Over the past decade or two (possibly thanks to the titanic success of Wicked) the Tony Awards have returned to the fore as a viable and entertaining contribution to the world creative stage, and about bloody time many of us would agree. As we witness a growing sophistication of creative offerings on every front — except perhaps, cinema, unless the case can be argued for Marvel — it’s heartening to see the return of the stage as a respectable form of popular entertainment.
With the 72nd Tony Awards wrapping up only a few hours ago, it’s time to hit YouTube and binge on a steady diet of technicolour clips, be them live musical excerpts of the winning titles or the repeated coverage of Robert DeNiro’s Trump jibe. Hopefully it’s the former. And while you’re at it, familiarise yourself with the latest and greatest musical offerings from theatre and cinema in recent times.
The Band’s Visit (2017)
Adapted from the 2007 Israeli film of the same name, The Band’s Visit cleaned up at the Tony’s this year winning ten awards in most of the main categories for acting, writing and design, as well as the ultimate honour of Best Musical. A unique offering in the litany of crowd-pleasing revivals and romantic comedies, The Band’s Visit deals with deeper concepts of belonging and cultural connection when an Egyptian band are stranded by a mistake of language in a small Israeli town in the Negev Desert. Fascinating interactions ensue, to the backing of a remarkably original and poignant musical score by David Yazbeck.
The Greatest Showman (2017)
Unless you’ve been under a rock since Christmas you’ll no doubt have seen or at least heard of the much-hyped pairing of Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron in this monolithic blockbuster. A surprisingly inspiring retelling of the rise of P.T. Barnum, Showman touches on contemporary themes of diversity with its cast of ‘freaks’ from the first sideshow in American history. Jackman’s scene-stealing turn as the titular showman brings a larger-than-life pathos to a sympathetic portrayal of one of the most controversial personalities of the 19th century. Numbers like “This is Me” and “A Million Dreams” will have you hitting repeat on the Spotify playlist for weeks on end.
Hamilton: An American Musical (2015)
Brought forth by the remarkable creative genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the books, lyrics and music all on his own steam — as well as winning a Tony for the leading role — Hamilton changed the game of mainstream music theatre forever. The startling prelude number “Alexander Hamilton” sets the tone for the first full-length sung-and-rapped-through musical score, featuring intentionally diverse castings of America’s founding fathers and rewriting the American Revolution from the perspective of one of its largely forgotten heroes. Manuel’s brash patriotism is driven home by the surprisingly diverse musical styles he employs, as well as the not-so-subtle middle finger directed at the British monarchy.
La La Land (2016)
Nominated for fourteen Academy Awards — tying the record for most Oscar nominations with Titanic (1997) and All About Eve (1950) — La La Land revived everyone’s faith in the potential for original cinematic narratives to be brilliantly dramatic as well as unashamedly entertaining. Drawing heavily on the greats of the golden age of screen musicals, Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz managed to pay authentic homage to the generation gone by while also delivering something new and wondrous. From a tap-dancing duet atop the Hollywood Hills at sunrise, to a star-studded (literally) fantasy waltz sequence in the vein of Gene Kelly’s signature dreamscapes, to the raw emotional power of the “Audition”, La La Land is both unfailingly magical and deeply human at every turn.
Matilda the Musical (2011)
Going back a few years Matilda won seven Olivier Awards (the British version of the Tony) in 2012, the most won by any single show up until that point and tying only with Hamilton this year. It went on to win five Tony’s when it moved on to Broadway in 2013, but despite its obvious critical success Matilda makes this list because the lyrics and music were spawned by the deranged genius of Tim Minchin, one of Australia’s most beloved musical comedians. Based on Roald Dahl’s timeless story of the power of one child’s imagination, Matilda is surprisingly touching despite the witty and subversive nature of its delivery. Catchy lines will be stuck in your head for months, but it’s the whimsy of the children’s chorus “When I Grow Up” that really leaves a mark.
And if all that’s not enough to keep you singing in your sleep for weeks to come, here’s Neil Patrick Harris in the most-talked-about Tony’s opening to date. You’re welcome.