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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

 

Stage Addiction: Tony Award Picks

In a season that saw few highs (Sweeney Todd) and a dismaying number of lows (Tarzan, Lestat, Ring of Fire, Festen), the winners of Sunday's Tony Awards will leave a skewed perception for historians. Here's some shit: the worst show of the season, Tarzan, will walk away with the more trophies than the far superior Color Purple. Wonderful comedies like The Lieutenant of Inishmore will go home empty-handed. And a genuine sweep will occur for the first time in many seasons...in the play categories. Check out all of the nominees, and then judge for yourself:

BEST PLAY
Will and Should Win: The History Boys

It's not that the competition is weak. The Lieutenant of Inishmore is the best Broadway comedy in years, and Rabbit Hole is a powerful drama. But neither are in the league of History, which is arguably the best play about the pitfalls of education ever written.

BEST MUSICAL
Should Win: The Drowsy Chaperone
Will Win: Jersey Boys

A genuine nail biter, between the box-office smash (Jersey Boys) and the industry darling (Chaperone). While I hope and pray that producers will vote with their hearts, I'm betting they're not yet over a similar match-up two years ago, when the underdog Avenue Q beat the behemoth Wicked. When Q decided to head for Vegas rather than tour, the producers felt it in their pocketbooks...and felt betrayed. This time, emotion won't run away with them...Jersey Boys is a financial windfall, and will play extremely well on tour.

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
Will and Should Win: Awake and Sing!

I'd love to believe that The Constant Wife's shimmering production would be remembered fondly enough to win. But the only competition Awake and Sing really has is Faith Healer...and too many people are leaving it disgruntled at its length and tediousness.

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
Will and Should Win: Sweeney Todd

The Pajama Game will put up a fight, but in the end it won't be enough. Todd is one of the great musicals of the century, and this production proves it.

BEST LEADING ACTOR, PLAY
Will and Should Win: Richard Griffiths, The History Boys

No one's even close. Griffith takes it in a walk.

BEST LEADING ACTRESS, PLAY
Should Win: Kate Burton, The Constant Wife
Will Win: Cynthia Nixon, Rabbit Hole

In a category where every show is closed, the most memorable performance is Nixon's grieving mother. If voters scan further back, they might remember the sheer delight of Kate Burton's shrewd, vivacious Wife.

BEST LEADING ACTOR, MUSICAL
Should Win: Michael Cerveris, Sweeney Todd
Will Win: Bob Martin, The Drowsy Chaperone

There's no doubt that Cerveris gave the performance of the year as the black-as-tar barber of Fleet Street. But he also won just two years ago (for Assassins), and in a newcomer-rich category like this one, Tony voters will probably want to spread the wealth. I could have easily picked Harry Connick, Jr. or John Lloyd Young here, but I'm thinking most Tony voters will see a little bit of themselves in Martin's quintessential show queen.

BEST LEADING ACTRESS, MUSICAL
Will and Should Win: Patti LuPone, Sweeney Todd

Chita is a bigger legend, Sutton is funnier, and no one worked harder than LaChanze in The Color Purple. But make no mistake, this category belongs to LuPone. Funny, generous, powerful, and different.

BEST FEATURED ACTOR, PLAY
Will and Should Win: Ian McDiarmid, Faith Healer

The elder statesman of this category, McDiarmid transformed his Faith Healer monologue into a moving, powerful elegy for lost time.

BEST FEATURED ACTRESS, PLAY
Will and Should Win: Frances de la Tour, The History Boys

Although we loved Jayne Houdyshell as the acerbic mother of Well, no one does the dry bitter British thing better than de la Tour.

BEST FEATURED ACTOR, MUSICAL
Should Win: Manoel Felciano, Sweeney Todd
Will Win: Jim Dale, The Threepenny Opera

Felciano was the surprise of the season; as the gentle Tobias of Sweeney Todd, he shook the rafters with last-act rage (all while playing what seemed like 147 musical instruments). It's too bad, then, that Dale shined so brightly in the otherwise limpid Threepenny Opera. Broadway loves a comeback story, and Dale fits the bill perfectly.

BEST FEATURED ACTRESS, MUSICAL
Will and Should Win: Beth Leavel, The Drowsy Chaperone

Megan Lawrence (Pajama Game) and Felicia Fields (The Color Purple) gave strong enough performances to upset the apple cart, but we were utterly charmed by Leavel's joyously drunken title character. We're guessing Tony voters were too.

BEST DIRECTOR, PLAY
Will and Should Win: Nicholas Hytner, The History Boys

The only serious competition here comes from Bartlett Sher, who rediscovered the genius of Odets' Awake and Sing. But having won just last year (for Light in the Piazza), we think he'll be passed over in favor of a History Boys sweep.

BEST DIRECTOR, MUSICAL
Will and Should Win: John Doyle, Sweeney Todd

Look, Des McAnuff directed the shit out of Jersey Boys. And Kathleen Marshall lifted the turgid weight of Pajama Game. And Casey Nicholaw transformed his career with Drowsy Chaperone. But Doyle's Brechtian transformation of Sondheim's classic musical shattered the idea of Broadway directing, and gave us the most interesting production on the Great White Way since Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses.

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY
Should Win: Donald Byrd, The Color Purple
Will Win: Kathleen Marshall, The Pajama Game

Pajama Game's consolation prize will come to Marshall, whose choreography was admittedly wonderful. But when as honest-to-God legend comes to Broadway, like Donald Byrd, voters should sit up and take notice. His ensemble jook joint number, "Push The Button", was a smorgasbord of human bodies in ecstacy.

BEST ORCHESTRATIONS
Will and Should Win: Sarah Travis, Sweeney Todd

The surest thing all evening. An unusual but exciting arrangement of melodies and rhythms, all played by the actors themselves on stage.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Will and Should Win: Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, The Drowsy Chaperone

With noticeable imperfections in all of the other nominated scores -- The Color Purple (too long), The Wedding Singer (too slight) and The Woman in White (too overblown) -- the winsome, breezy retro melodies of Lambert and Morrison will triumph.

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
Should Win: Bob Martin and Don McKellar, The Drowsy Chaperone
Will Win: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, Jersey Boys

The sassy spirit of Jersey Boys is almost entirely due to the whipsmart writing of Brickman and Elice, who frame their biography with tight, fast-moving scenes. If Martin and McKellar's self-knowing parody hadn't been so ingenious, in fact, Jersey Boys wouldn't have even had to worry about this one.

BEST SCENIC DESIGN, PLAY
Should Win: John Lee Beatty, Rabbit Hole
Will Win: Bob Crowley, The History Boys

I sincerely hope that Beatty's remarkable spinning house is remembered by the voters. But historically they've had short memories, and The History Boys has wonderful video and geometric order that dramatically set off the play's major themes.

BEST SCENIC DESIGN, MUSICAL
Should Win: John Doyle, Sweeney Todd
Will Win: Derek McLane, The Pajama Game

Blood in a bucket...how brilliant was that??? Not brilliant enough, though, for conservative Tony voters, who will prefer the spinning buttons and clocks of Pajama Game's fantasyland.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN, PLAY

Should Win: Michael Krass, The Constant Wife
Will Win: Catherine Zuber, Edward Albee's Seascape

As great as Krass' colorful British dresses were, they can't expect to complete against freakin' lizards.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN, MUSICAL
Will and Should Win: Gregg Barnes, The Drowsy Chaperone

Of course, occasionally colorful dresses can win the day sometimes...especially when they are as over-the-top and glitzy as these were.

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN, PLAY
Should Win: Christopher Akerlind, Awake and Sing!
Will Win: Mark Henderson, The History Boys

Really a toss-up...which makes me think that the History Boys sweep will carry it along.

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN, MUSICAL
Will and Should Win: Natasha Katz, Tarzan

The worst musical of the year did have a sole redeeming quality...a spectacular light show. In the mother of all ironies, it should take the prize here.

Regional Theatre Tony Award: Intiman Theatre in Seattle, WA
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre: Harold Prince
Special Tony Award: Sarah Jones
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