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TONYS 2014 Recap GIF-xtravaganza

Hugh Jackman and his beard Deborra Lee Furness were out in full force last night. The man hasn’t hosted the Tonys since 2005, and, if you overlook a few minor bumps, it felt like Hugh had never left. Also, winners! Performances! Black people! White people! White people rapping! Black people rapping!  Famous people who owe a favor to CBS! This show had everything (and arguably nothing) and our feelings are so feely, we’ll throw in a few gifs to express our sincerest emotions.

Okay, so the night started with an opening number that had no singing, no dancing, and lots of jumping. My mom made the brilliant connection that because he’s Australian, Hugh was imitating a kangaroo. That was as valid and insightful explanation as any. The real inspiration for the jumping was a number called “Take Me to Broadway” from the 1953 movie musical Small Town Girl, in which Bobby Van jumps around town because that’s what people did before the internet or something. Most viewers didn’t get the reference. Even regular musical-watching folks with a decent Broadway knowledge (us) didn’t get the reference. And even if we did have omniscient musical movie knowledge, the segment seemed like a much better fit for a promotional bit or even as a segment in the middle of the show, not as an opening. However, we do want to give credit where due, and this opening did excel in two ways:

1) It gave a brief spotlight on each of the big shows this season (Rocky’s beef racks made a well-deserved cameo), and

2) Holy crap can that man jump! NPH, you’re awesome and stuff, but you can check your magic tricks and your sexy legs at the door. I mean, seriously Hugh, stop taking Wolverine steroids and get your well-insured posterior to a Broadway musical right now! And none of this dramatic play business anymore!

Leave that Jez Butterworth stuff to Mark Rylance and do a dance number for heaven’s sake! Because this is you:

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And this is us:

cat-fail-jumping

While we’re mentioning Mark Rylance, he can also check his Shakespeare purism at the door with NPH’s magic rabbit and DanRad’s and Denzel’s missing actor nominations. Because while it sounds great to do Shakespeare in its original context and revive that whole standing-for-three-hours-in-London-rain thing, your all white-male cast is definitely not where we’d like theater to be heading.  Thankfully, the theater gods seemed to be passing that karma around because after Rylance won the first acting award, people of color started winning ‘dem awards.

Audra McDonald made TONY history, becoming not only the first person to win six acting awards, but also the first person to win in every muthaflippin acting category (Best Lead/Featured in a Play/Musical). She also made a beautiful speech honoring her family and black female performers who paved the way for her own success, like Lena Horne, Maya Angelou, Diahann Carroll, Ruby Dee, and Billie Holiday.

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Kenny Leon wore some badass sneakers on stage when he beat three white male directors with their entirely white-cast plays. Sophie Okonedo and her gorgeous smile won my heart and a gold statue thing.

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And James Monroe Iglehart was just… awesome.

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Raisin in the Sun and All the Way won in the play categories, and both feature predominantly black casts. AladdinBeautiful, and After Midnight are great productions for people of color, even if A Gentleman’s Guide isn’t. Then, that Music Man rap happened with LL Cool J and TI and it ranked among the best things ever of all time. All you show-tune purists can check your hate at the door along with your Bullets Over Broadway brand umbrella, because this is you:

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And this is us:

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Last night was also a big night for women.  Sutton, Audra, Kelli, and Idina were all nominated in the same frickin’ year. The competition felt hotter than the nominees were after getting wooed by Hugh.

sutton idina mary kelli

And then relative-newbie Jessie Mueller won and it was all so surprising and awesome and cute!

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Lena Hall almost stole the show from NPH as gender-bending Yitzhak with a great acceptance speech and and even better performance.

Women and people of color were largely absent from the writing categories, which was made even more blatantly obvious by forcing having the playwrights speak about their own works. Not only were they all white older men, they also looked anxious as hell to get back to their seats. There’s a reason awkward people become writers and not performers. Even Harvey Fierstein looked uncomfortable, and that man should be used to uncomfortable situations-  he had to play Tevye to Rosie O’Donnell’s Golde.

As usual, the presenters were largely famous people who kind of sort of maybe have some theater experience, or are in a play right now. The TONY Awards occupy this weird liminal space where they’re broadcasting nationally, but honoring shows that all perform within a mile radius of each other. Booking celebs is pretty much the only way to insure that people might actually care enough to watch. Therefore, Jennifer Hudson sings that Neverland song. Otherwise, that combo would have been really awkward or something….

Another result of this weird liminal space thing was the controversial decision to have RuPaul introduce Hedwig given a) his recent transphobic debacle and b) the fact that the producers might be conflating being a drag queen with being transgender.

Jonathan Groff subtly paid homage to John Travolta’s “Adele Dazeem” mistake, which almost makes up for the fact that he is friends with Lea Michele.

Kenny B, you just get better with age. That face. That hair.

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Lots of the year’s biggest musicals didn’t get nominated but still performed. Because marketing. Some of the performances worked, some didn’t. There’s no doubt that Idina’s a powerhouse, but when put out of context, “Always Starting Over” falls a bit emotionally flat. The gangster tap dance from Bullets was cool, but we could think of a few more whimsical numbers that would have grabbed more attention. Rocky tried to replicate its stadium sized finale with just a manually-moved boxing ring, and that didn’t really work out as well as they might have hoped. It also doesn’t help the performers’ energy if these highly anticipated shows got zilch in nominations. The season’s surprising frontrunner, A Gentleman’s Guide made the smartest selection: Jefferson Mays introduced the performance in three different characters with chameleon-like prowess, allowing Bryce Pinkham, Lisa O’Hare, and Lauren Worsham the spotlight to duke it out in one of the show’s best numbers (and one that still works out of context).

And while this year’s Tony Awards wasn’t the best, at least we can look forward to more Sting shenanigans for next year.

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Establishing the theater cred that Bono and the Edge could not.

 

 

 

Prisoners

Evil things happen in this world. We know this but we do our best to have hope, to focus on the blessings we have because if the reality of the amount of evil happening was in the front of our consciousness, we would not be able to function. Violence against children is a subject portrayed in film over and over again, typically in action movies, where an angry grieving father grows a huge pair of saline balls (DON’T GOOGLE IMAGE IT…okay, do it), buys a gun from Walmart and hunts for justice.

While the father, of a kidnapped little girl, Keller Dover (played by Hugh Jackman) makes a very tough dad, Denis Villneuve’s Prisoners  shows the emotional costs of looking for payback. Dover is frustrated by the rules and policies the police have on questioning the kidnapper suspects like Paul Dano’s soft spoken 10 year old IQ Alex Jones. Cruelty begets cruelty.

But before we get to the nitty gritty….can we talk about the perpetuation of the stereotype that folks with big 70′s prescription glasses are creepers? Director Villneuve CLEARLY has a big case of 20/20 privilege.

Melissa Leo and Paul Dano for LENS CRAFTERS.

The overall message of this film is quite bleak. The police captain states to a tattooed and frustrated Jake Gyllenhaal “We’re just cops. Janitors.” Justice is clean-up. Not guaranteed.

This movie should have been at least 30 minutes shorter. It is laden with tense moments that are unnecessary to the story such as a long blurry car ride to the emergency room and the arduous inspection of a RV with nothing plot-changing inside. It was frustrating to sit and wait for all the “make em sit at the edge of their seat” bull shit to find out what the hell was going on. BUT….through all that….I think this film is definitely worth seeing. Hugh Jackman’s depth of emotion and how he handles the contradictions between his desire for justice and the way he goes about getting it is going to stay on my mind for awhile.

No one prays the Our Father sexier than Hugh Jackman.

A 12 foot tall Mr. Darcy statue (as played by the Firth) is working it in Hyde Park, London.

http://now-here-this.timeout.com/2013/07/08/oh-mr-darcy-yes-therea-giant-colin-firth-floating-in-the-serpentine/

LOL OK

Can we do one of Hugh Jackman in Central Park PLEASE? (Ya know, before we work on getting universal healthcare or some other nonsense.)

LES MIS! AN EPIC REVIEW SO EPIC, IT’S A TWO-PARTER: PART 2!

Click here for Part 1.

Okay, okay. So we’re already know that Les Mis has religious messages and pretty blunt moral meaning up its wazoo. In other words, there’s a lot of this going on

and this

and more of this

Yup. It’s all nice and stuff. Rising out of difficult circumstances through faith and love. Valuing the importance of justice and forgiveness. The difference between man’s law and God’s law.

But I don’t think I’m telling you anything new. In fact, I’ve always been bothered by how BORING Valjean becomes after he meets the bishop. He suddenly switches from a life of resentment and frustration to one of faith and love. Which, again, is all nice and stuff. But really, dude? All your problems just end within the first 20 minutes of the show and now you’re all holy and whatnot? Part of me wished that Valjean still held some of that resentment and anger, particularly in his post-revolutionary moment when all’s gone to hell and back. I mean, who really cares about some rich recluse  living with a pretty girl while there’s a people’s revolution happening?!

The film version, I believe, recognizes this dilemma. I argue that in the film, Valjean’s journey to becoming a whole and good person does NOT end at his encounter with the bishop. In fact, the film shows that one CANNOT be a good person without facing the social crises that surround you. Religion, faith, and love, therefore, are intrinsically tied to social justice.

Continue reading “LES MIS! AN EPIC REVIEW SO EPIC, IT’S A TWO-PARTER: PART 2!”

LES MIS! AN EPIC REVIEW SO EPIC, IT’S A TWO-PARTER: PART 1!

So much to talk about! So many feelings! Must organize thoughts in list form!

The Good:

1) The casting is amazing. I mean, we all knew Hugh Jackman would pull off as much badassdom as he could muster. But I wouldn’t even call his the most striking performance. You’re probably tired of hearing it already, but Anne Hathaway is so amazing, that at the end, when her spirit comes to help Valjean die, just seeing her face once again made me sob hysterically. Another stand-out performance was Eddie Redmayne, who filled his Marius with excitement, wonder, depth (*gasp*) and likeability. From a young man giddy with first love to a revolutionary mourning his friends, he’s just really a joy to watch. Now I finally understand why Eponine longs for him so.

Can we also just mention how amazing Gavroche is? Just the cherry on top of a slice of awesome pie.

2) There are moments, as my sister told me after our family watching party, where everything just feels perfect. Valjean ripping up his parole papers. Fantine hyperventilating during “I Dreamed a Dream,” the ending, riding around with Gavroche through the streets of France, “One Day More,” Javert giving his medal to Gavroche.

Continue reading “LES MIS! AN EPIC REVIEW SO EPIC, IT’S A TWO-PARTER: PART 1!”

Our Winter Wishlist

With Thanksgiving over, the last barricade of autumn has fallen–and now Christmas preparations can be made in earnest. Here at LMezz, we’ve already made up our Winter Wishlist of theatre and film:

Water by the Spoonful @ Second Stage Theatre

Not only has Quiara Alegría Hudes written the book to Tony award-winning musical In The Heights, but she also wrote the 2012 Pulitzer-winning Water by the Spoonful, which makes its New York premiere this December at Second Stage Theatre. 

Reviewed here.


Django Unchained

A Spaghetti western helmed by Quentin Tarantino? Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz tearing it up on horseback? Leonardo DiCaprio finally looking like he’s having fun in a motion picture? Check, check, and  check.

Les Misérables

Usually I don’t get my hopes up for musical-to-movie adaptations. But with direction by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and potentially awesome acting (and maybe even singing!) from heavy-weights like Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Helena Bonham Carter to newcomers like Aaron Tveit and Samantha Banks,  it may be a happy Christmas opening after all.

Reviews here and here.

 

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