Awards season is in full swing, jazz and tap. In fact, all the minor awards have already been given out. Now the Oscars of the theater, The Tonys (which only honor Broadway shows and thus miss some of the most innovative and moving offerings around) take center stage on Sunday, June 11. Most critics claim that this season has been “middling.” To be blunt, it sucked (and no, I’m not making a Lestat joke). There were bright spots: the haunting drama Shining City; the poignant remounting of Awake and Sing!; the 1920s homage-spoof tuner The Drowsy Chaperone; the surprisingly fun Four Seasons bio-musical Jersey Boys; and the glorious revivals of Pajama Game and Sweeney Todd. Most everything else? Crap. (N.B. The History Boys, which will likely take home top drama honors, is supposed to be fantastic. But I didn’t get comps, so how would I know?) While the new season won’t start for another few months, there’s a big Broadway changing of the stars that has musical theater queens abuzz. Judy Kaye, Tony-nominee for her hilarious off-key turn as a wannabe diva in the shuttered Souvenir, will step into Sweeney Todd while the regular Mrs. Lovett, fellow Tony-nominee Patti Lupone, is on vacation. Kaye, who played the character in a different revival at the Paper Mill Playhouse a few years back, will portray the macabre baker for eight performances (Eugene O’Neill Theatre, 230 W 49th St, June 20–25). I’ve adored Kaye ever since I saw her in a revival of (coincidentally enough) Pajama Game back in 1989. I can’t wait to see what she’ll cook up this time.
While we’re on the subject of divas new and old, I’m still completely freaking out that Rufus Wainwright is doing Judy Garland’s iconic Carnegie Hall concert in its entirety (Carnegie Hall, Seventh Ave, at 57th St, June 14-15). I have always claimed to be a drag queen trapped in a woman’s body, but this may be even too gay for me! Directed by Sam Mendes (who, speaking of gay, helmed Cabaret with Alan Cumming), the show won’t be a strict Judy impersonation. Wainwright plans to tap into her essence. Hopefully he’ll be able to do that without all the pills and alcohol.
And a quick plug for a show that’s a tad more affordable than the aforementioned diva-fests: The Hourglass Group’s stage adaptation of Ernst Lubitsch’s timeless 1932 comedy Trouble in Paradise (Hudson Guild Theatre, 441 W 26th St, June 14-July 8). These folks revere vintage stuff — they won kudos for their 2000 revival of Mae West’s scandalous play Sex — and I’m dying to see how they’ll handle this erotically charged classic.