From Patrick Brown (email@example.com) Brussels, Belgium:
I was very pleased to see that 'Nine' was nominated as best musical; it was a definitive production at the Donmar Warehouse. I don't know how this musical could be produced and sung much better. A crack job by all involved. It really sticks with you. It would have been nice to see some of the individual cast members nominated: Clare Burt was a standout; Ginnie Galloway provided an earthy backbone and the wife and mother (current cast) actresses were also superb in a top-notch cast. I think we can expect to hear much more from these cast members in the future.
It was also nice to see 'Passion' nominated as best musical. Michael Ball should have been nominated for best actor. His voice and acting were well on the mark in a very demanding role.
I'm glad that 'Martin Guerre' won in this category. It's a complicated effort (with many unusual & original themes thrown into the mix) that is really in the formative stages of what I believe to be a long life in the pages of musical history. It's currently very good with not far to go to be excellent and a classic. The music is very moving, its' operatic qualities are timeless. Matt Rawle as Martin Guerre was wonderful in a difficult & demanding role. He should have been nominated best supporting. Paul Leonard as the Judge was also superb and worthy of a supporting nomination. When I saw the production in Sept and the revision in early Feb., Betrande was played by Rebecca Lock; she was great both times & still growing & improving in the role. The new actor for Arnoud/Martin sings very well and is building his character on a solid foundation. (2/28/97)
I thought Maria Friedman's award for "Passion" was richly deserved and I only wish that the other principal performers, such as Michael Ball and Helen Hobson had also received nominations, along with director Jeremy Sams, as I thought the London "Passion" was superb, and such an improvement over the Broadway production. I must admit that I have long been an admirer of Robert Lindsay, however, and he was fantastic, as usual, as "Fagin." (2/27/97)
From Marlene Koenig:
Dame Diana Rigg should have won for her amazing performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (saw the production twice last week). She missed out on the Olivier for her performances in Medea and Mother Courage and Her Children -- and this time, the Award should have been hers. (2/24/97)
From Brandon Hayes:
Bravo! I was elated upon hearing the news of "Martin Guerre's" receipt of the Best Musical award. It is a fitting honor for a very deserving show. Cameron Mackintosh's production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's newest musical is a feast for the senses that blends beautifully arranged music with breathtaking choreography. The structure of "Martin Guerre," whose central characters succumb to the powers of fate and are commented on by a chorus of peasants, is sublimely moving and intellectually challenging in the spirit of Sophocles.
Its medieval tale of religious persecution is remarkably relevant for our own time. It questions the audience, "When will someone hear? / We live our lives in fear...If all we ever love is hate / Will we ever hear?" It is a message not to be taken lightly in our chaotic world of random hate violence and religious upheaval in Bosnia, the Middle East, etc. The musical ends on a hopeful note, "In the land it is winter / But we hope and we pray for spring." Unfortunately, we cannot be so optimistic for ourselves.
The brilliant performances, especially by Juliette Caton whose Bertrande evokes all the pathos and longing of a classic Thomas Hardy heroine, and Michael Matus' hilarious and poignant Benoit, create a village, that is swept into tradegy by unrelenting hatred, and a "star crossed" love, that succumbs to merciless fate. I was saddened by the Olivier judges' failure to recognize David Hersey's brilliant lighting design for the show. Working with a very limited set design, he managed to create the atmosphere of a gothic cathedral on a bare stage using shafts of light and an illuminated rose window. Another stroke of genius was his thrilling lighting of the "Prologue," wherein a sunrise bathes a mountain forest in crystalline light.
Bob Avian's choreography did win an Olivier, and it was well deserved. The riveting peasant "stomp-dancing" added to the realistic dimension of the show, making it at once more believable and more visually stimulating.
"Martin Guerre" is not run of-the-mill musical theater. It is a startlingly relevant and challenging work of art. This is no mere "Grease!" or "Sunset Boulevard." "Martin Guerre" does not stive merely to entertain; it succeeds in enlightening and forcing its audience to contemplate its social and personal message. As emotionally uplifting as "Les Miserables" and as heartbreakingly tragic as "Miss Saigon," "Martin Guerre" demands that its audience think - a rare pleasure in the world of musical theater. (2/21/97)
Martin Guerre was given the award because it was the only local (London) production. It had no real competition--they needed to keep up appearances. Passion three years old & an American flop; Nine, God knows how old that show is.
Tommy deserved a better run....bad marketing is my guess. Maybe London Theatre is low taste and all they had was ALW & Schoen/Boubl/Mak. The tide has turned and American shows are back. (Slip a Livent or two in there too). When I went there wasn't much to pick from. . . Art, Swan Lake, Taking Sides are what I will treasure. Forget Buddy, JCS, Jeeves, Starlight. Inspector was good as was Oliver. . . but these shows are old or revivals. They ain't got nothing new to offer. London is in a sad state. (2/20/97)
I thought that the musical production award to "Tommy" was very well deserved. The performances and stageing were excellant and complemented the thrilling music of Pete Townsend superbly. I managed to see the show twice and I really appreciated the hard work which went into the production. It could not have been easy trying to coordinate the lighting, projections, scenery, music and actors in such a fast paced loud show.
"Martin Guerre", Well I love the music now that I have listened to the CD a few times. Most of the scenery was impressive besides the bizzare moving trees which would have been more at home in "Into the Woods". One or two of the performances were wonderful, the best two being the actor playing the simple local boy who falls in love with a scarecrow (Sorry I don`t have access to the programme for his name) and Juliette Caton as Bertrande. The story is an interesting one and the dancing was the most heart pounding piece of stagecraft I have ever seen.
So why does the show not quite work ??? It seems to be less than the sum of its parts. I really wanted to love this show as I love "Les Miserables" and "Miss Saigon," It was quite good and deserves to be seen for the dancing alone but in a year with any competition at all it would not have come near the top of the list for Best Musical. (2/20/97)
From Stuart Cohen:
Having seen Diana Rigg in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe" and both Vanessa Redgrave and Eileen Atkins in "John Gabriel Borkmann", all three of whom were nominated for best actress, I would not have had any regrets if any of these three superb actresses had won. I did not see the fourth nominee, Janet Mcteer, but did hear that her performance was every much as superb as the other three nominees. It would appear that the voters had a very difficult choice.
In the best actor category, I saw superb performances by Paul Schofield in "John Gabriel Borkmann" and David Suchet in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe". Last night in New York, I saw Antony Sher in "Stanley" and can certainly understand why he was chosen as best actor. (2/19/97)