by Ashley Taylor
With the Tony Awards this weekend–we thought it would be fun to share reviews of a couple of the nominated shows! Check out the Tony Awards website to learn more.
Note: Unfortunately, I did not get to see Victoria Clark, so I can’t comment on her nomination. Her understudy was lovely, however, and taught me a new appreciation for the phrase “poppycock and twattle.”
At intermission, I tweeted, “Okay, this show is basically perfect.”
But let me qualify that. Growing up, this was one of my very, very favorite musicals. I rented the Leslie Ann Warren version from our grocery store more times than I could count. I know every single note, and I can’t ever remember not knowing them. I know this should make me a super-critical audience member, but really, I was theirs to lose. I’m the adult who just wanted to be a kid in a tiara from the second I walked in the theater. (Actually, the fact that I didn’t wear an actual tiara to the show is still sort of shocking– to me and everyone who knows me). Bottom line– it was not going to be a hard sell for me to love this show. And then it was so much better than I could have imagined.
The reason I loved it was that they let the show grow up a little bit too. They took the score and tweaked it slightly. They took the plot and tweaked it… well, a little more than slightly (they sort of re-wrote the Act 2). They took a classic and made it just ever so clever. I really don’t want to spoil things (feel free to message me for details), but the button on the end of Act 1 is perfect. The production team took a classic story that everyone knows and just made it slightly off-kilter. That’s why it’s perfect. It’s clever, it’s smart, it’s GLORIOUSLY sung. (Yup. All capital letters, even. That’s how much I mean that). And then, specifically for us super-fans of the show who grew up loving it, there are these musical Easter eggs scattered all around, just for fun. It was like they knew me. They knew what I wanted to hear, and then they gave me details I didn’t even know I wanted. Yeah. It’s basically perfect.
Okay, the nominees…
Santino Fontana: THIS GUY HAS A VOICE THAT WILL MELT YOU INTO A PUDDLE OF JELLY. For serious. Okay, do I think he can beat Billy Porter for the Tony? Probably not. But I was a jelly puddle. I wanted only for him to keep singing and never stop, ever. Ever. (His song, “Me, Who Am I” has been my secret jam since the day the soundtrack was released. It’s counter-melody on top of a tenor with a voice like ice cream. It’s so many levels of delicious). He’s not going to win, but I don’t care.
Laura Osnes: So here’s why she’s perfect– because you believe every single thing she does. She takes a fairy tale role that could easily be forgettable and she makes you believe her, and root for her, and when she raises the stakes, you’re right there with her. There’s an honesty to her performance that I wasn’t expecting, because I didn’t know you could do that much with this role. I was captivated.
(Oh, and while I’m on the subject of these crazy-talented kids, I have to talk about “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful.” This song is dangerous, because it could easily be one of the most boring ballads in musical theater. (Come on—you know I’m right. There’s one arrangement involving a cheesy saxophone solo that I’m literally not allowed to play in my house). But they take this potential dirge head-on, and then turn the stakes way up. And all of a sudden, it’s a song that makes you root for them. They also sing the fooey out of it, which helps. Claps all around).
One more word about nominees… William Ivey Long designed the costumes. Sadly, he’s probably not going to win, because he’s up against Kinky Boots, Matilda and Pippin. But the costumes were such a huge part of this concept of the “classic fairy tale, just slightly off-kilter.” That’s exactly what they were– just slightly off, in a great way. This could have easily been a gorgeous, no-brainer, pretty musical. And instead it made you think. It made you look closer. Not everyone liked the costumes, and that’s fantastic. It was one of those things where I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about them, and as soon as I walked away from the theater, I got it. The design is brilliant, specifically because it makes you think. So you may not win, Mr. Long, but you’ve got my vote.
I feel absolutely no shame in saying this show was brilliant. And every time I inevitably get the raised-eyebrow, judgy question of, “Really? The R&H Cinderella? I just reply, “Trust me.” This one is special. And five-year-old Ashley was SO excited for us.