Which Tony-nominated shows would you like to see in Austin?

By Samantha Reichstein, special to the American-Statesman

While some may think award show season has come and gone, on Tuesday morning Jane Krakowski and Christopher Jackson announced the nominations for every theater lover’s favorite event: the 2017 Tony Awards, airing live on June 11 on CBS with host Kevin Spacey.

Of course, the Broadway hit “Hamilton” is coming to Bass Concert Hall in the 2018-2019 season, but what other productions would Austinites love to see? Here are five Tony-nominated shows that we think would have Austin audiences giving a standing ovation.

A scene from, “Groundhog Day the Musical.” Contributed

“Dear Evan Hansen”

Sharing the same lyricists as the 2016 box-office hit “La La Land,” “Dear Evan Hansen” takes the Tonys by storm with nine nominations, including best musical. Starring Ben Platt, the actor known for his role in “Pitch Perfect,” the show’s plot focuses on an internet-infused story that spins out of control, complete with an emotional soundtrack full of belting ballads. This musical that puts social media (and its consequences) at the forefront would be a must-see for a startup city like Austin.

“Groundhog Day the Musical”

Movies turned musicals don’t always succeed, but “Groundhog Day the Musical,” which earned seven nominations on Tuesday, stands in a rare category along with Broadway favorites “Hairspray,” “Catch Me If You Can” and “Kinky Boots.” Nominated for eight Laurence Oliver Awards, the show won best actor in a musical (Andy Karl) and best new musical at that ceremony last month. Looking for a show you can enjoy again and again (…and again?) — the search is over.

“Come From Away”

In today’s political climate, with immigration and refugee issues being divisive subjects, Canadian-born production “Come From Away” presents the aftermath of 9/11 in both an honorable and sentimental way. The play takes place in Gander, Newfoundland, the week after Sept. 11, 2001, and the characters portrayed on stage are based on real-life locals and tourists stranded in the small town after 38 planes were forced to land unexpectedly. Written by a husband and wife duo, Broadway’s emotional, uplifting and refreshing take on this horrific moment in history picked up seven nominations, including best musical.

RELATED: How you can get tickets to see “Hamilton” in Austin

“Hello, Dolly!”

Stage veteran Bette Midler stars in Broadway’s revival of the classic “Hello Dolly!,” which earned 10 nominations, including best revival of a musical. Aside from its leading lady, the show has many other elements audiences (and Tony voters) admire, including the ensemble, scenic design, orchestration and direction. Based on recent reviews, “Hello, Dolly!” is a shoe-in for a phenomenal national tour.

“Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”

Sweeping the scene this year is “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” which leads the Tonys with 12 nominations, including best actor (Josh Groban,) best actress (Denee Benton), best original score and best musical. The show first gained traction when pre-“Hamilton” actress Phillipa Soo (now starring in “Amelie”) starred in its off-Broadway production in 2012. Set in Moscow in 1812, the musical is based off a small section of Leo Tolstoy’s famous novel “War and Peace.” With the most nominations of any show this season, it just bumped itself to the top of everyone’s “must-see” list.

 

RELATED: Select list of nominees for the 2017 Tony Awards

 

Theater review: “A Wolverine Walks Into a Bar” offers character sketches of aging misfits

Jaston Williams in "A Wolverine Walks Into A Bar."
Jaston Williams in “A Wolverine Walks Into A Bar.”

By Wes Eichenwald

Special to the American-Statesman

How you’ll likely feel about “A Wolverine Walks Into a Bar,” the latest show from playwright/actor Jaston Williams, co-creator of the “Tuna” plays, depends on how much affinity you have for his unique mix of cowboy poetry, throwaway one-liners, social satire and plenty of local flavor (especially with regard to West Texas, Oklahoma and San Antonio). The play, which runs 90 minutes with no intermission, is a series of six character sketches set in an unnamed bar. Though the set doesn’t change, it’s unclear whether it’s supposed to be the same bar from one sketch to the other. Three of the on-stage tables are occupied by audience members, who paid a handsome premium to be an arm’s length from the action.

Aside from the bar, the vignettes’ connecting thread is what happens to misfits and square pegs as they age into the country of the elderly. Williams switches off with Lauren Lane, a veteran Texas-bred actress (known for a featured role on “The Nanny,” among other things) and long-time Austinite. Trademark Williams zingers fly frequently, such as “We’re polite here in Texas, but it doesn’t come natural.” Although three directors are credited in the show, one sketch flows seamlessly into the next.

From the first vignette, with Lane as an aged, bent hippie reflecting on her life as she cadges a glass of water from the invisible bartender, to Williams’ drag turn as a red-hatted diva spinning tales of gadding about in Venice, to Lane’s paranoid flight attendant turned wedding planner, the monologues meander until they hit – not always a bullseye, but a decent enough percentage.

When Williams manifests in fringed buckskin jacket as an alcoholic Anglo drawn to Mexican culture and cursing in Spanish (he’s married to a Latina who turns her back on her heritage and insists on being called Mary instead of Maria), railing against Ayn Rand, the show finally fires on all cylinders as he taps into sentiments he may not have anticipated as being quite so relevant as now. Ditto for the final playlet, in which Williams and Lane finally interact onstage as an aging gay man who meets up with a lesbian he knew decades ago. They reminisce about the good old bad old days of repression and illegality. Again, more topical than he might have expected, and hugely entertaining. 

The duo’s talents and styles mesh well. Some of the sketches could use some tightening and focus – less attention on the throwaway one-liners, more on character study and social commentary, since the motley bunch of outsiders in “Wolverine” provide fertile ground for both – but as it stands, Williams, Lane and company have come up with a diverting evening that should delight and engage old fans and curious newcomers alike.

“A Wolverine Walks Into A Bar” continues Fridays through Sundays through Nov. 20 at Stateside at the Paramount, 719 Congress Ave.; shows Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.; 512-472-5470; austintheatre.org