The Tonys Arenâ€™t Everything
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.
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: