Tony Awards Feature Jewish Connections

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Current Broadway musicals and dramas, many with Tony nominations, have Jewish connections such as Hadestown, Beetlejuice and Burn This.

By Alice Burdick Schweiger

Featured photo by Matthew Murphy

The 73rd annual Tony Awards will air at 8 p.m. Sunday, June 9, on CBS, live from New York City. Hadestown leads the pack with 14 Tony nominations, followed by Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations with 12 and Tootsie with 11.

Here are some current Broadway musicals and dramas with a Jewish connection — many with Tony nods.

BROADWAY

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations traces Detroit’s R & B group from the streets of the Motor City to their innumerable ups and downs on their rise to the top of the charts. While climbing the road to success, they get a new agent, Shelly Berger, who, as mentioned in the show, happens to be Jewish. Some of their classic beloved songs, such as “My Girl” and “For Once in My Life,” are performed. The show’s Tony nominations include best musical, Derrick Baskin for leading actor, and Jeremy Pope and Ephraim Sykes for featured actor roles. Imperial Theatre. (212) 239-6200.

All My Sons, up for three Tonys, including best revival of a play, is Arthur Miller’s classic drama about greed and ethical responsibility. Starring Tracy Lets and Tony-nominated Annette Bening, it’s directed by Gregory Mosher. The Keller family’s son, Larry, goes missing while serving in the military during World War II. Meanwhile, the hidden secret that the father knowingly shipped defective aircraft parts during the war emerges. Runs through June 23. American Airlines Theatre. (212) 719-1300.

Beetlejuice, with eight Tony nods including best musical, stars Alex Brightman and is based on the 1988 Geffen Company movie. A couple hire an exorcist to remove a very naughty ghost from their new house. (The film was directed by Tim Burton and starred Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin and Winona Ryder.) David Korins (Hamilton) is nominated for set design. Winter Garden Theatre. (212) 239-6200.

Be More Chill, based on the cult sensation novel by Ned Vizzini, is a coming of age story. Jeremy, an average teenager in New Jersey, is offered a computerized pill called a Squip that can make him popular. But what could go wrong? This original musical looks at modern issues like depression, bullying and anxiety. Music supervision and orchestrations by Charlie Rosen. Joe Iconis is nominated for music and lyrics. Lyceum Theatre. (212) 239-6200.

Burn This, a revival of Lanford Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play about love and raw attraction, stars Keri Russell and Adam Driver. A mysterious death brings together two unlikely strangers and their connection sparks a sizzling connection. Brandon Uranowitz garnered a nomination for best featured actor. Closes July 14. Hudson Theatre. (855) 801-5876.

Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, up for best play, takes place just after the conclusion of William Shakespeare’s first tragedy, Titus Andronicus. This comedy, set during the fall of the Roman Empire, stars Nathan Lane and Andrea Martin. Jules Fisher was nominated for lighting design and Ann Roth for costume designer. Runs through Aug. 4. Booth Theatre. (212) 239-6200.

Hadestown, with the most Tony nominations, is a modern retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The story follows the two interweaving love stories — that of young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice, and that of King Hades and his wife Persephone. Rachel Chavkin is nominated for best director and Nevin Steinberg for sound designer. Walter Kerr Theatre. (212) 239-6200.

Hillary and Clinton looks at Hillary and Bill Clinton’s political life and complicated marriage. Tony-nominated Laurie Metcalf offers a compelling depiction of Hillary’s personal and public struggles. Leon Rothenberg is the sound designer. Runs through July 21. John Golden Theatre. (212) 239-6200.

Ink, up for six Tonys, including best play, is set in London and tells the story of Rupert Murdoch, who turned a struggling paper, The Sun, into a wildly popular must-read. He brings on Editor Larry Lamb, who recruits an unlikely team of underdog reporters. Producers include Sonia Friedman Productions. Closes July 7. Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. (212) 239-6200.

Jeff Daniels and the company of To Kill a Mockingbird Julieta Cervantes

 

King Lear, Shakespeare’s classic about a king who decides to retire and divide his kingdom among his three daughters, stars Glenda Jackson, Elizabeth Marvel, Jayne Houdyshell and Tony-nominated Ruth Wilson (Showtime’s The Affair). Directed by Sam Gold. Closes July 7. Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th St. (212) 239-6200.

Kiss Me Kate, up for best musical revival, stars Kelli O’Hara and Will Chase. Two performers, divorced from each other, find themselves starring opposite one another in a musical version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Music and lyrics by Cole Porter. Book by Sam and Bella Spewack. Directed by Scott Ellis, this charming show runs through June 30. Studio 54. (212) 719-1300.

Network, starring Tony-nominated Bryan Cranston and Tony Goldwyn, is based on the classic 1976 iconic film by Paddy Chayefsky. Howard Beale is a TV news anchor who isn’t pulling in viewers and unravels during his final broadcast. But then ratings soar and Beale becomes the biggest thing on television. Closes June 8. Belasco Theatre. (212) 239-6200.

Oklahoma!, nominated for eight Tonys, including best musical revival, offers a contemporary spin on this Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s 1943 classic. Daniel Fish, up for best director, wanted to make the show relevant today and has taken the story of frontier competition and jealousy into modern times. New arrangements and orchestrations are by nominated Daniel Kluger, and new sound design is by nominated Drew Levy. Rebecca Naomi Jones plays Laurey. Free chili and cornbread are served to the audience during the intermission. Runs through Jan. 19, 2020. Circle in the Square. (212) 239-6200.

The Cher Show tells the musical history of the pop star’s career. Book by Rick Elice and music by various composers. Three different actresses play her — the kid starting out, the glam star and the icon. Michigan’s Jeffrey Seller (Rent, Hamilton) is one of the producers. Jarrod Spector plays Sonny Bono. Stephanie J. Block is up for actress in a leading role in a musical. Neil Simon Theatre. 250 W. 52nd St. (877) 250-2929.

The Ferryman nabbed nine nominations on the Tony roster, including best play and best direction by Sam Mendes. Set in rural Northern Ireland in 1981, the Carney’s farmhouse is full of activity with preparation for the annual harvest. But this year’s festivities are interrupted by the news of the death of one of their family members, who had disappeared 10 years ago. Closes July 7. Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. (212) 239-6200.

The Prom, with seven Tony nominations including best musical, is a delightful high-energy show about an Indiana girl who wants to attend her high school prom with her girlfriend. Meanwhile, after a bad review on Broadway, a group of self-centered actors wanting to gain media attention to boost their careers, travel to an Indiana town to help her cause. One of the actors announces not only is he from New York, but he’s also Jewish! Starring Beth Leavel, Josh Lamon and Christopher Sieber, it’s written by Bob Martin. Music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Begulelin — both nominated. Longacre Theatre. (212) 239-6200.

To Kill A Mockingbird, the story of racial injustice and childhood innocence, stars Tony-nominated Michiganders Jeff Daniels and Celia Keenan-Bolger. Set in Alabama in the 1930s and based on Harper Lee’s 1960 novel of the same title, it’s Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation. The play garnered nine nominations. Also nominated are Bartlett Sher for director, Gideon Glick for featured actor and Adam Guettel (grandson of composer Richard Rodgers) for musical score. Shubert Theatre. (212) 239-6200.

Tootsie, with 11 nominations, including best musical, is based on the film of the same name. Michael Dorsey, a talented but difficult actor, struggles to find work until a desperate stunt lands him a plum role in a Broadway show. (In the film starring Dustin Hoffman, Dorsey lands a role in a soap opera.) David Yazbek was nominated for best original score and Scott Ellis for direction. The musical is packed with great one-liners and stars Tony-nominated Santino Fontana and Sarah Stiles. Marriott Marquis Theatre, 210 W. 46th St. (877) 250-2929.

What the Constitution Means to Me, Heidi Schreck’s Tony-nominated autobiographical drama, delves into her own history as a teenager who earned college tuition by winning constitutional debate competitions. She brings back her teenage self and traces the relationship between four generations of women in her own family and their rights. Producers include Aaron Glick, Matt Ross and Nederlander Presentations. Closes Aug. 24. Hayes Theatre. (212) 239-6200.

A scene from Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish Matthew Murphy

Other Tony Jewish connections

The Waverly Gallery, directed by Lila Neugebauer and written by Kenneth Lonergan, has closed, but it was nominated for best revival of a play. Elaine May was nominated for best leading actress in a play.

Torch Song, written by Harvey Fierstein, also closed but is nominated for best revival of a play.

Actress Judith Light is receiving the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award. She will be honored for her work to end HIV/AIDS and her support for LGBTQ and human rights. Her long list of credits include Tony Awards for Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities and Richard Greenberg’s The Assembled Parties.

Off Broadway

Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, with English and Russian subtitles, is directed by Oscar and Tony Award winner Joel Grey. The critically acclaimed National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene production stars Steven Skybell as Tevye and Jackie Hoffman as Yente. Fiddler on the Roof, which premiered in 1964 and won nine Tonys including best musical, is based on “Tevye and His Daughters,” a series of stories by the Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem. The creative team features musical direction by Zalmen Mlotek and sound design by Detroiter Dan Moses Schreier. (Side note: Detroiters Michael Yashinsky, who now teaches Yiddish at the University of Michigan, and Daniel Kahn, a Berlin-based actor, singer, songwriter and leader of the klezmer band, Painted Bird, were in the original cast. When the show went off-roadway, Yashinsky was asked to rejoin the Stage 42 production.) Extended through January 2020. Stage 42, 422 W. 42nd St. (212) 239-6200.

Broadway Shows Opening This Summer

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, written by Terrence McNally, tells the story of a diner waitress and a short-order cook whose one-night stand may become more. Natasha Katz does lighting and Nevin Steinberg the sound. The show opens May 30 and closes Aug. 25. Broadhurst Theatre. (212) 239-6200.

Moulin Rouge! The Musical, based on Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film, is set in the Montmartre Quarter in Paris at the turn of the century. An English poet falls in love with the cabaret singer at the Moulin Rouge, where bohemians, artists and aristocrats all gather. Cast includes Danny Burstein. Music supervision, orchestrations and arrangements by Justin Levine. Previews begin June 28 and the show opens July 25. Al Hirschfeld Theatre. (877) 250-2929.

 

 

 

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