Tony Awards preview: Best Musical Revival

The 2012 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical was a lush category filled with classic works from iconic composers: Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies,” a new interpretation “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita”. 

This year, the contenders pale in comparison.

To date, only three of the five eligible productions have officially opened: “Annie”, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”, and “Cinderella” – if it will even be considered a revival.  All three of these productions are likely to be among the four nominees, due either to the renown of the show itself or the panache and merits of the current production.

The original production of the crowd-pleasing “Annie” won seven Tony Awards out of a plentiful ten nominations in 1977, including Best Musical. The first Broadway remounting of the show in 1997 fared much worse, receiving one nomination for Best Revival. Can this season’s revival garner more attention? 

It is certainly poised to return in the Best Revival category, considering the caliber of the performers and production team. Pulitzer Prize, Drama Desk, three-time Tony Award winner, and American Theater Hall of Fame inductee James Lapine directs this staging, which stars two-time Tony Award winner Kate Finneran (“Noises Off,” “Promises, Promises”) as Miss Hannigan, Australian musical-theater star Anthony Warlow making his Broadway debut as Daddy Warbucks, and Lilla Crawford in a praised performance of the title role.  “Annie” is going to generate much word-of-mouth right up until the Tony Awards too, with the addition of loveable, Emmy Award winner Jane Lynch (“Glee”) as Finneran’s replacement.

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“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” may not be as well known as “Annie”, but it has made a resounding impression with its first-ever Broadway revival. The original 1986 production based on the unfinished Charles Dickens novel received five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, out of an impressive eleven nominations. 

Emmy and five-time Tony nominee Scott Ellis directs this production, which boasts an incredible amount of Broadway star-wattage: two-time Tony Award champ and nine-time nominee, Broadway-legend Chita Rivera (“The Rink,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman”) two-time Drama Desk nominee Stephanie J. Block; four-time Tony nominee Gregg Edelman; and Tony-winning character actor Jim Norton (“The Seafarer”). 

Reception for this revival of the cult-favorite has been very strong, making it the front-runner in the category. It is closing very early in the Tony season, however, which may be detrimental since voters cannot revisit the show prior to nominations and the award ceremony. This extended length of time between the closing performance and the Tony nominations might cause this early frontrunner to limp across the finish line without a victory.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” is the most recent production of the three viable contenders, having just opened. Placement for this staging has not been determined yet. It could be deemed eligible for the Best Musical category instead of Best Revival as this is the first Broadway stage production of the show, which originated as a 1957 television musical special, and was later developed into stage productions.

“Cinderella” could be considered a revival, in the same way that “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” was considered a revival last year despite featuring a revised script. Tony-nominee Douglas Carter Beane wrote the libretto for this staging, which features 2012 Tony-nominee Laura Osnes as the title character, and Tony Award winner Victoria Clark (“Light in the Piazza”). 

The two shows yet to open this season are a reinvented “Jekyll and Hyde” and the first-ever revival of “Pippin.” Between the two shows, “Pippin” has a greater chance of being nominated, due to the stigma around “Jekyll and Hyde” and its composer Frank Wildhorn

Although successful in terms of duration of its run, the original 1997 production of “Jekyll and Hyde” received only four Tony nominations, and was not able to break through into the Best Musical category. Wildhorn, a four-time Tony nominee, has had miserable luck on Broadway the past few seasons. Indeed, his last two outings (“Wonderland,” “Bonnie and Clyde”) were critically derided and ran a mere sixty-seven performances combined. In its favor, however, are stars Tony-nominee Constantine Maroulis and singer Deborah Cox, and director Jeff Calhoun, who was nominated last year for his helming of “Newsies”. However, even their presence in this production may not be enough to haul this laborious show to a nomination.

“Pippin,” on the other hand, comes from six-time Tony nominee Stephen Schwartz, and the original 1972 production about a medieval minstrel was nominated for eleven Tony Awards, winning five of those bids. It lost Best Musical to Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music.” 

The upcoming production stars two-time Tony nominee Charlotte d’Amboise and Tony nominee Patina Miller.  Most notably, this revival is a transfer of the American Repertory Theater production from earlier last year, and is directed by two-time Tony nominee Diane Paulus; this pairing brought “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bessto Broadway last year, which went on to win this category. 

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