As we look ahead to the Tony Awards on Sunday, June 8, EW takes a closer look at this season’s nominated selection of new musicals, plays, and revivals, all of which will be competing for Broadway’s highest honor. Today, we dive into this year’s nominees for Best Musical.
Opened: Nov. 3, 2013
Starring: Adriane Lenox, Dulé Hill, and a rotating list of celebrity guest stars including Fantasia Barrino, Gladys Knight, and Patti LaBelle
Concept by: Jack Viertel
Directed and Choreographed by: Warren Carlyle
Synopsis: Celebrating Duke Ellington’s years at the Cotton Club, After Midnight is a sexy and smoky musical revue of the Jazz Age. With original arrangements of Ellington classics and Langston Hughes’ poetry, After Midnight features 25 dancers and singers and a 17-piece big band picked by jazz legend Wynton Marsalis.
EW review: “But for the most part, After Midnight is a show that’s as light on its feet as its very talented ensemble. Be sure to hang around after the curtain call for Ellington’s ‘Rockin’ in Rhythm,’ a kind of it-ain’t-overture by Marsalis’ incomparable orchestra that is sure to put a spring in your step for days to come.” A- –Thom Geier
Listen to this: “Women Be Wise”
Nominations: 7 — Best Musical, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Adriane Lenox), Best Costume Design of a Musical (Isabel Toledo), Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Howell Binkley), Best Sound Design of a Musical (Peter Hylenski), Best Direction of a Musical (Warren Carlyle), and Best Choreography (Warren Carlyle)
Fun Fact: After Midnight was first performed as part of New York City Center’s Encores! program under the title Cotton Club Parade in 2011 and 2012.
Odds of Winning: A long shot for the gold.
Fantasia Barrino on her affinity for jazz: “Jazz music is a different language — it’s not the same as R&B, it’s not the same as most music that a lot of us listen to, especially our young people, but I feel like it’s what people need to see because it’s where it all started. It’s so elegant, it’s so classy, it’s so sexy, and most of all, it stands for those people who came before us and who went through so much. Music was their way of feeling like they could make it through.”
Warren Carlyle on what attracted him to the show: “It’s been an amazing journey. I started working on it about 4 years ago. It’s been an amazing journey of development. I took the job, I wanted to do it because of the music, the music is really what attracted me. I don’t know, I love this music. It’s incredible. It’s a giant Broadway musical. All the story is told through music and dance. There’s a little bit of poetry that weaves it together but it’s sort of a wild artistic adventure.”
Opened: March 20, 2014
Starring: Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed, Jonathan Freeman, and James Monroe Iglehart
Music by: Alan Menken
Lyrics by: Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
New Lyrics and Book by: Chad Begeulin
Directed and Choreographed by: Casey Nicholaw
Synopsis: Based on the hit animated Disney film, Aladdin tells the story of a young thief who finds a magic lamp and unlocks a genie that will grant him three wishes.
EW review: “Overall, this is one of the better Disney stage musicals, complete with several eye-popping production numbers that benefit from Nicholaw’s spirited choreography, Bob Crowley’s elaborate and chameleonic sets, and Gregg Barnes’ glittery costumes.” B (Thom Geier)
Listen to this: “Friend Like Me”
Nominations: 5 — Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (Chad Beguelin), Best Original Score (music Alan Menken; lyrics Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin), Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (James Monroe Iglehart), and Best Choreography (Casey Nicholaw)
Fun Fact: This is not Disney’s first attempt at getting its magical musical onstage. In fact, another stage version of Aladdin has already been playing for over a decade. Disney’s Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular opened in California’s Disneyland back in 2003; the 45-minute, scaled-down production still enchants audiences with multiple performances each day.
Odds of Winning: The Disneyfied hit will need a genie’s wish to land the prize.
Jonathan Freeman on re-creating the role of Jafar: “I get a little Disney buzz sometimes. It takes a team of people — Gregg Barnes designed these incredible costumes, and Cheryl Thomas does my makeup every night, and Gary Martori gets me into my beard, and then my dresser Barry Hoff gets me into that big outfit and those metal cuffs and I put on the turban, I look in the mirror, and I’m like, ‘Yes, that’s him.’ And then we go downstairs and put the cape on because it’s too big to travel back and forth on. And the shoes. Oh, the shoes.”
Chad Beguelin on adding new songs to the show: “I think what we really wanted to do was make sure that people who loved the film and loved the characters got those big moments. Of course, we’ve got ‘A Whole New World,’ ‘One Jump,’ ‘Prince Ali’…we wanted to make sure that fans were really satisfied and happy, but we also wanted to bring in a lot of other themes and characters to sort of flesh it out.”
NEXT: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Opened: Jan. 12, 2014
Starring: Jessie Mueller, Jake Epstein, Anika Larsen and Jarrod Spector
Book by: Douglas McGrath
Music and Lyrics by: Barry Mann, Carole King, Cynthia Weil, Gerry Goffin
Directed by: Marc Bruni
Choreographed by: Josh Prince
Synopsis: Follows the life of Carole King from her youth as a teenager in Brooklyn to her career as a songwriter for other artists — penning hits like “The Locomotion” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” — before becoming a star in her own right.
EW review: “The show’s occasional infelicities seem less glaring by the end of the second act, as King comes into her own as a solo artist. Mueller, too, seems to rise to her moment in the spotlight, bringing real depth and feeling to ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ and the title number. Shedding her permed ‘do for King’s familiar frizzy mop, she completes the physical transformation we’ve come to expect from the modern-day princess story. She’s as beautiful as she feels.” B+ —Thom Geier
Listen to This:
Nominations: 7 — Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (Douglas McGrath), Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Jessie Mueller), Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (Jarrod Spector), Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Anika Larsen), Best Sound Design of a Musical (Brian Ronan), and Best Orchestrations (Steve Sidwell)
Fun Fact: King was very reluctant to see her life played out on stage and didn’t do any publicity for the show during previews or opening. In April, King attended Beautiful in disguise so as not to be recognized by the audience or the cast. During a post-show speech for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, King surprised the entire cast by joining them onstage, and then raised $30,000 for the organization by auctioning off a sing-a-long.
Odds of Winning: A real contender.
NEXT: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
Opened: Nov. 18, 2013
Starring: Jefferson Mays, Bryce Pinkham, Lauren Worsham, and Lisa O’Hare
Music by: Steven Lutvak
Book by: Robert L. Freedman
Lyrics by: Freedman and Lutvak
Direction by: Darko Tresnjak
Choreography by: Peggy Hickey
Synopsis: Monty Navarro discovers he’s a long-lost member of a noble family, and sets out to kill the eight relatives preceding him in line to become the next Earl of Highhurst — all of whom are played by Tony Award-winner Jefferson Mays. Naturally, it’s a comedy.
EW review: “Director Darko Tresnjak stages each crime with ingenious wit, aided by Alexander Dodge’s simple but clever set design which evokes an early-20th-century vaudeville theater, complete with footlights. Monty must also contend with dueling love interests — the vain and avaricious Sibella (Lisa O’Hare) and the naïve D’Ysquith cousin Phoebe (Lauren Worsham), the latter safely following him in the line of succession. The three get a door-slamming bedroom-farce of a trio, ”I’ve Decided to Marry You,” that is a delirious second-act showstopper.” A (Thom Geier)
Listen to this: “I’ve Decided to Marry You”
Nominations: 10 — Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (Robert L. Freedman), Best Original Score (music by Steven Lutvak; lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham), Best Performacne by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Lauren Worsham), Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Alexander Dodge), Best Costume Design of a Muiscal (Linda Cho), Best Direction of a Musical (Darko Tresnjak), and Best Orchestrations (Jonathan Tunick)
Fun fact: The dark musical comedy is based in part on Roy Horniman’s 1907 novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal, which in turn inspired the 1949 British film Kind Hearts and Coronets.
Odds of winning: A real contender.
Bryce Pinkham on his backstage superstitions: “I do this thing right before I go on stage with my hips, where I just sort of do this weird hula motion. Once I leave my dressing room, I’m like a pinball. There’s certain things I have to make sure I do before I go on stage. Like, I get my prop right here, then I do the hip thing, and then I’m out.”