30 Days Of The 2014 Tony Awards: Day #26 - PASSION
Today we continue the 2014 edition of our annual BroadwayWorld feature series spotlighting the very best Tony Awards-related moments of all time with a special spotlight on a challenging and unique Broadway musical celebrating 20 years this season, PASSION.
Premiering in the same season as Disney's first foray into the musical theatre realm, BEAUTY & THE BEAST, and similarly possessing a storyline involving a reclusive figure of derision and their easily-lovable prospective paramour, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's PASSION is startlingly idiosyncratic in its tone, story, style and certainly in the overall impression it leaves on the viewer. On the DVD edition, Sondheim and company provide a fascinating commentary detailing the problematic preview period for the original production of the show on Broadway and how they carefully constructed the evening to hone in on what worked best. After all, a musical called PASSION is expectedly going to have some romance, one would assume, though perhaps not with the FATAL ATTRACTION-esque overtones ripely abundant to witness in the show as it actually exists. So, too, the double meaning of the title also refers to an honorable death characterized by much suffering - such as that often referenced in relation to the story of the death of Jesus Christ, as a passion play.
More than any other element, though, PASSION is remembered now and most likely always for the spellbinding performance of Donna Murphy as the "beast" of the tale - Fosca. Sporting an unmissable mole, drab clothing, pallid-face-making make-up and severe pulled back hair, the ravishing beauty physically as well as dramatically embodied the role, giving seemingly every ounce of her estimable talent and artistry to the powerful and complex character. Plus, few could fail to be moved by a handful of heartbreaking and intellectually probing moments as conjured up in the densely-dramatized and visually anomalous original production - chief among them, when Murphy performed Sondheim's searing and evocative "Loving You", as well as the touching and tortured "I Read". Then, there are Fosca's final moments, too - as originally played, an absolute master class in acting. Murphy rightly won Best Actress In A Musical for her work and that indelible performance is still reverentially talked about to this very day - and with good reason. She was monstrously moving - and astonishingly, painstakingly specific in every word, movement, action and note. A star turn for the ages if there ever were any, particularly as pertains to musicals this dark and unflinchingly, unrelentingly dramatic.
Besides Best Actress, PASSION also took home top Tony honors for Best Original Score, Best Book Of A Musical and Best Musical itself, as well. After all, Sondheim himself refers to the piece as a "rhapsody" and it is an ideal musical expansion of the film upon which it was based, Ettore Scola's PASSIONE D'AMOUR.
So, now, let's look at a few of the most passionate and memorable PASSION-related Tony Awards moments.
Donna Murphy, Jere Shea and the original PASSION company perform on the 1994 Tony Awards.
Sample Donna Murphy's touching speech when accepting the Tony Award for Best Actress.
Also, view the complete original Broadway production of PASSION below.
As a special bonus, view Judy Kuhn's take on "Loving You" from the recent Off-Broadway revival.
So, what precisely is it about PASSION that fills your heart with amore? Furthermore, what is your favorite moment in Sondheim's rhapsodic score? Certainly with a central role as unforgettable as that of Fosca, we will see productions of PASSION featuring some sensational leading ladies of a similar school to that of Ms. Murphy for many years to come - but, it is surely quite impossible we will ever see someone better or more unforgettable. "I Wish I Could Forget You" the superlative song says - but we never, ever will as far as she is concerned.