© 2024 KRWG
News that Matters.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What to expect at the 77th annual Tony Awards

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Broadway's biggest night is tomorrow. It's the 77th Annual Tony Awards. And this year, a lot of the shows will seem familiar, even if you have not been keeping up with theater. Somebody who has been keeping up with theater is Jeff Lunden, who covers theater for NPR. Hey, Jeff.

JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: Hey, Scott.

DETROW: So big year for shows on Broadway - 39 new productions, but a lot of them were based on things we know already, you know, music, movies or books that have been out there for a while. Are any of these repurposed shows and ideas up for the biggest awards are?

LUNDEN: Yes. And some are even up for the biggest award, which is best musical. Alicia Keys has a semi-autobiographical show, "Hell's Kitchen," which uses a lot of songs from her catalog. That one's up for 13 Tony Awards.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "HELL'S KITCHEN")

ALICIA KEYS: (Singing) New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There's nothing you can't do.

LUNDEN: And with almost as many nominations, 12, is "The Outsiders," based on the S. E. Hinton YA novel and the film. It has music by the folk duo Jamestown Revival.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "THE OUTSIDERS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS #1: (As characters, singing) This is Tulsa, 1967, and there's just one thing you need to know.

LUNDEN: Then there's Justin Peck's dance interpretation of Sufjan Stevens's music, "Illinoise," and an adaptation of the novel "Water For Elephants." And only one original musical, but it's based on history - Shaina Taub's "Suffs," about early 20th-century suffragists.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SUFFS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS #1: (As characters, singing) So break down the door and keep marching, keep marching on, keep marching.

LUNDEN: So are any of these breakout-beyond-Broadway hits? Are we talking about the next "Hamilton" or "Book Of Mormon" with any of these musicals in the mix this year?

LUNDEN: At this point, not really, though both "The Outsiders" and "Hell's Kitchen" have been selling out in recent weeks. And that's really an issue for Broadway because those kind of tentpole shows really drive ticket sales and excitement to all productions. Recovery from the pandemic has been kind of flat. Box office and attendance hasn't really improved since last year, and overall, Broadway is down about 17% from the last full season before the COVID shutdown. I think there are a couple of reasons for this.

One may be because fewer people in the New York metropolitan area are commuting to work in Manhattan who might want to stick around to see a show in the evening. And the other is that foreign tourists, especially from Asia, are still down. But the Tony Awards are always a great showcase for Broadway. Even shows that don't win awards get their four or five minutes on the broadcast, and that can drive sales, not just tickets to shows in New York City but the ones that are on tour all around the country.

DETROW: One of the other big themes from the past year has been big revivals, right? You know, I think a top among them, "Merrily We Roll Along," starring Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff and Lindsay Mendez, which - and that's up for best revival. That's been a huge success. What's the story behind that production?

LUNDEN: Well, you know, that show was one of Stephen Sondheim's biggest flops. It only lasted 16 performances. And this revival has kind of resuscitated the show. I think it's going to win big. And its only competition, really, is the environmental staging of "Cabaret" with Eddie Redmayne, where audiences can drink at tables and interact with the performers onstage. And I've heard anecdotally that some members of the crowd have been quite the drinkers.

DETROW: (Laughter) You know, we started talking about musicals, but one of the interesting storylines this year is that the plays have been more buzzy than the musicals. Is that unusual?

LUNDEN: It really is unusual. Normally, you know, everyone's talking about the musicals, which have longer runs and are splashier, but this year is an exceptional year for both revivals and new plays. There are great revivals of Ibsen's "An Enemy Of The People," with Jeremy Strong from "Succession" and Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins' "Appropriate," with Sarah Paulson. But in the new play category, leading the pack is David Adjmi "Stereophonic," which has 13 nominations. It looks at a rock band recording an album over the course of a year in the 1970s - think Fleetwood Mac - and the actors all perform original music by Will Butler of Arcade Fire.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "STEREOPHONIC")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS #2: (As characters, singing) The old man told me that I shouldn't go and there are things I couldn't know.

LUNDEN: That show seems the odds on favorite to win. It's picked up many other awards. But it's a strong field, so we'll see what happens tomorrow night.

DETROW: All right. Jeff Lunden covers theater for NPR. Enjoy the Tonys, Jeff.

LUNDEN: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
Jeff Lunden is a freelance arts reporter and producer whose stories have been heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on other public radio programs.