The “Neu-mann” In Town Just Might Win The Tony

by Michael Mahany | 5/30/2019 12:20 AM

David Neumann. Photo credit: Maria Baranova.

As we head into the heart of Tony Award season here in the Big Apple, it’s time we start taking a strong look at one of the very serious  but lesser known  choreographic contenders who might just be lucky enough to walk away with the hardware on Broadway’s biggest night.

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The Tony Awards ceremony, scheduled to take place June 9th at Radio City Music Hall, is less than two weeks away, and the buzz around town seems to circle around ‘Hadestown’ choreographer, David Neumann.

Neumann, whose name might be new to many Broadway fans, is, in fact, a very well established and successful choreographer. The Parisian born and New Jersey raised dance-maker has been creating for decades and has built a respected reputation in the experimental, modern, and contemporary theatrical scenes not just in New York City, but around the US and Europe, too.

Neumann, who founded his own company called ‘Advanced Beginner Group’ in 2001, has had work seen at illustrious city institutions like Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Public Theatre, New York Shakespeare Festival, The New Group, City Center, The Signature Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, The Joyce, and more. He’s created with dancers like Mikhail Baryshnikov and Wendy Whelan and he’s been nominated for and won awards like the ‘Bessie’, Helen Hayes, Obie, and most recently, a 2019 Chita Rivera Award for Outstanding Choreography.

For Neumann though, the 2019 Tony nomination for his Broadway choreographic debut changed the game.

Tony-nominated actress, Amber Gray in ‘Hadestown’. Photo credit: Matthew Murphy.

Up against heavy hitters like Warren Carlyle, Camille A. Brown, Denis Jones, and Sergio Trujillo — Neumann is definitely the “new man” to this theatrical bunch, but his resume and esteemed body of work speak for themselves. It also helps that his show — along with the Trujillo choreographed, ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ — tied for the most nominations of the season, with 14.

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“It’s thrilling,” Neumann told Dance Network of his seeing his work on Broadway. “I really love the show, I really love the music, and I adore this cast. And, it’s very clear, without their commitment and beautiful artistry the work wouldn’t shine as well as it did, and audiences wouldn’t connect as much as they do.”

Still though, being the new guy amongst a very established group of high profile Broadway choreographers is a bit daunting.

“It’s crazy!” Neumann beamed. “It’s an honor to be nominated with these esteemed colleagues. They’ve all done Broadway shows and won Tonys — and I’m just amazed and shocked and really, really happy.”

With the recent Chita Rivera Award triumph, Neumann is a strong favorite among the theatre dance community to win going into the Tonys this June — though with both Camille A. Brown’s nomination for her work creating the choreography for the play ‘Choir Boy’ and the success of the Denis Jones choreographed crowd favorite ‘Tootsie’, some industry insiders are torn on where Tony voters will lean.

Brown, who many thought should have been nominated last year for her work choreographing the revival of ‘Once On This Island’, was honored with a well-deserved nomination this year. And ‘Tootsie’, which has had a strong buzz since it opened in April, has got Jones’ stock hot this season, too.

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While Neumann certainly has his work cut out for him going into the Tony ceremony — (his colleague Warren Carylye just won the 2019 Outer Critics Circle Award for Choreography) — many see the artistry at ‘Hadestown’ as the kind of choreography that wins Tony voters over. And, with the Drama Desk Awards — the penultimate theatre awards celebration often viewed as one of the biggest predictors of the Tony Awards outcome — being presented this Sunday, June 2, we'll see if the Neumann momentum keeps up. 

But, who’s actually gonna win? Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

The Tony Awards will air live on CBS on June 9th, 2019, from Radio City Music Hall in New York City. This year’s ceremony will be hosted by James Corden.

Watch David Neumann’s interview and more from the 2019 Chita Rivera Awards here.

Michael Mahany serves as Dance Network’s New York City correspondent. He is also a professional actor, singer, dancer, writer, and host. Follow him on TwitterInstagram, or Facebook.

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