Monday, June 1, 2015

My Perpetually Inaccurate Tony Predictions

*part of the ongoing series in which I refuse to engage in reality.

This was a packed season, or at least it felt like one looking back. Overstuffed with play revivals (none of which grabbed me that much),the season was also full of exciting new plays. And then the new musicals category had a weird dearth this season. It Shoulda Been You was atrocious, Something Rotten was not that great, and while An American in Paris and The Visit are new to Broadway, they're neither of them new properties. Even Fun Home already ran Off-Broadway last season. And then shows like The Last Ship and Honeymoon in Vegas, though critically well-received (and enjoyed by yours truly), never got the crowds and quickly shuttered. So it's also been a really weird season.

And then there's the elephant in the green room: the most exciting new musical to open this season opened Off-Broadway and blew everyone away. Now we're all just waiting for Hamilton to start its Broadway run this summer and do it again.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the telecast, and hoping Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming are adorable and not awkward (I'm kind of worried they'll be awkward). I'm also incredibly excited that John Cameron Mitchell's amazing return to the role of Hedwig is being honored with a special Tony Award. NPH was fantastic, but JCM is Hedwig, and since he couldn't win a Tony for playing her 20 years ago, he gets one now. Yay yay yay!

John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

Without further ado, my predictions:

What will win (delusional Zelda). Zelda's choice.

Best Play
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Hand to God
Wolf Hall, Pts. One & Two

It's a pretty good collection of new plays this season, even including the un-nominated shows (again, if I had my druthers, Constellations and The River would be in the mix here). Although Disgraced won the 2013 Pulitzer for its Off-Broadway run, it's certainly lost momentum since then (this is its only nomination); and while I appreciated what it wanted to explore, I didn't feel that it truly achieved its goals in ideas or storytelling. I loved Hand to God, but that rests largely on Steven Boyer's performance, and it's just not as perfect a play as either Wolf Hall or Curious Incident. And while I thoroughly enjoyed both, Curious Incident is in another league, both in its story and its storytelling.

Alex Sharp as Christopher with cast of The Curious Incident of the
Dog in the Night-Time
. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Best Musical
An American in Paris
Fun Home
Something Rotten!
The Visit

I'm going to do this once more and then stop kicking the show - I don't think Something Rotten! deserves many of its nominations, and I highly doubt it will win any Tonys (perhaps Brad Oscar). The Visit's chance is mostly riding on the fact that it's Kander and Ebb's last show, but I don't think it's enough to actually get it the Tony. So that leaves American in Paris and Fun Home. And it feels very reminiscent of other little-show-versus-big-show rivalries of the past - Urinetown vs. Thoroughly Modern Millie or Avenue Q vs. Wicked. And I don't actually know how this will shake out. Fun Home isn't perfectly written but it's so damn unusual to see on a Broadway stage, and profoundly moving. An American in Paris has all the comfort of familiarity, and will mostly likely tour quite well (which we learned in 2004 is a big factor for voters). Every pundit seems to have a different opinion on which show has the edge, and sadly the smaller awards will give us no hint, as Fun Home competed in them last year, and Hamilton is by and large sweeping them this year. Imma go with David over Goliath, because we've already acknowledged I'm generally wrong with my predictions anyway, but also because while I could admire the craft of Paris, I couldn't get into the show - whereas I spent Fun Home weeping (in a good way).

Best Revival of a Play
The Elephant Man
This Is Our Youth
You Can't Take It With You

Not to be a dick, but among these four nominees ... I don't care that much. I couldn't stand This Is Our Youth (might be my age showing? naw, it's a bad play); and The Elephant Man, though with larger pretensions, is also a badly-constructed plot with delusions of depth. Skylight has the edge here, as the only show nominated that's still running, but who knows - from what I can tell, You Can't Take It With You, with its madcap ensemble and madcappier set, is fondly remembered.

Best Revival of a Musical
The King and I
On the Town
On the Twentieth Century

My choice isn't on this list - Gigi. As for the other three, they are in general pretty good productions of shows I don't find that compelling, with Twentieth Century being the weakest, both in writing and in production. The King and I has the clear edge, not only from being a Lincoln Center Bartlett Sher-and-Kelli-O'Hara-doing-R&H, but also because it's the most recent to open. It's strange, because On the Town was received so favorably, but so long ago, within this limited scale, that it feels mostly forgotten. I thought for sure that there would be more actors nominated (Alysha Umphress seemed like a sure thing at the time).

Best Book of a Musical
Craig Lucas, An American in Paris
Lisa Kron, Fun Home
Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell, Something Rotten!
Terrence McNally, The Visit

Most of my opinions on these four shows were covered above. Lisa Kron, please. Pretty please?

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Jeanine Tesori (music) and Lisa Kron (lyrics), Fun Home
Sting (music and lyrics), The Last Ship
Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick (music and lyrics), Something Rotten!
John Kander (music) and Fred Ebb (lyrics), The Visit

Okay this category is obnoxiously hard. I loved Fun Home, as we all know, and the score worked for the show, but it's not my favorite score of the season. I think Kander and Ebb are likely to get the nod here, because Kander and Ebb. But I enjoyed the hell out of the score for The Last Ship

Richard McCabe and Helen Mirren as
Harold Wilson and Queen Elizabeth II in
The Audience. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Geneva Carr, Hand to God
Helen Mirren, The Audience
Elisaeth Moss, The Heidi Chronicles
Carey Mulligan, Skylight
Ruth Wilson, Constellations

Both Moss and Wilson hold the dubious honor of being the sole nominee representing their respective shows (well-deserved nominations in both cases). Their shows are also both closed, so their chances are not good. Geneve Carr and Carey Mulligan both give excellent performances, but I think in this case we've got to give it to the Queen. Helen Mirren plays QE2 across decades with only a few seconds to change between one scene and another. And she is perfection.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Steven Boyer, Hand to God
Bradley Cooper, The Elephant Man
Ben Miles, Wolf Hall, Pts. One & Two
Bill Nighy, Skylight
Alex Sharp, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I hate this category. Hate hate hate it. Because they're all so damn good. The purist in me wants to nix Cooper if only because I think his role is truly the supporting one to Alessandro Nivola's lead (Dr. Treves is unarguably the protagonist if you spend more than five minutes with the script, just like Dysart is the protagonist of Equus, or Salieri the protagonist of Amadeus). But also his show is closed, which hurts his chances. I'm also willing to knock Nighy out of the running - he's great, but he's also still doing the same thing he always does. That leaves us with Ben Miles, doing a fabulously subtle yet brilliant turn as Cromwell in the marathon of two three-hour plays, the young Alex Sharp, knocking it out of the park with his portrayal of Christopher, and fucking Steven Boyer, giving a career-changing performance as Jason and Tyrone. Oops, did I give away my preference? I think all five men are doing amazing work. But Boyer is transcendent. I still can't wrap my head around his ability to completely portray two entirely separate, entirely simultaneous roles, to the degree that you forget he's controlling the vitriolic puppet on his hand. I can't think of anyone else who could achieve what he has with this play. There's a high chance Sharp will take this award, as Curious Incident is drawing a larger audience and is a better play. And he truly is wonderful in it. But I've been lucky enough to see four different Christopher Boones, and they've all been wonderful. I can't think of anyone else who could do what Boyer's doing.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Kristin Chenoweth, On the Twentieth Century
Leanne Cope, An American in Paris
Beth Malone, Fun Home
Kelli O'Hara, The King and I
Chita Rivera, The Visit

You know what? I hate this category too. It can go to hell. But in a nice way? Any nominee I try to whittle out of the list, I immediately think of a reason she might win anyway.  Kelli O'Hara may not be showing us anything we haven't seen before, but she's a Broadway treasure and this is her sixth nom with no win. Kristin Chenoweth has won, but not for leading role, and besides, this role is so perfectly suited to her talents, and she to the role, that it should be recognized, even if the show isn't great (and she just won the Drama Desk). I wouldn't think to give Chita the award, even if she is Chita, but she's been winning other awards for this show, so maybe not everyone agrees. And she has been with the show through its long journey to Broadway. Leanne Cope dances beautifully and acts adequately (though she definitely has an appealing presence), and can ride the wave of Paris's momentum, but she's not my pick. Beth Malone is truly wonderful, and actually probably my choice for this award - but at the same time, I'd be surprised if she won - most of the chatter about the cast centers more on Cerveris, Lucas, and Kuhn.

Beth Malone as Alison in Fun Home. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Michael Cerveris, Fun Home
Robert Fairchild, An American in Paris
Brian d'Arcy James, Something Rotten!
Ken Watanabe, The King and I
Tony Yazbeck, On the Town

I somehow don't care as much who wins in this category. I'm inclined toward Michael Cerveris, who is doing great nuanced work (and, apparently according to those who knew the man, really bringing Bruce to life in an uncanny way). I love Brian d'Arcy James and his perfect perfect angel voice, but this was not the show for him. Ken Watanabe acts well, but I would be surprised if he won, after the complaints about his diction. As for our two dancing fellas, Tony Yazbeck and Robert Fairchild - Yazbeck has the Broadway Hoofer Made Good going for him, and Fairchild has the Dancer Who Can Do Other Stuff going for him, and ... I dunno. I still kinda think Cerveris could take it.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Annaleigh Ashford, You Can't Take It With You
Patricia Clarkson, The Elephant Man
Lydia Leonard, Wolf Hall, Pts. One & Two
Sarah Stiles, Hand to God
Julie White, Airline Highway

It warms the cockles of my cold cynical dead shell of a heart to see Annaleigh Ashford nominated, as I've loved her work since her stint in Legally Blonde (and she did win the Drama Desk last night). But... as for whom I actually want to win here, I'm divided between Lydia Leonard, full of piss and vinegar, and Julie White, a scattered brittle scarecrow. I'm voting for both (because I can) but I'm guessing White might win.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Matthew Beard, Skylight
K. Todd Freeman, Airline Highway
Richard McCabe, The Audience
Alessandro Nivola, The Elephant Man
Nathaniel Parker, Wolf Hall, Pts. One & Two
Micah Stock, It's Only a Play

I ... actually have no clue. None. I wouldn't mind any of these guys winning, but I'm also not strongly rooting for any of them (wellllllll, maybe I'm rooting for K. Todd Freeman. Buffy alums represent! And he won the Drama Desk last night). McCabe won the Olivier for this role in London, though, so perhaps he'll get it here too.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Victoria Clark, Gigi 
Judy Kuhn, Fun Home
Sydney Lucas, Fun Home
Ruthie Ann Miles, The King and I
Emily Skeggs, Fun Home

I foresee three possibilities: 1 - Judy Kuhn wins because she's amazing; 2 - Sydney Lucas wins because she is also amazing and the Tonys like to award tiny talented children lately; 3 - Ruthie Ann Miles wins because the three Fun Home ladies cancelled each other out but also because Ruthie Ann Miles is amazing. I think either 2 or 3 are the most likely (Emily Skeggs and Victoria Clark were also wonderful, for the record, but I would be surprised if either of them won). I don't understand why I can't just choose all the nominees though. Five-way tie!

Ruthie Ann Miles as Lady Thiang in The King and I. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Christian Borle, Something Rotten!
Andy Karl, On the Twentieth Century
Brad Oscar, Something Rotten!
Brandon Uranowitz, An American in Paris
Max von Essen, An American in Paris

Not to piss anyone off, but my actual pick here would be Paul Alexander Nolan, who did so much in such a dull show (Doctor Zhivago). Alas, alas. Of the nominees, from what I can tell, the buzz is around Max von Essen's breakout performance in Paris. (His fellow Paris nominee, Brandon Uranowitz, was also quite good, but von Essen is the one we keep hearing about) But then there's Brad Oscar, who helped The Producers break records in 2001, and who runs away with his big number in that show I keep trashing (Borle is always great, and did just win the DD, but he's doing a lot of stuff we've already seen). I was thrilled to see Andy Karl nominated because I think he's a highly underrated comic actor, and this show utilized his skills well - a man who can hold his own against Kristin Chenoweth is to be admired. I think it'll be between Oscar and von Essen, who've both been treading the boards for a while now.

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Bunny Christie and Finn Rose, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Bob Crowley, Skylight
Christopher Oram, Wolf Hall, Pts. One & Two
David Rockwell, You Can't Take It With You

So ... it's kind of a weird situation here. I think the set designs for Curious Incident and Wolf Hall are both fantastic vessels for the shows they contain, but they also don't necessarily have a lot going on in and of themselves (it's much more about the lighting on the set than the set itself). Curious  does have that amazing train-building sequence, though ... and the part where he's climbing the wall. And stuck on the tube track. Wait, I'm starting to rethink this. Okay, changing my vote. Meanwhile the set for YCTIWY is a clustermess of delight, and that's no doubt why it got remembered. Skylight's cool too, I guess.

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Bob Crowley and 59 Productions, An American in Paris
David Rockwell, On the Twentieth Century
Michael Yeargan, The King and I
David Zinn, Fun Home

Anyone notice a common name in the above two categories? Yep. Also, for all that I feel like Scott Pask designed the set for half the shows I saw this season, he didn't get any nods from the Tonys. And he was my choice, in terms of take-my-breath-away-cool, for his gorgeous set for The Visit.

Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope against Bob Crowley's set and
59 Productions's projections for An American in Paris.
Photo by Angela Sterling.

Best Costume Design of a Play
Bob Crowley, The Audience
Jane Greenwood, You Can't Take It With You
Christopher Oram, Wolf Hall, Pts. One & Two
David Zinn, Airline Highway

The big question here is which period piece wins? Is it Oram's parade of corsets and codpieces? Is it Crowley's history lesson through the visage of Her Majesty? (In this dichotomy I've already ruled out the other two. Sorry guys). My vote's for The Audience, if only for the mastery of the onstage quick changes achieved.

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Something Rotten!
Bob Crowley, An American in Paris
William Ivey Long, On the Twentieth Century
Catherine Zuber, The King and I

Seriously, Bob Crowley is nominated in four different categories this season. What the heck, man? That being said, I don't think he'll win for this one, not up against dancing omelettes and what will actually win: the sumptuousness of Zuber's design for The King and I (funnily enough, she won the DD last night, but for Gigi).

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Paule Constable, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Paule Constable and David Plater, Wolf Hall, Pts. One & Two
Natasha Katz, Skylight
Japhy Weideman, Airline Highway

(shouting from the rooftops) CURIOUS INCIDENT, IF YOU PLEASE. Excellent work in the other three shows, but come on. I will also accept Wolf Hall, if you must.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Donald Holder, The King and I
Natasha Katz, An American in Paris
Ben Stanton, Fun Home
Japhy Weideman, The Visit

mmmph no clue. I think Natasha Katz might win ... but I'm voting for Japhy Weideman's work on The Visit.

The cast of The Visit with lighting design by Japhy Weideman.
Photo by Thom Kaine.

Best Direction of a Play
Stephen Daldry, Skylight
Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Scott Ellis, You Can't Take It With You
Jeremy Herrin, Wolf Hall, Pts. One & Two
Moritz von Stuelpnagel, Hand to God

My actual thought as I looked at this list: goddammit, she better win. Not to take away from the also excellent work of the other nominees. Wolf Hall is masterfully crafted, always spinning forward, no breath, and yet filled with subtle and excellent performances directed by Jeremy Herrin. Hand to God is a mindfuck of a show, and it simply wouldn't work if everyone involved weren't on the exact same page, telling the same story, and that's clearly due to Moritz von Stuelpnagel and his fantastic name. I don't care as much about the other two plays, but that doesn't mean they were badly directed (okay, I definitely would have taken out Scott Ellis and nominated Michael Longhurst for Constellations instead, so I don't really think of Ellis as a serious contender, and I'm still kind of surprised how many noms this show got). That all being said, Curious Incident is in a league of its own in terms of theatrical accomplishment - the marriage between Simon Stephens's faithful, moving adaptation of Haddon's novel and Elliott's innovative and expansive staging - and will remain one of the best productions I have ever seen.

Best Direction of a Musical
Sam Gold, Fun Home
Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!
John Rando, On the Town
Bartlett Sher, The King and I
Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris

Oh god. I have actually no idea. The competition is strong. Ruling out Casey Nicholaw (sorry dude), and possibly John Rando (sorry dude), that still leaves perennial favorite R&H revivalist, Bartlett Sher; newbie with the hit show, Christopher Wheeldon; and helmer of the little show that could and did, Sam Gold. I personally am inclined to rule out Sam Gold from my own preferences because I wasn't wild about his arena staging (I love arena staging, to clarify; I didn't love his). I think Wheeldon did the more perfect staging job of the men nominated here, but what if the voters decide to give him the Choreography nod but not Director?

Best Choreography
Joshua Bergasse, On the Town
Christopher Gattelli, The King and I
Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!
Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris

While I'm thrilled the work in Curious Incident got acknowledged, I don't think it has a shot against the ballet happening on Broadway this season. I want to rule out Something Rotten (and I will) and King and I (mostly because it was a weird hybrid of new stuff with Jerome Robbins because that's how Jerome Robbins works), so that leaves On the Town and Paris. Of those two, Paris has the momentum and it truly is some lovely choreography.

Best Orchestrations
Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky, Bill Elliott, An American in Paris
John Clancy, Fun Home
Larry Hochman, Something Rotten!
Rob Mathes, The Last Ship

As every year, no bloody clue. Let's go with the crew from Paris, just for kicks!

What are your choices? Here's Playbill's ballot.

1 comment:

  1. So this year I got 17/24 correct (13/24 for personal preferences) (last year was 16/26, but now Sound Design is gone), which was a nice little improvement. I second guessed myself a few too many times, but ah well. I'm overall pleased with the winners and with the performances during the show last night. King and I, Something Rotten, and Finding Neverland definitely sold some tickets last night. And while Fun Home's performance was a little lackluster out of context, its many wins will, I think, help it to a good and well-deserved run on Broadway. That's all for now.