Essential Arts: Tony nominations and tense situations

Hi, I'm Kelly Scott, arts and culture editor of the Los Angeles Times, and this week we covered some intriguing stories in theater, visual art, music, architecture and and performance.

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It's Tony time

"Fun Home" received 12 Tony Award nominations. (Joan Marcus / O&M Co.)

This time of year, we take stock of the Broadway season that ended with the opening of Kander and Ebb's musical "The Visit" on April 23. For starters, it was a financially successful season. And Tuesday’s Tony nominations were largely applauded for the range of shows they acknowledged. The shows that reaped the most nominations could not be more different: “American in Paris” and “Fun Home.” Steve Zeitchik reported on Tuesday’s announcements. Times theater critic Charles McNulty sorted out the Tony nominations, discerned some patterns and noted some disappointing snubs. Calendar's arts staff will provide coverage of the awards -- the list of nominations is here --from now until the ceremony June 7, hosted by Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming and broadcast on CBS.

Whitney museum, know thyself

Art critic Christopher Knight visited the new Whitney Museum of American Art in New York's meatpacking district, which opened to the public Friday, late last month. Interesting how a new building can cast light on a collection’s assets and liabilities. After Knight returned home, he heard from friends that a review he wrote of the 1993 Whitney Biennial was quoted in the museum’s “wall text” – but the museum didn't quite convey the point Knight was making. Stay tuned: Knight has asked the museum to remove the reference from the wall. The Whitney hasn’t said what it will do.

Family feud at the Music Center

The Times had a number of stories last year when the Music Center of Los Angeles County celebrated the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In one, music critic Mark Swed expressed displeasure with the Dec. 4 performance gala the Music Center threw for itself. (I believe his words were "the single cheesiest thing I have seen on a Music Center stage.") But Swed wasn’t the only one who found it wanting, we learned. Board member Carla Sands is leading an inquiry into the Music Center management's handling of the gala, and asking questions that get to the heart of what the Music Center is, what it is not and what it might be in the future. Mike Boehm and David Ng reported the A1 story.

Musicians are suspended above the stage during the Music Center's 50th Anniversary Spectacular at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Take me out to the ball game. Or not.

The unrest on the streets of Baltimore this week included the puzzling decision by Major League Baseball to hold a scheduled game between the Chicago White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles in the city’s celebrated Camden Yards ballpark -- but not to allow people in to watch it  from the stands. The park is near the area that saw much of the violence. Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne looked at Camden Yards in the context of the back-to-the-city movement for new baseball facilities over past decades.

Early opera for today's audience

You can’t be everywhere, but I sure wish I’d been at Segerstrom Concert Hall last weekend for the Monteverdi concerts by John Eliot Gardiner’s English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir. "The celebrated English conductor made sure the forceful performances spoke to a 21st century audience," music critic Mark Swed wrote of Gardiner's ""L'Orfeo" and "Vespers."

But happiness is just an illusion

"Motown the Musical" was only a modest hit on Broadway, but it spawned a national tour that arrived at the Pantages Theatre this week. Plenty of people are probably willing to suspend their expectations of the dramaturgy and just spend a few hours with the timeless, incomparable music created by Berry Gordy Jr.'s label. But as Randy Lewis writes in his review, the music doesn’t mask lame dialogue, a myopic version of the company's history and a sense that Motown-the-memory deserves better.

In short:

"Immediate Family" director Phylicia Rashad. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Her brilliant (directing) career: Phylicia Rashad leads "Immediate Family" at the Mark Taper Forum (see Charles McNulty's review later this week)...notable casting for the Hollywood Bowl's summer musical: Founding Python Eric Idle will appear in "Spamalot" ... the writer of "Ferguson," the play fashioned from grand jury testimony that had a staged reading at the Odyssey, has ambitious plans for it ... more galleries, more art coming to the Huntington.

Looking ahead:

Mark Swed will spend much of Saturday and a little bit of Sunday with John Zorn in a marathon concert at both LACMA and UCLA -- watch for his review. "Glee's" Darren Criss takes over the lead role in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" on Broadway...Gustavo Dudamel returns to the L.A. Phil on Thursday with a program of Brahms and Bach.

What we're reading:

This profile from the Financial Times of Caryl Churchill, in my opinion the greatest living English language playwright: -- Charles McNulty

Why Anthony Trollope is trending, by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker. -- Bret Israel

In light of the indictments Friday of six Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddy Gray, this essay by Conor Friendersdorf from the Atlantic. -- Christopher Knight.

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