It’s the final few weeks before the lackluster 2013-14 Broadway season and some folks in Hartford are taking an unusually high interest in the last few shows that are about to open.
The reason is “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” which developed and premiered at Hartford Stage — and a show that some here have invested in when it moved to Broadway — is a contender for a basketful of nominations if the theater gods are smiling.
But will it be nominated for one of the four slots for the top award: best musical of the season?
The odds are promising, given that the nominees are selected by a committee of industry professionals in wide-ranging fields whose charge is rewarding excellence, and supposedly immune from commercial pressures. Winners are then selected by the whole voting body.
In the show’s favor are three factors:
1. It received the best reviews of any new musical so far this season with much praise for its score, book, design, staging and actors.
2. It has been running since November, managing to survive the challenging winter months as it begins plans for a tour.
3. It is so damn funny, clever and charming. People like the show, they really like it — although just not wildly enough yet to burn up the box office.
But let’s look at what other shows are eligible. There’s the well-reviewed “Aladdin” from Disney based on another of its animated film hits. That well-crafted show is a likely bet for the top nomination given its solid reviews and strong box office numbers, grossing over a mil a week. (Tony loves when it can reward art and commerce.)
Also widely admired is “After Midnight,” a classy, entertaining Cotton Club-era jazz revue featuring a series rotating stars. But for some revues might be a harder sell over ambitious book musicals.
“Rocky,” based on the Oscar-winning film, didn’t turn out to be the sensation some had predicted — though its final coup de theatre scene is a knockout. But a grand finale does not a Tony show make.
“If/Then” received mixed to negative reviews but big points for being an original book and there was much praise for its star, “Adele Dazeem”, I mean, Idina Menzel, who single-handedly is making its box office go ka-ching.
“The Bridges of Madison County” also has its fans and it features a smart book, splendid performances and a lovely score by Jason Robert Brown. But it’s the musical most vulnerable at the box office at the moment.
The songs of Carole King and wonderful performers elevate “Beautiful,” but the script is a cliché. Still, it’s doing the best among the non-star shows.
“First Date,” “Soul Doctor,” “Big Fish,” “A Night with Janis Joplin” have all opened and closed.
“Bullets Over Broadway,” based on the Woody Allen film comedy, opened last night to mixed reviews.
“Violet,” which opens later this month, had a short off-Broadway run in 1997 but it’s unclear whether this show that stars Sutton Foster would be placed in the new musical or musical revival category. Logic, consistency and fairness are not always factors in the decisions by the powers that be in TonyLand.
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” with Neil Patrick Harris and “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” with Audra McDonald — which had significant previous runs off-Broadway (“Hedwig” for 857 performances) and around the country — are likely to be placed in the best musical revival category but who the hell knows? And what of “Cabaret,” which is a revival of a particular production of a previous revival, its concept, staging and star intact? Only “Les Misérables” is an obvious slam-dunk as a revival.
The season would have had another dynamic if two of the most exciting new musicals that opened off-Broadway — “Natasha and Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” and David Byrne’s “Here Lies Love” — transferred to a Broadway house:
But they didn’t and what remains is a season with no overwhelming favorite or smash hit — no “Book of Mormon,” “Jersey Boys” or “The Lion King” — which means anything can happen.
And then the game of predicting the winners begins.