I've never been one to make Tony Award predictions. To me, it's a game for chumps, bloviators and people with a penchant for embarrassing themselves publicly. (Sounds like a fair characterization of drama critics, actually.) But I'll make an exception here and put forth one prediction about the 2008 nominations, which will be announced on May 13: Glory Days will not be among the honored.
The old theatrical tradition of the opening-night closing notice was ushered back in, after years of disuse, by this coming-of-age musical written by 24-year-old librettist James Gardiner and 23-year-old songwriter Nick Blaemire. The show was given a New York life due to its celebrated world premiere at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, where it was praised enough by Washington Post critic Peter Marks to encourage the interests of producers John O'Boyle, Ricky Stevens, Richard E. Leopold, Lizzie Leopold, Max Productions (would that be Bialystock?) and Broadway Across America.
The New York news cycle regarding the unlikely transfer fell into two distinct phases. First there were the sunny features, which all basically boiled down to, "Holy cow! A new musical written by two kids is coming to Broadway!" Then there were the overnight reviews, which in effect said, "Holy cow! Somebody let a new musical written by two kids on Broadway!"
Those somebodies were the producers and director Eric Schaeffer, and the New York critics took them to task for exposing what they considered an immature, unformed work to the harsh, white spotlight of Broadway. It's not often that the critics are forced into a position of moral authority, but the scenario was much like the Principal taking aside some bully boys and admonishing them for forcing a couple sensitive lads into a no-holds-barred dodge ball game. Somewhere, the Ghost of Broadway Producers Past whispered into the ear of the Glory Days showmen and told them to do the merciful thing: close the show on opening night. It was the first such shutting since 2003, when The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All closed on Nov. 17, the same night it opened at the Longacre Theatre.
Just in case there were some perverse Tony nominators out there with an urge to put the ill-fated show on the ballot, the Tony Adminstrative Committee put the kibosh on that potential folly. It decreed that Glory Days will not be eligible for nomination in any category.
The other two Broadway openings this week — the final week of the 2007-08 season — did much, much better than Glory Days. Both were revivals. Nobody on the Main Stem expected to hear from Marc Camoletti's French farce Boeing-Boeing again after it sank without a trace in 1965. But British director Matthew Warchus found a way to give the old warhorse some new zip and it became a hit anew on the West End. (It was a hit the first time around, too.) Reviews were good enough that it came to Broadway — becoming the Street's first farcical offering in some time. Critics liked it all over again. Yuks a-plenty, everyone declared. Most reviews said Warchus and his cast, led by London holdover Mark Rylance, did fantastic service by a script that didn't necessarily deserve such attentions.
The final opening of the season was a new Manhattan Theatre Club staging of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls — the British playwright's first Broadway bow in more than 20 years. (Go ahead: Gasp, you disingenuous Broadwayites!) Nearly all declared the play, while still a Thatcher-era period drama about the lot of women in the world, remained enthralling with plenty to say to contemporary audiences. Director James Macdonald was applauded, though not as loudly as his cast, which included Elizabeth Marvel, Mary Beth Hurt, Mary Catherine Garrison, Martha Plimpton, Marisa Tomei, Jennifer Ikeda and Ana Reeder.
About the Tonys, the organization stunned everybody by choosing a host for the 2008 ceremony without a lot of sturm and drang. The part in question will be stage and screen star Whoopi Goldberg (a Tony winner as a producer of Thoroughly Modern Millie). As previously announced, the 62nd Annual Tony Awards will be presented June 15.
After a popular winter run by The Roundabout Theatre Company at Broadway's American Airlines Theatre, the antic four-actor caper comedy, Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, moved to a commercial run at the Cort. Its official re-opening was May 8.
The Lucille Lortel Awards honored two Off-Broadway show that are still running, and thus can benefit from the reconition. George Packer's Betrayed was named Outstanding Play, and Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith's Adding Machine was named Outstanding Musical at the 23rd annual awards, which were presented May 5. Adding Machine — the celebrated modernist musical at the Minetta Lane Theatre — also won three other awards, including ones for Outstanding Director (David Cromer), Outstanding Lead Actor (Joel Hatch) and Outstanding Lighting Design (Keith Parham).
Finally, Harry Connick, Jr. still likes the theatre. The actor, composer and musician, who received a Tony nomination for his Broadway acting debut in The Pajama Game, will return in 2009 in the "new Gershwin musical" (sound familiar, Tommy Tune?) called Nice Work If You Can Get It.
Tony winner Kathleen Marshall will direct and choreograph the show, which is scheduled to begin previews at a Broadway theatre to be announced in February 2009 with an official opening the following month. Connick, Jr. stars as a "Long Island playboy in this new musical comedy filled with bootleggers, golddiggers, and some of the greatest songs from the legendary Gershwin hit list," according to press notes. Nice Work — which boasts songs from the George and Ira Gershwin catalog (the show is inspired by the Gershwins' Oh, Kay!) and a book by Joe DiPietro — will play a pre-Broadway engagement at Boston's Colonial Theatre Dec. 16, 2008-Jan. 11, 2009.