Well, the Tony Awards are tomorrow evening, so if I don’t get my picks down on virtual paper right now, it’ll be too late!
It’s been a really terrific theatre season, with many memorable performances. For the most part, the 2014 nominations are spot on, with just a couple of oversights on the part of the nominating committee. For example, as I wrote in a previous post, I feel that nominating 3 of the 4 performers in The Glass Menagerie (as deserving as they are), while omitting the amazing Zachary Quinto, is just wrong. And many theatre people feel that Bridges of Madison County should have been nominated for Best Musical, especially since the committee chose only 4 shows instead of a maximum of 5. Although Bridges (which closed early) was mostly underwhelming, despite some lovely tunes, both Kelli and her co-star Steven Pasquale (also overlooked) gave touching, vocally gorgeous performances.
I have seen all 5 nominated plays and many of the 7 nominated musicals/musical revivals. (I’ll be seeing If/Then 2 days after the Tonys, so I’ll report back on that one).
So let’s get to my picks for the top categories:
Best Play: All the Way
The critics loved it, it’s a well-crafted (albeit too long) play covering an important event in American history (the passage of the Civil Rights Act), with an all-pro cast led by a TV star. Bam, done.
Best Play Revival: Twelfth Night
This Globe Theatre production (done in repertory with Richard III) was a groundbreaker and received lots of critical acclaim. Although The Glass Menagerie was a brilliant production all around (and it has never won the Tony), I don’t see its standing up against Twelfth Night.
Best Actor in a Play: Bryan Cranston (All the Way)
Best Featured Actor in a Play: Mark Rylance (Twelfth Night)
I’m bundling these together, as critics’ darling Mark Rylance is nominated in both categories. I predict Tony voters will honor him with the Best Featured Actor Tony for his celebrated drag performance in Twelfth Night instead of his star turn in Richard III. Cranston won the Drama Critics Award for Best Actor and I think he’ll take home the Tony as well.
Best Actress in a Play: Audra McDonald (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill)
I haven’t yet seen Ms. Audra’s performance. And I think it’s odd that a performance that includes a dozen songs is considered a play instead of musical. Personally, I wanted to give LaTanya Richardson Jackson the Tony for Best Actress when the curtain came down on A Raisin in the Sun—she deserves it. But my Ouija board tells me that Audra, who already has 5 Tonys (also well-deserved) will soon need additional space on her mantle.
Best Featured Actress in a Play: Celia Keenan-Bolger (The Glass Menagerie)
All of the nominated actresses gave very strong, critically acclaimed performances. Both Sophie Okonedo and Anika Noni Rose were really fine in A Raisin in the Sun, but how to choose one over the other? They will cancel each other out. I’m going with another critics’ darling, Celia Keenan-Bolger. Who doesn’t just love her?
Best Musical: A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder
GGLAM leads with 10 nominations and it’s going to win a few, including the big one. It’s a clever, delightful, entirely unique show which is also a critics’ favorite.
Best Musical Revival: Hedwig and the Angry Inch
No contest. Take this one to the bank. (If we want to nitpick, which of course we do, we should mention that 2 of the 3 musicals nominated in this category, Hedwig and Violet, are not technically revivals, as they have never been staged on Broadway). So, GGLAM, say thank you to the Tony nominating committee.
Best Actor in a Musical: Neil Patrick Harris (Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
The performance of the season. Maybe the performance of NPH’s lifetime, in its astonishing divineness. No contest, even in this especially outstanding group of actors. Sorry, Jefferson Mays; bad luck that your show opened in the same season as Hedwig, because otherwise the Tony would be yours! (Unless there’s a tie. That would be lovely!).
Best Featured Actor in a Musical: James Monroe Iglehart (Aladdin)
Another sure thing. Iglehart stops the show 8 times a week with his high energy performance of “A Friend Like Me.”
Best Actress in a Musical: Jessie Mueller (Beautiful—The Carole King Musical)
I’ve only seen a couple of numbers from this show, but word is that although the show isn’t fabulous, Mueller is. However, many Tony voters feel that although Bridges didn’t live up to its potential given the talent involved, Kelli O’Hara was, as always, just breathtaking to listen to and watch. (And I agree). This could be the one big upset (and there is always one) of this year’s Awards. And although the angelic-voiced Ms. O’Hara has been nominated 5 times, she hasn’t won, yet.
Best Featured Actress in a Musical: Lauren Worsham (A Gentleman’s Guide)
I’m not 100% sure about this one. I’d love Lena Hall to win, but there’s only so much Hedwig love to go around. So I’m betting on the delightful Lauren Worsham in A Gentleman’s Guide.
And finally, the Tonys for Best Director:
Best Direction of a Play: Tim Carroll (Twelfth Night)
Best Direction of a Musical: Darko Tresnjak (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder)
Both of these productions presented unique theatrical visions, in the case of Twelfth Night, a creative take on Shakespeare, and for GGLAM, a brilliant staging of a new complicated work.
Congratulations to all the nominees (and everyone who brought so much pleasure to the theatre-going public this year)! We can’t wait to see what you do next.