Arts and Entertainment

Stuy’s Take On: The 2018 Tonys

A&E’s opinions on the productions nominated for Tonys this year.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

While it might not be as spectacular as watching “Hamilton” (or perhaps, even STC’s “1776”) with your own eyes, the 72nd Tony Awards will be hosted by Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles, just a few train stops away at Radio City Music Hall. Here are our analyses of some of the most notable nominated musicals and plays and our breakdowns of which have a chance of taking a few awards home.

AIR DATE: Sunday, June 10, 2018
TIME: 8:00 PM - 11:00 PM

Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical

By: Yasmine Chokrane

When word first came out that the 19-year-running animated series “Spongebob Squarepants” was being adapted into a Broadway musical, the only thing that could describe the initial reactions was pure skepticism. But with 12 Tony nominations, including Best Musical and Best Original Score, “Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical” has surpassed everyone’s expectations.

The show begins like any other day under the sea, but when a volcano threatens to erupt and destroy a completely panicked and anarchized Bikini Bottom, it’s up to Spongebob (Ethan Slater), Patrick Star (Danny Skinner), and Sandy Cheeks (Lilli Cooper) to save the day. In a certainly pleasant surprise, the show rejects traditional Broadway standards, making a name of its own. Rather than a single composer designing the soundtrack, the show incites a mass artistic collaboration amongst stars from both the past and the present, including Panic! at the Disco, John Legend, and David Bowie. As such, the variety of songs is an impressive feat, from upbeat songs such as “Best Day Ever” to more touching ones like “(Just a) Simple Sponge” to even a rock-infused song in “No Control.” In addition, this musical is clearly dressed to impress with its eccentric costumes, such as hats made of plastic utensils and colorful foam tubes, and innovative set pieces, including an amalgamation of ladders jumbled into a circle, forming a volcano’s rim, making Best Scenic Design and Best Costume Design certainly plausible wins for this show.

With an authentic take on well-known characters, comedic sound effects, plenty of sensational break-out performances (including that of Best Leading Actor-nominated Ethan Slater), and an ending that may make you shed a tear—I certainly did—“Spongebob Squarepants” is both light-hearted and sentimental. Guaranteeing audience turnout from those that grew up on the franchise and intriguing those that yearn for escapism, the show is guaranteed to catch more than just a couple of Tonys this year.

Mean Girls

By: Jevina Wong

Tina Fey has done it again. Most have watched her iconic 2004 film “Mean Girls,” the pinnacle of teenage girldom and coming-of-age that emblazoned “fetch” and “On Wednesdays, we wear pink” into popular culture. Nominated for 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Book of Musical, and Score, Fey has brought North Shore High to Broadway in a bright, hilarious, and heartwarming fashion.

Kenya native Cady Heron (Erika Henningsen) is thrown into her first day of high school without any experience of public education. Helping her navigate the threatening terrain are the edgy and artsy Janis (Barrett Wilbert Weed) and her “too gay to function” sidekick Damien (Greg Henson). When Cady is noticed by the alpha girl clique, the Plastics, vicious Queen Bee Regina George (Taylor Louderman) finds Cady pretty enough to take in as a harmless pet, but Janis sees this as an opportunity to get dirt on the all-too-powerful squad. Before long, Cady becomes a Plastic herself and must learn how to separate herself from the poison of popularity and find her true identity.

Fey’s adaptation only improves upon the original script, presenting refreshing quips while retaining fan favorites and launching a further exploration into bullying and peer pressure while seamlessly incorporating smartphones and social media. Fueled with explosive choreography, Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin’s score is full of catchy melodies with highlights of rock in “Apex Predator” and African themes in “It Roars.” Secondary Plastics dumb Karen Smith (Kate Rockwell) and desperate-to-please Gretchen Weiners (Ashley Park) shine in their solos that spotlight different facets of the teenage girl experience. Park’s performance is especially notable, with her nomination for Best Actress in a Featured Role giving her the potential to join the two other past Asian American Tony-winning actresses. Topping it all off is the video-designed set that allows for smooth transitions between the African savanna, the school hallway, and even the mall. “Mean Girls” packs a punch in every category and should be receiving at least as many Tonys as Glen Coco did candy canes.

The Band’s Visit

By: Lucy Lu

Intimate, tranquil, and charming isn’t how one would typically describe Broadway, but “The Band’s Visit” is just that. An Arabic band that intends to buy tickets to Petah Tikva, a cultural city in Israel, ends up in Beit Hatikva, a town in the middle of nowhere with nothing going on. A bus out of the town will not arrive until the next morning, and so the band members spend the night with the Israeli townspeople.

This new musical has received 11 nominations, one of which can be attributed to Katrina Lenk’s portrayal of Dina, a charismatic yet sharp-tongued café owner who reminisces about better days. Another nomination went to the general-like band leader Tawfiq (Tony Shalhoub), who hides a painful past behind his rigid behavior and mannerisms. There is an air of incompleteness in the characters’ lives, each in their own ways. The soundtrack transitions between humorous exchanges (“Welcome to Nowhere”) and breathtaking vocals that reveal what each person longs for and lacks (“Omar Sharif”). Barrymore Theatre, where the musical is performed, is relatively small, but its intimacy only adds to the shimmering allure of it all, enrapturing even the audience in the back row.

Angels in America

By: Isabelle Sanderson

What is it that makes something worthwhile time and time again? That makes it grab your heart by the strings until tears sting your eyes and you can no longer identify what it is you're feeling? This may specifically be the case for “Angels in America.” This story has already been told through a novel, movie, opera, and a few Broadway shows, and yet it's always different. As the adult version of that childish story you still live by since the time you picked it up in first grade, it’s that eternal relevance that makes “Angels in America” such a success. The story centers around two couples during the ‘80s struggling with AIDS, drugs, and sexuality. One couple is straight, with the husband, Joseph Pitt (Lee Pace), a lawyer, and the wife, Harper Pitt (Denise Gough), addicted to valium. The other is comprised of two gay men, Louis Ironson (James Mcardle) and Prior Garfield (Andrew Garfield), the latter of whom has just contracted AIDS. The couples meet and soon Louis and Joseph are engaged in a sexual relationship, with their partners struggling in the hospital or hallucinating in the park.

Nominated for 11 Tonys, including Best Revival of a Play, Direction of a Play, and Score, “Angels in America” has attained a record number of nominations for a play. This is not at all new to the story, having won several Tonys the first time it premiered in 1993, except now the play has modernized its sets with newer technology and incorporates a new star-studded cast. Even still, “Angels in America” manages to pertain to our current social world, creating the perfect play for all time.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

By: Miranda Lepri

The journey into the wizarding world continues, now on Broadway. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is a two-part stage sequel of the iconic series by author J.K. Rowling. Rowling herself wrote the play, and its 10 nominations and enthusiastic public response are a testament to the cultural influence of the novels. “Cursed Child” takes place 19 years after the events in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” following an overworked Harry (Jamie Parker) and his son, Albus (Sam Clemmett), who finds himself never able to meet his father’s expectations.

Lauded for its diverse casting (most prominently, African-English actress Noma Dumezweni, who plays Hermione Granger, now Minister of Magic), as well as a modern perspective that appealed to fans, the play risked harsh criticism in an attempt to reopen a story that has been so firmly cemented into the minds of millennials. However, the play has been graced with stunning reception, and the more nuanced look into a world that captivated millions has certainly caught their attention again. “Cursed Child” dominates in Best Play, and even managed to snag a nod for Best Choreography, despite the fact that the category has historically been dominated by musicals. Though it may have been impossible to expect the play to live up to the cultural legacy of Rowling’s novels, it didn’t have to. “Cursed Child” took the world of Harry Potter in an entirely different direction, and while not every fan may have agreed with the way it altered the Harry Potter realm, it certainly made the play a work that stands entirely on its own.