We’re seeing the excitement mount for the Tonys, but for dancers, the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards are just as major. These awards have honored dancers and choreographers in Broadway musicals since 1982, but get very little media attention. As a member of the Astaire Awards committee, I try to see nearly all the new musicals each season. Here is my wrap-up of the Astaire nominations, just announced last week.
It’s no secret that After Midnight has the most dancing of this year’s musicals. Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, it also borrows star dancers from the concert dance world. Karine Plantadit! Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards! Desmond Richardson! Jared Grimes! It's a no-brainer that they've all been nominated for an Astaire Award.
Right: Karine Plantadit in After Midnight. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
So has Neil Patrick Harris for Hedwig and the Angry Inch; James Monroe Iglehart as the jazzy genie in Aladdin; heavy-hearted, light-on-his-feet Andy Karl as Rocky; and Karen Ziemba as the hyper puppy-carrying actress in Bullets Over Broadway. Too bad Sarrah Strimel didn’t get enough nominations to make the list; I thought she slithered through Stroman’s Big Fish with big style.
In terms of Outstanding Choreographer, there’s a lot to choose from. Yes, Carlyle skillfully mixes different genres in After Midnight and his goofy/witty “Peckin’” routine for the male ensemble is lots of fun. But Stroman’s Bullets Over Broadway has hilarious numbers; Rob Marshall’s Fosse-style choreography for Cabaret is ingeniously naughty; and Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine’s fight choreography in Rocky throws you (or drags you) into the visceral suspense of a boxing match. I found Casey Nicholaw’s numbers for Aladdin to be more like pageantry than choreography—except for the hip-hop jiggles of jivin’ genie James Monroe Iglehart.
Above: A scene from Cabaret. Photo by Joan Marcus.
As far as Hollywood stars trekking onto the Broadway stage, my vote goes to Bullets Over Broadway's Zach Braff, who was very funny as the nebishy playwright David Shayne—and he could move. I have to say that Dulé Hill was a disappointment as the host of After Midnight. Michelle Williams’ singing and dancing are just adequate in Cabaret but she gives a nuanced performance as Sally Bowles anyway (more thoughts on her in my Stage Animal vs. Screen Animal posting). Sorry, but I haven’t seen Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig yet.
For a complete list of Astaire Award nominations, check out Broadway World. The big Astaire Awards show take place on June 2 at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.