The 2015 Tony Awards and Original Musical Theatre

Every year I get more and more excited about the new musicals that populate the primary Broadway scene. In a way – for all of us involved in developing and writing new musicals – it as if a new original musical on the main street feels like a small personal win as well. The door is open just that much wider. In celebration of that success and before the nominations are announced tomorrow, here is my celebration of the original shows eligible in 2015 (in no particular order).

1. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (Music and Lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin; Book by Craig Lucas)

The film is beloved. Audrey Hepburn’s performance was career-launching. I wonder why it took THIS long honestly to get it to the stage. Pay particular attention to “The Night They Invented Champagne” – expertly performed by this cast! Craig Lucas’s book and a Gershwin score seem like a remarkable pairing!

Watch this video on YouTube.

2. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO – (Book by Michael Weller; Lyrics by Michael Lorie and Amy Powers; Music by Lucy Simon; Based on the novel by Boris Pasternak)

Again – a beloved film (and novel). A classic, in fact. But it’s a hard sell if you don’t get it right. For me, the selling point is the return to Broadway of The Secret Garden’s Lucy Simon. She is a master at sweeping epics – I can only imagine the same is true here.

Watch this video on YouTube.

3. FINDING NEVERLAND (Book by James Graham; Music and Lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy)

I have a particular affinity for this film. It’s a really truly remarkable story. It can be argued that we have learned ENOUGH about Peter Pan, right? But this story is about Barrie – all about Barrie. And, we love a good backstory. Not to mention Matthew Morrison, yes?

Watch this video on YouTube.

4. FUN HOME (Book and lyrics by Lisa Kron; Music by Jeanine Tesori; Based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel)

I am beginning to wonder if Jeanine Tesori can do anything wrong. Her scores represent some of the greatest playlists for me – Violet, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Shrek. Her work is stunning. And any opportunity to support female musical theatre writers is enough impetus for me. PLUS – is this not the first Broadway musical based on a graphic novel? Cool….just cool.

Watch this video on YouTube.

5. HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME (Book by Todd Kreiler; Music and Lyrics by Tupac Shakur)

A catalog of a pop/rock/rap artist’s work usually would have me running for the hills. (I will confess that I did not see this show, so I am only speaking from research here.) What I WILL say is that this is a voice/sound that has yet to be heard on Broadway, and that alone is enough to warrant discussion and celebration.

Watch this video on YouTube.

6. HONEYMOON IN VEGAS – (Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown; Book by Andrew Bergman)

Again with the film adaptations. But let’s look at what we are dealing with here. Jason Robert Brown? Um…yes please. The return of Tony Danza? Um..also yes. And a rare original musical COMEDY in a season with several of them. Pay particular attention to the fantastic “When You Say Vegas.”

Watch this video on YouTube.

7. IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU (Book and Lyrics by Brian Hargrove; Music by Barbara Anselmi; Additional Lyrics by Jill Abramovitz, Michael Cooper, Carla Rose Fisher, Ernie Lijoi, and Will Randall)

Another original musical comedy in a season with more of them than usual. Directed by David Hyde Pierce and starring the likes of Sierra Boggess, Tyne Daly, and David Burtka, this musical is no passing event. The Father Of The Bride meets My Big Fat Greek Wedding meets Mamma Mia feel of the show should appeal to audiences in NYC and elsewhere. This one may have “hit” written all over it.

Watch this video on YouTube.

8. THE LAST SHIP (Music and Lyrics by Sting; Book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey)

I will start by saying I’m a little biased. Is it because I am a huge fan of Sting? Yes. It is because it is a sound I have never heard on Broadway before? Yes. Is it because it feels epic and intimate at the same time? Yes. Most of all, though, it is because, like Kinky Boots, it represents that pop/rock artists CAN make great musicals – THAT is worth celebrating!

Watch this video on YouTube.

9. SOMETHING ROTTEN (Book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell; Music and Lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick)

Perhaps the musical comedy of all musical comedies, the premise of this show is brilliant. The songwriters are new to Broadway. And the cast – led by Brian d’Arcy James and Christian Borle – is stellar. The show has the feel of classic musical comedy that feels very much like a Tony nomination waiting to happen.

Watch this video on YouTube.

10. THE VISIT (Music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb; Book by Terrance McNally)

How wonderful is it to say “a new Kander and Ebb musical” in 2015? Add to that the presence of living legend Chita Rivera, and you can’t help but take notice. This show has been gestating off and on again for a long time. It is a welcome addition to the new season. I am excited to see how audiences and Tony voters respond.

Watch this video on YouTube.

What musicals do you hope to see nominated tomorrow?

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