The Tribe Goes to the Tonys: 2019 Edition
The Tony Awards, for excellence in the Broadway theater, will be presented on Sunday, June 9, at 8PM (CBS). Here are the confirmed Jewish nominees in all but the technical categories. This is atypical year in that no Jewish playwrights were nominated for best (new) play.
ELAINE MAY, 87, is a leading actress in a play nominee. She co-stars in a revival of the 2001 play “The Waverly Gallery” by Oscar-winner KENNETH LONERGAN, 56 (whose mother was Jewish). May plays the Jewish owner of a Manhattan art gallery who is gradually declining due to Alzheimer’s. May became famous in the late ‘50s as the partner of the late MIKE NICHOLS in the brilliant comedy team of Nichols and May. Later, she wrote and directed the hit film “The New Leaf” and she directed “The Heartbreak Kid.” Her life partner of 20 years, the great director/choreographer STANLEY DONEN (“Singin’ in the Rain”; “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”) died in February, age 94.
BRANDON URANOWITZ, 32, is a best featured (supporting) actor in a play nominee (“Burn This”. It’s a 1987 play with many gay themes). This is the third Tony nomination for Uranowitz. Nominated in the same category is GIDEON GLICK, 30, who plays the child character “Dill” in the new stage version of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Best director, musical: RACHEL CHAVKIN, 38, “Hadestown.” “Hadestown” grabbed the most Tony nominations of any show this year. It’s a re-telling of a Greek myth, re-set in the 1930s. Chavkin won best director of a musical Tony in 2015; and SAM MENDES, 53, best director of a play, “Ferryman.” Mendes is British and his mother is Jewish. He won an Oscar for directing “American Beauty” and he directed the James Bond films “Skyfall” and “Spectre.”
DAVID YAZBEK, 58, is nominated for writing the original score for the stage musical version of the hit film “Tootsie.” Last year, the musical “The Band’s Visit,” about the interaction of Egyptians and Israelis, swept the musical categories and Yazbek won the Tony for his score (music & lyrics). Yazbek’s mother is Jewish. He competes in this category with his old friend ADAM GUETTEL, 54, who wrote the score for “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
In the ‘90s, Guettel and Yazbek played in a band together. In 2000, Guettel declined an offer to write the score for “The Full Monty” and gave Yazbek his big career break when Yazbek got the job because Guettel recommended him. Guettel is the grandson of the late, great composer RICHARD RODGERS. Adam’s mother, the late MARY RODGERS, also composed (“Once upon a Mattress”) and wrote (the original “Freaky Friday” movie.) Guettel won the best score Tony in 2005 for “The Light in the Piazza.”
Yaszbek and Guettel compete with MATTHEW SKLAR, 45, who wrote the music for “Prom”, a show about a lesbian teen going to a prom in a conservative Midwest town. Sklar’s long-time professional partner, Chad Begulin, wrote the lyrics.
“Oklahoma!,” a 1943 musical co-written by Richard Rodgers, is Tony-nominated this year in the best musical (revival) category. “Oklahoma!” vies with “Kiss Me Kate” for this Tony. LARRY HOCHMAN, 65, is nominated for his “Kiss Me, Kate” orchestration. He’s won four Emmys for his compositions and a Tony for orchestration (“Book of Mormon”). His works include the orchestration of a Chanukah album and composing the song poem “In Memoriam” in commemoration of the Holocaust.
The Western series “Deadwood” was set in the 1870s in the famous South Dakota town. It ran on HBO for three years (2004-06) before being abruptly canceled despite getting great reviews (ratings were so/so and it was a costly program to produce).
The recent successful re-booting of many TV shows lead to the decision to produce a 2-hour film that winds up the show’s story lines. On May 31, HBO will premiere the “Deadwood” movie. Advance reviews are very good. All the still-living stars of the original series returned, including ROBIN WEIGERT, 49, as Calamity Jane (who really lived); Timothy Olymphant as (real) lawman Seth Bullock; and John Hawkes as SOL STAR (1840-1917), a real Jewish Deadwood merchant who was Bullock’s best friend. Star served as Deadwood’s mayor in the 1880s.
Sadly, this movie marks the end of Milch’s creative life. In 2015, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and there’s a great article in the May, 27th issue of “The New Yorker” (also on-line) about how he is coping with the disease. It seems like his family is his anchor. His wife, RITA STERN, has stood by him through his drug addiction and an incredibly bad gambling addiction which wiped them out financially. His daughter, OLIVIA MILCH, 24, who co-wrote “Ocean’s 8,” helped her father with the Deadwood movie script.