Saturday, May 10, 2014

Tony Award Musings

The nominees for the 2013-2014 Tony Awards have been announced and in approximately one month, on Sunday, June 8th, we will know the winners.  Like most Broadway enthusiasts I have my opinions and predictions on who/what should be honored.  So, in no particular order, my ruminations on just the musical categories. 

But, before my musings, let me say what I will not be writing about—snubs.  Snubs come in two categories.  First, are the rumblings over Hollywood A-Listers appearing on Broadway not being appreciated.  For some reason, people believe this group of actors should automatically be guaranteed a Tony Award nomination.  Why?  Because they are movie stars?  Famous?  If they were good in their theatrical role they are usually rewarded with a selection and, many times, the trophy itself.  But filmdom does not guarantee Tony glory.  Second, and a subset of the first, are the complainers lamenting on who was left off the nomination list.   I have no real problem with people sparring over who or what should have been included, but if you believe your choice was commendable then who/what should be omitted.   If, for example, the maximum of five actors can be nominated and you make a fuss about a sixth, who then gets dropped?  I always find it annoying when individuals moan about this person or that show being snubbed, but offer no compelling reason on who/what to remove.

Not that I’ve gotten that off my chest on with my speculative grandiloquence.

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical—James Monroe Iglehart should walk away with the award.  His big, splashy number in Aladdin, “Friend Life Me,” was fabulous.  His overall performance was a comic gen.  He actually made you forget Robin Williams from the film version.  Joshua Henry in Violet and Danny Burstein in the revival of Cabaret were excellent, but neither could match the razz-ma-tazz of Iglehart.
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical—This is an interesting grouping of female performers.  While all are worthy, not one of them jumps out at you as an overwhelming favorite.  I’m going with Linda Emond from Cabaret.  As I stated in my review of the show, I thought she was “marvelous as Frau Schneider, a jumble of apprehension, confusion, and anticipation.”
Best Book of a MusicalA Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder will notch a win in this category.  Aladdin and Bullets Over Broadway are retreads from their respective movies.  Beautiful – the Carole King Musical, while very entertaining and compelling, can’t match the originality of A Gentlemen’s Guide.
Best Score of a Musical—I would be very surprised if A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder doesn’t walk away with Best Score.  It is witty, literate, and includes some well-crafted songs.  Aladdin’s best numbers are from the film and If/Then, while another sound effort by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, cannot compete with A Gentlemen’s Guide.  Jason Robert Brown’s score for The Bridges of Madison County has been deservedly praised.  In my review I stated, “The score…is lush, stirring and beautifully set within the musical,” but the show never caught on (regrettably) with the public, which translates to very little support.
Best Choreography of a Musical—The most disappointing category of the year.  In the past, the Broadway stage was ablaze with fanciful, athletic, and creative dance numbers.  This season is rather blasé.  Aladdin has it moments, but I found it repetitive.  Rocky?  If you count the fight scenes then a winner hands down, but I can’t even remember what the traditional choreographer consisted of.  That leaves Susan Stroman for Bullets Over Broadway and Warren Carlyle for After Midnight.   While Stroman has been a Tony favorite, look for Carlyle to snatch his first Tony with his high-flying dance numbers for After Midnight.
Best Director of a Musical—An interesting selection of nominees.  I’m going to quickly put aside Warren Carlyle for After Midnight.  Leigh Silverman guided Violet to an exceptional dramatic presentation, but I think it’s going to be between Michael Mayer, who could be riding a Hedwig and the Angry Inch bandwagon and Darko Tresnjak for A Gentlemen’s Guide.    I’m going with Tresnjak for two reasons.  A Gentlemen’s Guide is a show with more structure, where Hedwig is primarily a monlogue with music.  Second, A Gentlemen’s Guide began life at the Hartford Stage, in my backyard, so the director is a hometown favorite.
Best Actor in a Musical—Up to the end of April my hands down pick would have been Jefferson Mays for A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder.  Playing eight members of the D'Ysquith family Mays has a jolly good romp as each of his characters are systematically disposed of during the course of the show.  Unfortunately, a German transvestite, in the guise of Neil Patrick Harris, decided to spoil Mays’ party.  Even though both actors received some of the best reviews of the year I think Harris will get the nod for three reasons.  First, he has never been honored with a Tony Award (Mays won in 2004 for Best Actor in a Play for I Am My Own Wife).  Second, everyone loves Neil Patrick Harris, especially Broadway people.  Third, he has worked tirelessly over the years promoting the Great White Way.  This will give the edge to earn the coveted award.
Best Actress in a Musical—The toughest category to predict.  An argument could be made for each of the five actresses—three certified musical theater heavyweights—Idina Menzel, Sutton Foster, and Kelli O’Hara—and two newcomers—Jessie Mueller and Mary Bridget Davies—that impressed both audiences and critics.  As with multiple choice exams I chose by the process of elimination.  First to go, Davies of A Night with Janis Joplin.  Notable performance, but too much of a concert act.  Jessie Mueller for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, was fabulous, a role that will make her a star, but it is just not her time.  Sutton Foster in Violet showed a new dimension to her considerable talent, but she has two Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Musical.  I think voters will want to spread the wealth.  That leaves Idina Menzel for If/Then and Kelli O’Hara for The Bridges of Madison County.    While Menzel is huge right now, courtesy of Disney’s mega-hit, Frozen, she has also won (for Wicked).  That leaves O’Hara, my choice.  This is her fifth nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.  Her show, Bridges of Madison Country, is set to close next week, but she is a Broadway favorite.  This is her year.
Best Revival of a Musical—The Best Revival has only three nominees, all were well-reviewed and all are very different shows.  Les Miserables doesn’t have any “buzz” surrounding it, unlike the other two musicals.  I would love to see Violet eke out the win, but I think Hedwig will steamroll over the competition.
Best Musical—The Best Musical category shows what a lackluster year it was on Broadway.  There was a lot of promise when the season began, but it has limped to the finish line.  The Tony nominators reinforced this view by only selecting four shows even though they could have chosen five (I know I whined about using the “s” word, but in this case I think it was an undeserved snub to exclude The Bridges of Madison County).  So, which musical will I choose?  Using the process of elimination I would first eliminate After Midnight, a well-received revue, but, it’s a revue.  Only three other revues have won the Best Musical Award in Tony History—Ain’t Misbehavin’ in 1978, Jerome Robbin’s Broadway in 1989, and Fosse in 1999.  This year will not be the fourth.  Aladdin is very entertaining and doing bang-up business at the box office, but the Disney magic will not shine this year.  Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is outstanding, with a breakout performance by its star, Jessie Mueller.  It could be the dark horse in the race, but I think A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder should stand tall at night’s end.  It has proven itself by surviving the desolate winter months, received unanimous praise, is intelligent, funny with a solid book, and a full score of original compositions.  NO other nominated musical can boast these credentials.  Hartford Stage, where it all began last year, I hope this is congratulations!

How well did I do?  We’ll have to wait until Sunday night, June 8th, to find out.  Join me that evening as I’ll be blogging live with my thoughts, reversals, and musings.

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