful of money? A revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night!” Although I’m sure there was at least one smart-ass intern who sneered and said “Ugh, this totally could have been 90 minutes, no intermission. Like, we get it, the Tyrone family is sad. You know what show doesn’t feel long at all? Hamilton, you’ve seen it, right?”

And that’s when I shot my intern, your honor.

Anthony R. Miller is a writer and producer. Keep up with his projects at www.awesometheatre.org and his smart-ass comments on Twitter @armiller78

The Five: Tony Award Snarkdown

Anthony R. Miller checks in (on a different day) with smart ass comments about this year’s Tony Award nominations.

Hey you guys, looks like I didn’t get nominated for a Tony again, although my long-term plan for a regional Tony is still rock solid. In case you didn’t hear (due to the lack of Wi-Fi in the cave you live in) the nominations for the Tony Awards came out on Tuesday. If you haven’t seen ‘em yet, go to www.tonyawards.com and get with it. It’s cool, I’ll wait…

All caught up? Great, now we can dive in to a few of my own observations. And wouldn’t you know it, there are five.

So Apparently Hamilton is Pretty Good

With a record 16 nominations, Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton might as well just sit onstage all night. I mean, that’s why we’re all watching right? It’s been about 20 years since a Broadway musical has been such a cultural phenomenon, which is depressing. But I guess we’ll take what we can get. Sure, it might not be fun to be one of the other nominated musicals who will probably not have as triumphant a night, but the fact that a whole crapload of people who would have never watched the Tony Awards are gonna watch is something to celebrate.

I Can’t Hear You

It’s hard for me to be witty when I’m genuinely mad about something. But the fact that there is no longer an award for Sound Design is total garbage. You would think they would bring it back this year just for the sake of giving Hamilton another award. Seriously though, sound designers are artists, and in many cases, friggin’ miracle workers. The art of sound design evolved beyond sound effects and intermission music a long time ago. Maybe I’m spoiled because the Bay Area boasts some brilliant sound designers. So hug a sound designer today, they make your show sound good.

Every Day I’m Shufflin’

Let’s give credit to Shuffle Along. In a Best New Musical category populated by musicals about historical events (Hamilton and Bright Star) and musicals based on movies (Waitress and School of Rock),  Shuffle Along is a musical based on a musical. So there’s that.

Good for You, Arthur Miller

The Best Revival of a Play I Had To Read In College Category features Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Noises Off, Blackbird, and two, count ’em, two Arthur Miller plays (The Crucible and A View from the Bridge). So keep your eye out for that up-and-comer Arthur Miller, he’s going places.

We Love It When Our Casual Acquaintances Become Successful

So if local hero Daveed Diggs wins for Best Performance By An Actor In A Featured Role In A Musical, I will boast not one, BUT TWO Tony award winners on my Facebook friends list. In 1998, I was an ASM for a production of Children of Eden at American Musical Theatre of San Jose. This particular production featured a young fella named James Monroe Inglehart, we became dear, dear friends, OK, not really. But a few years later I served him shitty Chinese food and he totally recognized me. Then he went on to be the Genie in the Broadway production of Aladdin and took home the Tony. Now we have an actor whom I saw once in a production of Six Degrees of Separation, everybody in the Bay Area has been in a play with, someone whom I exchanged 3-4 actual emails with a few years ago about producing a one-man show that never happened. Daveed Diggs is a swell dude (based on our in-depth email correspondence) and it’s always great to see local actors go on to success right after they leave the Bay Area. So here’s to hoping the list of successful people I kinda know just gets bigger. Unless of course they’re a goddamned sound designer.

Don’t forget to watch on June 12th!!!

Anthony R. Miller is Writer, Producer and Theatre Nerd, keep with him at www.awesometheatre.org and on twitter @armiller78

Working Title: The Unexpected Routine

Will Leschber gives us his second article in an on-going series of comparisons between local theater and the endless horizon of the film world.

One free evening last week, I had the chance to catch one of the many running shows in this years SF Fringe festival. Beforehand I asked the opinions of friends in the Bay Area Theatre scene in an effort to find a show of quality. This was my local equivalent of checking Rotten Tomatoes. Neither of these methods is by any means fool-proof but they do usually provide a general gauge of quality that can help point one in the right direction. I settled on “Serving Bait to Rich People”, a one woman show about a bartender in a high-end sushi restaurant.

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While very entertaining with quite the charismatic performer, this Fringe Festival entry by Alexa Fitzpatrick was more stand-up comedy than a traditional play. Here was a challenge. Since there were no theatrical design aspects, this unexpected routine made for a hard comparison when attempting to dissect at how the tools of the Theatre stack up against the tools of Film.

The story elements could easily be drawn upon for comparison but is that enough? Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film Waitress might make a great juxtaposition. 2005’s Waiting… starring Ryan Reynolds may well work if we were to draw upon the comedy instead of highlighting the romantic entanglements. Then again since this is a stand-up comedy story why not talk about last year’s Sleepwalk with Me that focuses all about the process of an up and coming stand up comedian, Mike Birbiglia. All of these films are worth checking out but in the end none of them seemed exactly right for a side by side assessment. However, this presented an opportunity to take step back and look at a different aspect of what made the evening a unique theatrical experience: short form theatre.

The prevalence of short form theatre in the Bay Area may not seem quite the unique thing, but ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a short play and when was the last time you saw a short film in the theatre? We are graced with a number of short form play festivals here: The SF Fringe Festival, Bay Area One Act Festival, The San Francisco Olympians Festival, Pint Size Plays to name of few. All of these showcase short plays in part or in full. These can be premium in and out experiences. They don’t waste time. They showcase a lot of talent. And if you don’t care for the piece, it’ll be over soon. The access to short form film, on the other hand, is entirely different. A theatrically released short film is quite a rare thing. You get the occasional Pixar short that is released to the masses but mostly wide release short films are relegated to the arena of animation tacked on to a larger full length feature.

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Short film is simultaneously harder to see and easier. Viewing one on the big screen is uncommon but one can find a myriad of them online. But then does that change the film watching experience into something else if we can only access what we are watching at home on a computer screen? I think it does.

Watching theatre live is intrinsic to the experience. Similarly, something is lost when you take film out of its natural environment. I’m not saying that there is no place for film outside of a movie theatre. Obviously films need a life outside the big screen. But I am saying that viewing film outside of a movie theatre alters the experience. I think it a shame that it’s so hard to find short film in theatres. Every year creative teams win Oscars for making a live action or animated shorts but who is ever able see these things? The Oscar Nominated Short Films are normally bundled together during Oscar season and released in a limited theatrical engagement. It’s a wonderful change of pace to see high quality short film on the big screen. I recommend it.

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In the business of film, the main-stream market for this is almost non-existent. No one makes money off short film so they are left to the internet. Just like in short form theatre, short films can be a brilliant experience. Take a chance, seek them out.