Justin Bieber, Bill Clinton To Receive World Leadership Awards. Along with the four Teen Choice Awards Justin Bieber managed to pick up recently, the 16-year-old singer is also receiving honors for youth leadership. Usher’s own New Look Foundation is holding its first World Leadership Awards, which will honor individuals and organizations who have shown leadership in youth services. Bieber is among the recipients of the Global Youth Leadership Award. President Bill Clinton will receive the Service Legacy Award at the event, which is set to be held in Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. Usher, Ciara, and Bieber are all set to perform. “Over the course of my life in public service, and now through my Foundation, I have tried to give young people the tools and opportunities to make a difference in their communities and around the world,” said Bill Clinton. “Usher’s New Look Foundation has excelled in its efforts to inspire the next generation of leaders, and I am pleased the World Leadership Awards will shine a light on those who have given so much to others.” “I am honored to share the stage with the individuals and organizations we are acknowledging for their recognition of youth as leaders,” said Usher, who founded the New Look Foundation and will host the awards. “They share New Look’s understanding that youth are not merely leaders in waiting; they are ready to achieve greatness today.” The World Leadership Awards will take place on Friday, August 6th, at 8pm.
When the stardust settles at the Tonys tonight, the annual pageant of Broadway’s best may be renamed the Billys. We’ll be hearing that boy’s name a lot. The evening’s biggest award — Best Musical — will go to “Billy Elliot,” a blockbuster hit about a miner’s son who escapes a hard-luck life through ballet. More than just feel-good, it’s superbly realized and celebrates the fact that real talent shines even in the bleakest of surroundings. That’s pure Tony bait — and it deserves to win. “Billy” will also dance away with awards for direction (Stephen Daldry), book (Lee Hall) and choreography (Peter Darling) and collect precious metal for its set, lighting and sound design. One of the hard-to-call categories is Best Original Score. “Next to Normal,” a challenging musical about a family’s struggle with mental illness, will triumph. Elton John’s songs for “Billy Elliot” are good, and a few anthems even better than that. But Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s “Next to Normal” score is the best of the season, one that explores many emotions and expresses them beautifully through song. Voters will recognize that. David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish, the teens who sing, dance and act their way through the role of Billy Elliot, are (toe)shoo-ins. Likewise, Alice Ripley, who gives a career-defining star turn as the troubled mom of “Next to Normal,” had better be polishing her acceptance speech for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. Some forecasters see Gregory Jbara, the hard-edged but devoted dad in “Billy Elliot,” winning for Featured Actor in a Musical. He’s terrific, but Christopher Sieber’s hilariously showy antics as the tiny tyrant in “Shrek the Musical” make a bigger impression. That will give Sieber, who performs the whole show on his knees, the leg up. “Shrek” will also chalk up a victory for its colorful, storybook-style costumes. Best Featured Actress in a Musical is a showdown between Karen Olivo in “West Side Story” and Haydn Gwynne in “Billy Elliot.” Olivo is a force to reckon with as Anita and leads a dizzying version of “America.” Gwynne captivates as Billy’s tough-but-tender teacher who is thrust into a drama that’s bigger than her own ambition. In the photo finish, it’ll be Gwynne. For the coveted Best Play prize, “God of Carnage” will feel the love from Tony voters. Yasmina Reza (who’s won before, for “Art”) has written a vinegary, very funny social satire that’s a bona-fide hit. All four “Carnage” leads — Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis, Jeff Daniels and James Gandolfini — are vying for Tonys. Oscar winner Harden will expand her trophy case for her finely calibrated, deliciously demonstrative take on a Brooklyn wife and mother whose nice veneer hides something far nastier. If “33 Variations” had been a better play, Jane Fonda, who played a dying music scholar, would be stiffer competition. Geoffrey Rush will leave Radio City Music Hall as Best Leading Actor in a Play for “Exit the King.” Going from clownish to poignant with nary a misstep, the “Shine” Academy Award winner breathed life beautifully into Ionesco’s dying monarch.
Angela Lansbury and Roger Robinson, nominated for Featured Actress and Actor in a Play, both play visionaries — quirky English psychic in “Blithe Spirit” for her; eccentric Pittsburgh mystic in “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” for him. I see them both going home with Tonys. It’ll be his first and her fifth. Broadway revivals seek to make everything old new and exciting again. The hippie-happy “Hair” will be crowned Best Revival of a Musical. The comic trilogy “The Norman Conquests” will live up to its title and win for Best Revival of a Play. Matthew Warchus will go home with a Tony for his direction of “Norman.” “Liza’s at the Palace,” starring a Certain Legend with a Z, will win for Best Special Theatrical Event. It was fun having Will Ferrell on Broadway and I hope he comes back again with something fresher than a George Bush routine. But anyone who saw Liza Minnelli earn one standing ovation after another got a lesson on why it’s called a “special event.”
There’s a moment in one particularly silly episode of the original “Star Trek” that is, despite its camp, quite stirring. Captain James T. Kirk, on a distant planet that somehow developed into a twisted parallel America, rises to recite the preamble of the U.S. Constitution in a way that only William Shatner could. It is pure schmaltz, patriotic manipulation puffed up by the swelling chords of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But it cuts straight to the heart of Captain Kirk, one of popular fiction’s most enduring characters of the past half-century. You can put him in a multiculti setting, dispatch him to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, entangle him with aliens and have him deliver speeches about the virtues of a United Federation of Planets. But there’s no getting around it: Jim Kirk is unabashedly, enthusiastically American. “I’m from Iowa,” he once said. “I only work in outer space.” Since his birth 43 years ago on mid-1960s network TV, the commander of the USS Enterprise has been a distillation of American ideals — one who finds himself suddenly reinvigorated for the 21st century now that the Kirk torch has been passed to a new generation. “We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier — the frontier of the 1960s, a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats,” John F. Kennedy said in 1960. “Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus.” That stalwart but softer version of Manifest Destiny — a sense that American exceptionalism could be exported to the stars, despite the Cold War — was, in effect, the manifesto that created Captain Kirk and the “Star Trek” universe around him. Kirk was supposed to be the leader of what “Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry dubbed a “Wagon Train to the Stars” — a convoy of travelers who bond while facing threats and exploring uncharted terrain. But from that framework, one of the most enduring characters of modern American fiction emerged. Much is made of the duality of Mr. Spock, Kirk’s half-Vulcan, half-human first officer who struggles to figure out where he fits in. Pundits have even compared Barack Obama to Spock, saying the combination of coolheadedness and humanity fits the times. Kirk, though, embodies a different, distinctly American duality: the tension between exuberance and impetuousness on one hand and seriousness and intellect on the other. All at once, Kirk manages to be both Democrat and Republican, hawk and dove, humble and arrogant, futurist and traditionalist — and, in the most American duality of all, childlike and completely adult. He’s JFK — a deep thinker and voracious seeker of knowledge who disdains intellectualism when it is untethered from common sense. He’s Andrew Jackson — populist and anti-elitist, as at home in jeans and an untucked shirt as he is in his full dress uniform. He’s Vince Lombardi, rejecting the no-win scenario and pushing on to victory. He’s Humphrey Bogart, the darkly driven loner intimate with fisticuffs. He’s Edison, always thinking outside the box. He’s Elvis — robust wooer of women, intergalactic California blondes in particular. And, as we learn in an episode that re-enacts the shootout at the O.K. Corral, he’s Gary Cooper — not only a gangster of love but a space cowboy descended from frontiersmen. “He’s the George Bush that George Bush pretended to be — the compassionate conservative, the `uniter not the divider,’” says Richard Slotkin, author of “Gunfighter Nation” and a historian of the frontier. “His style of action is George Bush’s style of action — `I go with my gut and I have an indomitable will to win,’” Slotkin says. “It’s essentially a right-wing style, but it’s controlled in Kirk’s case” — by an ingrained sense of progressivism, among other traits. But while Shatner’s Kirk was a reflection of mid-20th-century America as defined by Kennedy — eyes optimistically toward the future but girded for any fast-approaching upheaval — Chris Pine’s take on the character is just as distinctly a product of the 21st century. The Kirk of J.J. Abrams’ retooled “Trek” was raised by a widowed mother and questionable stepfather after losing his father in battle. Pine’s Kirk is Shatner’s on Red Bull and vodka — rebellious and sarcastic, vaguely felonious, tragically hip, soaked in irony and maybe a bit ADD. He leaps, then — maybe — looks. And yet the new Kirk, however brat-packy, remains the vessel of American exceptionalism — the regular kid from the Midwest who manages to be, in the eyes of his mentor, Capt. Christopher Pike, “meant for something better, something special.”The Kirk character is “the embodiment of the everyday guy becoming a hero,” says James Cawley, who plays the captain in an elaborate fan-made production that picks up where 1960s “Trek” left off. “He’s definitely a leader, someone we look up to, but if you could get inside his head, he wouldn’t see himself that way.” With a few key exceptions (Atticus Finch, Vito Corleone, some comic-book superheroes), Americans have spent much of the past 50 years bringing our fictional protagonists down to eye level. Where once we had Captain Ahab and Paul Bunyan and John Henry, now we have Rabbit Angstrom and Jack Bauer and Tony Soprano, characters consumed by their faults or quirks or doubts. That makes for great tragedy and great realism but, perhaps, not great myth. And “Star Trek,” as a history of the future we desire, is unrepentantly mythic. Through the “Star Trek” movies of the 1980s, the sense of nostalgia that had settled over the nation found its expression in Captain Kirk. He was looking back more, examining regrets, wondering about roads not taken. The Rabbit-style introspection fit him well, but somehow it reflected a gradual abandonment of the New Frontier’s optimistic tomorrow. That’s why Kirk 2.0, rebooted to the beginning of his interstellar career, feels so fresh, so necessary for the times. The world is more confusing, more ambiguous than ever. Change is everywhere. The contours of American life keep getting blurrier. “The new frontier,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told Congress in March, “is that there is no frontier.” A scary prospect for Frontier Nation. But if you accept that the Kirk character embodies American ideals projected into the future, here’s a guy who — after 9/11, after waterboarding, after Katrina and economic meltdown — restores the balance of American duality. Strong but caring. Deeply American but casually, completely multicultural as a simple matter of fact. Understanding of history but with eyes squarely focused on the things to come. And possessed with a just-do-it sense that while safety is important, risk, as Shatner’s Kirk once said, is our business. America, after all, needs leaping and looking both. Captain Kirk has endured for a reason: He shows us what we want to be. And whatever the answer, having a slice of American popular culture that is unashamed to help us figure it out is a refreshing thing indeed. A generation after the Enterprise first flew, we have met the future once again, and once again it looks like James T. Kirk.