A solid, sobering ‘Trip to Bountiful’ at Raven

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Millicent Hurley Spencer and Mike Boone in Raven Theatre’s “The Trip to Bountiful”

One of the things I’ll never understand about society is how we treat those who are in advanced phases of life. The senior citizens. The elderly. The infirm.

Especially considering, if we’re lucky enough, we’ll all be in that same boat.

Instead, we shuttle our elders into sterile nursing homes and remove any stimulus that might pose a fall risk or heart attack. Or, worse yet (and perhaps more common), we ignore them — as if doing so helps mitigate the fear of the inevitable. After all, we all can’t possibly look like Jane Fonda at the 2013 Emmys when we turn 75.

Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful is a beautiful and plain-spoken play that makes us think long and hard about the choices we make when it comes time for us to transition into caretaker. It’s also a sobering reminder of perhaps the biggest fear one can have when facing the silver years: becoming a bothersome obligation.

We’re introduced to Mrs. Carrie Watts, an elderly woman looking to escape the stifling confines of her son’s Houston apartment to visit her rural Texas hometown one final time. As Mrs. Watts in Raven’s dutiful — and, at times, deeply moving — production, we have Millicent Hurley Spencer, an actress with an expressive face and eyes that sparkle with the mischief of exploration and the hunger for something more. While Spencer gives a smart and fiercely committed performance, she comes across as a sturdy woman who wouldn’t have any problem firing up a tractor and plowing the farm. In fact, I was half-expecting Spencer to clock her resentful daughter-in-law (a delightfully bratty Eleanor Katz giving a performance not unlike Blanche Devereaux on a very bad day) rather than biting her tongue and rocking in her chair.

However, while it might be difficult to initially accept Spencer as a women not capable of forging her own fate, due to the actress’s commitment to character, I grew to overlook Spencer’s solid stature and realize that this is a woman who’s broken — and the only way to mend her fractured spirit is this trip to Bountiful. Along the way, Mrs. Watts meets a series of kind souls, including a polite young wife (tenderly played by Jen Short) traveling to live with her parents after her husband has been shipped off to war, and a compassionate Sheriff (Larry Carani).

For those unfamiliar with this play (and Raven Theatre’s production, directed by Joann Montemurro, is a very fine introduction) I won’t give anything away, except to say that this is one of those tales that’s more about the journey than the destination. And what a beautifully bountiful trip it is, indeed.

“The Trip to Bountiful” plays through November 17 at Raven Theatre. More info here >

HuffPo Review: High-energy Evita needs a touch of star quality

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Evita is a touchstone in the modern musical theater canon. When the sung-through rock opera debuted in the late ’70s, it broke many rules. A musical about a polarizing political icon featuring a score (by a young and ambitious Andrew Lloyd Webber and his collaborator Tim Rice) that required the lead actress to rock belt for 2.5 hours? Audiences had never seen or heard anything like it. Critics were divided, but it found an audience and ran for years, and was made into a (tepid) feature film starring none other than Madonna.

And 30-plus years later, the show holds up remarkably well. Especially in a promising all-new production launching its national tour at the Oriental Theatre.

Sure, the story, which follows the iconic Argentinian political icon’s rapid ascent to power before meeting her early demise due to cancer stage 33, is a rather one-note affair. Five minutes into the second act, it’s a slow and anticlimactic descent into an untimely conclusion. But the score and, if done right, the power of the performances and the staging make up for any shortcomings in storytelling.

This first national tour mostly recreates the recent revival, which received strong critical notices in London, where it premiered, but proved a financial failure when it transferred to Broadway, despite the casting of Ricky Martin (who isn’t in this tour). This production consciously breaks free from the original Hal Prince staging that so many subsequent productions followed — including a knockout production I saw in Germany back in 2001 (Evita sung in German is intense). Where Prince’s production was essentially staged in a minimalist black box with harsh lighting and steel frames, this revival, directed by Michael Grandage and choreographed by Rob Ashford, chooses sunnier tones, as if to suggest Buenos Aires’ vibrant Latin flavor and heat, which drew little Eva Duarte to the big city in the first place. Read full review on The Huffington Post >

Porchlight’s ‘Double Trouble’ Creaks with Old-School Charm

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Alexander and Adrian Aguilar harmonize in Porchlight’s “Double Trouble”

Donald and Gene. Bing and Danny. Adrian and Alexander.

What do these three pairs have in common? Why, they’re vintage sweater vest-sportin’, Brilliantine in the hair-wearnin’, singin’ and dancin’ duos who charm with their smooth moves and crooning tunes. They all have a song at the ready to express their new-found love, and it often involves a soft shoe shuffle and sometimes a broom or an umbrella dancing partner.

While Donald (O’Connor), Gene (Kelly), Bing (Crosby) and Danny (Kaye) are household names and beloved musical comedy pairs, Adrienne and Alexander aren’t familiar outside of Chicago’s tight-knit theatre community. At least, not yet.

Yes, Double Trouble is a charming and creaky (sometimes noisily so) two-hander musical comedy that celebrates sibling revelry. A labor of love by brother duo Bob and Jim Walton, Porchlight’s snappy production features winning performances from Adrian and Alexander Aguilar — each accomplished musical actors who steadily work across the city. Read the full review on HuffPo >

Mercury Theater finds the emotional core in sprawling ‘The Color Purple’

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Perhaps you heard the cheers, sobs and stamping feet coming from Southport street? Well, that was the sound of the opening night audience at Mercury Theater’s The Color Purple, a searing and emotionally resonant production directed by L. Walter Stearns.

This is my first encounter with the 2005 musical adaptation of the beloved Alice Walker novel — I missed the multiple touring productions that stopped in Chicago over the last few years. I’d heard from various sources that that production, directed by Chicago’s Gary Griffin, was a visual spectacle but bloated in its storytelling.

Watching Mercury Theater’s intimate yet epic staging, I certainly noticed sections and scenes that could easily be trimmed to hone in on the core story concerning the emotional journey of a young, timid African American girl named Celie, who’s experienced more in her first 14 years than many of us do in an entire lifetime. (In fact, acclaimed director John Doyle has done just that by cutting 30 minutes from the original script and delivering a critically praised London production playing at the renowned Menier Chocolate Factory.)

However, Mercury’s cast is so fiercely committed to the material, you easily see through the excess. As Celie (the role made famous by Whoopi Goldberg in the 1985 film — or, one could argue, the role that made Whoopi famous), Trisha Jeffrey brings great vulnerability and grit, as well as a piercing cry of a singing voice. Adrienne Walker makes for a sassy yet sincere Shug Avery, who helps Celie come out of her shell in more ways than one. As the proud and defiant Sofia, Celie’s sister-in-law, Jasondra Johnson has the powerhouse voice and the presence that makes you sit up and take notice. But the real stars here are the church lady greek chorus (Sydney Charles, Carrie Louise Abernathy and Brittany L. Bradshaw) who serve up tight vocal harmony (deft musical direction by Eugene Dizon) and attitude for days.

After Mercury’s fun but ultimately ho-hum Barnum, I was mighty impressed by this production, which seemed to pull out all the stops. Get yourself to Mercury Theater and be prepared to be blown away both emotionally and musically.

“The Color Purple” plays through October 27 at Mercury Theater. More info here >

HuffPo Review: Nora Dunn presents a funny, if fragmented, one woman show

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Nora Dunn knows how to tell a story. Particularly when she’s telling it from the perspective of a character. From an old-school Hollywood agent to a precocious girl who attends a school for the creatively gifted, Dunn uses these characterizations as a conduit to tell her side of the showbiz story. The side where a shy, “hopelessly Midwestern” girl, such as herself, finds herself ill-equipped for the fast-paced “let’s have lunch” Hollywood lifestyle.

It’s when she switches back to her persona, Nora Dunn, that the show falters in its footing. That’s not to say Dunn, best known for her late ’80s-early ’90s stint on SNL, isn’t an engaging personality — she’s honest, grounded, accessible and immensely likable. No, the problem is she seems least comfortable as herself. Which is oddly fitting, given that her show explores the challenge of being a performer vs. being a personality. And personalities are what make connections and build careers. Read the full review on The Huffington Post >

Introducing ‘Mental Cocktail’

I’ve recently started a new blog: Mental Cocktail.

Where Chicago Theatre Addict will still be all about theatre, Mental Cocktail will be devoted to another big passion: writing. It’s personal, it’s real, it’s a bit raw and somewhat random. Most importantly, it’s an outlet where I can scratch a deep creative itch.

Thanks, as always, for reading. See you in the theatre!

HuffPo Review: It’s All About the Dance in ‘Flashdance – The Musical’

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Alex just wants to dance! When asked to describe how she feels about dance, she chooses one word: passionate. She “is the music.” She looks good in a skimpy two-piece dance suit and legwarmers.

Trouble is, she’s a steel mill welder who moonlights as an exotic dancer at the neighborhood bar and grill. How can anyone take her passion seriously?

Don’t worry — she finds her inner flashdance and all is right with the world.

Look. Flashdance – The Musical is not great theatre. It’s not even very good. However, it is entertaining. Particularly due to the fact that it’s a show about following one’s passion by overcoming the odds. We can latch on to Alex’s story.

Also, it’s a love story. Read the full review at The  Huffington Post >

HuffPo Review: Haven Theatre Presents a Glam, if Glum, ‘Hedwig’

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Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a show that either resonates deeply, or you walk away slightly disoriented. For me, Hedwig is one of the best rock musicals written in the last 45 years, ranking right up there with RentJesus Christ Superstar and Hair. Conceived by the brilliant John Cameron Mitchell (who played Hedwig in its famed Off-Broadway run as well as the beloved underground film), it’s a fascinating character study that keep you on edge, while Stephen Trask’s unexpectedly tender and haunting rock ballads make you lean forward.

However, the show demands a strong directorial vision to help it transform from performance art rock concert to a deeply personal rock confessional. As its inaugural production, Haven Theatre’s Hedwig comes mighty close to capturing the shattered spirit of this overlooked glam rocker. This is mainly due to fearless performances from Ryan Lanning as Hedwig (who manages to capture Hedwig’s poise and fragility, as well as her dark insecurities and rage – with a compelling rock tenor to boot) and Lauren Paris as a quietly brooding Yitzhak. Read the full review on HuffPo > 

‘The Jungle Book’ is a feast for the eyes and ears, but leaves the heart empty

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Walt Disney’s “The Jungle Book” is one of those movies I’m sure I’ve seen, but I don’t recall much from it – aside from the jaunty tune “The Bear Necessities.”

While the Goodman’s new and wildly inventive adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s collection of stories is a wholly original creation by mastermind director Mary Zimmerman, it freely lifts tunes from the well-known 1967 animated film.

And smartly, Zimmerman has again collaborated with music director Doug Peck (whom she worked with, to great success, on Candide a few seasons ago). Never one to skirt a challenge, Peck has found a remarkable way to combine the jazzy, Dixieland sounds inherent in the Sherman brothers’ score with the story’s Indian roots. And the result is downright magical, with the pit musicians, done up in traditional Indian folk outfits, marching onstage playing anything from a sitar and tablas to trombone and saxophone.

But why am I focusing on the music in a show featuring such eye-popping costumes (by Mara Blumenfeld) and dizzying choreography (by Christopher Gattelli)?

To me, the sound of this show is what captured my imagination. It’s such an original sensation, it draws you into another world. It’s the heart and soul of this production.

True: the show is a sensation for the eyes and ears. But the one area it’s lacking, and shockingly so given the talent involved, is heart. Zimmerman’s script merrily bounces along as we follow the young Mowgli (played by the joyous Akash Chopra at my performance) from episode to episode. Characters, including the beloved Baloo (played with great charm by Kevin Carolan) and the overzealous King Louie (a show-stopping André De Shields) fade in and out of his life with little impact. The fiercely devoted Bagheera (Usman Ally) struggles with taking Mowgli back to the people pack, but really it seems more a setup for these two to meet all the eccentric jungle critters along the way.

Following a particularly uneventful confrontation with Shere Khan (the perfectly cast and woefully underutilized Larry Yando), Mowgli’s safely back home. We enjoyed — and at times, marveled at — the journey, but what have we learned?

I will say: audiences seem to love this show. Not since their annual production of A Christmas Carol have I seen so many young theatregoers at the Goodman, which is fabulous.

“The Jungle Book” plays through August 18 at The Goodman Theatre. More info here >

Bailiwick’s entertaining ‘Mahal’ explores the struggle of redefining family post-tragedy

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F Karmann Bajuyo, Kate Garassino and Kevin Matthew Reyes in Bailiwick Chicago Theater’s world premiere of production of “Mahal”

“Mahal” is Tagalog for “love.” It also means “expensive.” While it might seem odd that such an important word serves two meanings, when you think about it, it makes sense. Love is precious. It’s something that emerges only after great investment of time and emotion. Though, sometimes it comes unexpectedly — but we burn through it too quickly. It requires work to maintain.

So, yes: love has a price. And it’s not cheap.

In Danny Bernardo’s world premiere play, which is receiving a refreshingly accessible production at Stage 773 by Bailiwick Chicago, we meet a family — the Reyes — that’s been shaken up due to a recent tragedy. The family matriarch has passed, and it’s as if the glue that held the cracks together has crumbled. And now this fractured family must negotiate how all the pieces fit together.

It’s times like these where skeletons and deep down emotions come flooding from the proverbial closet. Is the family’s love for each other strong enough to whether this storm?

As Mikey, the youngest in the family, Kevin Matthew Reyes has a lot of growing up to do. He’s living off his mother’s inheritance while trolling men on Grindr. His older sister (Kate Garassino, giving one of the best performances I’ve seen from her yet) deals with an internal struggle of dragging her brother kicking and screaming into adulthood while maintaining peace. Middle child Roberto (Karmann Bajuyo) has met a new woman online (Jillian Jocson) from the Philippines, but does she have an ulterior motive for connecting with him? Meanwhile, Roberto (Joseph Anthony Foronda), the patriarch, hasn’t waited three months before redecorating for his new bachelorhood — much to his children’s horror.

In more than a few ways, Bernardo’s script reminds me a lot of Immediate Family — another fine ensemble play with roots in Chicago that centers around a family who comes together following a tragedy and must deal with acceptance and moving forward. There’s the uptight eldest daughter who’s sacrificed her life to keep the family together, the golden (and therefore, resented) son who happens to be gay, and the outsider boyfriend who gives them all perspective. However, while both plays have striking similarities, both have valid, distinct and compelling stories that tug at the heart.

At times Bernardo’s otherwise honest writing veers into Lifetime Movie land (the final scene between Mikey and his father doesn’t emotionally satisfy), but you do leave thinking about your own family and the investment you’ll make to maintain their love — through rich and poor times.

“Mahal” plays through August 2 at Stage 773. More info here >

A perplexing and pretentious ‘Lives of the Pigeons’

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Vincent L. Lonergan and Don Bender in The Side Project’s “Lives of the Pigeons”

Sometimes after seeing a show, I leave the theatre feeling more than a little disoriented. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — good theatre should challenge. So, following the world premiere of Sherod Santos’ perplexing Lives of the Pigeons, I went home and did a little research on the playwright.

Well, from what Google tells me, Santos is quite the established and award-winning scribe. He excels at deceivingly straightforward, unadorned poetry that reveals human insights peppered with shades of darkness, often in the form of violence or harsh language.

And this observation is quite apparent in Lives of the Pigeons, a curious, 60-minute study into how our actions, or lack of action, have consequence — good and bad and everything in between.

At least, this is what I *think* the play was about.

You see, we have two elderly gentlemen, Gus (Vincent L. Lonergan) and Max (Don Bender), who meet on regular occasion to play chess, drink beer and eat sandwiches. We learn through their oblique banter that their previous hangout was destroyed by a fire, so now they’ve moved the chess party outdoors and into the park.

Gus represents an extreme lack of accountability. Act first, question later. Even though the signs tell him not to, Gus feeds the pigeons. What harm does it do? Gus loses a chess bet (not much of a surprise, given his passive approach to life mirrors his chess game) and is required to get the sandwiches and beer, but only comes back with sandwiches because that’s simply what the clerk gave him. When a mysteriously dapper man with a cane (Matthew Lloyd) makes a guest appearance, he instructs Gus to suck his own thumb. And he does.

Wait, what?

Exactly.

Max, the Type-A to a T, questions everything and gets annoyed when things don’t go to plan. When he comes back to find Gus sprawled out on the ground claiming a man with a cane got him in this predicament, Max demands answers.

As did I.

Look: I respect that Santos has written this dense puzzle of a play. Yet, if there’s a compelling message or idea in here, I just couldn’t latch on. Nor did I really care — despite some excellent acting and unfettered direction by Adam Webster, not once was I engaged in this tale, which mostly seemed like an hour of pointless arguing. I simply felt confused, annoyed and, like those poor pigeons, eager for a crumb.

“Lives of the Pigeons” plays through June 30 at The Side Project. More info here >

Ludicrous Theatre’s powerful ‘Southern Baptist Sissies’ takes religion to task

My best friend is Catholic. I remember having a particularly pointed conversation with her asking if she believed I was going to hell because I was gay. While her response was “no,” she couldn’t argue with the fact that her religious community felt differently. Hearing her try to reconcile these two things just confused me even more.

I’ve always had an issue with a system that judged me for who I am. I’m gay. It’s not a choice. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s not a sin. It’s who I am. It’s who I love. It’s none of your business, unless I want it to be.

When news like this comes along, it makes me think we might be stepping into a new era of acceptance — or, at least, reluctant understanding — in the religious community. And that’s grand. Because news like this makes me want to move to Mars.

Ludicrous Theatre-Chicago’s brave production of Del Shores’s Southern Baptist Sissies puts a magnifying glass over the way a deeply steeped religious community can slowly suffocate those “sissies” who don’t demonstrate the proper ways of the Lord.

And in this play we are presented with four young men, all members of the Southern Baptist Church, who grapple with this struggle. Benny (Bryan Schmiderer) has always been confident with his orientation, and is now a proud, yet guilt-stricken, drag queen. Andrew (J. Keegan Siebken) is the quiet one who has a dirty secret hiding in his bedside drawer. TJ (Charlie Wein) shoves his desires deep down to be right with God. And Mark (Kirk Jackson) is in love with TJ. Suzanne Bracken adeptly plays the universal Southern mother to these young boys, balancing a mix of misguided love with dread for their sissy ways.

Shores’s deeply admirable play, which premiered in LA in 2000 and is deftly directed by Wayne Shaw in this bare-bones production, takes, at times, a rather heavy handed approach. I loathe to say it, but we know where these stories are going way before they get there. But perhaps this is intentional: the threat of lakes of fire and the gnashing of teeth should one not straighten up and fly right with the Lord has led far too many young gay men (and women) into a well-worn path of self-destructive behavior. It’s time to stop this cycle.

While these stories are indeed gut-wrenching (particularly in the second act monologues delivered by this talented ensemble), it’s a side story between two barflies, a middle-aged gay male called “Peanut” (the fantastic Michael Pacas) and a boozy, straight woman named Odette (Catherine Thomson), that captured my attention. In a way, Peanut represents the heart and soul of this show. He’s the product of a society that has rejected him — not just his family and religious community for being gay, but also by the gay community for not being young or attractive enough.

If you’ve ever been in a gay bar, you’ve seen this guy — he’s the one sitting at the bar, behind a seemingly bottomless glass, always at the ready with some piece of scintillating gossip to share about everyone walking in the door. And in the final moments, a shift changes between Odette and Peanut’s relationship that strips away the veneer of boozy banter and cheap laughs to reveal a sobering reality.

Southern Baptist Sissies reminds us to question the established rules. To find your inner truth. It may be the tougher path to take because it’s the one less travelled, but it’s the path you need to take. You must take. For your salvation.

“Southern Baptist Sissies” plays through July 1 at Greenhouse Theatre Center. More info here >

Six Tips for Surviving The Second City

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Every year around this time I take my parents to The Second City. Dad loves the irreverent and topical comedy, but cringes when they break the fourth wall for a surprise audience interaction. His greatest fear is being onstage and, for the past 10 years, he’s survived the improv bullet. Mom loves raunchy comedy. The dirtier the jokes, the harder the laughs.

I’m pleased to report that “A Clowncar Named Desire,” the 37th revue presented on Second City’s e.t.c. stage, appealed to both my parents’ sensibilities. Of the dozen or so revues I’ve seen over the past several years, this one ranks pretty highly. It also features probably one of my favorite casts in some time with a standout performance from a woman named Brooke Breit who has Kristen Wiig’s fearless comedic chops and Tina Fey’s smart, understated tone. Keep an eye on her.

At any rate, attending a Second City performance is an experience unto itself. Visit ChooseChicago.com to see some of my Second City survival tips >

HuffPo Review: Visit ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ for a Toe-Tapping Good Time


The cast of Theo Ubique’s “Smokey Joe’s Cafe”

As a powerhouse songwriting duo, Jerome “Jerry” Leiber and Mike Stoller cranked out some significant hits in the ’50s and ’60s, including “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Stand By Me” and “On Broadway.” When producers Stephen Helper, Jack Viertel and Otis Sallid decided to create a musical revue of their work in 1995, little did they know that they’d have the longest running musical revue in Broadway history.

And there’s a reason for that — Smokey Joe’s Cafe is simply a toe-tapping good time. And Theo Ubique’s rollicking production, which has been extended multiple times, serves up the music with energy, huge vocals and a shimmy or two.

The show’s biggest assets, aside from the material, are its big-voiced cast, starting with Robin Dasilva in a star-making turn. Her take-no-prisoners delivery of “Fools Fall in Love” is worth the price of admission alone. Speaking of prisoners, if there’s any moment that feels a lost opportunity, it’s “Jailhouse Rock” — arguaby one of Leiber and Stoller’s most well-known tunes. Here, it’s treated as a throw-away moment. Read the full review >>

Chicago Theatre Addict’s TOP TEN Tony Awards Performances of All Time*

*Well, mostly since 1995, when I started watching the Tony Awards religiously. Every year. Without fail. In fact, the year I lived in Germany (2001, the season The Producers swept the awards), I even had my sister videotape the broadcast and sent it to me — express. However, I’m peppering in a few performances before this time, thanks to YouTube.

With that out of the way … are you totally pumped for the 2013 Tony Awards, which air tomorrow evening? Of course you are. Even though I’m a lover of Chicago theatre, the Tony Awards, which celebrate the very best of the Broadway season, are my gay Superbowl. I’m rooting for Kinky Boots, Pippin, Patina Miller and Cyndi Lauper.

In prep for the 2013 Tony Awards, may I present Chicago Theatre Addict’s Top Ten Tony Award Performances of All Time:

10: “I’m Way Ahead”/”Seesaw” from Seesaw (1974)

Here we have the megatalented Michelle Lee pouring her heart out in the show’s searing finale number. It’s a pretty bold move to use the final big moments of a musical to market a show, especially from a show like Seesaw that featured some fun, TV-friendly production numbers. Yet there’s no denying that Ms. Lee does just that. It’s a thrilling, and I think vastly underrated, performance of the old-school variety.

9: “Turkey Lurkey Time” from Promises, Promises (1968)

This is all about Donna McKechnie’s head pops and Michael Bennett’s retro-fab choreography. No Tony performance number has come close to touching the energy here:

8: “Anything Goes” from Anything Goes (1988)

Ok. This is the performance that made me fall in love with LuPone. So what if her makeup is ghostly white, her dance break is the tap equivalent of a square step, and her ghastly wig slaps her in the face when she does her final turns? Listen to that voice and the ease in which she owns the stage. She doesn’t need an 8 minute tap routine to make us pay attention — she simply radiates star power.

7: Nathan Lane and Gregory Hines being amazing (1995)

1995 proved a drought of a year for new musicals — Sunset Boulevard and Smokey Joe’s Cafe were the only contenders. So, to fill up air time, the great Nathan Lane and the late, great Gregory Hines gift us a diva medley. It may be a bit under-rehearsed, but this is what showbusiness is all about. Watch these two pros sell it:

6: “My New Philosophy” from You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (1999)

Say what you want about Kristin Chenoweth, but she’s a huge talent. And watching her, a relative unknown at this time, performing this number and winning the Tony directly after was like seeing a star being born before our very eyes. What I love about this number is you can sense that Cheno *knows* this is her moment, and she better not fuck it up. And, thank goodness for us all, she doesn’t.

5: “Take a Glass Together” from Grand Hotel (1990)

The brilliant Tommy Tune knows how to pace a production number. Watch how the number subtly builds into a frenzy. And can someone please tell me how Michael Jetter does that with his legs? Simply mesmerizing. A talent gone too soon.

4: “Ragtime” from Ragtime (1998)

One of the best, if not the best, opening numbers of a musical, and this performance makes me even more enraged that that African puppet show got the award over this epic masterpiece.

3: Diva medley from 1999 Tony Awards

God love Rosie O’Donnell. She might not have a musical bone in her body, but she’s a fierce advocate for the Broadway community, and I applaud her for that. And this performance, which is essentially a diorama of belting divas, was like a musical theatre queen’s wet dream come to life. Also, I’m in love with how Betty Buckley werqs that feather boa.

2: “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy (2008)

Just shut up and watch this shit. It’s fucking amazing. Even Liza, with her bad knees, gives La LuPone a much-deserved standing O. Fun fact: LuPone had broken her toe a few weeks prior to this performance, which required her to perform in slippers. So, I was expecting her to appear on the Tonys in some sort of flat. But, nope. A trouper, LuPone is back in heels, and when she stands up, you can see her strain a bit. But that doesn’t stop this Mama Rose. Oh, no.

1: “And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going)” from Dreamgirls (1982)

Bow down. JoHol is taking, and owning, center stage.

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