PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 12-18: Pop Goes the Tony!

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 12-18: Pop Goes the Tony!
 
You wouldn't know it from the opening sequence of the 2010 Tony Awards ceremony June 13, but theatre songs — the kind written for story and characters — did indeed emerge on Broadway in the 2009-10 season.
Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and Tr
Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and Tr Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Perhaps as a way to lure "general public" viewers, or maybe because there were only two new Broadway shows with full, song-filled scores in the past year (Memphis and The Addams Family), the producers of the 64th annual Tonys chose to open the televised portion of the affair by underlining the vein of pop that streaked through last season's musicals. What we got was a cluster of songs that were not written for the stage: Million Dollar Quartet's 1950s rock 'n' roll, Everyday Rapture's 1970s Motown, Come Fly Away's Sinatra Capitol-era pop, Fela Kuti's 1980s Afrobeat from Fela!, Promises, Promises' Bacharach-and-David 1960s pop and American Idiot's 21st-century punk, with no less than Green Day appearing amid banners, smoke, lights and fireworks.

To paraphrase a Sunday-night Facebook status of a respected New York director: "What are all these theatre people doing at the Grammy Awards?"

For those of us who watch the Tonys to get a pulse-taking of the variety of the past season (primarily, perhaps, for the songs from revivals or new musicals), we got no new writing. Just repackaging — some of it brilliant. The only song written for the theatre in that ten-minute opening? Jerry Herman's "We Are What We Are" from the La Cage aux Folles revival was written specifically for the theatre — in 1984.

Songs from the new Tony Award-winning Best Musical Memphis, with a new score by newly minted Tony winners Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, did emerge later in the broadcast on CBS , but was there no room at all for songs by Andrew Lippa (who was nominated for a Best Score Tony) from The Addams Family? The show — a favorite punching bag of the critics but catnip for audiences — is bringing in $1 million a week, and has a clutch of fetching songs in it. Give me Bebe Neuwirth in a kickline crooning "(Death Is) Just Around the Corner" or Nathan Lane in a Spanish accent singing the infectious opening number, "When You're an Addams."

What isn't reported every year is the secret planning and juggling act of putting the Tony ceremony together, so we may never get an on-the-record answer as to why Ragtime got a song on the telecast but Finian's Rainbow did not, or why The Addams Family went unsung.

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

In other 2010 Tony production categories, Fences was named Best Revival of a Play (its stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis were Best Actor and Actress), John Logan's Red (about artist Mark Rothko) was named Best Play (and will end its limited run on schedule June 27) and La Cage aux Folles was named Best Revival of a Musical (Douglas Hodge was Best Actor in a Musical). Movie stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Scarlett Johannson won Tonys for their respective work in A Little Night Music (which closes June 20, only to reopen with new stars in July) and A View From the Bridge (now closed).

TV ratings for the broadcast were reportedly down about seven percent as compared with 2009. TVbythenumbers.com reported that ABC won the ratings race for the evening with a total of 12.827 million viewers, followed by CBS with 7.470 million viewers, NBC with 3.590 million viewers and Fox with 3.390 million viewers.

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In other Tony news this week, it was reported that Radio City Music Hall is booked in June 2011 and cannot host the Tony ceremony next spring, so the leaders of Tony Awards Productions are seeking an alternate venue. Radio City, as most know, is not a Broadway house. Here's an idea: How about putting the Tony Awards, honoring the best of Broadway, in a Broadway theatre?

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Off-Broadway's Our Town, it was announced this week, will get a woman "Stage Manager" — and an Academy Award winner — on July 6, when Helen Hunt joins the acclaimed production at Barrow Street Theatre in Greenwich Village.

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Goodspeed Musicals in Connecticut announced June 16 that its new fall musical-in-development, James and the Giant Peach, will have songs by the young songwriting team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Edges), and choreography by the modern dance troupe Pilobolus. Direction is by Graciela Daniele.

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Academy Award-winning actor Al Pacino began seeking a pound of flesh as Shylock in the Shakespeare in the Park production of The Merchant of Venice on June 12 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The Daniel Sullivan-directed production plays in rep with the already-launched The Winter's Tale, directed by Michael Greif.

Both productions will run in repertory through Aug. 1.

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When opera and musical theatre director Francesca Zambello (The Little Mermaid, Little House on the Prairie) becomes the new general and artistic director of Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, NY, this fall, it will be re-named the Glimmerglass Festival, and she is programming a musical theatre classic: Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun (in 2011). The revival will play with a full orchestra but without amplification. Zambello's first season will also include a double-bill world premiere: Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner's A Blizzard in Marblehead Neck and John Musto and Mark Campbell's Later the Same Evening. Festivalgoers can also expect productions of Bizet's Carmen and Cherubini's Medea.

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Check out two new montly features that Playbill.com launched this week: Second Floor of Sardi's, in which we talk about art, life and lifetstyle with theatre people, and A Letter From London, spotlighting London theatre and its people, trends and productions.

Lily Rabe, Byron Jennings and Al Pacino
Lily Rabe, Byron Jennings and Al Pacino
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