Sunday, June 2, 2013

My Prognostications for Tony Awards

It’s the Tony Awards!  Sunday, June 9th is the culmination of the Broadway season that, for original musicals, started out horribly, but picked up steam at the very end with the openings of Kinky Boots and Matilda.  These two hit shows will be the focus of the Tony ceremony, but don’t be surprised if the revival of Pippin steals their thunder. 

This year there are no sure bets on winners.  Once the nominations were announced at the end of April Matilda, winner of numerous 2012 Olivier Awards (the London equivalent of the Tonys), was the clear favorite to sweep the major honors.  But Kinky Boots, which snared 13 Tony nominations, has been gaining momentum as the American answer to the hugely popular British musical (even though the setting for KB is an English shoe factory).  So, the big story of the evening will be if the highly touted creative team of Kinky Boots—Cyndi Lauper, Harvey Fierstein, and Jerry Mitchell—will be able to overcome the magical and enchanting theatrics of a little girl and company in Matilda.

 What are my predictions?  Who do I think will carry off the disk-shaped medallion, depicting the masks of comedy and tragedy on one side and the profile of Antoinette Perry on the other (  Here are my prognostications (in bold) for the Tony Awards in the major musical categories:

•Best Featured Actress in a Musical
Annaleigh Ashford - Kinky Boots
Victoria Clark - Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
Andrea Martin - Pippin
Keala Settle - Hands on a Hardbody
Lauren Ward - Matilda The Musical

Tough decision.  I enjoyed each actresses’ performance, but Andrea Martin was absolutely delightful in Pippin.  Her big number, “No Time At All,” was a tour de force.  I would be very disappointed, shocked if she didn’t carry off her second Tony Award.

•Best Featured Actor in a Musical
Charl Brown - Motown The Musical
Keith Carradine - Hands on a Hardbody
Will Chase - The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Gabriel Ebert - Matilda The Musical
Terrence Mann - Pippin

I would term this the most boring group of any musical category.  Solid actors, but no one that stood out above the others.  Terrence Mann from Pippin has been the recipient of a number of pre-Tony honors and I will pick him too, in recognition of his kingly role as well as his long career on the Broadway stage.

•Best Book of a Musical
Joseph Robinette - A Christmas Story
Harvey Fierstein - Kinky Boots
Dennis Kelly - Matilda The Musical
Douglas Carter Beane - Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella

I’ll give the nod to Matilda.  Dennis Kelly did an outstanding job of taking Roald Dahl’s children’s book, fleshing it out, and turning it into a whimsical, slightly menacing Broadway musical.

*Best Score of a Musical
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul - A Christmas Story
Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green - Hands on a Hardbody
Cyndi Lauper - Kinky Boots
Tim Minchin - Matilda The Musical

A Christmas Story was run-of-the-mill.  I wasn’t impressed with Hands on a Hardbody, even with the participation of Trey Anastasio.  Matilda’s score is inventive and tuneful, but I’ll go with Cyndi Lauper, in her Broadway debut, with Kinky Boots.  It beautifully mixes ballads, comic numbers, and power pop into the most sustained score of the season.

*Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler - Bring It On: The Musical
Peter Darling - Matilda The Musical
Jerry Mitchell - Kinky Boots
Chet Walker – Pippin

While there were smatterings of impressive choreography in each of the nominated shows I didn’t feel any of the musicals’ production numbers were consistently first-rate.  But, since a winner needs to be chosen I’ll tip my hat to Chet Walker for Pippin.

Best Direction of a Musical
Scott Ellis - The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Jerry Mitchell - Kinky Boots
Diane Paulus - Pippin
Matthew Warchus - Matilda The Musical

Taking all the complicated elements of Matilda and molding them into a cohesive Broadway hit deserves this year’s Tony for Best Direction.

•Best Actress in a Musical
Stephanie J. Block - The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Carolee Carmello - Scandalous
Valisia LeKae - Motown The Musical
Patina Miller - Pippin
Laura Osnes - Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella

You could easily make a case for each of these fine actresses, but it will be a duel between Patina Miller and Laura Osnes.  This one is a true toss-up, but I’ll go with a fairy tale ending and choose Ms. Osnes.

•Best Actor in a Musical
Bertie Carvel - Matilda The Musical
Santino Fontana - Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
Rob McClure - Chaplin
Billy Porter - Kinky Boots
Stark Sands - Kinky Boots

By far, the most competitive category among this year’s musical awards.  If Chaplin was a hit, Rob McClure would be considered a frontrunner, but this year it’s going to be a contest between Bertie Carvel from Matilda and Billy Porter of Kinky Boots.  Carvel’s Miss Trunchbull is mean-spirited and chilling; Porter’s drag queen, Lola, is gutsy, with a lust for life.  I’m looking at Billy Porter to swipe this one away from Olivier Award winner Bertie Carvel.  Chalk it up to a great performance with a slight British backlash.

•Best Revival of a Musical
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella

You could make an argument for each of these first-rate productions, but I’ll say Pippin will win.  It has what George H.W. Bush called the “Big Mo’” in addition to the cache of probably snatching a few other Tony Awards.

•Best Musical
Bring It On: The Musical
A Christmas Story, The Musical
Kinky Boots
Matilda The Musical

It really comes down to Kinky Boots and Matilda.  The other shows are just window dressing for the category.  It would be the biggest upset in Tony history if Bring It On or A Christmas Story were crowned.  Kinky Boots and Matilda are very different.  Both are very good productions, but it’s like comparing apples and oranges.  However, taking into consideration all the aspects of each musical—the acting, book, music, sets, lighting, etc.—I will give the edge to Matilda as Best Musical.

Total scores:
Pippin - 4
Matilda The Musical - 3
Kinky Boots - 2
Cinderella - 1

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