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by Michael Portantiere

The 2011 Phony Awards

  • The Phony Awards are usually given out before the Tonys, but I'm a little late this year, because I wanted to wait for Spider-Man to officially open. (I strongly suspect it will be long gone by the time the 2012 awards season rolls around.) As in the past, I've retained some categories from previous years and have added new ones where I felt necessary.

    Allow me to explain again that these honors are titled The Phony Awards (a name I borrowed from Gerard Alessandrini) because they don't actually exist, not because they aren't well deserved -- although I'm sure some of the recipients would disagree, since not all of the awards are, shall we say, positive. Also please note that the Phonys (Phonies?) aren't limited to Broadway productions.

    The 2011 Phony Awards were bestowed in a very exclusive ceremony in a Ninth Avenue walk-up. The after-party consisted of the sipping of a glass of champagne in a toast to all those talented people who work diligently to produce good, edifying theater and thereby maintain the standards of the art form. Here are the winners:


    Best Broadway Musical:
    The Scottsboro Boys: music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, book by David Thompson.

    Most Disappointing Broadway Musical:
    Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Ill-conceived and poorly directed -- but the score, by David Yazbek, is terrific. You should definitely purchase the cast recording if you haven't already done so.

    Best Play on Broadway:
    Good People, by David Lindsay-Abaire.

    Best Broadway Revival of a Play:
    The Normal Heart, by Larry Kramer.

    Most Unnecessary Broadway Revival of a Play:
    The House of Blue Leaves, by John Guare, directed by David Cromer. The play itself is overrated, and the production is problematic.

    Most Ridiculously Overamplified Broadway Musical:
    Spider-Man: Turn off The Dark. I have observed an inverse relationship between quality and loudness in the theater: i.e., the worst Broadway musicals, such as Dance of the Vampires and this one, tend to pump up the volume to insane levels. Spider-Man also assaults the audience by shining lights directly in our eyes at various points throughout the proceedings. I say, "Turn Off the Lights and Turn Off the Sound!"

    Most Ridiculously Overamplified Off-Broadway Musical:
    Lysistrata Jones -- about three times as loud as it should have been.

    Best Sound Design of a Musical:
    Follies at the Kennedy Center. Better than anything I heard on or off Broadway all season.

    Most Energetic Cast:
    The company of Catch Me If You Can. The opening number is awesome, and choreographer Jerry Mitchell keeps the dancers going full-throttle for much of the evening. As for the leads, Aaron Tveit is onstage almost constantly, displaying one of the best singing voices in the business; and if you saw Norbert Leo Butz's performance on the Tony Awards, you don't need me to tell you how much energy he brings to the role of Agent Carl Hanratty.

    Most Unfortunate Case of a Director Letting Down a Major Film Star in His First Valiant Attempt at Playing a Leading Role in a Broadway Musical:
    Rob Ashford's apparent non-direction of Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

    Best Performance by an Actress in an Unworthy Vehicle:
    Three-way tie: Donna Murphy in The People in the Picture; Beth Leavel in Baby It's You!; Kathleen Turner in High. Note that Matthew Lombardo, the author of High, also wrote the unworthy vehicle for last year's winner in this category: Valerie Harper in Looped. What's next?

    Best Replacement Cast:
    Tie: Marin Mazzie, Jason Danieley, and Kyle Dean Massey in Next to Normal; Christopher Sieber and Harvey Fierstein in La Cage aux Folles.

    Most Underappreciated Performance in a Supporting Role:
    Renée Elise Goldsberry in Good People.

    Best Solo Show:
    Mike Birbiglia's My Girlfriend's Boyfriend.

    Worst Book of a Musical Ever in the History of Recorded Time:
    Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott, Baby It's You! These two don't even know that the title of their show should have a comma, but that's the least of the sins they committed in this intelligence-insulting musical based on the story of The Shirelles and the woman who made them stars. Note: Mutrux and Escott won a Phony Award last year for "Most Negligible Book of a Musical" for Million Dollar Quartet, so they are on a roll! But here's hoping they won't try for three in a row.

    Best Concert Performance of a Golden Age Musical That Inexplicably and Infuriatingly Received a Negative Review from Charles Isherwood in The New York Times:
    Lost in the Stars at City Center Encores!

    The Anti-Homophobia Award for Not Playing a Musical Comedy Villain as a Gay Stereotype:
    Christopher Hanke in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

    Most Enjoyable Vanity Production at the Little Shubert Theatre:
    Lucky Guy. Very sweet and funny, with terrific performances and several catchy songs.

    Least Enjoyable Vanity Production at the Little Shubert Theatre:
    Dracula. An embarrassment.

    Best New Play I Saw Off-Broadway:
    The Other Place at the Lucille Lortel.

    Best Off-Broadway Revival of an Obscure But Beautiful Play:
    Wife to James Whelan at the Mint.

    Most Charming and Delightful Show I've Ever Seen at the New York Theatre Workshop, an Institution Not Known for Presenting Shows That One Would Best Describe as "Charming and Delightful":
    Peter and the Starcatcher. I hope this production does eventually transfer to Broadway, as rumored. I loved it!

    Best Off-Broadway Series:
    Three-way tie: If It Only Even Runs a Minute, which offers songs from flop Broadway and Off-Broadway musicals, sometimes performed by original cast members; You Like Me, a hilarious evening of verbatim speeches by past winners of Oscars, Tonys, Grammys, and other awards, delivered by some of the funniest people in the business today; and Celebrity Autobiography, which similarly treats the memoirs of various notables, many of whom should have been dissuaded from ever putting pen to paper.

    Best Channeling of a Great Stage and Screen Actress in a Play Based on Her Life:
    Marina Squerciati in Just in Time: The Judy Holliday Story.

    Best Performance in a Revival of a Play that Originally Starred The Same Great Actress Referred to Above:
    Nina Arianda in Born Yesterday.

    Best Performance in Drag:
    Three-way tie: Brian Bedford in The Importance of Being Earnest; Charles Busch in The Divine Sister; Tony Sheldon in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

    Best Off-Broadway Revival:
    Angels in America at the Signature.

    Best Example of a Bare-Bones Revival of a Musical That Most Likely Will Never Be Staged Again, Anywhere in the World:
    Three Wishes for Jamie, presented by Musicals Tonight!

    Gayest Off-Broadway Show:
    Devil Boys From Beyond at New World Stages.

    Most Interesting Special Event:
    The St. George's Society's one-night-only stage presentation of the Stephen Sondheim/James Goldman television musical Evening Primrose.

    The "Why Are We Here?" Award to a Staged Concert Presentation of a Musical That Made a Great Case for the Book Scenes But Did a Disservice to the Score:
    The New York Philharmonic's Company.

    Best Cabaret Show:
    Four-way tie: Marilyn Maye at the Metropolitan Room; David Campbell at Feinstein's at Loews Regency; Raúl Esparza in the American Songbook Series at Lincoln Center; Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock in the Oak Room at the Algonquin.

    Funniest Comedy Show:
    Benjamin Walker's Find the Funny at Joe's Pub.

    Sexiest Female Performer:
    Nikki M. James in The Book of Mormon. She's gorgeous and tremendously appealing in her own right, but her lovely performance as the sweet, sympathetic Nabalungi makes her seem even more so.

    Hottest Male Performer:
    Claybourne Elder in One Arm. Runner up: Jason Patric in That Championship Season. It's not easy to turn a falling-down drunk character into a hottie, but he somehow managed to do just that.

    Best Film on a Theatrical Subject:
    Making the Boys, all about Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band, a groundbreaking play that was adapted into a groundbreaking movie.

    Most Noble Achievements by a Moribund Arts Organization:
    The New York City Opera productions of Leonard Bernstein's A Quiet Place and Stephen Schwartz's Séance on a Wet Afternoon.

    Best Theatre Awards Ceremony of the Season:
    The Theatre World Awards, as always. Runner-up: The Tonys, which really got it right this year.

    Published on Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Michael Portantiere has more than 30 years' experience as an editor and writer for TheaterMania.com, InTHEATER magazine, and BACK STAGE. He has interviewed theater notables for NPR.org, PLAYBILL, STAGEBILL, and OPERA NEWS, and has written notes for several cast albums. Michael is co-author of FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: BEHIND THE MYLAR CURTAIN, published in 2008 by Hal Leonard/Applause. Additionally, he is a professional photographer whose pictures have been published by THE NEW YORK TIMES, the DAILY NEWS, and several major websites. (Visit www.followspotphoto.com for more information.) He can be reached at [email protected]

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