There are only five shows in contention for Best Musical Revial at this year’s Tony Awards. Just one is running (“On the Town”); one has closed (“Side Show”); and three are in or about to start previews (“On the Twentieth Century,” “Gigi,” “The King and I”).
Advance buzz is strongest for “The King and I” from Lincoln Center Theater since its director Barlett Sher previously won a Tony for the LCT production of “South Pacific” which was captured a Tony for Best Musical Revival. In addition, Kelli O’Hara who collected one of her five Tony nominations for “Pacific,” will be headlining “King” opposite Oscar nominee Ken Wantanabe (“The Last Warrior”). This is the fifth Broadway production of the beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein classic and the last one, produced in 1996 and starring Donna Murphy (Tony for Best Actress) and Lou Diamond Philips won the Best Musical Revival Tony and ran for 780 performances.
“On the Twentieth Century” is also receiving strong word of mouth since it recently began previews. This is the first Broadway revival of the 1978 romp by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Cy Coleman based on the 1932 screwball stage play about a narcissistic producer-director chasing his former girlfriend and leading lady on a transcontinental train. The opening has been delayed a few nights due to star Peter Gallagher’s sinus infection, but advance buzz is extremely positive with Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth a strong candidate for her third nomination.
“Gigi” has had many lives on stage and screen. Derived from Colette’s classic novel of a young Parisian girl’s coming of age, it was made into a stage play with Audrey Hepburn in 1951 and an Oscar-winning MGM movie musical in 1958 with Leslie Caron. Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe wrote the score right after their triumph with “My Fair Lady.” Lerner translated the movie into a Broadway musical in 1973 which won a Tony for Best Score, but ran only 103 performances. This version features a new book by Emmy nominee Heidi Thomas (“Call the Midwife”) and received strong reviews during an out-of-town engagement in Washington, D.C.
“On the Town” which opened in October has its champions. The 1944 tuner marked the Broadway debuts of composer Leonard Bernstein, choreographer Jerome Robbins, and book writers-lyricists-performers Comden and Green. The fun-loving romp follows three sailors in wartime New York on a 24-hour pass. The original production served as the basis of the classic MGM 1949 movie musical with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. There have been two previous Broadway revivals (in 1971 and 1998), both were short-lived. Many reviewers and theater aficionados feels this edition, directed by Tony winner John Rando (“Urinetown”), strikes the right balance between high and low culture.
That leaves “Side Show,” the 1997 musical about the real-life Hilton Sisters, physically conjoined twins and vaudeville performers. The original production ran for only 91 performances but developed a cult following. Unfortunately, the show’s rabid fans were not enough to keep a new, snazzier production directed by Oscar winner Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls,” “Gods and Monsters”) running any longer. The new version ran for only 56 performances and while it might snag a nomination, its prospects for winning are very weak.
It’s too early to tell right now, but this category could develop into a real horserace. Make your predictions below using our easy drag-and-drop menu.