Story By: G.H. Harding
Helen Mirren

MACHINE & MEN RETURN --- Two of my current new-band faves return with new music next week (and respective albums as well, due next month): the magnificent Florence Welch and her band, Florence + The Machine, return with a perfectly stunning new track, “Ship To Wreck,” from a new album titled How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. 

It always amazes me how certain bands tweak their sounds from album to album. Example: after several dazzling acoustic albums, the new Mumford and Sons‘ album Wilder Mind is electric—and I hear that it’s brilliant. Florence‘s new track, however, doesn’t change a thing. It’s quintessential Florence + The Machine, and is everything you’ve come to expect from this visionary singer and the group: an atmospheric and evocative sonic vibe, topped off with her breathtaking vocals.

There’s also an accompanying video that’s pretty good, too. If you like their first two, then you’ll love this initial single.

The Iceland-bred group Of Monsters and Men dazzled last year with the release of their first full-legged album, My Head Is an Animal, which featured the hit tracks “Little Talks” and “Dirty Paws” (which was featured in the vastly-underrated Ben Stiller remake of the 1947 Danny Kaye vehicle The Secret Life of Walter Mitty).

This five-member band, who performed "Little Talks" and "Mountain Sound" on Saturday Night Live on May 4, 2013, saw their career explode into the stratosphere after that spot. Their performance was just so different and mind-bending that they became an overnight sensation. Their new album is titled Beneath the Skin.

Their new song, “I of the Storm,” finds the Icelandic band taking a relatively laid-back and slow-building approach, with lead singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir taking the reins on vocals while Ragnar Þórhallsson adds a backing harmony on the lower register.

Performing in the accompanying video, Karaoke-style, is Danish actor and MAC makeup-artist Atli Freyr Demantur, whose facial expressions are so powerful that even the smallest muscles in his face can be seen twitching with emotion. With makeup like that of a Las Vegas showgirl’s and the projected physical fragility of a wounded animal, Demantur brings each of Hilmarsdóttir’s words and breaths to fiery life.

It’s a stark and surprisingly poignant video. Great song . . . great band. June’s going to be an awesome month for music!

TONYS NOMS UP --- Brit stars Carey Mulligan, Ruth Wilson and Dame Helen Mirren are all up for Best Actress at this year Tony Awards.

They go up against home-grown stars Geneva Carr and Elisabeth Moss in a year where British talent is particularly well-recognized.

Three of the four Best Director nominees are British, while Bill Nighy and Ben Miles are in the running for Best Actor.

The awards will be presented on June 7, with the show to be hosted by Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth.

The musicals An American in Paris and Fun Home are the frontrunners, each landing 12 nominations on Tuesday, and each showing alternate sides of the Broadway experience.

An American in Paris is a sunny and heavily-choreographed adaptation of the 1951 movie musical featuring Gene Kelly and the lovely Leslie Caron. Meanwhile, Fun Home is a moody show based on Alison Bechdel‘s graphic novel about her suicidal father.

The nominations also range from the 11-year-old Sydney Lucas in Fun Home to the 82-year-old Broadway vet Chita Rivera, primed to perhaps receive her third Tony.

British talent accounts for 24 nominations in total, with two West-End transfers—Wolf Hall and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, up for Best Play.

Meanwhile, Dame Helen is nominated for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience, which imagines the private weekly meetings between the monarch and eight of her prime ministers.

Mirren already has received an Olivier Award for the London production of The Audience, and an Oscar for portraying the Queen on the big screen.

"I've studied the shape of her mouth," said Dame Helen. "I know her face probably better than anyone else does. But it's only my portrait. I can only surmise and imagine."

Ruth Wilson is shortlisted for her role in Constellations, the tale of a relationship playing out across alternate universes.

Her co-star, Jake Gyllenhaal, missed out on a nomination, joining other notable omissions such as the Larry David play Fish in the Dark and Finding Neverland, the J.M. Barrie musical produced by Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein, with music by Gary Barlow.

Harvey “Scissorhands” Weinstein speculated that the slight was directly aimed at him and not the show. He even showed up at the next performance with a huge cake for all its cast. Face it: the man’s made himself a walking target.

I've seen the play . . . it’s really good.

Mulligan and Nighy are both nominated for Skylight, a revival of the David Hare 1995 drama, in which they play mismatched lovers. (Matthew Beard also co-stars in the show).

The director Stephen Daldry—best known for his work on the feature films Billy Elliot (2000) and The Hours (2002)—is also up for Best Director on Skylight.

Daldry, who also directed The Audience this season, made the following statement: "It is a fantastic day for British theatre on Broadway. I am personally thrilled for The Audience and Skylight, and delighted too for Wolf Hall and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."

Other notable nominees also include Bradley Cooper, up for Best Actor in his portrayal of Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man (the same part played by the great English singer/songwriter David Bowie at the Booth Theater on Broadway back in the 1980-1981 season). And speaking of English singer/songwriters, we see here that Sting is up for Best Original Score, despite the fact that his first written musical, The Last Ship, closed early.

Cooper, who will continue to portray Merrick when the production heads to the West End next month, said: "To be a part of a community that gathers together in a 13-block radius, eight shows a week, no matter what, in the greatest city in the world—for one sole purpose, to tell stories—I can't think of a better job to have. Thank you for letting The Elephant Man be a part of this season's storytelling."

Gloria Reuben With Donnie Kehr

CLOSING NOTES --- Jersey Boys stalwart Donnie Kehr showed up at Gloria Reuben’s final NYC show at The Metropolitan Room. Also there was SiriusXM ’s talent guru Steve Leeds . . .

Hard to believe that YouTube is ten years old, we take it for granted so much now. Congrats—and in recognition of its first decade, here below is a link to the first video ever shown on MTV in 1981, the great “Video Killed the Radio Star” from The Buggles (can’t believe it’s been more than 30 years since this first aired—time sure does fly). Check this out

NBC’s Today show this morning announced their summer concert series, beginning with Meghan Trainor on May 22 … followed by their usual regulars, like Pitbull, Carly Rae Jepsen, Imagine Dragons, Fall Out Boy and Jennifer Lopez. Actually, the only elder-statesman was James Taylor. It’s great for the kids, but how about Diana Ross, Florence Welch, The Monkees, Joan Jett or Peter Gabriel. The one surprise addition, at least for me, was fun’s Nate Ruess. It’s all about the kids … right? ...

OUT HOTEL DAMAGE CONTROL RUMORS: We hear that the Out Hotel owners Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass have hired master publicist R. Couri Hay for damage control. The pair have apologized for "hurting the gay community" after facing backlash for hosting a dinner for Sen. Ted Cruz.

Expect Master Hay to convince the media what good guys they are. We at least will not fall for it. The NY Times recently profile R. Couri Hay and said the R. Stands for ruthless. Gotta love R. Couri Hay, he knows damage control. One of the best in the business!

CORNER EXCLUSIVE: Steve Gouveia, Original Broadway Cast member of Jersey Boys, will join Donnie Kehr on stage in a surprise appearance tonight at Bar 9 (807 9th Avenue, NYC) …

RIP Ben E. King!