Review: ‘Mean Girls’ (2024), starring Angourie Rice, Reneé Rapp, Auli’i Cravalho and Christopher Briney

January 13, 2024

by Carla Hay

Avantika, Reneé Rapp, Bebe Wood and Angourie Rice in “Mean Girls” (Photo by Jojo Whilden/Paramount Pictures)

“Mean Girls” (2024)

Directed by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr.

Culture Representation: Taking place in Evanston, lllinois, the musical film “Mean Girls” (adapted from the “Mean Girls” stage musical, which is based on 2004 “Mean Girls” movie) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Asians and Latinos) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A new transfer student in high school infiltrates a popular clique to sabotage the clique’s bullying leader, but the interloper becomes just as bad as the bully.

Culture Audience: “Mean Girls” will appeal primarily to fans of screenwriter/co-star Tina Fey, the original 2004 movie, the “Mean Girls” stage musical and comedic musical movies about teenage life that don’t have many surprises.

Jaquel Spivey, Angourie Rice and Auli’i Cravalho in “Mean Girls” (Photo by Jojo Whilden/Paramount Pictures)

Although not as funny as the 2004 “Mean Girls” movie, this musical version is still entertaining overall, despite a few missteps. The cast members’ performances are better than the songs. If you’re inclined to dislike musicals, then “Mean Girls” is probably isn’t going to change your mind. However, for people who are like or tolerate musicals, this version of “Mean Girls” will probably be enjoyable enough to not feel like a complete waste of time.

Directed by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr., “Mean Girls” is adapted from the “Mean Girls” stage musical, which is based on the 2004 “Mean Girls” movie. Tina Fey wrote the screenplays for both “Mean Girls” movies, as well as the book for the “Mean Girls” stage musical, which was on Broadway from 2018 to 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic essentially killed “Mean Girls” on Broadway when Broadway theaters were shut down from March 2020 to September 2021, but a touring version of “Mean Girls” still exists.

The “Mean Girls” movie was inspired by Rosalind Wiseman’s 2002 self-help book “Queen Bees and Wannabes.” And when the 2004 “Mean Girls” movie (starring Lindsay Lohan and directed by Mark Waters) was released, it was often described as a more family-friendly version of 1989’s dark comedy “Heathers” (starring Winona Ryder and directed by Michael Lehmann), because it had a similar story: A new transfer student in high school goes from being unpopular outcast to being accepted into the school’s most popular (and snobbiest) clique to replacing the “queen bee” of the clique. There’s also the vastly forgettable 2011 made-for-TV sequel “Mean Girls 2,” which was televised on the network then known as ABC Family.

In other words, there isn’t much of anything that’s original in this movie musical version of “Mean Girls,” which is updated from the 2004 “Mean Girls” movie by having a more racially diverse principal cast and having social media incorporated into the story. People who’ve seen the original “Mean Girls” movie and/or the “Mean Girls” stage musical will be curious to see how this “Mean Girls” musical movie is different. There are no bold and innovative changes.

The 2024 version of “Mean Girls” keeps the story of how 16-year-old Cady Heron (played by Angourie Rice), who is the only child of American parents, has been homeschooled in Kenya for most of life. When she and her family move back to the United States, Cady transfers to North Shore High School in Evanston, Illinois. (This version of “Mean Girls” was actually filmed in New Jersey.)

In the original “Mean Girls” movie, Cady is being raised by two married parents. In the “Mean Girls” musical movie, Cady is being raised by a single mother (played by Jenna Fischer), who doesn’t have a first name in the movie. Cady’s mother was a teacher in Kenya and has accepted a job at Northwestern University. There is no mention of Cady’s father in 2024’s “Mean Girls,” but the Cady character in both movies comes from a loving and supportive household.

In 2004’s “Mean Girls,” Cady was the narrator. In the 2024’s “Mean Girls,” the narrators are sassy Damian Hubbard (played by Jaquel Spivey) and cynical Janis ‘Imi’ike (played by Auliʻi Cravalho), two openly queer students and best friends at North Shore High School. Damian and Janis are in the movie’s opening scene, where they are shown recording a music video called “Cautionary Tale” on a phone. Janis is singing playing guitar, while Damian is singing and playing the tambourine.

It’s an introduction for Damian and Janis to tell the story of Cady and how she shook up the social hierarchy at North Shore High School. During Cady’s first few days at school, she is shunned or ignored by most of the students, except for Damian and Janis, who are also social outsiders at the school. Cady welcomes the friendship of Damian and Janis, who both tell Cady how much they dislike an all-girl clique at the school called the Plastics, who are the most elitist and popular clique in the school. A few years before, Regina (Janis’ former best friend) “outed” Janis as a lesbian, and it caused Janis to be the target of homophobic harassment.

The Plastics are physically pretty but they have the ugly personalities of being snobs and bullies. The leader of the Plastics is “queen bee” Regina George (played by Reneé Rapp), who only seems to be popular because of her looks and because she comes from a rich family. The other Plastics are Regina’s sidekicks: gossipy Gretchen Wieners (played by Bebe Wood) and dimwitted Karen Shetty (played by Avantika), who basically do whatever Regina wants them to do. The Plastics have certain dress code rules that Regina has dictated, such as they have to wear pink on Wednesdays, and they can only wear casual sweat clothing on Fridays.

One day, Regina invites Cady to sit with the Plastics at a table in the school’s cafeteria. It’s a rare invitation that immediately catches the attention of other students. Regina’s original intention is to insult and embarrass Cady. But when Regina sees how friendly and unthreatening Cady is, Regina decides that she can manipulate and control Cady into becoming one of the Plastics.

Meanwhile, Cady (who is a math whiz) gets an instant crush on an attractive guy who sits in front of her in their AP calculus class: Aaron Samuels (played by Christopher Briney), who happens to be Regina’s ex-boyfriend. Cady, who is bashful when talking to Aaron, doesn’t find out until after she has feelings for him that Aaron and Regina used to be a couple. Cady also finds out that Aaron was the one who dumped Regina, who wants to get back together with him.

“Mean Girls” writer/co-star Fey reprises her role as Ms. Norbury, the school’s AP calculus teacher. Tim Meadows also returns as North Shore High School principal Mr. Duvall. Just like in 2004’s “Mean Girls,” on Cady’s first day at North Shore, Mr. Duvall introduces Cady to her homeroom class, which is taught by Ms. Norbury. However, in 2024’s “Mean Girls,” Mr. Duvall and Ms. Norbury are now a couple, which was a romance that was hinted at the end of 2004’s “Mean Girls.”

Damian and Janis want to get revenge on Regina, so they urge Cady to join the Plastics clique, with the intention to sabotage Regina’s life. Part of their plan is have Cady get together with Aaron, so that Regina’s heart will be broken. Cady eagerly goes along with this plan because she wants Aaron for herself. For much of the movie, Cady is part of the Plastics, while secretly maintaining a friendship with Damian and Janis.

Soon after Regina has decided that Cady will be part of the Plastics, she invites Cady to hang out with her, Gretchen and Karen in Regina’s home. It’s here that Regina shows Cady her secret Burn Book, a pink, photo-album-sized book that has photos of people in the school with vicious insults written next to each photo. This notorious Burn Book predictably becomes a major source of conflict in the story.

Regina’s mother Mrs. George (played by Busy Philipps) is a ditzy, eager-to-please parent, who spoils Regina and acts like she wants to be Regina’s best friend. In both “Mean Girls” movies, Ms. George is one of the funniest characters, but her screen time is limited. That’s because the teenage perspective is the driving force of “Mean Girls,” which goes through the expected story beats of friendship betrayals and academic challenges, in backdrops such as classrooms, a school dance and the sterotypical teenage house party with no parents at home.

Although the cast members of the “Mean Girls” movie musical are all very talented, they don’t have the same special chemistry of the cast in 2004’s “Mean Girls.” The 2024 movie version of “Mean Girls” also doesn’t do anything new or interesting with the supporting characters, who drift in and out of the story in ways that don’t look as natural as they were in 2004’s “Mean Girls.” And because 2024’s “Mean Girls” is a musical, it uses hyper-realism during the musical numbers that takes a lot of bite out of the sharp comedy that 2004’s “Mean Girls” had.

Kevin Ganatra (played by Mahi Alam), the leader of the school’s math club, is the same type of nerdy character as the Kevin Gnapoor character (played by Rajiv Surendra) in 2004’s “Mean Girls.” He flirts with Cady but ends up with another student at the end of the movie. (The 2024 version “Mean Girls” changes who that student is.)

The other teachers at North Shore have very quick cameos, none of which are crucial to the story. These scenes could have been much better. Physical education teacher Coach Carr (played by Jon Hamm) teaches sex education and makes inappropriate comments that fall flat as jokes. French teacher Madame Park (played by Ashley Park, who played Gretchen in the “Mean Girls” stage musical) has a not-very-funny scene of her telling Damian to pick a French name for him to use in class. Literature teacher Mr. Rapp (played by Connor Ratliff) is mostly forgettable.

Jason Weems (played by John El-Jor) is a mischievous brat who is Gretchen’s love interest. However, his character is very underdeveloped in 2024’s “Mean Girls,” compared to the larger and funnier role that the Jason character (played by Daniel DeSanto) had in 2004’s “Mean Girls.” The Aaron character is blander in 2024’s “Mean Girls” than the Aaron character (played by Jonathan Bennett) in 2004’s “Mean Girls.” Gretchen (played by Lacey Chabert in 2004’s “Mean Girls”) is also still the same character in both movies, with no real dialogue improvement.

Worst of all, the character of Karen is made even more vapid in 2024’s “Mean Girls,” in ways that aren’t very funny and are borderline offensive. Karen Smith (played by Amanda Seyfried), one of the Plastics in 2004’s “Mean Girls,” wasn’t smart either, but at least had more of a personality and amusing lines of dialogue. The Karen in 2024’s “Mean Girls” has the personality of a blank space.

Original “Mean Girls” star Lohan makes an unremarkable cameo as a moderator for a math competition. It’s a squandered opportunity. The lines of dialogue that she has are very dull, with one only small sly nod to Lohan’s real-life troubles that tarnished her reputation and acting career. A better cameo for Lohan would have had her as a North Shore teacher or a parent of one of the North Shore students.

Damian in 2024’s “Mean Girls” is campier than in 2004’s “Mean Girls,” while Janis in 2024’s “Mean Girls” isn’t as hot-tempered as the Janis in 2004’s “Mean Girls.” In 2004’s “Mean Girls” Janis is presented as a heterosexual who was offended at being misidentified as a lesbian. Janis in 2024’s “Mean Girls” is really a lesbian and has a love interest named Grace Porter (played by Morgen McKynzie), who is a student at North Shore and barely says anything in the movie. It makes Grace look like a token.

As for the musical numbers, they are well-performed by the cast members (Rapp and Cravalho are the standout singers), but the movie switches to fantasy staging during the musical sequences. This abrupt shift in tone might be off-putting to some viewers. The sight of fake wind blowing through people’s hair, or school hallways having disco-ball-type lighting during song-and-dance numbers will be something that people might or might not find hard to take in a “Mean Girls” story.

The songs (music by Jeff Richmond, lyrics by Nell Benjamin) are good, but not outstanding. An original song called “What Ifs” (co-written with Rapp) replaces “It Roars” as the first song that Cady sings. For time-length reasons, there are less songs in the movie musical than in the stage musical, which has 18 songs.

“Stupid With Love” is still a showstopper, while Regina’s anthem “Someone Gets Hurt” is a definite highlight. The songs from the “Mean Girls” stage musical that aren’t in the “Mean Girls” movie musical are “Where Do You Belong?,” “Fearless,” “Stop,” “Whose House Is This?,” “More Is Better” and “Do This Thing.” Janis doesn’t get her time shine with a solo lead vocal (“I’d Rather Be Me”) until the movie is almost over, which is something that the movie should have corrected by giving Janis an original song showcase much earlier in the story.

In the talent show scene, Damian sings the theme to “iCarly,” compared to the 2004 movie, which had the better choice of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” as the song that Damian sings in the talent show. In the 2024 “Mean Girls” movie, “Rockin’ Around the Pole” is the song choice for the Plastics’ talent show performance, which is an inferior replacement for “Jingle Bell Rock,” the song that the Plastics performed in the 2004 “Mean Girls” talent show scene. Megan Thee Stallion, who has a cameo as herself during the 2024 “Mean Girls” movie’s social-media montages, teamed up with Rapp for the soundtrack single “Not My Fault,” which is not performed in a musical scene in the movie, but it’s the type of original change that the movie needed.

Rapp’s version of Regina (she also played the role on Broadway from 2019 to 2020) is much more of a sneering and obvious villain than Rachel McAdams’ version of Regina in 2004’s “Mean Girls.” They are different but equally effective performances. Rice is quite good in her role as Cady, but it would be difficult for most people to surpass Lohan’s iconic performance in “Mean Girls,” the movie that was the high point of Lohan’s career in the 2000s.

The showdown between Regina and Cady in 2004’s “Mean Girls” was much more fun to watch than in the 2024 version, which makes a change to a certain bus-accident scene that probably won’t sit well with some fans of the 2004 movie. However, the 2024 version of “Mean Girls” was wise enough to keep some of the more famous catch-phrases from the 2004 movie. One of them is “Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen.”

The 2024 version of “Mean Girls” is the feature-film debut of directors Jayne and Perez, who are frequent collaborators. They bring an upbeat and candy-coated style to the “Mean Girls” story, which is well-suited for a musical. The costume design in 2004’s “Mean Girls” had better taste and still looks good decades later, compared to the overly trendy (and sometimes trashy-looking) costume design of 2024’s “Mean Girls. Fans of the original “Mean Girls” movie might miss the funnier jokes and the edgier undertones that the 2004 movie had. The 2024 “Mean Girls” movie plays it safe, but should satisfy viewers who want to watch a comedic musical that has expected outcomes.

Paramount Pictures released “Mean Girls” in U.S. cinemas on January 12, 2024. The movie will be released on digital and VOD on February 20, 2024. The 2004 and 2024 versions of “Mean Girls” will also be available in a two-movie collection on digital on February 20, 2024. “Mean Girls” (2024) will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on April 30, 2024, the same date that “Mean Girls” (2004) will be released on 4K Ultra HD.

Review: ‘Journey to Bethlehem,’ starring Fiona Palomo, Milo Manheim, Lecrae, Joel Smallbone and Antonio Banderas

January 4, 2024

by Carla Hay

Fiona Palomo and Milo Manheim in “Journey to Bethlehem” (Photo courtesy of Affirm Films)

“Journey to Bethlehem”

Directed by Adam Anders

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Israeli cities of Nazareth and Bethlehem, the musical “Journey to Bethlehem” (based on New Testament teachings in the Christian Bible) features a racially diverse group of characters (white, Asian, Latino and black) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A virgin named Mary, who is reluctant to marry her fiancé Joseph, is banished from her family after claiming that she is giving birth to the son of God, and the couple goes into hiding from the evil king Herod, who wants to kill the children of Bethlehem.

Culture Audience: “Journey to Bethlehem” will appeal primarily to fans of musicals and faith-based movies that put a contemporary spin on ancient teachings.

Antonio Banderas in “Journey to Bethlehem” (Photo courtesy of Affirm Films)

As an earnest faith-based musical, “Journey to Bethlehem” does what it’s supposed to do for its intended audience. Other people might be surprised by the charm and appeal of this pop music version of the Bible’s nativity story about Jesus Christ. “Journey to Bethlehem” has some impressive visual effects and production design, considering its relatively low production budget of a reported $6 million. There are also engaging performances from the cast members, even if some of the characters are close to being cariactures.

Directed by Adam Anders (who co-wrote the “Journey to Bethlehem” screenplay with Peter Barsocchini), “Journey to Bethlehem” begins with this voiceover narration: “Long ago, in the time of Caesar Augustus and in the land of Judah, ruled by the evil King Herod, there lived a young woman named Mary, who didn’t know yet that she was chosen by God to fulfill an ancient prophecy to bring forth a promised king sent to save the world.” That king, of course is Jesus Christ.

“Journey to Bethlehem” (which was filmed in Spain) stays faithful to the basics of the biblical story but takes a lot of liberties in the interpretations of the characters. Just like in the Bible, the three kings who knew of the prophecy see the star that signals the arrival of this divine child. In “Journey to Bethlehem,” these three kings are portrayed as a somewhat comedic trio that bickers and banters with each other. It’s not slapstick insult comedy like the Three Stooges. It’s more like the biblical version of Spinal Tap.

Balthazar (played by Geno Segers) is the king with astronomy skills. Caspar (played by Rizwan Manji) is described in the movie as the king who is “the greatest scholar in all the lands.” Melchior (played by Omid Djalili) is the king who’s a great navigator and a map expert. Caspar (who is has a super-serious personality) and Melchior (who has a goofy personality) frequently clash with each other, while easygoing and optimistic Caspar is the most likely one of the three kings to keep the peace when there are conflicts within this lively trio.

Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, Mary (played by Fiona Palomo) is dreading her upcoming arranged marriage because she would rather be a teacher than a wife at this stage in her life. Mary has been betrothed to a man whom she hasn’t met yet. Her father Joachim (played by Antonio Cantos), who is a teacher, tells Mary: “You are a girl. You will be a wife, not a teacher, as tradition demands.” Mary’s mother Ana (played by Maria Pau Pigem) agrees with her husband.

At an open-air market, Mary has a “meet cute” moment with a young adult stranger named Joseph (played by Milo Manheim) when they accidentally bump into each other. He seems to be immediately attracted to her, but she seems to be a little attracted to him too. However, Mary is preoccupied with her worries about the upcoming marriage that she does not want. She’s polite to Joseph but she dismisses his attempts to flirt with her.

Meanwhile, King Herod (played by Antonio Banderas) is fixated on conquering more lands and people. He’s concerned that his eldest son Antipater (played by Joel Smallbone) doesn’t have what it takes to be the type of heir that King Herod wants. King Herod tells Antipater: “A king doesn’t need to be loved—only obeyed and feared.” Antipater, who desperately wants his father’s approval, spends most of the story carrying out Herod’s orders.

When it comes time for Mary to meet her fiancé, the meeting takes place at the home of Mary and her family. The fiancé arrives with his parents. Mary is shocked to find out that her fiancé is Joseph, the same person she met at the market. She’s immediately turned off (and tells Joseph that in a private conversation), because she thinks he shouldn’t have been flirting with her if he knew he was going to marry someone.

Joseph tries to smooth thigs over, but Mary becomes even more resistant to the idea of marrying him. Joseph’s domineering and haughty parents Jacob (played by Antonio Gil) and Rachel (played by Alicia Borrachero) are determined to make this marriage happen, because they want Joseph to inherit what can be offered as part of Mary’s dowry. Mary’s parents also insist that the marriage take place.

Not too long after Mary and Joseph have their first meeting that does not end well, she is visited at night by the angel Gabriel (played by Lecrae), who tells Mary that she will be pregnant and give birth to the son of God while she’s still a virgin. The experience is so profound for Mary, she tells her family members about it. They think she is mentally ill and blasphemous and beg her not to tell Joseph and his family.

However, Mary tells Joseph and his family. And when it becomes obvious that she is pregnant, the wedding is called off, and Mary is exiled to Hebron to live with her middle-aged cousin Elizabeth (played by Yaël Belicha), who is also having a “miracle pregnancy.” Elizabeth and her mute husband Zachariah (played by José María Rueda) welcome Mary into their home and are very protective of her.

King Herod hears about a blasphemous young woman who claims to be pregnant with a child of God. He’s determined to find her to kill her and her unborn child, so he sends Antipater on the hunt to find her. The rest of “Journey to Bethlehem” will not be a surprise to people who already know the story from the Bible.

“Journey to Bethlehem” has very good staging of the musical numbers, which often pop and glow with creative lighting and visual effects. Banderas hams it up as the story’s chief villain in a way that almost verges on parody but has enough self-awareness to hold back and deliver a convincing performance. During King Herod’s solo performance of “Good to Be King,” the set transforms into a menacing replication of the depths of hell to put an emphasis of how evil King Herod is.

Palomo and Manheim give engaging performances as Mary and Joseph. Mary is strong-willed and independent, which is an interpretation that might or might not be to a viewer’s liking. Joseph is portrayed as a forward-thinking person who doesn’t treat women as inferior to men. The blossoming romance between Mary and Joseph is portrayed as sweet and something that doesn’t happen right away because of Mary’s reluctance.

As far the movie’s original songs, “Journey to Bethlehem” has has some that are memorable and others that are on the bland side. Ada Anders, Nikki Anders and Peer Åström wrote the music for “Journey to Bethlehem,” whose musical highlights the anthemic climax of “The Nativity Song.” Antipater’s “In My Blood” brings some psychological “daddy issues” angst to the movie, while the three kings’ song “Three Wise Guys” brings much comic relief.

“Journey to Bethlehem” sometimes comes across as a production with a touring company (not the original cast) of a Broadway show. There’s plenty of musical talent, but it’s not the best of the best. However, “Journey to Bethlehem” is entertaining enough for anyone who wants to see a religious musical that isn’t overly preachy or pretentious and can be enjoyed by people of many generations.

Affirm Films released “Journey to Bethlehem” in U.S. cinemas on November 10, 2023. The movie was released on digital and VOD on December 8, 2023. “Journey to Bethlehem” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 16, 2024.

Review: ‘The Color Purple’ (2023), starring Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, H.E.R., Halle Bailey and Phylicia Pearl Mpasi

December 19, 2023

by Carla Hay

Taraji P. Henson, Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks in “The Color Purple” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“The Color Purple” (2023)

Directed by Blitz Bazawule

Culture Representation: Taking place in Georgia and in Tennessee, from 1909 to 1947, the musical “The Color Purple” (which is inspired by Alice Walker’s 1982 novel of the same name) features a predominantly African American group of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: An oppressed woman named Celie endures horrific abuse and a forced separation from her beloved sister, but she meets certain people who change her outlook on life.

Culture Audience: In addition to appealing to the obvious target audience of fans of “The Color Purple” book and its various adaptations, the movie musical version of “The Color Purple” will appeal primarily to fans of the movie’s headliners and filmmakers, as well as to people who don’t mind watching musicals that shows extremes in human emotions.

Colman Domingo in “The Color Purple” (Photo by Ser Baffo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

The movie musical “The Color Purple” creatively blends emotional highs and lows in this glitzier version of the book and the 1985 dramatic movie. More comedy and joy balance out the trauma and abuse, but the overall theme of resilience remains the same. Some fans of Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” novel and some fans of director Steven Spielberg’s 1985 “The Color Purple” movie might not warm to this movie musical if they’re offended by the thought of putting song-and-dance numbers in the most upsetting parts of the story, or if they don’t like how the musical alters key parts of the original story in the novel, including the ending. However, fans of the “The Color Purple” stage musical will be pleased by how the 2023 version of “The Color Purple” is faithful to the stage musical while bringing a vibrant cinematic life of its own.

Directed by Blitz Bazawule and written by Marcus Gardley, the 2023 movie musical version of “The Color Purple” astutely depicts the movie’s most fantastical and elaborate production designs as being manifestations of the imagination of protagonist Celie (played by Fantasia Barrino) during moments in her life when she’s dreaming of escaping from her grim circumstances. It’s a manifestation that is ideal for the visual medium of cinema, which has the benefit of film editing that a stage production does not.

The Tony-winning “The Color Purple” stage musical had its first Broadway run from 2005 to 2008; has gone through various touring incarnations; and experienced a successful Broadway revival from 2015 to 2017. Barrino played the role of Celie on Broadway from 2006 to 2007. Marsha Norman wrote the book for the stage musical, whose music and lyrics were written by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. The songs range from expressing the depths of despair of a mother who has a child taken a way from her (“Somebody Gonna Love You”); the defiant declaration of not putting up with abuse (“Hell No”); the sultry seduction of adults freely expressing their sexuality (“Push Da Button”); and the triumph of independence and self-acceptance (“I’m Here”).

What “The Color Purple” stage musical and movies have in common are the involvement of Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones. Jones was a producer and composer for the 1985 “The Color Purple” movie, and he continued in the role of producer for the stage musical and the 2023 “The Color Purple” movie. Winfrey made her Oscar-nominated movie debut as an actress in 1985’s “The Color Purple,” and she’s a producer of the stage musical and the 2023 “The Color Purple” movie. Spielberg is a producer of “The Color Purple” movies, while Scott Sanders is a producer of “The Color Purple” stage musical and the 2023 version of “The Color Purple.”

“The Color Purple” movie musical (which takes place in Georgia and Tennessee) begins in 1909 in an unnamed rural area of Georgia, where 14-year-old Celie Harris (played by Phylicia Pearl Mpasi) has given birth to her second child: a son. Celie’s father Alfonso (played by Deon Cole) snatches the child away and cruelly tells Celie that she will never see this child again. He did the same thing when Celie gave birth to her first child, who was a daughter. Both pregnancies resulted from Alfonso raping Celie. It’s implied that Alfonso sold both children to be illegally adopted.

The only happiness that Celie experiences in her life is from her close relationship with her younger sister Nettie (played by Halle Bailey), who is very protective of the more insecure Celie. Nettie is the person who teaches Celie to read. They spend hours reading together, often in a tree, where they can’t be seen by their horrible father.

Alfonso isn’t done selling members of his family. A widower farmer named Albert “Mister” Johnson (played by Colman Domingo) is an abusive bully who is looking for a new wife. He insists that most people call him Mister. Mister is attracted to Nettie, but Alphonso will only allow Mister to marry Celie, who is sold into this marriage by her father when Celie is 18 years old. Barrino portrays Celie as an adult. The rest of the movie shows what happens to Celie through a period of time spanning to 1947.

In the first year of Mister and Celie’s miserable marriage, he lets Nettie live in the same household. But when Nettie rejects Mister’s sexual advances, he evicts her from the house and tells her that she can never come back. This forced separation scene isn’t as heart-wrenching as how it was in the 1985 “The Color Purple” movie, but it’s still one of the more emotionally difficult scenes to watch. Nettie promises to write to Celie every day, but Mister intercepts the letters because he tells fearful Celie (who has been beaten into submission by Mister) that he is the only person in the household who is allowed to handle the mail.

During the worst parts of Celie’s life, she meets certain people who have different effects on how she sees herself and others. Shug Avery (played by Taraji P. Henson) is a Memphis-based jazz and blues singer, who is open about her fluid sexuality. Shug is considered the “morally wayward” daughter of Reverend Avery (played by David Alan Grier), the leader of the local church attended by African American people in Celie’s area.

Mister has been in love with Shug for years. He acts like a giddy schoolboy, every time she visits the area. However, she treats him more like a sexual plaything, and she refuses Mister’s wish to make him her only lover. Mister and Shug openly carry on an affair when she’s visiting. What Shug doesn’t expect is to befriend Celie, who sees life from an entirely new perspective when she gets to know confident and sassy Shug. The connection between Celie and Shug goes beyond friendship into sexual intimacy.

Harpo Jackson (played by Corey Hawkins) is Mister’s sensitive adult son, who falls in love, marries, and starts a family with a feisty and outspoken woman named Sofia (played by Danielle Brooks), who doesn’t hesitate to get involved in physical brawls if anyone tries to pick a fight with her. The marriage of easygoing Harpo and domineering Sofia goes through ups and downs. At one point, they break up, and Harpo moves on to having a live-in girlfriend named Squeak (played by H.E.R.), who gets caught in the middle of the volatile relationship between Sofia and Harpo.

With a cast this talented and with breathtaking musical numbers (including dazzling choreography from Fatima Robinson), it’s hard to go wrong in this musical version of “The Color Purple.” This version of the story puts more emphasis on the “sisterhood” of Celie, Shug and Sofia, compared to the original story that makes Celie much more of a loner character much longer in the story. All three women have their own trials and tribulations in a society that expects them to allow their lives to be dictated and controlled by men.

Barrino, Henson and Brooks are standouts in their own right in this movie. Barrino’s Celie is often downtrodden but never completely pathetic, as she maintain her dignity during all much emotional and physical abuse that is inflicted on her. Barrino depicts Celie with slightly more intelligence than Whoopi Goldberg’s Oscar-nominated portrayal of Celie in 1985’s “The Color Purple.” (A plot development in the last third of the movie shows Celie getting a life.

Henson puts a more comedic and lively spin on Shug, who has more comeback quips than Margaret Avery’s more understated, Oscar-nominated version of Shug in 1985’s “The Color Purple.” Henson’s Shug (especially during the musical numbers) is bold, brash and not at all interested in being subtle. In this movie, Shug’s signature song “Push Da Button” is every bit the decadent extravaganza that is should be.

Brooks, who had the Tony-nominated role of Sofia in the Broadway revival of “The Color Purple,” is a scene stealer not just with her acting but also with her powerhouse singing. She’s arguably the strongest vocalist in this entire cast. Beyond the vocal theatrics, Brooks brings a swagger to the role of Sofia, whereas Winfrey’s version of Sofia had more stomping. Sofia is lovably flawed with a fiery temper that gets easily triggered, because she’s lived her life constantly being on the defensive from personal attacks.

The original “The Color Purple” novel and movie got some criticism for its portrayal of African American men as being either abusive or wishy-washy. In this version of “The Color Purple,” Mister is not depicted as an irredeemable villain. There are glimpses of his vulnerability, such as his fear of his cantankerous and misogynistic father Ol’ Mister (played by Louis Gossett Jr.), who scolds Mister for not being controlling enough of Celie.

Some viewers might have a problem with a certain turning point in Mister’s story arc that’s very different from the novel, but the intention seems to be to make Mister more human and less of a one-dimensional villain. Domingo as Mister handles this balancing act with considerable skill. The father/son relationship between Mister and Harpo is explored in more depth in addressing issues of how toxic masculinity can be passed down in a family for generations, unless someone in the family is willing to stop the cycle.

Even in settings where many of the characters live in poverty, “The Color Purple” is rich in its depiction of African American culture at this particular time in this region of the United States. The scenes that take place in Celie’s imagination are entirely consistent with how Celie dreams about how her life could be more glamorous and happier than it really is. An inspired set design shows Celie giving Shug a bath, while the bathtub revolves on a giant gramophone turntable.

“The Color Purple” can certainly spark debate about whether or not the world needs another version of Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. And there are definitely worthy discussions to be had about why so many “awards bait” movies centered on African Americans have a lot of violence, poverty and/or trauma. But for what it is in depicting a specific group of African Americans during a time in American history before the U.S. civil rights movement, this version of “The Color Purple” is a worthy adaptation that gives each of the principal characters clear and distinctive personalities and varied ways to better understand who they are.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “The Color Purple” in U.S. cinemas on December 25, 2023. UPDATE: The movie will be released on digital and VOD on January 16, 2024.

Review: ‘Dicks: The Musical,’ starring Aaron Jackson, Josh Sharp, Megan Mullally, Nathan Lane, Megan Thee Stallion and Bowen Yang

October 21, 2023

by Carla Hay

Pictured clockwise, from upper left: Nathan Lane, Josh Sharp, Aaron Jackson and Megan Mullally in “Dicks: The Musical” (Photo by Justin Lubin/A24)

“Dicks: The Musical”

Directed by Larry Charles

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the musical comedy film “Dicks: The Musical” (based on the stage show “Fucking Identical Twins”) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few black people, Latin people and Asians) portraying the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two sexist and egotistical salesmen, who are rivals at the same company, find out that they’re identical twins, and they go on a quest to reunite their divorced parents, one of whom is living life as a gay person.

Culture Audience: “Dicks: The Musical” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the stage production on which this movie is based; the movie’s headlining stars; and comedy musicals that don’t have much to offer but gimmicky raunchiness.

Megan Thee Stallion, Josh Sharp, Aaron Jackson in “Dicks: The Musical” (Photo by Justin Lubin/A24)

“Dicks: The Musical” isn’t as clever and funny as it thinks it is. A better movie would have been about Megan Thee Stallion’s scene-stealing Gloria Masters character. The film makes a terrible pivot into glorifying the crime of incest. Incest is never okay. Worst of all, this abrupt change into an incest story is unnecessary and reeks of a desperate way to create shock value as a gimmick, not because it makes sense to the story.

Directed by Larry Charles, “Dicks: The Musical” is based on the stage show “Fucking Identical Twins,” which was the original title of the movie before it was changed to a title that’s more marketable and less offensive. Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson (two alumni of the comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade) are the writers and title characters of “Fucking Identical Twins,” which started out as an Upright Citizens Brigade sketch. Sharp and Jackson are also the writers and stars of “Dicks: The Musical.”

You can tell that “Dicks: The Musical” is based on a comedy sketch, because the very flimsy and simplistic plot gets repetitive and dull in too many sections, in order to fill up the time for a feature-length movie. There are only a few standout musical moments. Most of the songs are trite and forgettable. Jackson, Sharp and Karl Saint Lucy co-wrote the songs, with Marius de Vries (the producer of the movie’s soundtrack) also sharing co-songwriting credit on some of the tunes. “Dicks: The Musical” had its world premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.

The identical twins at the center of the story are Craig Tittle (played by Sharp) and Trevor Brock (played by Jackson), two hard-driving, very competitive and extremely rude salesmen. In the very beginning of the movie, bachelors Craig and Trevor have known each other for a while but have no idea that they are brothers. The “joke” is that Craig and Trevor don’t look identical at all.

Craig (the uptight brother) and Trevor (the flamboyant brother) work for the same vacuum company and are fierce rivals at their job, which rewards the employee with the highest sales revenue. Craig and Trevor also happen to live next door to each other in New York City. The story is narrated by God (played by Bowen Yang), who is portrayed as a sarcastic gossipper who sees and knows everything.

Trevor and Craig both consider themselves to be politically conservative “alpha males” who are the best at everything they do. They are also homophobic and sexist, because they think heterosexual, cisgender men are superior to everyone else. How awful are Craig and Trevor? They’re nasty to pregnant women and don’t hesitate to do things like push a pregnant woman out of the way if she’s hailing the same taxi.

Craig was raised by a single father. Trevor was raised by a single mother. Through a series of events, Craig and Trevor find out that they are long-lost identical twins whose parents divorced when Craig and Trevor were too young to remember their parents being married. Craig and Trevor’s parents cut each other out of their lives completely after the divorce and did not make themselves known to whichever twin son wasn’t in their custody. Craig and Trevor were raised to be believe that whichever parent raised them was widowed.

Trevor and Craig think there’s a social stigma if their parents are divorced. Craig and Trevor agree to temporarily put aside their brotherly feuding, in order to reunite their parents, with the hope that their parents will remarry. (The filmmakers of “Dicks: The Musical” openly acknowledge that “The Parent Trap” is an inspiration for this part of the story.) Craig and Trevor decide to disguise themselves as each other when they visit whichever parent didn’t raise them.

When Craig (disguised as Trevor) meets his mother Evelyn (played by Megan Mullally) for the first time, he finds out that she’s a lisping eccentric who lives alone and doesn’t have a vagina, because the vagina has separated from her body and can fly like a bird. (Evelyn’s flying vagina is used as a sight gag multiple times in the movie.) When Trevor (disguised as Craig) meets his father Harris (played by Nathan Lane) for the first time, he finds out that Harris has been living alone as a gay man.

Harris has two pet creatures in a cage called the Sewer Boys, who are about the size of squirrels and are described in the movie’s production notes as coming from “the bowels of New York’s septic system” and looking like “rat demons.” The Sewer Boys (who can stand up and have human-like hands) don’t speak human languages but mostly grunt, mumble and hiss. One is named Backpack (voiced by Tom Kenny), and the other is named Whisper (voiced by Frank Todaro), but their personalities are indistinguishable from each other.

Just like a bird parent, Harris feeds the Sewer Boys with food that he chews in his mouth and spits into their mouths. (Harris usually misses the mouth target.) It’s a sight gag that’s over-used and yet another example of how this movie runs ideas into the ground with too much repetition. The rest of “Dicks: The Musical” is an occasionally hyper but mostly empty tottering of weak nonsense, where each scene tries to outdo the previous scene by becoming increasingly bizarre. The problem is that not much of it is very amusing.

Gloria is the vulgar-talking, crude-thinking, ultra-feminist supervisor of Craig and Trevor. She likes to pit employees aganst each other and only cares about two things in her job: bossing people around (sometimes with physical violence) and making as much money as possible for the company with her sales team. One of the few highlights of “Dicks: The Musical” is Gloria’s solo musical number “Out Alpha the Alpha,” which is hilarious in its filthy adult language as much as it is well-choreographed.

Gloria and God are two of the most interesting characters in the movie, but they get less than 15 minutes of screen time each in this 86-minute movie. Evelyn and Harris are also much more entertaining than their sons Craig and Trevor. Mullally and Lane portray these parental characters with a lot of gusto, but the dialogue and songs written for them become irritating after a while. (Mullally’s husband Nick Offerman has a cameo in the movie as a politically conservative activist named Steve Chaney.) Viewers are mostly stuck watching the witless and boring antics of one-dimensional Craig and Trevor, as they occasionally warble mediocre musical songs.

“Dicks: The Musical” is clearly a case of two guys who created hollow characters for themselves and then surrounded these characters with silly distractions that they want to pass off as a “movie plot” and fool people into thinking that it’s “edgy” comedy. Foul language or provocative topics can be part of comedy that pushes boundaries. But when a movie tries to push the idea (such as in the horrendous closing song “All Love Is Love”) that something is wrong with you if you don’t celebrate incest and bestiality, then it has crossed the point of no return into being pretentious garbage.

A24 released “Dicks: The Musical” in select U.S. cinemas on October 6, 2023, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on October 20, 2023. A sing-along version of “Dicks: The Musical” will have a one-week release in U.S. cinemas on October 27, 2023. The movie will be released on digital and VOD on November 10, 2023.

2023 Tony Awards: ‘Some Like It Hot’ is the top nominee

May 2, 2023

Tony Awards logo

The following is a press release from the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League:

Nominations in 26 competitive categories for the American Theatre Wing’s 76th Annual Antoinette Perry “Tony” Awards® were announced by star of Funny Girl Lea Michele and 2022 Tony Award-winner Myles Frost. The nominees were selected by an independent committee of 40 theatre professionals appointed by the Tony Awards Administration Committee. The 2023 Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. (The list of nominations follows.)

Marking 76 years of excellence on Broadway, The Tony Awards, hosted by Ariana DeBose, will air LIVE on Sunday, June 11, 2023 from the historic United Palace in Washington Heights, in New York City from 8:00-11:00 PM, ET/5:00-8:00 PM, PT on the CBS Television Network, and streaming live and on demand on Paramount+.

CBS and Pluto TV will present The Tony Awards: Act One, a pre-show of live, exclusive content leading into the 76th Annual Tony Awards. The celebration commences at 6:30-8:00 PM, ET/3:30-5:00 PM PT, on Pluto TV, the leading free streaming television service (FAST). Viewers can access the show on their smart TV, streaming device, mobile app or online by going to Pluto TV and clicking on the “Pluto TV Celebrity” channel (no payment, registration or sign-in required).

Legitimate theatrical productions opening in any of the 41 eligible Broadway theatres during the current season may be considered for Tony nominations. The 2022/2023 eligibility season began Thursday, May 5, 2022 and ended Thursday, April 27, 2023. The Tony Awards will be voted in 26 competitive categories by 769 designated Tony voters within the theatre community.

As previously announced, the 2023 Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre will be presented to Lisa Dawn Cave, Victoria Bailey and Robert Fried. The Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award will be presented to Jerry Mitchell.

The 2022-2023 Tony Award Nominating Committee consists of: Warren Adams, Becky Ann Baker, Pun Bandhu, Brenda Braxton, Christopher Burney, Eisa Davis, Carmel Dean, Jerry Dixon, Dionne Figgins, Kamilah Forbes, Scott Frankel, M L Geiger, Jessica Hagedorn, Raja Feather Kelly, John Kilgore, Kathy Landau, Andrea Lauer, Zhailon Levingston, Jose Llana, Priscilla Lopez, John Mauceri, Jess McLeod, James C. Nicola, Antoinette Nwandu, Peter Parnell, Ralph B. Peña, Nancy Piccione, Bill Rauch, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Susan Sampliner, Dick Scanlan, Kimberly Senior, Rachel Sheinkin, Devario Simmons, Natasha Sinha, Michael Stotts, Reginald Van Lee, Michael Benjamin Washington and Ben Wexler.

The Antoinette Perry “Tony” Awards are bestowed annually on theatre professionals for distinguished achievement. The Tony is one of the most coveted awards in the entertainment industry and the annual telecast is considered one of the most prestigious programs on television.

The 2023 American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. At The Broadway League, Lauren Reid is Chair and Charlotte St. Martin is President. At the American Theater Wing, Emilio Sosa is Chair and Heather A. Hitchens is President & CEO.

For the CBS broadcast, Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss/White Cherry Entertainment are Executive Producers. Weiss also serves as Director.

A limited number of tickets for the 2023 Tony Awards are currently on sale at: TonyAwards.com/tickets.

Sponsors for The Tony Awards include: Carnegie Mellon University – the first-ever, exclusive higher education partner; City National Bank – official bank of The Tony Awards; Playbill; Sofitel New York – the official hotel of The Tony Awards; United Airlines – the official airline of The Tony Awards for over 20 years; Zacapa Rum – the official partner of the Tony Awards; Baccarat – the official partner of the Tony Awards; and Ketel One Vodka – the official partner of the Tony Awards.

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Nominations for the 2023 American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards®
Presented by The American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League

Best Book of a Musical

& Juliet

David West Read

Kimberly Akimbo

David Lindsay-Abaire

New York, New York

David Thompson & Sharon Washington

Shucked

Robert Horn

Some Like It Hot

Matthew López & Amber Ruffin

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

Almost Famous

Music: Tom Kitt
Lyrics: Cameron Crowe & Tom Kitt

Kimberly Akimbo

Music: Jeanine Tesori
Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire

KPOP

Music & Lyrics: Helen Park & Max Vernon

Shucked

Music and Lyrics: Brandy Clark & Shane McAnally

Some Like It Hot

Music: Marc Shaiman
Lyrics: Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog
Corey Hawkins, Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog
Sean Hayes, Good Night, Oscar
Stephen McKinley Henderson, Between Riverside and Crazy
Wendell Pierce, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Jessica Chastain, A Doll’s House
Jodie Comer, Prima Facie
Jessica Hecht, Summer, 1976
Audra McDonald, Ohio State Murders

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Christian Borle, Some Like It Hot
J. Harrison Ghee, Some Like It Hot
Josh Groban, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Brian d’Arcy James, Into the Woods
Ben Platt, Parade
Colton Ryan, New York, New York

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Annaleigh Ashford, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sara Bareilles, Into the Woods
Victoria Clark, Kimberly Akimbo
Lorna Courtney, & Juliet
Micaela Diamond, Parade

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

Jordan E. Cooper, Ain’t No Mo’
Samuel L. Jackson, August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson
Arian Moayed, A Doll’s House
Brandon Uranowitz, Leopoldstadt
David Zayas, Cost of Living

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Nikki Crawford, Fat Ham
Crystal Lucas-Perry, Ain’t No Mo’
Miriam Silverman, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window
Katy Sullivan, Cost of Living
Kara Young, Cost of Living

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

Kevin Cahoon, Shucked
Justin Cooley, Kimberly Akimbo
Kevin Del Aguila, Some Like It Hot
Jordan Donica, Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot
Alex Newell, Shucked

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Julia Lester, Into the Woods
Ruthie Ann Miles, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Bonnie Milligan, Kimberly Akimbo
NaTasha Yvette Williams, Some Like It Hot
Betsy Wolfe, & Juliet

Best Scenic Design of a Play

Miriam Buether, Prima Facie
Tim Hatley & Andrzej Goulding, Life of Pi
Rachel Hauck, Good Night, Oscar
Richard Hudson, Leopoldstadt
Dane Laffrey & Lucy Mackinnon, A Christmas Carol

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Beowulf Boritt, New York, New York
Mimi Lien, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Michael Yeargan & 59 Productions, Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot
Scott Pask, Shucked
Scott Pask, Some Like It Hot

Best Costume Design of a Play

Tim Hatley, Nick Barnes & Finn Caldwell, Life of Pi
Dominique Fawn Hill, Fat Ham
Brigitte Reiffenstuel, Leopoldstadt
Emilio Sosa, Ain’t No Mo’
Emilio Sosa, Good Night, Oscar

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Gregg Barnes, Some Like It Hot
Susan Hilferty, Parade
Jennifer Moeller, Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot
Clint Ramos & Sophia Choi, KPOP
Paloma Young, & Juliet
Donna Zakowska, New York, New York

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Neil Austin, Leopoldstadt
Natasha Chivers, Prima Facie
Jon Clark, A Doll’s House
Bradley King, Fat Ham
Tim Lutkin, Life of Pi
Jen Schriever, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Ben Stanton, A Christmas Carol

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Ken Billington, New York, New York
Lap Chi Chu, Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot
Heather Gilbert, Parade
Howard Hudson, & Juliet
Natasha Katz, Some Like It Hot
Natasha Katz, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Best Sound Design of a Play

Jonathan Deans & Taylor Williams, Ain’t No Mo’
Carolyn Downing, Life of Pi
Joshua D. Reid, A Christmas Carol
Ben & Max Ringham, A Doll’s House
Ben & Max Ringham, Prima Facie

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Kai Harada, New York, New York
John Shivers, Shucked
Scott Lehrer & Alex Neumann, Into the Woods
Gareth Owen, & Juliet
Nevin Steinberg, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Best Direction of a Play

Saheem Ali, Fat Ham
Jo Bonney, Cost of Living
Jamie Lloyd, A Doll’s House
Patrick Marber, Leopoldstadt
Stevie Walker-Webb, Ain’t No Mo’
Max Webster, Life of Pi

Best Direction of a Musical

Michael Arden, Parade
Lear deBessonet, Into the Woods
Casey Nicholaw, Some Like It Hot
Jack O’Brien, Shucked
Jessica Stone, Kimberly Akimbo

Best Choreography

Steven Hoggett, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Casey Nicholaw, Some Like It Hot
Susan Stroman, New York, New York
Jennifer Weber, & Juliet
Jennifer Weber, KPOP

Best Orchestrations

Bill Sherman and Dominic Fallacaro, & Juliet
John Clancy, Kimberly Akimbo
Jason Howland, Shucked
Charlie Rosen & Bryan Carter, Some Like It Hot
Daryl Waters & Sam Davis, New York, New York

Best Play

Ain’t No Mo’

Author: Jordan E. Cooper
Producers: Lee Daniels, BET: Black Entertainment Television, Len Blavatnik, Ron Burkle, Aryeh B. Bourkoff, 59th & Prairie Entertainment, RuPaul Charles, I’ll Have Another Productions, Jeremy O. Harris, Lena Waithe, Tucker Tooley Entertainment, CJ Uzomah, Ann Cox, Gina Purlia, Bob Yari, Marvin Peart, Colleen Camp, Marvet Britto, Jeremy Green, Sue Wagner, John Johnson, Jillian Robbins, The Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, Patrick Willingham, Mandy Hackett

Between Riverside and Crazy

Author: Stephen Adly Guirgis
Producers: Second Stage Theater, Carole Rothman, Khady Kamara, Atlantic Theater Company

Cost of Living

Author: Martyna Majok
Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove, Williamstown Theatre Festival

Fat Ham

Author: James Ijames
Producers: No Guarantees, Public Theater Productions, Rashad V. Chambers, National Black Theatre, Tim Levy, Bards on Broadway, Bob Boyett, Ghostbuster Productions, James Ijames, Cynthia Stroum, Audible, Adam Cohen, Blake Devillier, Firemused Productions/JamRock Productions, The Forstalls, Iconic Vizion/Corey Brunish, John Gore Organization, Midnight Theatricals, David Miner, Robin Gorman Newman/PickleStar Theatricals, Marc Platt, Play on Shakespeare, The Wilma Theater, Colman Domingo, Cynthia Erivo, Andy Jones, Dylan Pager, Roundabout Theatre Company, Oskar Eustis, Patrick Willingham, Mandy Hackett, Sade Lythcott, Jonathan McCrory

Leopoldstadt

Author: Tom Stoppard
Producers: Sonia Friedman Productions, Roy Furman, Lorne Michaels, Stephanie P. McClelland, Gavin Kalin, Delman Sloan, Eilene Davidson, Brad Edgerton, Patrick Gracey, Hunter Arnold, Burnt Umber Productions, Cue to Cue Productions, The Factor Gavin Partnership, Harris Rubin Productions, Robert Nederlander, Jr., No Guarantees, Sandy Robertson, Iris Smith, Jamie deRoy/Catherine Adler, Dodge Hall Productions/Waverly Productions, Richardo Hornos/Robert Tichio, Heni Koenigsberg/Wendy Federman, Thomas S. Perakos/Stephanie Kramer, Brian Spector/Judith Seinfeld, Richard Winkler/Alan Shorr

Best Musical

& Juliet

Producers: Max Martin & Tim Headington, Theresa Steele Page, Jenny Petersson, Martin Dodd, Eva Price, Lukasz Gottwald, 42nd.club, Independent Presenters Network, Jack Lane, Library Company, Shellback, Shivhans Pictures, Sing Out, Louise!, Kim Szarzynski, Taylor/Riegler, Tenenbaum/Keyes, Barry Weiss, John Gore Organization

Kimberly Akimbo

Producers: David Stone, Atlantic Theater Company, James L. Nederlander, LaChanze, John Gore, Patrick Catullo, Aaron Glick

New York, New York

Producers: Sonia Friedman Productions, Tom Kirdahy, Wendy Federman & Heni Koenigsberg, Crossroads Live, Playing Field, Stephanie P. McClelland, Ambassador Theatre Group, Waiting in the Wings Productions, Colin Callender, Gilbert and DeeDee Garcia/Sue Vaccaro, Peter May, Rileyfan, Silverhopkins+/Hunter Johnson, Jay Alix & Una Jackman, Eric Passmore, Thomas Swayne, Elliott Cornelious/SunnySpot Productions, Santino DeAngelo/Cynthia Tong, Craig Balsam, Richard Batchelder, Concord Theatricals, Creative Partners Productions, Marguerite Hoffman, Jessica R. Jenen, John Gore Organization, MGM on Stage, James L. Nederlander, Linda B. Rubin, Seriff Productions, Shivhans Pictures, 42nd.club/Beards on Broadway, AGL Productions/Brad Blume, Hunter Arnold/Red Mountain Theatre, Cue to Cue Productions/Roy Putrino, Jamie deRoy/Janet and Marvin Rosen, Edgewood/Silva Theatrical Group, Dale Franzen/Henry R. Muñoz, III, Deborah Green/Chris Mattsson, Branden Grimmett/DMQR Productions, Christen James/Gregory Carroll, NETworks Presentations/Lamar Richardson, Ron Simons/Adam Zell, Chartoff-Winkler

Shucked

Producers: Mike Bosner, Jason Owen, AEG Presents/Jay Marciano/Gary Gersh, Jeffrey A. Sine, Richard Smith, Silvia Schmid, Bob Boyett, Jeremiah J. Harris, James L. Nederlander, EST/Emily Tisch, Sony Music Entertaiment, DudaAllen, David W. Busch, Karen Fairchild, HoriPro Inc., Gordon-Helfner, John Gore Organization, Madison Wells Live, S&Co., Terry Schnuck, Jimi Westbrook, ZKM Media

Some Like It Hot

Producers: The Shubert Organization, Neil Meron, MGM on Stage, Roy Furman, Robert Greenblatt, James L. Nederlander, Kenny Leon, Hunter Arnold, John Gore Organization, The Dalgleish Library Company Group, Sheboygan Conservatory Partners, Ambassador Theatre Group Productions, Bob Boyett, Cue to Cue Productions, Janet and Marvin Rosen, The Araca Group, Concord Theatricals, Marc Howard, Independent Presenters Network, Juanita Jordan, Jujamcyn Theaters, Henry R. Muñoz, III, Ostar, Mariah Carey, D.S. Moynihan

Best Revival of a Play

August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson

Producers: Brian Anthony Moreland, Sonia Friedman, Tom Kirdahy, Kandi Burruss & Todd Tucker, Hunter Arnold, Playing Field, The Factor Gavin Partnership, FBK Productions/42nd.club, Jay Alix & Una Jackman, Creative Partners Productions, Harris Rubin Productions, Marguerite Steed Hoffman, Alia Jones-Harvey, Mark Gordon Pictures, Stephanie McClelland, Moore Delman, James L. Nederlander, Seriff Productions, The Shubert Organization, Salman Al-Rashid/Jamie deRoy, Brad Blume/Cliff Hopkins, Jean Doumanian /Fakston Productions, Edgewood/DMQR Productions, Jay & Cindy Gutterman/Caiola Productions, Van Kaplan/Lu-Shawn Thompson, Erik A. King/Finewomen Productions, Marc David Levine/William Frisbie, Syrinda Paige/Kevin Ryan & Diane Scott Carter, Silva Theatrical Group/Tilted, Thomas Swayne/Cynthia J. Tong, Constanza Romero-Wilson

A Doll’s House

New Version by: Amy Herzog
Producers: Ambassador Theatre Group Productions, Gavin Kalin Productions, Wessex Grove, Julie Boardman, Kate Cannova, Bob Boyett, Hunter Arnold, Creative Partners Productions, Eilene Davidson Productions, GGRS, Kater Gordon, Louise L. Gund, Los Angeles Media Fund, Stephanie P. McClelland, Tilted, Jessica Chastain, Caitlin Clements/Francesca Moody Productions, Caiola Productions/Amanda Lee, Ted & Richard Liebowitz/Joeyen-Waldorf Squeri, Richard & Cecilia Attias/Thomas S. Barnes, OHenry Theatre Nerd Productions/Runyonland MMP, The Jamie Lloyd Company

The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window

Producers: Seaview, Sue Wagner, John Johnson, Phil Kenny, Audible, Sony Music Masterworks, Jillian Robbins, Jeremy O. Harris, Larry Hirschhorn and Ricardo Hornos, Shields Smedes Stern Ltd., Kevin Ryan, The Shubert Organization, Willette and Manny Klausner, Marco Santarelli, Be Forward Productions, Concord Theatricals, Creative Partners Productions, Invisible Wall Productions, Salman and Moudhy Al-Rashid, TodayTix Group, Ido Gal, HarrisDonnelly, Sally Cade Holmes, Stella LaRue, LAMF Protozoa, Kati Meister and John Sorkin, Meredith Lynsey Schade, Catherine Schreiber, Dennis Trunfio, MCM Studios, 42nd.club, BAMM Productions, CarterMackTaylorWilliam, HB2M Productions, HK-Undivided Productions, MAJIKK Theatricals, Tanker Kollev Productions, Douglas Denoff, OHenry Productions, Plate Spinner Productions, Runyonland Productions, Mad Gene Media, Scrap Paper Pictures, Joi Gresham, BAM, Gina Duncan, David Binder, Elizabeth Moreau

Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog

Producers: David Stone, LaChanze, Rashad V. Chambers, Marc Platt, Debra Martin Chase, The Shubert Organization

Best Revival of a Musical

Into the Woods

Producers: Jujamcyn Theaters, Jordan Roth, New York City Center, Daryl Roth, Hunter Arnold, Concord Theatricals, Nicole Eisenberg, Jessica R. Jenen, Michael Cassel Group, Kevin Ryan, ShowTown Productions, Armstrong, Gold & Ross, Nicole Kastrinos

Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot

Producers: Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Adam Siegel, Naomi Grabel

Parade

Producers: Seaview, Ambassador Theatre Group Productions, Alex Levy, Kevin Ryan, Eric & Marsi Gardiner, Interscope & Immersive Records, Erica Lynn Schwartz, Creative Partners Productions, Marcia Goldberg, John Gore Organization, Cynthia Stroum, Tom Tuft, Benjamin Simpson, Nathan Vernon, Brian & Nick Ginsberg, Ruth & Stephen Hendel, Roth-Manella Productions, Chutzpah Productions, 42nd.club, Ahava 72 Productions, The Andryc Brothers, The Array, At Rise Creative, Caiola Jenen Productions, Coles Achilles, deRoy Brunish Productions, Fakston Productions, Federman Batchelder, Level Forward, Pencil Factory Productions, Renard Lynch, Robin Merrie, Rubin Stuckelman, Runyonland Sussman, Kristin Caskey, Mike Isaacson, Bee Carrozzini, New York City Center

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Producers: Jeffrey Seller, Bob Boyett, Diana DiMenna & Plate Spinner Productions/Aaron Glick, Eastern Standard Time, Roy Furman, Thomas Kail, Jim Kierstead/Benjamin Leon IV, TourDForce Theatrical, Maggie Brohn, Andy Jones

Tony Nominations by Production

Some Like It Hot – 13

& Juliet – 9

New York, New York – 9

Shucked – 9

Kimberly Akimbo – 8

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – 8

Ain’t No Mo’ – 6

A Doll’s House – 6

Into the Woods – 6

Leopoldstadt – 6

Parade – 6

Cost of Living – 5

Fat Ham – 5

Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot – 5

Life of Pi – 5

Prima Facie – 4

A Christmas Carol – 3

Good Night, Oscar – 3

KPOP – 3

Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog – 3

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman – 2

August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson – 2

Between Riverside and Crazy – 2

The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window – 2

Almost Famous – 1

Ohio State Murders – 1

Summer, 1976 – 1

Review: ‘Blue’s Big City Adventure,’ starring Josh Dela Cruz and the voice of Traci Paige Johnson

March 11, 2023

by Carla Hay

Blue (voiced by Traci Paige Johnson) and Josh Dela Cruz in “Blue’s Big City Adventure” (Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Paramount+)

“Blue’s Big City Adventure”

Directed by Matt Stawski

Culture Representation: Taking place mainly in New York City, the live-action/animated/musical film “Blue’s Big City Adventure” features a racially diverse cast of characters (Asian, white, African American and Latino) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Josh and his dog best friend Blue travel to New York City so that Josh can audition for a Broadway musical, but they encounter obstacles along the way. 

Culture Audience: “Blue’s Big City Adventure” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the “Blue’s Clues & You!” TV series and musical family-oriented films.

Josh Dela Cruz and Blue (voiced by Traci Paige Johnson) in “Blue’s Big City Adventure” (Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Paramount+)

As long as viewers know in advance that children under the age of 10 are the target audience for “Blue’s Big City Adventure,” it’s much more enjoyable to watch. It’s sweet, sincere, and has some cute musical moments. The movie is based on Nickelodeon’s “Blue’s Clues & You!” series, which is a spinoff revival of Nickelodeon’s 1996 to 2006 TV series “Blue’s Clues.” Both shows are about the live-action/animated adventures of an inquisitive dog named Blue (shown in animated form) and his human best friend. It’s completely lightweight and harmless entertainment with positive messages of self-acceptance and empathy for others.

Directed by Matt Stawski and written by Angela Santomero, “Blue’s Big City Adventure” has a simple plot. Blue’s cheerful best friend Josh (played by Josh Dela Cruz) gets an audition in New York City for a Broadway musical starring Rainbow Puppy (voiced by Brianna Bryan), one of the recurring characters in the “Blue’s Clues” series. Josh finds out about this audition when he gets a letter from Rainbow Puppy, who comes to life in the envelope.

The next thing you know, Josh and Blue are in New York City, with four of their non-human friends along for the ride: a bar of soap named Slippery Soap (voiced by Jacob Soley); an alarm clock called Tickety Tock (voiced by Ava Augustin); a shaker of salt named Mr. Salt (voiced by Nick Balaban); and a shaker of pepper named Mrs. Pepper (voiced by Gisele Rosseau). They board a bus that floats magically into a Times Square billboard.

The sights and sounds of bustling Times Square are overwhelming and fascinating for these new visitors. Josh has directions to the audition in his “handy-dandy notebook.” And predictably, the notebook gets lost, and Josh doesn’t remember the address. There are some other obstacles on the way to the audition.

“Blue’s Big City Adventure” has several original songs performed as musical scenes in the movie. A standout is “On My Way,” which is the featured tune when Josh and his group first arrive in New York City. The pals’ big city adventure takes them to famous places in New York City, such as Central Park, Grand Central Station and, of course, the Broadway Theater District.

Several well-known entertainers have nameless cameos or supporting roles. Alex Winter plays a taxi driver who gives Josh and Blue a ride. BD Wong is the musical’s director. Phillipa Soo (of “Hamilton” fame) plays an auditioner. Tony-winning actress Ali Stoker plays a version of herself. The movie also features former “Blue’s Clues” stars Steve Burns (as Steve) and Donovan Patton (as Joe) together in a scene with Dela Cruz.

“Blue’s Big City Adventure” is as bubbly and sugary as a soft drink. The movie doesn’t try to be masterful entertainment. It’s entirely predictable, but it doesn’t feel like a complete waste of time to watch. The musical numbers are perky and uplifting. And all of the characters are inoffensively appealing. In other words, it’s adorable family-oriented entertainment for kids and people who are kids at heart.

Paramount+ premiered “Blue’s Big City Adventure” on November 18, 2023.

Review: ‘Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical,’ starring Alisha Weir, Lashana Lynch, Stephen Graham, Andrea Riseborough and Emma Thompson

January 8, 2023

by Carla Hay

Emma Thompson and Alisha Weir as Matilda in “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” (Photo by Dan Smith/Netflix)

“Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” 

Directed by Matthew Warchus

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in England, this movie version of the Olivier-winning musical “Matilda the Musical” (which is based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 “Matilda” children’s book) features a predominantly white group of characters (with some black people and Asians) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A highly intelligent, book-loving 5-year-old girl with neglectful parents is sent to a private school, where a caring English teacher becomes her mentor, and the school’s cruel headmistress becomes the girl’s enemy.

Culture Audience: In addition to appealing to the obvious target audience of fans of Dahl and previous “Matilda” adaptations, “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching a family-friendly musical with themes of good versus evil and taking a stand against bullying.

Lashana Lynch and Alisha Weir in in “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

“Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” takes the best aspects of the stage production and gives them a vibrant, cinematic version that delivers drama and comedy veering on the cartoonish. It’s a mixture of 1980s gaudiness and traditional British theater that mostly works well, but some viewers will be put off by some of the shrill aspects of this musical. Lashana Lynch’s performance is a delightful standout, for her portrayal of compassionate schoolteacher Miss Honey, one of the movie’s few characters with any real complexity and depth.

“Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” is directed by Matthew Warchus, who won an Olivier Award in 2012, for the West End musical production of “Matilda,” which is based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 book of the same name. Warchus also received a Tony nomination for directing the Broadway musical version of “Matilda.” The first movie version of “Matilda” is a 1996 American (non-musical) comedy, directed by Danny DeVito (who also co-starred in the movie) and starring Mara Wilson in the title role. The songs from the “Matilda” stage musical (with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin) are also in “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical.”

The world of “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” is set in the 1980s, and it’s filmed like a garish 1980s sitcom, when viewers are first introduced to the selfish low-lifes who will become Matilda’s parents. The movie’s opening scene takes place at a hospital maternity ward in an unnamed city in England. (The song “Miracle” is performed in this scene.)

Mr. Wormwood (played by Stephen Graham) is a ruffian who works as a used-car salesman and welder involved in shady business practices. Mrs. Wormwood (played by Andrea Riseborough) is an egomaniacal makeup artist whose only real passions are ballroom dancing and spending money on herself. Both spouses are not equipped to be good parents. But here they are in the maternity ward, as Mrs. Wormwood is giving birth to what these sleazy spouses hope will be a son.

When Matilda is born, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood’s negative attitude about being parents gets even worse because this child is a girl, not the boy they wanted. Throughout Matilda’s young life, her parents refer to her using male pronouns, as if they can’t accept Matilda’s gender. Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood are neglectful parents who give Matilda the basics (food and shelter) but not love or proper guidance.

At 5 years old, Matilda (played by Alisha Weir) has learned to be self-sufficient. Matilda also has a mischievous side to her, such as a scene where she puts super glue in her father’s hat, which gets stuck to his head. She has become a voracious reader with the type of intelligence that makes her child prodigy in any subject and could easily put her on the level of genius. Influenced by many of the novels she has read, Matilda has a vivid imagination and can make up elaborate stories.

Matilda escapes from her unhappy home life by regularly spending time with Mrs. Phelps (played by Shindhu Vee), a librarian who owns and operates a bookmobile. In this movie, Mrs. Phelps is unfortunately a very underdeveloped character. Viewers will find out very little about Mrs. Phelps. The main purpose for Mrs. Phelps is for her to become fascinated when Matilda tells her a story (in stops and starts) about an escapologist (played by Carl Spencer) and an acrobat (played by Lauren Alexandra), who work at a circus, fall in love with each other, and experience a tragedy. This story comes to life in various scenes in the movie.

One day, Miss Honey and a school official colleague, who both work at the prestigious Crunchem Hall school, visit the Wormwood household because there is concern for Matilda’s welfare. Matilda has been homeschooled up until this point. Miss Honey tactfully asks Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood if Matilda can go to a traditional school so that she can be around other children. Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood say yes, not because it will benefit Matilda, but because they will no longer have to be responsible for educating her, and she will be spending less time at home.

Matilda quickly makes a friend at the school named Lavender (played by Rei Yamauchi Fulker), one of the schoolkid characters in this movie that could have used better character development. Other students who are featured in prominent speaking roles (but very little is revealed about them) are cheeky Eric (played by Andrei Shen), nervous Nigel (played by Ashton Robertson) and eager-to-please Bruce Bogtrotter (played Charlie Hodson-Prior), who gets a big moment in a famously uncomfortable scene involving chocolate cake. Matilda becomes the target of a student bully named Hortensia (played by Meesha Garbett), who is a stereotypical “mean girl.”

But the biggest bully at the school is headmistress Agatha Trunchbull (played by Emma Thompson, wearing hag-like makeup), who is very abusive (physically and verbally), and despises children so much, she often calls them “maggots.” The sign in front of Agatha’s office even says, “Maggots May Not Enter.” Everyone at the school is afraid of Agatha, except for Matilda. As Bruce comments soon after Matilda arrives at Crunchem Hall: “This isn’t a school. It’s a prison.”

Matilda soon stands out for having more academic knowledge than the teachers. Miss Honey is so impressed with Matilda, she tells Agatha that Matilda should be given the curriculum of someone who’s at least 11 years old. A jealous Agatha nixes the idea because she says that Matilda doesn’t deserve special treatment. Matilda soon becomes the focus of Agatha’s rage when Matilda shows that she’s not easily intimidated by this nasty school leader. Agatha is also prejudiced against Matilda because Agatha thinks Matilda’s parents are “gangsters, not intellectuals.”

The rest of the movie plays out exactly like you think it will, even for people who don’t know anything the the “Matilda” story. Thompson’s depiction of Agatha is a very campy, non-stop performance of “fire and brimstone” malevolence. The hairstyling, makeup and costume design are top-notch in in creating this character, and Thompson is certainly very talented, but it’s an entirely one-note portrayal that would have been more interesting if the filmmakers made Agatha’s personality a little less predictable and more nuanced.

The real heart of the story (and the best part of the movie) is the beautiful friendship that develops between Matilda and Miss Honey. Even though Matilda is wise beyond her years, she is still a child who needs positive and helpful adult guidance. Matilda and Miss Honey are kindred spirits who share an avid appreciation of books and a strong sense of personal ethics that includes standing up for people who are being treated unfairly.

In the role of Matilda, Weir makes an impressive feature-film debut as the feisty and resilient Matilda, who manages to charm, even when she’s being a pouty brat. Some of the pacing of “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” tends to drag in the middle of the movie. However, the last third of the film is by far the best section and makes up for any of the movie’s flaws. Lynch gives an emotionally stunning version of “My Home,” while Weir’s standout musical solo moment is with “Quiet.” And the “Revolting Children” song-and-dance sequence is an absolute, show-stopping high point.

Unfortunately, other than Matilda and Miss Honey, the characters in this movie are rather two-dimensional. The filmmakers of “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” missed an opportunity to create meaningful backstories and more compelling personalities for some of these other characters. The villains in the movie are complete caricatures and therefore entirely formulaic.

The movie also could have taken more time to explore the interpersonal relationships that Matilda has with her fellow students, because what is shown in the movie all looks very rushed and superficial. However, this is a musical that succeeds in most areas and stays true to the overall spirit of the “Matilda” book. “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” is not a masterpiece, but it’s entertaining enough to appeal to many generations and cultures.

Netflix released “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” in select U.S. cinemas on December 9, 2022. The movie premiered on Netflix on December 25, 2022.

Review: ‘Spirited’ (2022), starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds

December 24, 2022

by Carla Hay

Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell in “Spirited” (Photo courtesy of Apple Studios)

“Spirited” (2022)

Directed by Sean Anders

Culture Representation: Taking place in Minnesota, New York City and briefly in Vancouver, the musical comedy film “Spirited” (a reimagining of “A Christmas Carol”) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Asians and Latinos) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: The Ghost of Christmas Present is determined to redeem a corrupt media strategist who is considered irredeemable. 

Culture Audience: “Spirited” will appeal primarily to fans of “A Christmas Carol,” musical comedies, and stars Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds.

Octavia Spencer in “Spirited” (Photo courtesy of Apple Studios)

“Spirited” revels in being a campy, musical reimagining of “A Christmas Carol,” the classic 1843 novella by Charles Dickens. The movie combines formulaic comedy with unexpected plot twists and catchy songs. The cast members also look like they’re having fun, which brings some enjoyment to watching. With a total running time of 127 minutes, “Spirited” has a sluggish middle section that somewhat drains the movie of its lively musical energy with too much dialogue. However, “Spirited” recovers in the last third of the movie, with a tone that is expected but plot developments that might surprise many viewers.

Directed by Sean Anders (who co-wrote the “Spirited” screenplay with John Morris), “Spirited” begins by showing the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come, also known as Yet-to-Come (played by Loren G. Woods and voiced by Tracy Morgan), who looks like a Grim Reaper. Yet-to-Come is haunting Ms. Karen Blansky (played by Rose Byrne) in a graveyard. She has apparently been a mean-spirited person, who is about to be punished by the ghost. Before the ghost plunges her underneath the ground, she begs for mercy and promises that she will not yell at the neighbors’ children any more.

Luckily for Karen, the ghost only wants to scare her into redeeming herself. Karen wakes up to find out that her life has been spared. And she decides to turn her life around and become a friendly person. She’s seen playing outdoor hockey with the neighborhood kids, using a round Christmas ornament instead of a hockey puck. Now that Karen has become a better person, time temporarily freezes, and several ghosts from the afterlife appear to sanction this redemption.

The Ghost of Christmas Present (played by Will Ferrell), also known as Present, says in a voiceover: “That’s what we do: We haunt someone, we change them into a better person, and we sing about it.” The ghosts then go back to their afterlife “headquarters” to celebrate this successful redemption. The other ghosts who work at the afterlife “headquarters” include the Ghost of Christmas Past (played by Sunita Mani), also known as Past, who is fun-loving and somewhat sarcastic, and ghost supervisor Marley (played by Patrick Page), who is a no-nonsense taskmaster.

Present has been dead since the 1800s and has spent the past 46 seasons redeeming people. A human-resources employee named Margot (played by Lily Sullivan) asks Present if he will ever retire and suggests that he should, but he’s not ready to retire. Present later reveals what he will get if he retires: a watch, a Sephora gift card, and a chance to go back to Earth and relive his life as a human.

One of the reasons why he doesn’t want to retire yet is that he has his sights set on redeeming what the ghosts call a “perp” (short for perpetrator): Someone who is their next target to haunt and possibly redeem. His name is Clint Briggs (played by Ryan Reynolds), the owner/president of Briggs Media Group, a consulting firm whose specialty is creating toxic controversy for publicity and profits.

Marley looks at the file on Clint and thinks that Clint is irredeemable and says it’s not worth trying to save Clint. Present vehemently disagrees and threatens to quit and retire if the group doesn’t try to redeem Clint. Marley reluctantly agrees because he doesn’t really want to lose this valuable ghost employee. Clint’s work has a worldwide influence, so Present believes that if Clint can be redeemed, the new and improved Clint can do good deeds that will have ripple effects around the world.

And so, this ghostly group travels to a hotel in Vancouver, where Clint is making a speaking appearance at a convention for the National Association of Christmas Tree Growers, who are worried about the rising popularity of artificial Christmas trees. Instead of telling these tree growers positive things that they want to hear, Clint gives a cynical lecture about how people prefer artificial Christmas trees because they are lazy and desperate. He also says that the Christmas tree growers need to sell not only the trees but also sell the idea that a real Christmas tree is about continuing Christmas traditions.

Clint has an executive vice president named Kimberly (played by Octavia Spencer), who is loyal to her boss but also morally conflicted about the dirty tricks that the company uses to get what Clint wants. The Briggs Media Group frequently ruins people’s reputations with smear campaigns. Kimberly will eventually reach a point where she will decide if she will continue with this type of work or not.

The ghosts have done a background check on Clint and found out that he grew up in Minnesota’s Minneapolis-St. Paul area, as the middle child of a single mother named Wendy (played by Jen Tullock), who is later revealed in a flashback to be an irresponsible alcoholic. Clint’s older sister Carrie (played by Andrea Anders), who was a single parent, died six years ago. It’s revealed in a flashback that Carrie decided to become a mother through a sperm donation.

Carrie’s daughter Wren (played by Marlow Barkley), who is now 13 or 14 years old, is being raised by Clint’s younger brother Owen (played by Joe Tippett), who is almost the opposite of Clint. Clint is clean-cut, wears business suits, and has an intense, competitive personality. Owen is long-haired, wears jeans and flannel shirts, and has a laid-back, mild-mannered personality.

A big part of the “Spirited” plot revolves around Wren wanting to be elected her president of her eighth-grade class. Her biggest rival in the campaign is a popular kid named Josh Hubbins (played by Maximillian Piazza), whose parents own a charitable, non-profit group that does an annual Christmas dinner event for homeless people. Wren asks Clint for help in her campaign.

And you can easily guess what happens next: Clint, with Kimberly’s help, finds “dirt” on Josh. Two years ago, Josh made a TikTok video where he insulted the Christmas dinner event for the homeless. Josh deleted the video two years ago, but Kimberly was able to find it. Kimberly has mixed feelings about using this video to ruin Josh’s reputation, but she gives this video to Wren anyway. Clint encourages Wren to make the video public when the time is right.

There are some other subplots in “Spirited” that get varying degrees of development. Clint is supposed to be haunted by Past, but her judgment is affected, because she thinks Clint is attractive and quickly develops a crush on him. Meanwhile, Present shows himself to Kimberly by accident, and they have a mutual attraction that Present doesn’t know how to handle because he’s afraid to tell Kimberly that he’s really a ghost.

In between, there are some very entertaining song-and-dance numbers, with the movie’s original songs written by Oscar-winning “La La Land” composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The movie’s choreography (led by Chloe Arnold) is a very good complement to the peppy and frequently amusing original songs. No one should expect Ferrell, Reynolds and Spencer to be fantastic music artists, by they handle their musical performances with a lot of charisma and skilled emotional expressions.

Some of the original songs in the film include “Bringin’ Back Christmas,” “Tiny Ripple,” “The View From Here,” “Good Afternoon,” “The Story of Your Life,” “Do a Little Good,” “That Christmas Morning Feelin’.” Not all of the songs are meant to be comical or jolly. Spencer’s solo singing of “The View From Here” expresses Kimberly’s regretful contemplation that Kimberly got what she wanted in her career ambitions, but she worries that she could have lost her conscience in the process.

A running joke in the movie begins during a time-traveling segment going back to the 1820s, when the saying “Good afternoon” is supposed to be an insulting comment. The time traveling and flashbacks in “Spirited” aren’t always handled very smoothly. And the movie occasionally gets overstuffed with subplots, which leads the movie to go off on a few tangents that run a little too long before things get back on track. (Look for a very quick and amusing cameo from Judi Dench.)

One of the main reasons to watch “Spirited” is that the cast members have engaging chemistry with each other. Ferrell and Reynolds have a talented ability to deliver goofy comedy with some heartfelt moments, while Spencer and the other supporting cast members are also a compatible match in this ensemble. Unless someone watching “Spirited” is in a very bad mood, it’s the type of movie that can guarantee some laughs and good-enough entertainment that puts a unique spin on a Christmas classic.

Apple Studios released “Spirited” in select U.S. cinemas on November 11, 2022. The movie premiered in Apple TV+ on November 18, 2022.

2022 Tony Awards: ‘Company,’ ‘The Lehman Trilogy,’ ‘A Strange Loop’ win big

June 12, 2022

by Carla Hay

The revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company,” the original play “The Lehman Trilogy” and the original musical “A Strange Loop” were among the top winners at the 75th annual Tony Awards, which were presented at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 12, 2022. Ariana DeBose hosted the show, which CBS telecast in the U.S., and Paramount+ livestreamed. The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing produce the annual Tony Awards, which honor Broadway shows and specially designated award recipients who work in the American performing arts theater industry.

“Company” garnered five Tony Awards: Best Revival of a Musical; Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (for Matt Doyle); Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (for Patti LuPone); Best Scenic Design of a Musical; and Best Direction of a Musical. “The Lehman Trilogy” also won five Tony Awards: Best Play; Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for a Play (for Simon Russell Beale); Best Scenic Design of a Play; Best Lighting Design of a Play; and Best Direction of a Play. “A Strange Loop” had the most nominations (11) going into the ceremony and ended up winning two Tony Awards: Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical.

Other multiple winners included the Michael Jackson jukebox musical “MJ,” which won four Tony Awards, including Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Role of a Musical, for Myles Frost who portrays Jackson in the show. “Six: The Musical,” “Take Me Out” and “Dana H.” won two Tony Awards each.

Eligible Broadway productions for the 2022 Tony Awards where those that opened between August 1, 2021 and May 4, 2022.

The 2022 Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre were presented to the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC); Broadway For All; music copyist Emily Grishman; Feinstein’s/54 Below; and United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, IATSE. Robert E. Wankel received the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award. Special Tony Awards were given to actress Angela Lansbury (for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre) and James C. Nicola, who has been the Artistic Director of New York Theatre Workshop since 1988.

As is the tradition at the Tony Awards, the show featured performances by cast members from the year’s Tony Award-nominated musicals: “A Strange Loop,” “Company,” “Girl from the North Country,” “MJ,” “Mr. Saturday Night,” “Music Man,” “Paradise Square” and “Six: The Musical.” Other performers at the show included Bernadette Peters (who did a tribute to Sondheim, who died in 2021), Billy Porter, the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and the original cast members of the 2007 Tony Award-winning musical “Spring Awakening.”

Presenters at the show included Utkarsh Ambudkar, Skylar Astin, Zach Braff, Danielle Brooks, Danny Burstein, Len Cariou, RuPaul Charles, Jessica Chastain, Lilli Cooper, Bryan Cranston, Wilson Cruz, Colman Domingo, Anthony Edwards, Cynthia Erivo, Raúl Esparza, Laurence Fishburne, Andrew Garfield, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Tony Goldwyn, David Alan Grier, Marcia Gay Harden, Vanessa Hudgens, Jennifer Hudson, Samuel L. Jackson, Nathan Lane, Telly Leung, Judith Light, Josh Lucas, Gaten Matarazzo, Ruthie Ann Miles, Patina Miller, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelli O’Hara, Sarah Paulson, Peters, Jeremy Pope, Porter, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Chita Rivera, Tony Shalhoub, Phillipa Soo, Sarah Silverman, George Takei, Aaron Tveit, Adrienne Warren, Patrick Wilson and Bowen Yang.

Darren Criss and Julianne Hough co-hosted the pre-show “The Tony Awards: Act One,” a one-hour special that was a Paramount+ exclusive livestream. Criss and Hough were also presenters at the main Tony Awards ceremony.

Here is the complete list of winners and nominees of the 2022 Tony Awards:

*=winner

Best Musical

Girl From The North Country

Producers: Tristan Baker & Charlie Parsons for Runaway Entertainment, Steven Lappin, Sony Music Entertainment/Sony ATV, David Mirvish, Len Blavatnik, The Dodgers, Eric & Marsi Gardiner, Dianne Roberts, John Gore Organization, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Tommy Mottola, Independent Presenters Network, Rod Kaats, Diana DiMenna, Mary Beth O’Connor, Barbara H. Freitag, Patrick Catullo, Aaron Lustbader, The Old Vic, Matthew Warchus, Kate Varah, Georgia Gatti, The Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, Patrick Willingham, Mandy Hackett

MJ

Producers: Lia Vollack, John Branca, John McClain, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Music Entertaiment, Roy Furman, Cue to Cue Productions, James L. Nederlander, Kumiko Yoshii, Naoya Kinoshita, Latitude Link, Candy Spelling, Stephen C. Byrd, John Gore Organization, Sandy Robertson, Ed Walson, Peter W. May, CJ ENM, Martin Bandier, Michael Cassel Group, Albert Nocciolino, Playful Productions, Ken Schur, Willette & Manny Klausner, Doug Morris, Michael David, Estate of Michael Jackson

Mr. Saturday Night

Producers: James L. Nederlander, Face Productions, Inc., Hunter Arnold, Michael Cohl, TEG Dainty, Candy Spelling, Steve Traxler, Marc David Levine, Caiola Productions, Crossroads Live, Jamie deRoy, Roy Furman, Arny Granat, Grove Entertainment, John Gore Organization, Wolf Gutterman, Van Kaplan, Larry Magid, Peter May, Carl Moellenberg, Beth W. Newburger, Albert Nocciolino, Eva Price, Iris Smith, The Shubert Organization, Howard Tenenbaum, Barry and Fran Weissler

Paradise Square

Producers: Garth H. Drabinsky, Peter LeDonne, Jeffrey A. Sine, Matthew C. Blank, Joe Crowley, RSR Finance LLC, Hunter & Mariana Milborne, Len Blavatnik, Joseph Coffey, Sherry Wright & Craig Haffner, Bernard Abrams, James Scrivanich, Rick Chad, Arthur M. Kraus, Broadway & Beyond Theatricals, Brian Luborsky, Gilbert & Elisa Palter, The Shubert Organization, Terry Schnuck, Urban One, Inc., Robert Wolf, Richard Stursberg, Mark W. Everson, Sanjay Govil, Jeremiah J. Harris, Amabel James, Sheila C. Johnson, Dennis Mehiel, Louise H. & John G. Beard, Henry R. Muñoz, III & Kyle Ferari Muñoz, Walter Swett, Zachary Florence, Berkeley Repertory Theatre

SIX: The Musical

Producers: Kenny Wax, Wendy & Andy Barnes, George Stiles, Kevin McCollum, Chicago Shakespeare Theater

A Strange Loop*

Producers: Barbara Whitman, Pasek, Paul & Stafford, Hunter Arnold, Marcia Goldberg, Alex Levy & James Achilles, Osh Ashruf, A Choir Full Productions, Don Cheadle & Bridgid Coulter Cheadle, Paul Oakley Stovall, Jimmy Wilson, Annapurna Theatre, Robyn Coles, Creative Partners Productions, Robyn Gottesdiener, Kayla Greenspan, Grove Entertainment, Kuhn, Lewis & Scott, Frank Marshall, Maximum Effort Productions Inc., Joey Monda, Richard Mumby, Phenomenal Media & Meena Harris, Marc Platt & Debra Martin Chase, Laurie Tisch, Yonge Street Theatricals, Dodge Hall Productions/JJ Malley, Cody Renard Richard, John Gore Organization, James L. Nederlander, The Shubert Organization, RuPaul Charles, Alan Cumming, Ilana Glazer, Jennifer Hudson, Mindy Kaling, Billy Porter, Page 73 Productions, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Playwrights Horizons

Best Play

Clyde’s

Author: Lynn Nottage
Producers: Second Stage Theater, Carole Rothman, Khady Kamara

Hangmen

Author: Martin McDonagh
Producers: Robert Fox, Jean Doumanian, Elizabeth I. McCann, Craig Balsam, Atlantic Theater Company, Jon B. Platt, Len Blavatnik, Richard Fishman, John Gore Organization, Stephanie P. McClelland, David Mirvish, The Shubert Organization, Jamie deRoy/Sandy Robertson, Patrick Myles/Alexander ‘Sandy’ Marshall, M. Kilburg Reedy/Excelsior Entertainment, Playful Productions, The Royal Court Theatre

The Lehman Trilogy*

Author: Stefano Massini, Ben Power
Producers: National Theatre, Neal Street Productions, Barry Diller, David Geffen, Kash Bennett, Lisa Burger, Caro Newling, Ambassador Theatre Group, Stephanie P. McClelland, Annapurna Theatre, Delman Whitney, Craig Balsam/Heni Koenigsberg/John Yonover, Fiery Angel/Seth A. Goldstein, Starry Night Entertainment, Gavin Kalin Productions, Paul & Selina Burdell/Bill Damaschke, 42nd.club/Phil & Claire Kenny, CatWenJam Productions, Amanda Dubois, Glass Half Full Productions, Dede Harris/Linda B. Rubin, Kallish Weinstein Creative, Kors Le Pere Theatricals LLC, James L. Nederlander, No Guarantees, Mark Pigott KBE, KStJ, Playing Field, Catherine Schreiber/Adam Zell, Tulchin Bartner Productions, Richard Winkler/Alan Shorr/Dawn Smalberg, The Shubert Organization, Independent Presenters Network, John Gore Organization, Sue Wagner, John Johnson, Jillian Robbins

The Minutes

Author: Tracy Letts
Producers: Jeffrey Richards, Rebecca Gold, Carl Moellenberg, Spencer Ross, Louise Gund, Elizabeth Armstrong, Blakeman Entertainment, HornosBerger, Across the River Productions, Stewart F. Lane/Bonnie Comley/Leah Lane, Jayne Baron Sherman, Kathleen K. Johnson, Emily Dobbs, Robert Flicker, Jacob Soroken Porter, The Shubert Organization, Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Skeleton Crew

Author: Dominique Morisseau
Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove

Best Revival of a Musical

Caroline, or Change

Producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Julia C. Levy, Sydney Beers, Steve Dow, Lot’s Wife, Hunter Arnold, Caiola Productions/Willette & Manny Klausner, Chambers -D’Angora/Joseph & Alyson Graci

Company*

Producers: Elliott & Harper Productions, The Shubert Organization, Catherine Schreiber, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Crossroads Live, Anapurna Theatre, Hunter Arnold, No Guarantees, Jon B. Platt, Michael Watt, John Gore Organization, Tim Levy, Grove – REG, Hornos – Mollenberg, Levine – Federman – Adler, Beard – Merrie – Robbins, LD Entertainment/Madison Wells Live, Benjamin Lowy/Roben Alive, Daryl Roth/Tom Tuft, Salmira Productions/Caiola Productions, Aged in Wood/Lee – Sachs, Berinstein – Lane/42nd.club, Boyett – Miller/Hodges – Kukieiski, Finn – DeVito/Independent Presenters Network, Armstrong – Ross/Gilad – Rogowsky, Boardman – Koenigsberg/Zell – Seriff, Concord Theatricals – Scott Sanders Productions/Abrams – May, deRoy – Brunish/Jenen – Rubin, Fakston Productions/Sabi – Lerner – Ketner, Maggio – Abrams/Hopkins – Tackel, Levy & Chauviere, Jujamcyn Theaters

The Music Man

Producers: Barry Diller, David Geffen, Kate Horton, Fictionhouse

Best Revival of a Play

American Buffalo

Producers: Jeffrey Richards, Steve Traxler, Stephanie P. McClelland, GFour Productions, Spencer Ross, Gemini Theatrical, Chris and Ashlee Clarke, Suna Said Maslin, Ted & Richard Liebowitz/Cue to Cue Productions, Patty Baker/Good Productions, Brad Blume, Caiola Productions, Joanna Carson, Arthur Kern, Willette Klausner, Jeremiah J. Harris and Darren P. Deverna, Van Kaplan, Patrick Myles/David Luff, Alexander Marshall, Ambassador Theatre Group, Kathleen K. Johnson, Diego Kolankowsky, Steve and Jacob Levy, Morwin Schmookler, Brian Moreland, Jacob Soroken Porter, The Shubert Organization

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf

Producers: Nelle Nugent, Ron Simons, Kenneth Teaton, Ellen Ferguson and Vivian Phillips, Willette and Manny Klausner, Hunter Arnold, Dale Franzen, Valencia Yearwood, One Community, Audible, Dennis Grimaldi, Terry Nardozzi and Tracey Knight Narang, Grace Nordhoff/Mickalene Thomas, Angelina Fiordellisi/Caiola Productions, The Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, Patrick Willingham, Mandy Hackett

How I Learned to Drive

Author: Paula Vogel
Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove, Daryl Roth, Cody Lassen, Vineyard Theatre

Take Me Out*

Producers: Second Stage Theater, Carole Rothman, Khady Kamara

Trouble in Mind

Producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Julia C. Levy, Sydney Beers, Steve Dow

Best Book of a Musical

Girl From The North Country

Conor McPherson

MJ

Lynn Nottage

Mr. Saturday Night

Billy Crystal, Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel

Paradise Square

Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas & Larry Kirwan

A Strange Loop*

Michael R. Jackson

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

Flying Over Sunset

Music: Tom Kitt
Lyrics: Michael Korie

Mr. Saturday Night

Music: Jason Robert Brown
Lyrics: Amanda Green

Paradise Square

Music: Jason Howland
Lyrics: Nathan Tysen & Masi Asare

SIX: The Musical*

Music and Lyrics: Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss

A Strange Loop

Music & Lyrics: Michael R. Jackson

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Simon Russell Beale, The Lehman Trilogy*
Adam Godley, The Lehman Trilogy
Adrian Lester, The Lehman Trilogy
David Morse, How I Learned to Drive
Sam Rockwell, American Buffalo
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Lackawanna Blues
David Threlfall, Hangmen

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Gabby Beans, The Skin of Our Teeth
LaChanze, Trouble in Mind
Ruth Negga, Macbeth
Deirdre O’Connell, Dana H.*
Mary-Louise Parker, How I Learned to Drive

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Billy Crystal, Mr. Saturday Night
Myles Frost, MJ*
Hugh Jackman, The Music Man
Rob McClure, Mrs. Doubtfire
Jaquel Spivey, A Strange Loop

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Sharon D Clarke, Caroline, or Change
Carmen Cusack, Flying Over Sunset
Sutton Foster, The Music Man
Joaquina Kalukango, Paradise Square*
Mare Winningham, Girl From The North Country

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

Alfie Allen, Hangmen
Chuck Cooper, Trouble in Mind
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Take Me Out*
Ron Cephas Jones, Clyde’s
Michael Oberholtzer, Take Me Out
Jesse Williams, Take Me Out

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Uzo Aduba, Clyde’s
Rachel Dratch, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Kenita R. Miller, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Phylicia Rashad, Skeleton Crew*
Julie White, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Kara Young, Clyde’s

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

Matt Doyle, Company*
Sidney DuPont, Paradise Square
Jared Grimes, Funny Girl
John-Andrew Morrison, A Strange Loop
A.J. Shively, Paradise Square

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Jeannette Bayardelle, Girl From The North Country
Shoshana Bean, Mr. Saturday Night
Jayne Houdyshell, The Music Man
L Morgan Lee, A Strange Loop
Patti LuPone, Company*
Jennifer Simard, Company

Best Scenic Design of a Play

Beowulf Boritt, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Michael Carnahan and Nicholas Hussong, Skeleton Crew
Es Devlin, The Lehman Trilogy*
Anna Fleischle, Hangmen
Scott Pask, American Buffalo
Adam Rigg, The Skin of Our Teeth

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Beowulf Boritt and 59 Productions, Flying Over Sunset
Bunny Christie, Company*
Arnulfo Maldonado, A Strange Loop
Derek McLane and Peter Nigrini, MJ
Allen Moyer, Paradise Square

Best Costume Design of a Play

Montana Levi Blanco, The Skin of Our Teeth*
Sarafina Bush, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Emilio Sosa, Trouble in Mind
Jane Greenwood, Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite
Jennifer Moeller, Clyde’s

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Fly Davis, Caroline, or Change
Toni-Leslie James, Paradise Square
William Ivey Long, Diana, The Musical
Santo Loquasto, The Music Man
Gabriella Slade, SIX: The Musical*
Paul Tazewell, MJ

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Joshua Carr, Hangmen
Jiyoun Chang, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Jon Clark, The Lehman Trilogy*
Jane Cox, Macbeth
Yi Zhao, The Skin of Our Teeth

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Neil Austin, Company
Tim Deiling, SIX: The Musical
Donald Holder, Paradise Square
Natasha Katz, MJ*
Bradley King, Flying Over Sunset
Jen Schriever, A Strange Loop

Best Sound Design of a Play

Justin Ellington, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Mikhail Fiksel, Dana H.*
Palmer Hefferan, The Skin of Our Teeth
Nick Powell and Dominic Bilkey, The Lehman Trilogy
Mikaal Sulaiman, Macbeth

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Simon Baker, Girl From The North Country
Paul Gatehouse, SIX: The Musical
Ian Dickinson for Autograph, Company
Drew Levy, A Strange Loop
Gareth Owen, MJ*

Best Direction of a Play

Lileana Blain-Cruz, The Skin of Our Teeth
Camille A. Brown, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Sam Mendes, The Lehman Trilogy*
Neil Pepe, American Buffalo
Les Waters, Dana H.

Best Direction of a Musical

Stephen Brackett, A Strange Loop
Marianne Elliott, Company*
Conor McPherson, Girl From The North Country
Lucy Moss & Jamie Armitage, SIX: The Musical
Christopher Wheeldon, MJ

Best Choreography

Camille A. Brown, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Warren Carlyle, The Music Man
Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, SIX: The Musical
Bill T. Jones, Paradise Square
Christopher Wheeldon, MJ*

Best Orchestrations

David Cullen, Company
Tom Curran, SIX: The Musical
Simon Hale, Girl From The North Country*
Jason Michael Webb and David Holcenberg, MJ
Charlie Rosen, A Strange Loop

2022 Tony Awards: ‘A Strange Loop’ is the top nominee

May 9, 2022

The following is a press release from the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing:

Nominations in 26 competitive categories for the American Theatre Wing’s 75th Annual Antoinette Perry “Tony” Awards® were announced today by Tony Award-winner Adrienne Warren and three-time Tony Nominee Joshua Henry. The nominees were selected by an independent committee of 29 theatre professionals appointed by the Tony Awards Administration Committee. The 2022 Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. (The list of nominations follows.)

Marking 75 years of excellence on Broadway, The Tony Awards, hosted by Ariana DeBose, will take place LIVE from the legendary Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Sunday, June 12, 2022 (8:00 – 11:00 PM, LIVE ET/5:00 – 8:00 PM, LIVE PT) on the CBS Television Network, and streaming live and on demand on Paramount+. The celebration will commence at 7:00-8:00 PM, ET/4:00-5:00 PM, PT with exclusive content streaming only on Paramount+.

Legitimate theatrical productions opening in any of the 41 eligible Broadway theatres during the current season may be considered for Tony nominations. The 2021/2022 eligibility season began August 1, 2021 and ended Wednesday, May 4, 2022. The Tony Awards will be voted in 26 competitive categories by 650 designated Tony voters within the theatre community.

As previously announced, the 2022 Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre will be presented to the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC); Broadway For All; music copyist, Emily Grishman; Feinstein’s/54 Below and United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, IATSE. The Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award will be presented to Robert E. Wankel.

A Special Tony Award will be awarded to James C. Nicola, the Artistic Director of New York Theatre Workshop since 1988. Under his guidance, NYTW has remained steadfast to its founding commitment of nurturing emerging, mid-career and established theatre artists and promoting collaboration and bold experimentation with theatrical forms. Mr. Nicola initiated an extensive series of workshop opportunities that have continued for 25 years, including summer residencies and fellowships for artists representing a broad spectrum of cultures and backgrounds. He forged a unique community of theatre artists, the Usual Suspects, which now boasts over 600 members and whose work has shaped our very idea of what theatre can be. As Artistic Director, Mr. Nicola has been instrumental in the development of many NYTW productions, including Jonathan Larson’s Rent; Tony Kushner’s Slavs! and Homebody/Kabul; Doug Wright’s Quills; Claudia Shear’s Blown Sideways Through Life and Dirty Blonde; Paul Rudnick’s The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told and Valhalla; Martha Clarke’s Vienna: Lusthaus; Will Power’s The Seven and Fetch Clay, Make Man; Caryl Churchill’s Mad ForestFar AwayA Number and Love and Information; Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen’s Aftermath; Rick Elice’s Peter and the Starcatcher; Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová and Enda Walsh’s Once; David Bowie and Enda Walsh’s Lazarus; Dael Orlandersmith’s The Gimmick and Forever; Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown; Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me; Jeremy O. Harris’s Slave Play; Sam Gold’s production of Othello; and eight productions directed by Ivo van Hove.

The 2021-2022 Tony Award Nominating Committee consists of: Warren Adams, Bob Alwine, Becky Ann Baker, Pun Bandhu, Milly Barranger, Christopher Burney, Kathleen Chalfant, Eisa Davis, Jerry Dixon, Peter Jay Fernandez, Kamilah Forbes, Scott Frankel, Maija Garcia, M L Geiger, Ann Harada, Michael Kantor, Martyna Majok, John Mauceri, Jonathan McCrory, Sheila Nevins, James C. Nicola, Peter Parnell, Rosalba Rolón, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Don Scardino, Kimberly Senior, Randy Skinner, Michael Stotts and Michael Benjamin Washington.

The Antoinette Perry “Tony” Awards are bestowed annually on theatre professionals for distinguished achievement. The Tony is one of the most coveted awards in the entertainment industry and the annual telecast is considered one of the most prestigious programs on television.

The 2022 American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. At The Broadway League, Lauren Reid is Chair and Charlotte St. Martin is President. At the American Theater Wing, Emilio Sosa is Chair and Heather A. Hitchens is President & CEO.

For the CBS broadcast, Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss/White Cherry Entertainment are Executive Producers. Weiss also serves as Director.

Tickets for the 2022 Tony Awards will go on sale on Monday, May 9th at 9:00 AM ET through TonyAwards.com/tickets.

Sponsors for the 2022 Tony Awards include: Carnegie Mellon University – the first-ever, exclusive higher education partner; Cadillac – official automotive partner of the Tony Awards; City National Bank – official bank of the Tony Awards; MAC Cosmetics – official makeup partner; Playbill; Sofitel New York – the official hotel of the Tony Awards; Rainbow Room – official partner of the Tony Nominee Luncheon; and United Airlines – the official airline of the Tony Awards for over 20 years.

# # #

Nominations for the 2022 American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards®

Presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing

Best Book of a Musical

Girl From The North Country

Conor McPherson

MJ

Lynn Nottage

Mr. Saturday Night

Billy Crystal, Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel

Paradise Square

Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas & Larry Kirwan

A Strange Loop

Michael R. Jackson

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

Flying Over Sunset

Music: Tom Kitt
Lyrics: Michael Korie

Mr. Saturday Night

Music: Jason Robert Brown
Lyrics: Amanda Green

Paradise Square

Music: Jason Howland
Lyrics: Nathan Tysen & Masi Asare

SIX: The Musical

Music and Lyrics: Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss

A Strange Loop

Music & Lyrics: Michael R. Jackson

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Simon Russell Beale, The Lehman Trilogy
Adam Godley, The Lehman Trilogy
Adrian Lester, The Lehman Trilogy
David Morse, How I Learned to Drive
Sam Rockwell, American Buffalo
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Lackawanna Blues
David Threlfall, Hangmen

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Gabby Beans, The Skin of Our Teeth
LaChanze, Trouble in Mind
Ruth Negga, Macbeth
Deirdre O’Connell, Dana H.
Mary-Louise Parker, How I Learned to Drive

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Billy Crystal, Mr. Saturday Night
Myles Frost, MJ
Hugh Jackman, The Music Man
Rob McClure, Mrs. Doubtfire
Jaquel Spivey, A Strange Loop

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Sharon D Clarke, Caroline, or Change
Carmen Cusack, Flying Over Sunset
Sutton Foster, The Music Man
Joaquina Kalukango, Paradise Square
Mare Winningham, Girl From The North Country

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

Alfie Allen, Hangmen
Chuck Cooper, Trouble in Mind
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Take Me Out
Ron Cephas Jones, Clyde’s
Michael Oberholtzer, Take Me Out
Jesse Williams, Take Me Out

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Uzo Aduba, Clyde’s
Rachel Dratch, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Kenita R. Miller, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Phylicia Rashad, Skeleton Crew
Julie White, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Kara Young, Clyde’s

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

Matt Doyle, Company
Sidney DuPont, Paradise Square
Jared Grimes, Funny Girl
John-Andrew Morrison, A Strange Loop
A.J. Shively, Paradise Square

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Jeannette Bayardelle, Girl From The North Country
Shoshana Bean, Mr. Saturday Night
Jayne Houdyshell, The Music Man
L Morgan Lee, A Strange Loop
Patti LuPone, Company
Jennifer Simard, Company

Best Scenic Design of a Play

Beowulf Boritt, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Michael Carnahan and Nicholas Hussong, Skeleton Crew
Es Devlin, The Lehman Trilogy
Anna Fleischle, Hangmen
Scott Pask, American Buffalo
Adam Rigg, The Skin of Our Teeth

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Beowulf Boritt and 59 Productions, Flying Over Sunset
Bunny Christie, Company
Arnulfo Maldonado, A Strange Loop
Derek McLane and Peter Nigrini, MJ
Allen Moyer, Paradise Square

Best Costume Design of a Play

Montana Levi Blanco, The Skin of Our Teeth
Sarafina Bush, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Emilio Sosa, Trouble in Mind
Jane Greenwood, Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite
Jennifer Moeller, Clyde’s

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Fly Davis, Caroline, or Change
Toni-Leslie James, Paradise Square
William Ivey Long, Diana, The Musical
Santo Loquasto, The Music Man
Gabriella Slade, SIX: The Musical
Paul Tazewell, MJ

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Joshua Carr, Hangmen
Jiyoun Chang, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Jon Clark, The Lehman Trilogy
Jane Cox, Macbeth
Yi Zhao, The Skin of Our Teeth

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Neil Austin, Company
Tim Deiling, SIX: The Musical
Donald Holder, Paradise Square
Natasha Katz, MJ
Bradley King, Flying Over Sunset
Jen Schriever, A Strange Loop

Best Sound Design of a Play

Justin Ellington, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Mikhail Fiksel, Dana H.
Palmer Hefferan, The Skin of Our Teeth
Nick Powell and Dominic Bilkey, The Lehman Trilogy
Mikaal Sulaiman, Macbeth

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Simon Baker, Girl From The North Country
Paul Gatehouse, SIX: The Musical
Ian Dickinson for Autograph, Company
Drew Levy, A Strange Loop
Gareth Owen, MJ

Best Direction of a Play

Lileana Blain-Cruz, The Skin of Our Teeth
Camille A. Brown, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Sam Mendes, The Lehman Trilogy
Neil Pepe, American Buffalo
Les Waters, Dana H.

Best Direction of a Musical

Stephen Brackett, A Strange Loop
Marianne Elliott, Company
Conor McPherson, Girl From The North Country
Lucy Moss & Jamie Armitage, SIX: The Musical
Christopher Wheeldon, MJ

Best Choreography

Camille A. Brown, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Warren Carlyle, The Music Man
Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, SIX: The Musical
Bill T. Jones, Paradise Square
Christopher Wheeldon, MJ

Best Orchestrations

David Cullen, Company
Tom Curran, SIX: The Musical
Simon Hale, Girl From The North Country
Jason Michael Webb and David Holcenberg, MJ
Charlie Rosen, A Strange Loop

Best Play

Clyde’s

Author: Lynn Nottage
Producers: Second Stage Theater, Carole Rothman, Khady Kamara

Hangmen

Author: Martin McDonagh
Producers: Robert Fox, Jean Doumanian, Elizabeth I. McCann, Craig Balsam, Atlantic Theater Company, Jon B. Platt, Len Blavatnik, Richard Fishman, John Gore Organization, Stephanie P. McClelland, David Mirvish, The Shubert Organization, Jamie deRoy/Sandy Robertson, Patrick Myles/Alexander ‘Sandy’ Marshall, M. Kilburg Reedy/Excelsior Entertainment, Playful Productions, The Royal Court Theatre

The Lehman Trilogy

Author: Stefano Massini, Ben Power
Producers: National Theatre, Neal Street Productions, Barry Diller, David Geffen, Kash Bennett, Lisa Burger, Caro Newling, Ambassador Theatre Group, Stephanie P. McClelland, Annapurna Theatre, Delman Whitney, Craig Balsam/Heni Koenigsberg/John Yonover, Fiery Angel/Seth A. Goldstein, Starry Night Entertainment, Gavin Kalin Productions, Paul & Selina Burdell/Bill Damaschke, 42nd.club/Phil & Claire Kenny, CatWenJam Productions, Amanda Dubois, Glass Half Full Productions, Dede Harris/Linda B. Rubin, Kallish Weinstein Creative, Kors Le Pere Theatricals LLC, James L. Nederlander, No Guarantees, Mark Pigott KBE, KStJ, Playing Field, Catherine Schreiber/Adam Zell, Tulchin Bartner Productions, Richard Winkler/Alan Shorr/Dawn Smalberg, The Shubert Organization, Independent Presenters Network, John Gore Organization, Sue Wagner, John Johnson, Jillian Robbins

The Minutes

Author: Tracy Letts
Producers: Jeffrey Richards, Rebecca Gold, Carl Moellenberg, Spencer Ross, Louise Gund, Elizabeth Armstrong, Blakeman Entertainment, HornosBerger, Across the River Productions, Stewart F. Lane/Bonnie Comley/Leah Lane, Jayne Baron Sherman, Kathleen K. Johnson, Emily Dobbs, Robert Flicker, Jacob Soroken Porter, The Shubert Organization, Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Skeleton Crew

Author: Dominique Morisseau
Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove

Best Musical

Girl From The North Country

Producers: Tristan Baker & Charlie Parsons for Runaway Entertainment, Steven Lappin, Sony Music Entertainment/Sony ATV, David Mirvish, Len Blavatnik, The Dodgers, Eric & Marsi Gardiner, Dianne Roberts, John Gore Organization, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Tommy Mottola, Independent Presenters Network, Rod Kaats, Diana DiMenna, Mary Beth O’Connor, Barbara H. Freitag, Patrick Catullo, Aaron Lustbader, The Old Vic, Matthew Warchus, Kate Varah, Georgia Gatti, The Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, Patrick Willingham, Mandy Hackett

MJ

Producers: Lia Vollack, John Branca, John McClain, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Music Entertaiment, Roy Furman, Cue to Cue Productions, James L. Nederlander, Kumiko Yoshii, Naoya Kinoshita, Latitude Link, Candy Spelling, Stephen C. Byrd, John Gore Organization, Sandy Robertson, Ed Walson, Peter W. May, CJ ENM, Martin Bandier, Michael Cassel Group, Albert Nocciolino, Playful Productions, Ken Schur, Willette & Manny Klausner, Doug Morris, Michael David, Estate of Michael Jackson

Mr. Saturday Night

Producers: James L. Nederlander, Face Productions, Inc., Hunter Arnold, Michael Cohl, TEG Dainty, Candy Spelling, Steve Traxler, Marc David Levine, Caiola Productions, Crossroads Live, Jamie deRoy, Roy Furman, Arny Granat, Grove Entertainment, John Gore Organization, Wolf Gutterman, Van Kaplan, Larry Magid, Peter May, Carl Moellenberg, Beth W. Newburger, Albert Nocciolino, Eva Price, Iris Smith, The Shubert Organization, Howard Tenenbaum, Barry and Fran Weissler

Paradise Square

Producers: Garth H. Drabinsky, Peter LeDonne, Jeffrey A. Sine, Matthew C. Blank, Joe Crowley, RSR Finance LLC, Hunter & Mariana Milborne, Len Blavatnik, Joseph Coffey, Sherry Wright & Craig Haffner, Bernard Abrams, James Scrivanich, Rick Chad, Arthur M. Kraus, Broadway & Beyond Theatricals, Brian Luborsky, Gilbert & Elisa Palter, The Shubert Organization, Terry Schnuck, Urban One, Inc., Robert Wolf, Richard Stursberg, Mark W. Everson, Sanjay Govil, Jeremiah J. Harris, Amabel James, Sheila C. Johnson, Dennis Mehiel, Louise H. & John G. Beard, Henry R. Muñoz, III & Kyle Ferari Muñoz, Walter Swett, Zachary Florence, Berkeley Repertory Theatre

SIX: The Musical

Producers: Kenny Wax, Wendy & Andy Barnes, George Stiles, Kevin McCollum, Chicago Shakespeare Theater

A Strange Loop

Producers: Barbara Whitman, Pasek, Paul & Stafford, Hunter Arnold, Marcia Goldberg, Alex Levy & James Achilles, Osh Ashruf, A Choir Full Productions, Don Cheadle & Bridgid Coulter Cheadle, Paul Oakley Stovall, Jimmy Wilson, Annapurna Theatre, Robyn Coles, Creative Partners Productions, Robyn Gottesdiener, Kayla Greenspan, Grove Entertainment, Kuhn, Lewis & Scott, Frank Marshall, Maximum Effort Productions Inc., Joey Monda, Richard Mumby, Phenomenal Media & Meena Harris, Marc Platt & Debra Martin Chase, Laurie Tisch, Yonge Street Theatricals, Dodge Hall Productions/JJ Malley, Cody Renard Richard, John Gore Organization, James L. Nederlander, The Shubert Organization, RuPaul Charles, Alan Cumming, Ilana Glazer, Jennifer Hudson, Mindy Kaling, Billy Porter, Page 73 Productions, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Playwrights Horizons

Best Revival of a Play

American Buffalo

Producers: Jeffrey Richards, Steve Traxler, Stephanie P. McClelland, GFour Productions, Spencer Ross, Gemini Theatrical, Chris and Ashlee Clarke, Suna Said Maslin, Ted & Richard Liebowitz/Cue to Cue Productions, Patty Baker/Good Productions, Brad Blume, Caiola Productions, Joanna Carson, Arthur Kern, Willette Klausner, Jeremiah J. Harris and Darren P. Deverna, Van Kaplan, Patrick Myles/David Luff, Alexander Marshall, Ambassador Theatre Group, Kathleen K. Johnson, Diego Kolankowsky, Steve and Jacob Levy, Morwin Schmookler, Brian Moreland, Jacob Soroken Porter, The Shubert Organization

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf

Producers: Nelle Nugent, Ron Simons, Kenneth Teaton, Ellen Ferguson and Vivian Phillips, Willette and Manny Klausner, Hunter Arnold, Dale Franzen, Valencia Yearwood, One Community, Audible, Dennis Grimaldi, Terry Nardozzi and Tracey Knight Narang, Grace Nordhoff/Mickalene Thomas, Angelina Fiordellisi/Caiola Productions, The Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, Patrick Willingham, Mandy Hackett

How I Learned to Drive

Author: Paula Vogel
Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove, Daryl Roth, Cody Lassen, Vineyard Theatre

Take Me Out

Producers: Second Stage Theater, Carole Rothman, Khady Kamara

Trouble in Mind

Producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Julia C. Levy, Sydney Beers, Steve Dow

Best Revival of a Musical

Caroline, or Change

Producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Julia C. Levy, Sydney Beers, Steve Dow, Lot’s Wife, Hunter Arnold, Caiola Productions/Willette & Manny Klausner, Chambers -D’Angora/Joseph & Alyson Graci

Company

Producers: Elliott & Harper Productions, The Shubert Organization, Catherine Schreiber, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Crossroads Live, Anapurna Theatre, Hunter Arnold, No Guarantees, Jon B. Platt, Michael Watt, John Gore Organization, Tim Levy, Grove – REG, Hornos – Mollenberg, Levine – Federman – Adler, Beard – Merrie – Robbins, LD Entertainment/Madison Wells Live, Benjamin Lowy/Roben Alive, Daryl Roth/Tom Tuft, Salmira Productions/Caiola Productions, Aged in Wood/Lee – Sachs, Berinstein – Lane/42nd.club, Boyett – Miller/Hodges – Kukieiski, Finn – DeVito/Independent Presenters Network, Armstrong – Ross/Gilad – Rogowsky, Boardman – Koenigsberg/Zell – Seriff, Concord Theatricals – Scott Sanders Productions/Abrams – May, deRoy – Brunish/Jenen – Rubin, Fakston Productions/Sabi – Lerner – Ketner, Maggio – Abrams/Hopkins – Tackel, Levy & Chauviere, Jujamcyn Theaters

The Music Man

Producers: Barry Diller, David Geffen, Kate Horton, Fictionhouse

Tony Nominations by Production

A Strange Loop – 11

MJ – 10

Paradise Square – 10

Company – 9

The Lehman Trilogy – 8

SIX: The Musical – 8

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf – 7

Girl From The North Country – 7

The Music Man – 6

The Skin of Our Teeth – 6

Clyde’s – 5

Hangmen – 5

Mr. Saturday Night – 5

American Buffalo – 4

Flying Over Sunset – 4

Take Me Out – 4

Trouble in Mind – 4

Caroline, or Change – 3

Dana H. – 3

How I Learned to Drive – 3

Macbeth – 3

POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive – 3

Skeleton Crew – 3

Diana, The Musical – 1

Funny Girl – 1

Lackawanna Blues – 1

The Minutes – 1

Mrs. Doubtfire – 1

Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite – 1

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