Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My Increasingly Inaccurate Tony Predictions

Andy Karl as Rocky in Rocky. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
*a follow up to last year's post. well as innumerable mini rants and opinionated declarations stated as fact. I didn't write that many reviews this season, though I did manage (yay me!) to see every Broadway show of the season (I'm pretty sure - in any event, I saw every nominated show). While I had a good time doing it, I do think this season was peculiar in a number of ways. There's no big blockbustery front runner this year, so I don't predict any nominated show getting a clean sweep of its nominations. And while I had a number of favorites, I don't feature many of them succeeding very far outside of New York. It's been a weird season. I'm not sure how else to put it.

It's a weird season, but there was a lot of talent - which means, of course, that there were a number of "snubs" too. I get into most of the ones that actually bothered me below (Realistic Joneses getting ZERO nominations just blows my mind, and I regret also the lack of recognition for either The Winslow Boy or my favorite brotp, the Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in their rep productions of No Man's Land and Waiting for Godot. And yes, I'm still surprised about Bridges of Madison County.)

So clearly there were shows forgotten or ignored that stood out for me, which means, of course, that I have nearly no credence when I make the following predictions of what will win and what should win. But this is my blog, this is my house, and in my house, I get to do what I want.

So without further ado, my predictions for the 2014 Tony Awards:

What will win (yeah, I'm always wrong). My pick of the litter.

Best Play
Act One
All The Way
Casa Valentina
Mothers and Sons
Outside Mullingar

My favorite new play on Broadway didn't even make the cut - The Realistic Joneses, by Will Eno - it was bizarre and kind of brilliant, full of incredibly quotable lines ("I don't know if a haiku is the best way to end a conversation."), which I always love, and four very strong performances. I have no idea why it got zero nominations. As for the other plays in this category, Casa Valentina explored a really interesting topic and the complications around it, but failed to satisfy in its conclusion. Act One was well enough done, as were Mothers and Sons and Outside Mullingar, but they didn't stick with me very far. All The Way was pretty well done as well, if not precisely my teacup, and is the front runner, as far as I can tell - although Casa Valentina is the one getting optioned for a film.

Best Musical
After Midnight
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

There's a chance, apparently, that I'm incredibly wrong here. Of these four, Gentleman's Guide is hands down my favorite, but speaking commercially (and the voters certainly are), who knows, After Midnight with its brilliant dance routines, or Beautiful, with its already-loved Carole King score, or Aladdin, which has more long-standing fans of the old film than I realized, might win the day. Before the nominations came out, I thought this would be a race between Gentleman's Guide and The Bridges of Madison County, but that one got left out and promptly shuttered. I have plenty of issues with the story of Bridges, but I thought the storytelling - dialogue, score, staging, performances - were all incredible (though I recognize I'm in the minority with that opinion, especially as regards the staging). With both After Midnight and Beautiful, I remember being perfectly delighted with them when I saw them, but remembering very little about them within a week. I don't think anyone thinks Aladdin will win, even if it is selling out. The After Midnight nomination bothers me a little, with it edging out several book musicals like Bridges, Rocky, and If/Then. It's just a revue, albeit a very very good one. But as I sat, mostly tolerant but not entertained, through Aladdin last night, I realized that it's actually pretty difficult to do a revue like that well, and all too easy to do it pretty crappily, so I do want to give that show credit. And no, I wouldn't rather Rocky got nominated.
Lisa O'Hare, Bryce Pinkham, and Lauren Worsham in A Gentleman's Guide
to Love and Murder
. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Best Revival of a Play
The Cripple of Inishmaan
The Glass Menagerie
A Raisin in the Sun
Twelfth Night

Honestly, if that offensively perfect production of Twelfth Night doesn't win, I might just fall over in astonishment. There wasn't a cast member who didn't shine, a line of dialogue that didn't sparkle. I actually cannot deal with how good this production was (and I'm so grateful there's a DVD of it, if with a slightly different cast - Viola, Sebastian, and Sir Andrew - buy it, watch it, watch it again). As for the rest, Raisin and Cripple didn't disgrace themselves by any means, but were not standouts for me. Glass Menagerie was pretty great, but again, Twelfth Night Twelfth Night Twelfth Night. Though I am surprised neither No Man's Land nor Waiting for Godot made the cut, and I do regret the absence of The Winslow Boy, if only because it's one of my favorite plays.

Best Revival of a Musical
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Les Miserables

Is there actually any question about this? Hedwig is fantastic. Les Mis is an unfortunate mess, and while Violet isn't bad, it also isn't extraordinary, and suffers from a weak book. My one quibble with the revival of Hedwig, which is raw and funny and loud and moving, is that the insane cheers greeting the now-beloved songs, not to mention the popular Neil Patrick Harris, tend to negate Hedwig's self-described status as an internationally-ignored song stylist. But I'm willing to look past that.

Best Book of a Musical
Chad Beguelin, Aladdin
Douglas McGrath, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Woody Allen, Bullets Over Broadway
Robert L. Freedman, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

My fingers are crossed for Robert L. Freedman and Gentleman's Guide. Beautiful had a funny book, but almost no conflict and it was somewhat lacking in structure. I just kind of hated Bullets, and found myself increasingly annoyed with what felt like cheap and lazy jokes, too self-aware nods to the audience in Aladdin.

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Alan Menken (music), Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Chad Beguelin (lyrics), Aladdin 
Jason Robert Brown (music and lyrics), The Bridges of Madison County
Steven Lutvak (music), Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak (lyrics), A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (lyrics), If/Then

I know the show wasn't nominated, but the score from Bridges was the only thing (besides O'Hara) to receive universal praise, and well-deserved. I really want Bridges to win, though that doesn't take away at ALL from my love for the Gentleman's Guide score, which I've listened to over and over again. As for If/Then, it blended away in my memory, and the only song I still remember with any fondness is Idina Menzel's hilarious performance of "What the Fuck?"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Tyne Daly, Mothers and Sons
LaTanya Richardson Jackson, A Raisin in the Sun
Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Estelle Parsons, The Velocity of Autumn

Okay, so what little gossip I've read seems to be pointing toward Audra McDonald, perpetually brilliant, for her fearless portrayal of Billie Holiday, and I'm inclined to agree, though this is no way lessens the work done by the other actresses in this category, who were all marvelous. Estelle Parsons suffers from a short-lived show with a small audience; Cherry Jones did great work, but I wouldn't say it topped her award-winning performance in Doubt; and while LaTanya Richardson Jackson felt entirely real as Lena, she lacked the commanding matriarchal presence I desired from the role. One question lingers in my mind - McDonald is up for leading actress in a play for a concert-style performance - songs and patter - of a legendary musician. Mary Bridget Davies, meanwhile, is up for leading actress in a musical for doing the same thing with a different musician. I'm gonna guess this was just a decision each producing team made independently, but the inconsistency niggles at me.
Audra McDonald in Lady Day at Emerson's Barn and Grill.
Photo by Warwick Saint.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Samuel Barnett, Twelfth Night
Bryan Cranston, All The Way
Chris O'Dowd, Of Mice and Men
Mark Rylance, Richard III
Tony Shalhoub, Act One

First off, this is my list, so I can choose two winners if I want to! Here's the truth - every man in this category did fantastic work. While Rylance's unusual take on Richard was his usual brilliance, I think they'll save his win for Twelfth Night. And while I'm glad Chris O'Dowd - the best part of Of Mice and Men by a large stretch - was recognized, I don't think he'll win. I think Cranston stands the strongest shot of winning, and I don't have a huge problem with that, but if I had a choice, I'd go with either Samuel Barnett, doing intelligent, nuanced, and beautiful work as Viola, or Tony Shalhoub, idiosyncratic and commanding in three different roles in Act One.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Mary Bridget Davies, A Night with Janis Joplin
Sutton Foster, Violet
Idina Menzel, If/Then
Jessie Mueller, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Kelli O'Hara, The Bridges of Madison County

Again, I could be wrong, but I think this is Kelli O'Hara's win for a number of reasons: 1, she was fantastic - funny and heartbreaking and compelling; 2, the score was written specifically for her voice, and her soaring soprano brought the audience to tears multiple times; 3, this is her fifth Tony nomination and she has yet to win - I'd wager everyone thinks it's about time. Jessie Mueller and Sutton Foster are the other two front-runners, from what I hear, and they both do great work (Mueller, especially, really channels King's voice in an almost unnerving way, and I wouldn't be surprised if she won after all), but my money's still on O'Hara. I think Idina Menzel has a powerful and unique instrument (and now a quite famous one, thanks to Frozen), but I think her acting is less extraordinary. She won a Tony for Wicked; I don't think she's earned a second. As for Mary Bridget Davies, I actually missed her performance (I caught the matinee cover), and while I hear it was uncanny, she also suffers from a long-closed show.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Ramin Karimloo, Les Miserables
Andy Karl, Rocky
Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Bryce Pinkham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

I'm picking two winners again AND YOU CAN'T STOP ME. Another category full of strong performers, and I'm thrilled each actor here was recognized for his work. When I originally saw Jefferson Mays's tour de force in Gentleman's Guide as eight different murder victims, I was sure he had the award in the bag. But then Hedwig happened, and that bag got handed off. I wouldn't begrudge the win from either of them (and in fact they tied this past weekend at the Drama Desks), and in honesty, Mays won ten years ago for I Am My Own Wife, where he played even more roles to perfection - it's the same logic that ruled out Idina Menzel (and perhaps Sutton Foster as well, even if no one thinks that will prevent another Audra McDonald win) for another win. Ramin Karimloo and Andy Karl also do great work, and are a pleasure to watch, but they both picked losing horses - the only people I know who were excited about this Les Mis revival were tourists and the young folk who hadn't seen any of the earlier runs except on DVD, and Rocky isn't about the actors. And while I'm thrilled Bryce Pinkham got recognized because he's adorable, if anyone from Gentleman's Guide wins, it would be Mays.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Sarah Greene, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie
Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
Anika Noni Rose, A Raisin in the Sun
Mare Winningham, Casa Valentina

Okay, on this one I have no clue. And actually, not much preference. If Menagerie were still running, Celia Keenan-Bolger would definitely have the edge, especially as she's been nominated three times now with no win yet - and her win this weekend at the Drama Desks certainly confirms that her performance is fondly remembered. If there weren't two actresses from Raisin nominated, and threatening to cancel each other out, I'd give either one of them the edge. Sarah Greene does fun work in Cripple, but I would have rather one of the older women in the cast were nominated. And Mare Winningham did respectable work, but I wouldn't say she stood out from the pack to me. So I'm going to throw up my hands, vote for Keenan-Bolger, and pretend everyone did the same.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Reed Birney, Casa Valentina
Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night
Stephen Fry, Twelfth Night
Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night
Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie

This category will break me in pieces. Can all three men from Twelfth Night win? Can we do that? Just for me? Or can we at least introduce a Best Ensemble category, and recognize them that way? I'd give the strength to Mark Rylance, but I am concerned that Paul Chahidi and Stephen Fry might cancel him out. If I thought Brian J. Smith or Reed Birney stood as stronger competition, I might believe that, but I still think Rylance has this one (yes, Birney got the Drama Desk, but Rylance wasn't even nominated). And while he was indeed perfect (as was Fry's plummy and pretentious Malvolio), I have actually never seen a better Maria in any production of Twelfth Night than Paul Chahidi - so I vote for him. I wonder what poem Rylance will read this time ...
Angus Wright,t Jethro Skinner, Colin Hurley, and Stephen Fry in
Twelfth Night. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Linda Emond, Cabaret
Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Anika Larsen, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Adriane Lenox, After Midnight
Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

I have no clue. No clue. Everyone did great work. Dammit. Anika Larsen and Lauren Worsham just tied for the Drama Desk, which kind of puts them both as front runners, but I wouldn't be astonished if Linda Emond or Adriane Lenox won. And then there's Lena Hall, holding her own against NPH in Hedwig, which is super hot right now. Utterly no clue.

Best Peformance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Danny Burstein, Cabaret
Nick Cordero, Bullets Over Broadway
Joshua Henry, Violet
James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
Jarrod Spector, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

The whispers round the water cooler indicate that James Monroe Iglehart's performance as the Genie in Aladdin is a lock for the win. I can feel bad for Danny Burstein, who keeps getting nominated and never quite wins, but this production of Cabaret still rubs me funny, since it's the exact same thing I saw ten years ago, just with different actors. It makes me uncomfortable. I think everyone in the cast is very strong, and Michelle Williams was a delightful surprise, but the idea just makes me uncomfortable. Anyway. I'm glad Jarrod Spector and Joshua Henry were nominated for their good work, but I don't see them winning this time around. Nick Cordero was one of the only things I enjoyed in Bullets Over Broadway, and I'm glad he got a nomination - honestly, were it not for James Monroe Iglehart, I'd predict him for the winner.

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Beowulf Boritt, Act One
Bob Crowley, The Glass Menagerie
Es Devlin, Machinal
Christopher Oram, The Cripple of Inishmaan

Okay, first off, hell no am I voting for the Act One set. In fairness, I realize that my problem is more with the staging than the set - a giant rotating scaffolded thing that takes us from tenement to mansion to Broadway stage - but Act One was gifted with one of the few thrust stages on Broadway, and rather than taking advantage of that, Lapine completely neglected over a third of his audience, and staged his play proscenium-style on Beowulf Boritt's curved set, and I missed half the show (but since Lapine wasn't nominated for Best Director, I'm going to go ahead and guess that people agree with me). Moving on. While I loved the rotating mechanic set for Machinal, and the economic (but also rotating - there's a theme here) set for Cripple served its show, Bob Crowley's design for Menagerie had the most poetry, even in its seeming minimalism. The floors of Tom's childhood home hovered over seemingly bottomless reflective pools of water, a fire escape staircase led to nowhere, to heaven and hell, in either direction, and his sister emerged from between the cushions of the couch, from between the cracks of his memory. It was a poetry to match the language of the play, and the best marriage of form and content in set design this year.

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Christopher Barreca, Rocky
Julian Crouch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Alexander Dodge, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Santo Loquasto, Bullets Over Broadway

Maybe I'm foolish to do this (I doubt it - the thing got terrible reviews) but I'm kind of ruling out Bullets in every category because I was so beyond bored by all of it. Sorry Santo Loquasto. So for the other three nominees - Rocky is the only one of those three to "go big" in the traditional Broadway sense, and that might get it a win, what with the boxing ring that comes out. For my personal taste, while I found Alexander Dodge's Music Hall set for Gentleman's Guide appropriate and fun, the Hedwig set was unusual and surprisingly pretty for piles of rubble. I vote for Julian Crouch, but I'll hedge my bets that everyone else will vote for Christopher Barreca. I kind of hope I'm wrong there. (Odd note: I think the set for Aladdin was my favorite part about the show, and it wasn't even nominated.)

Best Costume Design of a Play
Jane Greenwood, Act One
Michael Krass, Machinal
Rita Ryack, Casa Valentina
Jenny Tiramani, Twelfth Night

I have no clue. I'm sorry guys. I'm gonna hazard a guess that Twelfth Night might ride a wave and win this one, but I want to recognize the craft and extreme detail contained in the designs of Jane Greenwood, Michael Krass (my old teacher!), and Rita Ryack.

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Linda Cho, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
William Ivey Long, Bullets Over Broadway
Arianne Phillips, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Isabel Toledo, After Midnight

I'm giving it to Arianne Phillips, because there's a dress made out of hair and that's a thing (even though Mike Potter is actually responsible for the wigs). Also because Hedwig. Hedwig Hedwig Hedwig.

Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Paule Constable, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Jane Cox, Machinal
Natasha Katz, The Glass Menagerie
Japhy Weideman, Of Mice and Men

This one's hard. I'm ruling out Cripple and Of Mice and Men mostly because I don't remember the lighting; therefore whatever. Machinal I remember as being striking and stark, no softening touches to make the Woman's life easier, and I respected it. Menagerie, the lighting helped shape the poetic set into an island of memory, something small and perfect in the void. The glowing light dedicated to Laura's menagerie illuminated her face, both literally and metaphorically. I think Menagerie might take it, but my vote's for Machinal.
Celia Keenan-Bolger in The Glass Menagerie. Photo by Michael J. Lutch.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Christopher Akerlind, Rocky
Howell Binkley, After Midnight
Donald Holder, The Bridges of Madison County

Another troubling one, as the lighting design for each nominated show was pretty strong. Christopher Akerlind's Rocky just won the Drama Desk, so I'm tempted to give it the edge in terms of winning. For my own preference, I'm torn between Kevin Adams's Hedwig and Donald Holder's Bridges.

Best Sound Design of a Play
Alex Baranowski, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Steve Canyon Kennedy, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Dan Moses Schreier, Act One
Matt Tierney, Machinal

If there's one thing I don't understand, it's sound design. I can tell when I'm dealing with a bad sound design, but that's about it. In this case, I'm inclined to think voters will favor the "play" that's mostly sung through - Lady Day. For my piece, I was struck by the musicality of Machinal, and am giving my vote to Matt Tierney.

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Peter Hylenski, After Midnight
Tim O'Heir, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Mick Potter, Les Miserables
Brian Ronan, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Did I mention I can tell when I'm dealing with a bad sound design? That's why I'm gonna start with a rant about how this award should definitely not go to  Les Mis, because someone needs to turn down the ensemble's mics when they don't have official lines - they were all too busy mugging and yelling things for me to hear the actual scripted lines, and you know what? It severely crippled the storytelling. Now, as with my objections to Act One's set, I recognize I should be yelling more at the directors for this, but hey, James Powell and Laurence Connor weren't nominated, so again I see I am not alone here. Now on to the other nominees ... yep, I have no clue at all. At freaking all. When in doubt ... Hedwig, I guess.

Best Direction of a Play
Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night
Michael Grandage, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Kenny Leon, A Raisin in the Sun
John Tiffany, The Glass Menagerie

I don't remember being astonished by directing moments in either Cripple or Raisin, so for me this is between the perfect-in-every-way Twelfth Night or the so-poetic-but-there's-this-thing-where-I-still-don't-like-Tennessee-Williams Menagerie. I would choose Twelfth Night, just on personal play preference, but as far as other voters, I can't give either one the edge in terms of current, since they're both long closed. So again I'm just going to assume everyone agrees with me BECAUSE THAT NEVER BACKFIRES.

Best Direction of a Musical
Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Michael Mayer, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Leigh Silverman, Violet
Darko Tresnjak, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

It's actually really hard for me to compare the direction of any of these musicals against each other - they're all such different beasts. After Midnight is a revue with fantastic dancing; Violet goes for minimalism but tells its story economically and as honestly as its thin book allows; Gentleman's Guide goes for the bawdy, clever, and fast-paced Music Hall approach, complete with as many nods to the audience as its leading many has for; and Hedwig purports to be a guerilla-style concert by an internationally-ignored song stylist on the verge of collapse at the failure of her dreams, and defiance in the face of that collapse. Like ... they're all really well directed, and I have no idea how to pick one, or how to even rank them. I'm ruling out Carlyle, as I think he'll win for choreography, and Silverman, as I keep forgetting Violet every time I try to remember it (sorry). Do I go for Darko Tresnjak's Gentleman's Guide, which is the front runner in terms of total nominations, or Michael Mayer's Hedwig, which by virtue of having opened in the spring (versus Gentleman's Guide's fall opening) is fresher on everyone's mind? I just ... have no clue. So I'm voting for both, and predicting randomly that Mayer will win for Hedwig.

Best Choreography
Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine, Rocky
Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin
Susan Stroman, Bullets Over Broadway

I've read rumblings online that Carlyle isn't actually responsible for a huge chunk of choreography in After Midnight, and that this is actually pretty standard fare for choreography - rather like the Writers' Guild muckups with giving screenwriting credit to people who didn't write the thing, and not to people who did. Beyond speculation, I'm largely ignorant of the politics, but as a primarily song-and-dance show with some truly impressive dancing, After Midnight looks pretty distinctly like the front runner this year. I can't vote for Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine's Rocky, exciting as the final fight was, when from the back of the orchestra, I could see every punch in a "realistic" fight (read: not balletic like West Side Story) not landing. And I give a big "whatever" to Bullets. Sorry Stro.

Desmond Richardson, Phillip Attmore, C.K. Edwards, Christopher
Broughton, and Daniel J. Watts in After Midnight. Photo by Sara Krulwich.

Best Orchestrations
Doug Besterman, Bullets Over Broadway
Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
Steven Sidwell, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Jonathan Tunick, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

I'm pretty stupid about such things, so I'm just going with whom I think will win best score, especially since JRB orchestrated his own score, and he's pretty good at that. Also I'm tired, you guys. This took forever.

Would you like to cast your vote? Use this handy dandy ballot from Playbill.

1 comment:

  1. Well the good news (for me) is I did better this year than last year, in terms of predictions, getting 16 out of 26 correct (and as for my preferences, my contrariness led me to score only 11 out of 26, so ... whoops). Usually it's the design awards that trip me up, and while I wasn't perfect on design, it was the plays that actually ended up lowering my score - Raisin in the Sun fared better than I predicted, probably helped in no small part by the fact that it's still running. I would have given revival and play director to Twelfth Night or Menagerie, but what can you do. And I was foiled in my Act One rant, and my guess that Jessie Mueller might prove me wrong by winning over Kelli O'Hara proved true.

    But I thought it was a pretty enjoyable broadcast, with some stellar performances from shows (especially my beloveds Hedwig and Gentleman's Guide), and HOT DAMN Audra is now a record-breaker TWICE - for winning in all four performing categories, and for most competitive awards won by a performer. Well deserved.