Time for the Tonys

I have two daughters and one granddaughter. Obviously I am very proud of them and I look forward to seeing them on a regular basis. The fact that they live in Brooklyn, New York, means I also get to see some Broadway shows, which is very handy when Tony time comes around.

The Tony Awards will be presented on Sunday (June 8), and I have actually seen a few of the nominees.

Samuel Barnett, left, and Mark Rylance in "Twelfth Night."

Samuel Barnett, left, and Mark Rylance in “Twelfth Night.”

In the play revival category is the best show I saw all year — “Twelfth Night.” Two-time Tony winner Mark Rylance brought his London production to Broadway for three months beginning in November. The show was performed old-school Elizabethan, that is, it was an all-male cast, with costuming incorporating as close to authentic materials as possible, under candlelit chandeliers. The cast dressed onstage and interacted with the audience while doing so.

Rylance’s Olivia was a comic force, and all the “women” in the play were superb. Samuel Barnett (who performs a short scene here) as Viola was so good, one forgot that it was a man playing a girl pretending to be a boy. Stephen Fry’s Malvolio was spot on (clip here). I have studied the play and seen several versions before, but I can honestly say that I felt as though I had never truly seen Shakespeare before.

Bryan Cranston plays Lyndon Baines Johnson in "All the Way."

Bryan Cranston plays Lyndon Baines Johnson in “All the Way.”

Nominated for best play is “All the Way” with Bryan Cranston playing President Lyndon Baines Johnson (the title comes from the campaign slogan, “All the Way With LBJ”). The play is a policy wonk’s dream. It focuses on LBJ’s first year, a year when he pushed through the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Johnson was a character who was profane and ruthless, but who was doing the right thing for the right reasons. The large ensemble was amazing and the production’s use of projection for both set and news footage is brilliant (as seen in this trailer).

But ultimately the play belongs to Cranston’s portrayal and he totally delivers. His posture and the way he holds his jaw gives him such a presence that one doesn’t realize he is considerably shorter than LBJ. When he came out for the curtain call, he came out as LBJ, then shook himself and relaxed his face and became Bryan Cranston. It was almost as if it was a CGI effect. He literally changed himself. It was a fascinating glimpse into the actor’s craft.

"A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder."

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.”

Last week I got to see a great new musical, “A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder.” It is nominated for 10 Tonys, but, embarrassingly, I had not heard of it until the nominations came out. It was simply brilliant. Everything from the staging to the casting was spot on, and the songs were fantastic. In an age where most of the musicals seem to be “jukebox musicals” based on pop songs, it is refreshing to see an original score with good “patter” songs.

The entire cast is top notch, and Tony Award-winner Jefferson Mays, who plays eight parts, should be good competition with Neil Patrick Harris’s Hedwig for best actor in a musical (cheapest tickets left for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” last week was $358. Needless to say, that’s a little out of my range, no matter how much I wanted to see it).

I have no idea if any of these will win, but I expect Cranston to get best actor at least and I would be shocked if “Guide” doesn’t pick up best musical.

The awards show airs on CBS.

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