Curtain Call: : High Hopes for 'Company'

Playhouse production has Tony Award possibilities

Jun 3, 2007 at 2:06 pm
John Doyle/Watermill Theatre

Company's John Doyle received a Tony nomination for Best Director of a Musical.

Cincinnati has extra reason to look forward to the American Theatre Wing's 61st annual Antoinette Perry Awards, otherwise known as the Tonys. This year's awards happen on Sunday evening, June 10. The local hopes are pinned on the potential success of COMPANY, which originated at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park before moving to Broadway last November: It has earned three nominations. The Playhouse was honored with the Regional Theatre Tony Award back in 2004, which is a wonderful recognition of a theater making a difference in the place where it regularly serves audiences. But to have one of its productions actually pick up a Tony Award in New York City, in competition with other Broadway shows, would be a sign of true legitimacy. Company's Tony nominations are for Best Revival, Best Director of a Musical (John Doyle) and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (Raul Esparza, as commitment-phobic bachelor Bobby). The odds are good for Esparza, who is up against Michael Cerveris (LoveMusik), Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening), Gavin Lee (Mary Poppins) and David Hyde Pierce (Curtains). They also look good for the revival award, where competition strikes me as especially weak: The Apple Tree showcased Kristen Chenoweth, but the production received mediocre reviews; 110 in the Shade, a limited run featuring the wonderful Audra McDonald, but not the broad success of Company; and A Chorus Line, which essentially brings back the long-running production. Doyle is a longer shot, since he won the 2006 directing award — for his revival of Sweeney Todd — and it seems unlikely that he'll repeat. The real oversight this year is the missing nomination for Mary-Mitchell Campbell, whose orchestrations for the actor-musicians made Company a wholly new and fascinating production.

Sarah Travis, who assembled the music for the Sweeney revival won the 2006 Tony for orchestration; Campbell's work is in the same league and certainly deserved a nomination. ...

To hear Campbell's orchestrations, you can get your own copy of the Company revival's cast recording, available since March. Since the Cincinnati Playhouse cast was transported — lock, stock, tuba and triangle — to Broadway, you're essentially getting a recording of the show that sold out performances in Mount Adams in March and April 2006. Raul Esparza has been hailed as the best Bobby ever, enough reason to buy the recording. It's on the Nonesuch label, produced by PS Classics, with supporting materials including a nice book/script with useful essays and photos. If you're a Playhouse fan — or a Sondheim fan — you should add this one to your collection. ...

One more Tony note: You don't have to go to New York to be part of the fun on June 10. Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (ETC) is hosting its sixth annual TONY AWARDS LIVE BROADCAST PARTY starting that evening at 6 p.m. from the East Club Room at Paul Brown Stadium. It's ETC's only annual fund-raiser, offering cocktails, dinner and the broadcast (8-11 p.m. on the Club Room's big-screen TVs). If you want to skip dinner (tickets are $150), you can show up around 8 p.m. for cocktails, dessert and the show (that will only set you back $35). The dinner features Broadway-themed food stations that are always both amusing and tasty (if not tasteful). Tickets: 513-421-3555. ...

There was some excitement when the Broadway Series announced that its November presentation of Camelot would feature Michael York as King Arthur. The distinguished British actor seems a natural for the role, and he's still being featured in ads running locally. However, he's not coming: he's been replaced by LOU DIAMOND PHILLIPS. He was fine as Ritchie Valens in La Bamba back in 1986, but Phillips hardly seems likely to be confused for Michael York. He does have experience, however, as a king — Phillips earned a Tony nomination as the King of Siam in the 1996 Broadway revival of The King and I.

contact rick Pender: rpender(at)