Michael Riedel's Views on the Tony Awards

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Michael Riedel's Views on the Tony Awards#1
Posted: 6/16/08 at 8:59am
June 16, 2008 -- JUST when you thought Broadway was starting to get with it, the feeble-minded old Tony voters served up their usual dish - sentimental slop.

Yes, "In the Heights," which pulled off an upset to win Best Musical, is energetic. Yes, it has an appealing Latino cast. And, yes, it's set in the barrio, a neighborhood most Tony voters only pass through on their way home from their country houses in Katonah. But the barrio of "In the Heights" is about as zesty as an enchilada from Taco Bell.

This is a hopelessly old-fashioned show that, for all its hyperactive staging, makes the groundbreaking observation that "there's no place like home."

Accepting the Tony last night, one of its giddy producers said, "This is a show about family and chasing your dreams!"

That should be enough to bury it for anybody raised on "The Simpsons," but not those Tony voters, who still order their ethnic food "mild."

The really groundbreaking rock musical of the year - "Passing Strange," about a young musician's coming of age - proved too edgy for Tony voters.

"Passing Strange" went home with just one award last night, Best Book for its creator, Stew, a downtown rocker who's been a fixture of the European underground music scene for years.

"Passing Strange" began life in the downtown rock clubs and first came to the attention of Broadway producers at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater.

"In the Heights" began life at Wesleyan, its creators' alma mater.

Stew at least showed he had a sense of humor, appearing on camera wearing big glasses and a pig nose when his name was called out as Best Actor in a Musical. He lost to Paulo Szot of "South Pacific."

In addition to the Tony voters' distaste for a show with a rough edge, there were whispers around Shubert Alley all week that the road voters might not opt for "Passing Strange" because they couldn't sell it outside of New York: It's black, it deals with sex, the music is awfully loud.

"In the Heights," some insiders said, would work on the road because everybody's sentimental about "the old neighborhood." If this, indeed, is the case, the road producers should have their Tony credentials revoked.

On an upbeat note, bravo to Whoopi Goldberg, who, as this year's Tony host, put on the best telecast in years.

Whoopi popped up in scenes from classic shows, dancing to "One" with Mario Lopez, flying over Radio City as "Mary Poppins," and stealing the scene from the ensemble of "The Lion King" dressed as the crab from "The Little Mermaid."

She should be made Tony host for life.

from RC in Austin, Texas


Michael Riedel and the Tonys
"Noel [Coward] and I were in Paris once. Adjoining rooms, of course. One night, I felt mischievous, so I knocked on Noel's door, and he asked, 'Who is it?' I lowered my voice and said 'Hotel detective. Have you got a gentleman in your room?' He answered, 'Just a minute, I'll ask him.'" (Beatrice Lillie)
MuseOfComedy
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Wow, he hates Heights. I can relate to some of his points.
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Grand Motel
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I'm not a huge Riedel fan but he pretty much nailed it with his article.
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In the Heights is, at its heart, a conventional musical, with a new twist. That's what makes it so great and groundbreaking.
Passing Strange was definitely hurt by the fact that Stew is a total jacka** who obviously hates musical theatre.
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I think he is a little disappointed in the outcome. I guess wait till next season.
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sweetestsiren
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I don't understand why it has to be, "Passing Strange was too edgy for the Tony voters," and it can't possibly be that they thought that In the Heights was the best musical production of the year. But maybe I'm not cynical enough.
Roscoe
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SirNot, I completely agree with your assessment of Stew. What a creep. One of the most annoying things about PASSING STRANGE, apart from the triter than trite story, was Stew's own "too cool for musical theater" attitude.
"If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers." Thomas Pynchon, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." Philip K. Dick My blog: http://www.roscoewrites.blogspot.com/
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Oh good, not just me being rubbed the wrong way by Stew. And just think! Last year we were annoyed by the attitude of 'Spring Awakening' to musical theatre in general!
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I agree with the last 5 posts here.
His get-up during the Best Actor announcement was just another "I'm too cool for this." Really unfunny, and I'm surprised anyone (especially Riedel) found it charming.
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Riedel shows what a jerk he is yet again! Passing Strange is total dreck and In The Heights is energetic and fun! Why do people expect too much from musicals anyway? I'd much rather have a good time, which I did throughout ITH. I loved all the performances, the great choreography, the score - why expect it to be perfect? Passing Strange gave me the worst headache I've ever gotten in my entire life with all that screeching. They threw it the best book award, because Xanadu and In The Heights split the votes of those of us who disliked PS. (that's mathematics). I also hated some of the messages in PS, the misogyny, the swagger - and I think Stew is probably my least favorite least appealing performer I've ever been forced to watch. (I would have left but I was with others). I'll be so glad when PS finally closes - ASAP!
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Riedel shows what a jerk he is yet again! Passing Strange is total dreck and In The Heights is energetic and fun! Why do people expect too much from musicals anyway? I'd much rather have a good time, which I did throughout ITH. I loved all the performances, the great choreography, the score - why expect it to be perfect? Passing Strange gave me the worst headache I've ever gotten in my entire life with all that screeching. They threw it the best book award, because Xanadu and In The Heights split the votes of those of us who disliked PS. (that's mathematics). I also hated some of the messages in PS, the misogyny, the swagger - and I think Stew is probably my least favorite least appealing performer I've ever been forced to watch. (I would have left but I was with others). I'll be so glad when PS finally closes - ASAP!
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Eek. From everything I've heard, Passing Strange is far from "dreck," nor is In the Heights JUST fun and energetic. You're selling both shows way short with that assessment.

I have to side with Riedel on the glasses getup -- I thought it was playful and funny, and I'm really surprised that so many people have taken offense.
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I didn't/wouldn't have taken offense at the glasses get-up, I think it sounds quite funny. What I do take offense at is feeling like my hobby isn't good enough for someone who's actually working in it, or the idea that having to be at Radio City Music Hall at 10am on a single Sunday, out of all the possible Sundays in the year, and 10am isn't that early, should be fiercely resented by someone who's doing what many of us long to do, and who doesn't even seem to enjoy or appreciate it.

Glasses = fine. Being snotty about musical theatre = leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
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sweetest, you haven't seen PASSING STRANGE. When you've actually seen it, then you can say whether or not anyone is selling it short by calling it dreck, or a tired parade of cliches.

"If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers." Thomas Pynchon, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." Philip K. Dick My blog: http://www.roscoewrites.blogspot.com/
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Let's just say it made a pretty poor impression last night and for better or worse, that's what non New-Yorkers and casual viewers take from it.

I still have absolutely no desire to see it, while my interest in Heights was definitely piqued.
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I love both shows, but I think Riedel is a dick.
"Winning a Tony this year is like winning Best Attendance in third grade: no one will care but the winner and their mom."
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I was surprised by just how much I liked Passing Strange in the theatre. It was funny, moving, and throughly entertaining. The music was great and I loved the integration of book and music. Solid cast, lead by the incredible Daniel Breaker.

I do not think that they did themselves any great favors with the Tony perf. though. While the jam out of Amsterdam was a great release of energy and emotion in the show, I thought it worked less effectively out of context.

For what it's worth (although the two are wildly different), I was unimpressed by In the Heights, both in the theatre and with last night's TV perf.
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Dolly, I agree completely. I really think "LOVE LIKE THAT" would've been stunning and worked beautifully.

I do agree with Riedel though, even though I really enjoyed ITH.
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I agree 100% with WBAF
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Yes, "In the Heights," which pulled off an upset to win Best Musical, is energetic.

So when the show everyone thinks will win does win, this is now called an "upset"? An upset would have been if CRY BABY or XANADU had won.
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Updated On: 6/16/08 at 10:49 AM
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I will preface this with saying that Passing Strange is the only Best Musical Nominee that I haven't seen.

I was also rubbed in the wrong way by most of what Passing Strange presented on the Tonys. The glasses during the Best Actor presentation would have been fine, maybe even cute and funny, if Stew hadn't gotten up earlier in the presentation and made himself look like an idiot and like he scorned musical theatre. I was also left cold by the show's musical number. I enjoyed the beginning of it and the vocals before Stew came in but then I was strongly reminded of Spring Awakening's set and choreography and I was really put off by Stew's solo/riffing or whatever whatever he was doing.

That could have been partially the fault of the number that was chosen, but with limited time to go to the theatre right now, a show that was on the top of my "to see" list has moved to the bottom.
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How did Stew scorn musical theatre exactly earlier in the presentation?

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Yeah, I don't understand how In the Heights' win is an "upset" either
The morning star always gets wonderful bright the minute before it has to go --doesn't it?
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i have no particular feelings towards passing strange either way but the nose & glasses were just wrong although I did like his little outburst in the julie/michael hour.
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Saddened by the Passing Strange dislike. This was one of the best things I saw last year. Maybe it just jibes with my downtown tastes (I'm a big fan of the Public Theater) and identity politics, but I found it an extremely moving show with stellar performanes all around.

I knew it didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell with a lot of the reviews wondering if it was a "rock concert" or a musical. I felt it was very much a theatrical experience and suffered from people's narrow definitions of what a musical is.

That said, the performance last night was awful. But I would be hard pressed to find a number that would have worked on TV--i.e., short enough and lacking in profanity/drug use.

For those of you who haven't seen it, run and check it out. It is actually a wonderful and moving experience.

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