A Tony Award preview for if you've only listened to Hamilton
Another opening, another show. The lights go up in New York's Beacon Theatre tonight for theater's biggest night: the Tony Awards.
It's an exciting year for the Tonys: records have already been broken, and more are at stake to topple as the night begins.
The live show will be broadcast tonight on CBS at 8/7 central, but here's everything you need to know beforehand — or at least just enough of what you need to know to pretend you're the most well-versed thespian at your Tony watch party.
(If you spent the entire year listening to the "Hamilton" soundtrack and now need to sound knowledgable at watching parties, this one's for you.)
The 2016 Tony Awards by the numbers:
1 is the number of Tony Awards James Corden has been nominated for, the number of Tony Awards he has won and the number of Tony Awards ceremonies he will have hosted once the night is done. The "Late Late Show" host is no stranger to the Tonys, having taken home honors for Best Actor in a Play for his performance in "One Man, Two Guvnors" in 2012.
10 performances will be featured. This will include the nominees for Best Musical and Best Musical Revival, as well as a bonus performance by Gloria Estefan and the cast of “On Your Feet.”
13 wins (out of their 16 nominations) is what it’ll take for “Hamilton” to beat the record set by “The Producers” for winningest musical production.
13 wins is also the most possible “Hamilton” can take home due to multiple nominations in several categories (best performance by a leading actor in a musical and best performance by a featured actor in a musical).
Here’s your quick guide to the 2016 Tony nominees for best musical:
What’s the deal: With the book by Steve Martin, the lyrics by Edie Brickell and the music by Martin and Brickell, this musical is obviously coming from a winning team. The musical is inspired by their album “Love Has Come for You,” which already cleaned up at the 2014 Grammy Awards. The musical is set in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and the plot is complicated, jumping between two separate decades, but the soft and sweet banjo music grounds it in that old Appalachia feel.
What else: If you’re a fan of “The Jerk," “Cheaper by the Dozen," “Roxane” or the King Tut skit from SNL, be aware that’s not the Steve Martin you’ll find in the music of “Bright Star.” For a better idea of what you’ll hear, give a listen to Martin and Brickell’s bluegrass collaborations, including the "Love Has Come For You" album that inspired the musical and their recent-ish album “So Familiar.”
Fun fact: This musical is Clay Aiken-approved.
If you like really anything with a strong banjo presence, you’ll like this.
What’s the deal: What’s there left to say? When I went to search for a video to embed, the first thing to pop up was a video of the cast of “Hamilton” singing for the president. A musical hasn’t permeated modern culture so thoroughly since — “High School Musical,” maybe? This musical biography of America’s ten-dollar founding father has a little bit of everything — a soaring score, witty slant rhymes, fast-as-hell rapping, a story of working to overcome adversity, a history lesson, Daveed Diggs and a tear-jerker ending and a little window into the genius of Lin Manuel Miranda.
What else: Listened to the soundtrack a million times through? Head over to YouTube to check out the cast and crew’s Ham4Ham shows: mini performances put on outside of the show’s stage door (as well as digital Ham4Hams from the colder months). Miranda has sung the new “Star Wars” cantina song with JJ Abrams, SNL’s Taran Killam has performed his flexibly accurate and festive summary of obscure facts about Alexander Hamilton and Okieriete Onaodowan (Hercules Mulligan and James Madison in the show) blessed us with a rendition of “Defying Gravity” as Mickey Mouse.
Fun fact: It seems like everyone, musical theater geek or not, already knows everything there is to know about “Hamilton,” so if you really want to impress people, dredge up your knowledge of Miranda’s first Tony-nominated musical, “In the Heights." Watch the show’s performance at the 2008 Tony Awards (Where they took home Best Musical!), and get a little teary-eyed watching.
If you have two ears and a heart, you’ll like this.
School of Rock – The Musical
What’s the deal: You’ve seen the Jack Black movie.
What else: The show is not in short supply of precocious, talented children all ready to stick it to the man, and they'll make you wish you stuck with those elementary school piano lessons. The kids are all playing their own instruments, and they’re all pretty darn good, in my expert opinion as a former elementary school recorder prodigy.
Fun fact: Oh yeah, the music for this rock musical is by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I, too, am hoping he will not be gifting the world and this musical with a “Love Never Dies”-esque sequel.
If you like the "School of Rock" movie and the "Matilda" musical, you’ll like this.
Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
What’s the deal: “Shuffle Along” is a look back at the challenges of the original production of “Shuffle Along,” a groundbreaking 1921 Broadway show. George C. Wolfe, who co-wrote the book and directed, has said the choice to adapt the musical came from an interest in how such a significant show in its time could be buried and lost in history. Check out this New York Times article for a deeper explanation of the nuances and importance of this musical and its 1921 counterpart.
What else: “Shuffle Along” clocks in with the second-most Tony nominations.
Fun fact: Full disclosure, I do have a larger-than-life-sized poster of "Shuffle Along" lead Audra McDonald in my living room, and I believe everyone should. McDonald has set two Tony records. She is the winningest actress in Tony Awards history, with six performance awards. She’s also the only person to ever have won in four separate acting categories. Her acceptance speech for her record-breaking sixth award was as beautiful and inspiration as she is, and she’s nominated for what could be her seventh award tonight.
If you like the genius of the choreography of tap icon Savion Glover, you’ll love this.
What’s the deal: Based on the 2007 film, the music and lyrics are by Sara Bareilles (yes that Sara Bareilles) and the book is by Jessie Nelson. “Waitress” is the story of, well, a waitress who dreams of opening a pie shop and escaping her unhappy marriage.
What else: The lead is played by Jessie Mueller, who is nominated for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for the role, a category she won in 2014 for her performance as Carole King in “Beautiful.”
Fun fact: While musicals might be more known for their auditory and ocular spectacles, “Waitress” takes the olfactory into account. To set the culinary mood, an apple pie bakes in a convection oven just outside the doors to the theater’s orchestra seating before each performance, wafting the aroma through the theater.
If you've been craving a conflation of the music of Sara Bareilles and your favorite Food Network stars, you’ll like this.
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