As you most likely know, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury played their final performances in the revival of A Little Night Music this past weekend. You may also know that the show, which was originally scheduled to close upon their departure, will instead take a brief hiatus before Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch take up the parts of Desiree and Madame Armfeldt, respectively, on July 13th.
More on that later, but first I wanted to address some Post-Tony controversy initiated by performer Hunter Foster. As I've said, the Tonys this year were dominated by Broadway congratulating itself for attracting A-list Hollywood stars, and awarded them Tonys, in some people's estimation, simply for showing up. Hunter took it upon himself to start a Facebook group called Give the Tonys Back to Broadway, which at the time of this writing had 7,651 members.
I've admired Hunter's work for years, but I find this effort misguided and naive. The Tonys are about business and marketing. And Hollywood stars are currently seen as the key to box-office success. As long as that ethos remains extant, Tony Awards will continue to go to shows and performers that are most likely to earn the voters money. And nothing will change in that regard until theater critics are restored to the ranks of the Tony voters.
That said, I believe that Catherine Zeta-Jones was undeserving of her Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. (Read my review of this production.) If you didn't get to see her on stage, all you have to do is listen to the cast recording to witness the problem. She was fine in the book scenes, but during the songs she pushed and emoted to an egregious extent. Check out this clip from "The Glamorous Life." It's rather painful to listen to. It's as though she's trying with every note to justify her presence in the show. This otherwise excellent recording is marred by a leading performance nearly devoid of subtlety, although "Send in the Clowns" is admirably restrained.
But the fact remains that this show would never have made it to Broadway without CZJ. And based on the momentum established by CZJ (and the lovely Ms. Lansbury), we now get a chance to see Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch take up the roles. Would the show have made it to Broadway solely based on the draw of Misses Peters and Stritch? It's possible, but I have my doubts. So we very likely have CZJ to thank for providing us with the chance to see two genuine pros of the stage take on the roles. When Peters and Stritch leave, could we possibly see some additional recasting to keep the show afloat? Perhaps the mother/daughter team of Blythe Danner and Gwyneth Paltrow, as previously rumored?
Well, if that does happen, Hunter Foster will no doubt be pleased to know that neither would be eligible for a Tony, since only the cast from opening night of a particular production qualifies. Unless, of course, the Tony commission changes the rules to accommodate replacement casts. And, depending on the wattage of the stars in question, is that notion really that far-fetched?