2000 TONY AWARDS SPOTLIGHT: Nominees for Best Musical

News   2000 TONY AWARDS SPOTLIGHT: Nominees for Best Musical Contact
Producer: Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Bernard Gersten
Susan Stroman directed and choreographed this three-act entertainment (called a "dance play" last year) in Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse in fall 1999. When it became a smash hit, its identity changed to "musical," and it was put into LCT's larger Vivian Beaumont Theatre. John Weidman penned three scenarios about people fantasizing and losing themselves in dance, and Stroman incorporated recorded music ranging from Squirrel Nut Zippers to Tchaikovsky.

Clockwise: Contact, The Wild Party, James Joyce's The Dead and Swing!.
Clockwise: Contact, The Wild Party, James Joyce's The Dead and Swing!. (Photo by <i>Contact</i> Photo by Paul Kolnik, All Others by Joan Marcus)

Contact
Producer: Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Bernard Gersten
Susan Stroman directed and choreographed this three-act entertainment (called a "dance play" last year) in Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse in fall 1999. When it became a smash hit, its identity changed to "musical," and it was put into LCT's larger Vivian Beaumont Theatre. John Weidman penned three scenarios about people fantasizing and losing themselves in dance, and Stroman incorporated recorded music ranging from Squirrel Nut Zippers to Tchaikovsky.

James Joyce's The Dead
Producer: Gregory Mosher, Arielle Tepper, Playwrights Horizons, Tim Sanford.
A musical retelling of the Joyce short story about an Irish Christmas party, during which parlor songs are sung for more then an hour before traditional character songs arise. Christopher Walken and Blair Brown starred as a husband and wife whose foundation is shaken when she remembers a dead romance. Richard Nelson directed, wrote the book and adapted lyrics from existing material, with composer Shaun Davey. Off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons presented the world premiere in fall 1999, and it moved to the Belasco Theatre on Broadway in January.

Swing!
Producer: Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, Steven Baruch, Tom Viertel, Lorie Cowen Levy/Stanley Shopkorn, Jujamcyn Theaters, BB Promotion, Dede Harris/Jeslo Productions, Libby Adler Mages/Mari Glick, Douglas L. Meyer/James D. Stern, PACE Theatrical Group/SFX.
Lynne Taylor Corbett directed and choreographed this buoyant revue (the production is "supervised" by Jerry Zaks) featuring swing dancing and its variants: Boogie woogie, country swing, jitterbug, and a wild bungee-cord dance that have kept audiences gasping. The score is made of classic tunes by Duke Ellington,Count Basie, Benny Goodman, with a couple of new songs added to the mix (crooned by the estimable Laura Benanti, Ann Hampton Callaway and Everett Bradley).

The Wild Party
Producer: The Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival, George C. Wolfe, Scott Rudin/Paramount Pictures, Roger Berlind, Williams/Waxman.
Composer-lyricists Michael John LaChiusa's dark musical about the conflicts at a debauched Jazz Age party has Toni Collette, Eartha Kitt and Mandy Patinkin at its center. LaChiusa and director George C. Wolfe co-wrote the book, drawing much of the heat and noise from the edgy 1928 narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March, which ends with the words, "and the cops rushed in."

Analysis: Although The Dead closed prior to being nominated, it was embraced as a quiet, intelligent antidote to brassier fare, and will have a special summer engagement at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. The Wild Party's advantage is that its songs are all new (unlike the other nominees) and it has ferocious, risk-taking performances by its stars. Contact, on other hand, is so unlike anything seen on Broadway (dialogue, story, dance but no singing), it feels wildly original. Swing! is a populist crowd-pleaser that has multigenerational appeal.