it’s always interesting to see what the supposed crème de la crème of theatre are up to
Just when you thought it was safe to forget about award season, the American Theater Wing announced the nominations for the 2011 Tony Awards. In the past, the Tony broadcast has always coincided with the Montreal Fringe and it’s no different this time around: the awards will air on June 12, a day when most of us will be far too busy to pay attention. The Fringe isn’t the only reason why it’s hard to get Montrealers to care about the Tonys: after all, the Tonys honor only a select group of shows (those on Broadway), most of which we will never see. Still, it’s always interesting to see what the supposed crème de la crème of theatre are up to and this year there are one or two things of note which might make it worth it to tear yourself away from the beer tent.
First, South African playwright Athol Fugard is being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Tony. Fugard is notable for many reasons, not the least because of his politics which brought him controversy in his native home. Ardently political, Mr. Fugard emerged early on as a anti-apartheid artist, defying the government and risking his own career to give work to black actors and write shows that attacked segregation. His most enduring plays is one of my favourite: Master Harold….and the Boys, a show which desperately deserves a remount here in Montreal.
In the Best Play category, there are four shows which we should all hope are coming to a theatre near us...
On the quasi-homefront, Brian Bedford’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest - which appeared at Stratford in 2009 - has earned three nominations. Aside from directorial duties, Bedford also plays Lady Bracknall, a silly gimmick which appears to have paid off: Bedford has earned a slew of nominations and now is up for (ironically) Best Actor.
In the Best Play category, there are four shows which we should all hope are coming to a theatre near us, but my vote is for Nick Stafford’s War Horse. Stafford’s play, based on a children’s book, utilizes elegant puppetry to depict the story of a horse caught up in the horrors of WWI. It took London by storm in 2007 (it’s still in the West End) and is already scheduled to appear in Toronto in 2012.
Equally exciting are the 14 nominations for The Book of Mormon, a musical written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, one of my favourite new musicals, managed the unique feat of being nominated for its libretto and not the songs. Historically, it has almost always been the other way around, so this is a true coup for librettist / director Alex Timbers. Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson was an irreverent and modern take on the seventh president of the United States, one of the most important presidents America ever had.
Equally exciting are the 14 nominations for The Book of Mormon, a musical written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Always on the fringes due to their satirical and gleefully offensive South Park series, it’s satisfying to see Parker and Stone finally getting their due. Whatever you think of their humour, they have always shown a keen sense of musical narrative – their film, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut remains one of the great movie musicals (yes, I did just say that).
As far as awards shows go, they almost always put on a good show – it is, after all, being staged by people whose job it is to stage shows.
The Tony Awards are far too narrow in scope, so they will never be as popular as the Oscars (or the Fringe, for that matter, at least for Montreal). Still, as far as awards shows go, they almost always put on a good show – it is, after all, being staged by people whose job it is to stage shows. CBS’ refusal to let them ever go over their two-hour time slot means they also have to be efficient, which means there isn’t a lot of wasted time. All of which is to say that if the first weekend of the Montreal Fringe proves too exhausting, you always have another option.
(Also, word on the street is that Neil Patrick Harris will host. Harris is a good reason to watch anything, which is probably the best way to explain the success of How I Met Your Mother.)