Corey Hawkins is an absolute star-in-the-making, and it’s a shame that more people didn’t flock to the fantastic production of Six Degrees of Separation.

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Tony Sunday in the Park Without George

As a relative youngin’, there are still so many classics that I have yet to see, and this season, I got to cross Sunday in the Park with George off that list. A beautiful production, directed by Sarna Lapine, the show was everything I wanted and more. The show is a masterpiece, so I won’t spend my time lauding Stephen Sondheim or James Lapine, because everyone else has already done that. Ms. Lapine manages to capture the beauty and pain that goes into creating art. The show itself was visually stunning, with a simple, yet effective scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, which was enhanced by Tal Yarden’s projections. Clint Ramos’ costume were absolutely gorgeous. Ken Billington’s lighting design, particularly the chromolumes, was excellent.

While it’s lovely to see a piece about the creation of art want to stand on its own, and bask in starry reviews, I’m a little disappointed that it wasn’t mentioned at all during the Tony telecast last night. I know the producers decided to remove the show from contention for awards, but the show was an absolute highlight of the season for me, so it was a shame that the show wasn’t part of the telecast at all. While I understand that closing the show in April meant that award nominations wouldn’t factor in to their run at all, I guess I’m used to ranking art and the weird competitive nature we as a society feel we must place on art, one of the most subjective areas there are. The producers stood on the moral highground that seems crazy in this industry, and I have to respect them for wanting their piece to stand on its own. Despite that, I have to say that the show surely would have been nominated for for Best Revival. And I would imagine that Jake Gyllenhaal would finally get nominated for Best Actor (I’m still mad that he wasn’t nominated for Constellations), and I could have seen Annaleigh Ashford sneak in as a Best Actress nominee.

The whole cast is stellar, and it was so heartwarming to see Ruthie Anne Miles and Ashley Park back on stage together again. It’s always nice to see two amazing Asian American actors on stage, especially cast in roles that aren’t traditionally Asian. And to stay on brand, it was also lovely to see (and hear) Philip Boykin, a much darker man than the real boatman in the painting. It sounds so simple, but it truly is remarkable to cast talented actors of colors in roles that are traditional white. So thank you, Ms. Lapine, for recognizing the importance of casting decisions in 2017!

A compelling story on the passion and sacrifices it takes to make art, Sunday in the Park with George was a brilliant production that lived up to the heaps of praise given to this show. I am anxiously awaiting the release of the the cast album to relive the best moments, and inevitably cry in the comfort of my own home. Yay for casting Asians just because! Yay for creating beautiful, moving pieces of theater! And yay for everyone’s sacrifices to create this wonderfully complex thing called art!

It’s Tony Time, Part II

I can’t remember the last time I was this conflicted over the Tony Awards. Not only do I feel even a little bit confident in who I think will win, I can’t even figure out who I want to win! It’s been an extraordinary season, and I am so torn over whose names I want to be called. But is there any higher mark for a fantastic season than wanting to root for everyone to win? When there’s no clear winner in your eyes? Though feeling this unsure is leading to some major anxiety on my part, and all I have to do is sit on my couch and watch what happens! Let’s buckle up and do this!

Come From Away and Stay Awhile

A musical centered on 9/11 doesn’t sound like it will be a hit, but neither did a hip-hop musical about the Founding Fathers, so go figure. Come From Away, written by David Hein and Irene Sankoff, is an absolutely beautiful show that is a reminder of the best of humanity. While every original musical takes years to develop, it somehow came to Broadway at the perfect time, when the current political screams for a heartwarming musical that reminds you that our country can get through anything.

I was apprehensive on what the show would be like, but Come From Away is a stunning piece of theater, that deftly works in the emotions without ever laying it on too thick. Taking place in Gander, Newfoundland, the musical centers around the displaced passengers when American airspace was shut down following the terrorist attacks. It’s a story I knew nothing about, and it’s not painful to relive this part 9/11. So much about that day is on the tragedy, but this show manages to focus on the sense of community and humanity that came about as a result.

With only 12 actors portraying dozens of roles, it’s a shame that everyone is considered a featured player, as I’m sure many of them cancelled each other out in during the nomination process. The one nominee is Jenn Colella, whose voice absolutely soars in the show’s only solo number, “Me and the Sky,” which is one of my favorite songs to come out of this season. But each actor fully forms multiple characters, each its own person, and deftly moves between characters throughout the show. If the Tony Awards gave out an award for Best Ensemble, Come From Away would surely come out as the winner. Everyone is fantastic, but I have to single out Q. Smith, Astrid Van Wieren, and Caesar Samayoa as particularly memorable, and people I thought had a shot at a nomination.

Director Christopher Ashley managed to keep this show compact and tight. His ability to weave together dozens of stories in just 90 minutes is a true feat, although I wouldn’t have minded the show running longer! The mark of a truly great show is when it seems to end too soon and you want more! The show is so uplifting and is just a stunning show. Given today’s political climate, Come From Away is a great reminder of what people will do to rise above even the worst of circumstances. What a great work to remind us of the best of humanity, and how art can help heal us all!

#StayWoke, Pierre

Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 is absolutely insane in the best way possible. Director Rachel Chavkin manages to take a Broadway show and make it something unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, and yet, it’s so theatrical that of course it’s a Broadway show. Dave Malloy’s concept turns a sliver of War and Peace into a raucous party, complete with catchy songs and a great score.

One of Chavkin’s greatest gifts is her ability to cast diverse actors in a way that feels completely organic. There are certain show that appear to throw in a person of color for the sake of “adding diversity.” But Chavkin manages to put people of color front and center in the same way that they appear in the world, and while that shouldn’t be an earth-shattering thing, it somehow is. In an industry that is all about casting big names and turning a profit, it’s heartwarming that Chavkin demands a show to have a rainbow cast. Denée Benton is so sweet and wonderful as Natasha, and I don’t know if other directors would choose a black actress to portray a 19th century Russian aristocrat. I cannot wait until Okieriete Onaodowan joins the cast in July so the show has two black “Russian” leads. Dreams do come true!

I’ve often marveled at actor-musicians, and their ability to play while in character. But this show takes that to a whole new level! With violins and accordions, these actors play, sing, and run around the Imperial Theater like it’s playtime. Lucas Steele is great as Anatole, and then he whips out his violin and I was even more in awe of his performance. I was thrilled to see Amber Gray back on stage after discovering her in Hadestown, and she once again is brilliant! And of course, much focus is put on Josh Groban, making his Broadway debut as Pierre. For being in the title, Pierre doesn’t seem like a leading role to me, but Groban is great nonetheless.

The show is a spectacle and I doubt we’ll ever see something quite like it. All of the design elements are superb. Mimi Lien completely transforms a normal Broadway house into a space that is a weaving maze, bringing the actors up close and personal no matter where you’re sitting. The lighting design by Bradley King is great, particularly the titular comet, and I wanted to steal each and every chandelier for my house.

The show is definitely worth multiple viewings, and I’m sure I can see it a dozen times and still find something new every time. As a piece of theater, as a piece of art, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 is a singular sensation.

I Can Go On For Forever

I LOVE a show that is emotionally devastating and makes me weep. I know that sounds weird, but I find there’s something so beautiful and wonderful about watching something that you know has taken so much work, where every word is manipulated and twisted until the perfect combination comes along, where every scene has been written and rewritten, and yet it still shatters you to your core. It’s pure magic. Dear Evan Hansen is one of those shows. I’ve waited a long time to see the show, and was worried that the hype surrounding the show would somehow lessen the experience, but I saw the show a month ago and I’m still cocooning myself in this Dear Evan Hansen bubble. I don’t want to see another musical. I just want to listen to the gorgeous Pasek and Paul score every second of every day. I have so much to say about it, and yet I still don’t have the proper vocabulary to do the show justice, but I want to talk about the show for forever.

Needless to say, Ben Platt is an absolute revelation and is so deserving of all the recognition he is getting this awards season. He takes a socially anxious, shy kid into a flawed, fully-realized human being just searching for a connection and purpose. Platt obviously has a beautiful voice, and it’s insane how well he can project whilst hunched over and crying. His vocal range is impressive, and I love the guttural noises in his lower register when he’s being self-deprecating. Every tick, every twitch, every movement gives so much insight into his character. It’s a true master class in performing. And those fluids! He can give Viola Davis a run for her money in a snot-off! He takes a fragile human being and turns it into one of the most powerful performances on Broadway, one we will continue to talk about for years to come. He absolutely breaks your heart and leaves you shattered, and somehow manages to do that performance eight times a week. While I cannot imagine another actor as Evan Hansen, and want Platt to stay with the show forever, I am also so excited to see what the future holds for this superstar.

I was a huge fan of Dogfight (and am still hoping for that Broadway transfer!), and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s score does not disappoint. Alex Lacamoire’s orchestrations, particularly in the strings, are absolutely gorgeous and really elevate the emotions, even on the cast album. And Steven Levenson’s book so expertly crafts this world where you completely feel for Evan and his plight, understand his choices even though they make you cringe, wish he makes another decision, and yet are on board with him throughout the show. With tonal shades of Next to Normal (one of my personal all-time favorites), I absolutely love that Michael Greif managed to direct another beautiful, emotional, heartbreaking show with a teenage ghost boy. Praise!

Isolation is everywhere in this show. Even down to the set, every room is its own island, floating alone in space against a black backdrop, surrounded by screens. And yet the show manages to connect every single person in the Music Box Theater. So thank you, Ben Platt, Rachel Bay Jones, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Michael Greif, and the entire cast and crew for providing such a beautiful and somehow enjoyable day of crying in the theater. I hope that everyone who needs to find solace finds this show. #YouWillBeFound