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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

 

Stage Addiction: The Tony Awards Preview

For our weekly recap of New York theatre, let's leave the Oscars behind and deal with an awards that has embraced gays without shame for over fifty years...The Tonys. With an enormous crop of productions this season and only two months until the nominations are announced, the races promise to be tougher than ever. Especially exciting are the play categories, which dwarf the musical offerings.



BEST PLAY
The Leaders: Festen; The History Boys; The Lieutenant of Inishmore; Rabbit Hole
Dark Horses: Shining City; Three Days of Rain
Long Shots: Bridge and Tunnel; Well
No Chance: After The Night and the Music; A Naked Girl on the Appian Way; Latinologues; Primo

With frontrunners yet to open -- namely, the West End hits Festen and The History Boys -- it's too early to tell how things are going to shake out. Certainly the positive reviews for Off-Broadway transfer Inishmore and the word-of-mouth success Rabbit Hole make them formidable candidates, and one should never count out star power, whether it's theatre stars (Brian F. O'Byrne in Shining City) or film (Julia Roberts in Rain). If any of these fall, however, two Obie winners -- Sarah Jones' Tunnel and Lisa Kron's hilarious Well -- will be well positioned to pick up the pieces.

BEST MUSICAL
The Leaders: Jersey Boys; The Color Purple
Dark Horses: The Drowsy Chaperone; Tarzan
Long Shots: Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life; Hot Feet; Lestat; The Wedding Singer
No Chance: Lennon; In My Life; Ring of Fire; Souvenir; The Woman in White

Can anything beat the wildly popular Jersey Boys? Possibly, but it won't be the only other success of the season so far...despite being Oprah-blessed, The Color Purple will have to settle for a nomination. Of the yet-to-open shows, my money is on Disney (Tarzan will be eye-popping, a la The Lion King) and on Sutton Foster (who leads the cast of Chaperone, which got promising reviews in L.A.). There's mediocre-to-bad buzz on Feet, Lestat, Fire, and Singer...but buzz is always unreliable to a degree. And if you're a show queen pissed that I'm counting out Chita, I ask you to consider her in a category where she might actually win: Best Actress.

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
The Leaders: Faith Healer
Dark Horses: Awake and Sing!; The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial
Long Shots: The Constant Wife; The Odd Couple; Edward Albee's Seascape
No Chance: Absurd Person Singular; A Touch of the Poet; Barefoot in the Park

With a glut of new plays and Barefoot suffering bad reviews, the revival category will be filled with long-closed productions or last-minute openings. Featuring the high-powered trio of Cherry Jones, Ralph Fiennes, and Ian McDiarmid, Dublin's Gate Theatre transfer of Faith Healer is the most promising of the bunch, with Awake and Sing! not far behind. (Odets is long overdue for a critical renaissance.) After that it gets sketchy. Will nominators remember all the way back to last summer's pleasant Wife? Will they forget the tedium of Odd Couple, or the frustrations of Seascape? Will they believe David Schwimmer as a poor man's Peter Fonda? We're hoping that the underrated Constant Wife gets some Tony love.

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
The Only Contenders: The Pajama Game; Sweeney Todd; The Threepenny Opera
Like last year, this category is uncharacteristically sparse. All three will be nominated, and unless Threepenny turns out to be brilliant, the safest bet of the year will be Sweeney.

Coming Soon...the performances!

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