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Friday, June 08, 2007

 

ModFab On...The Tony Awards Predictions

The Tony Awards are Sunday, and so far, most bloggers aren't putting out their picks. So I'll be the trendsetter and lay mine out there. I'm guessing that the big winners will be The Coast of Utopia and Spring Awakening, with 6 and 7 wins, respectively. Shutouts for the night: Curtains, Legally Blonde, Radio Golf, Talk Radio and 110 in the Shade. Read on...

BEST PLAY
Will Win: The Coast of Utopia
Should Win: The Little Dog Laughed
Yeah, yeah, I know...Stoppard is the greatest playwright of his generation, blah blah blah. And he'll coast to a win for Coast on Sunday. But just because you wrap a soap opera in nine hours of Russian history doesn't mean it's not a soap opera. I was entertained by Radio Golf and Frost/Nixon, but at the end of the day, I prefer the acerbic wit of The Little Dog Laughed more than any of these. In 2007, Douglas Carter Beane brought the boulevard comedy back to Broadway, and I thank him for it. (And I still mourn the passing of Coram Boy, which should have won this category.)

BEST MUSICAL
Will Win/Should Win: Spring Awakening
Grey Gardens is quirky and powerful, Mary Poppins is sweet and charming, and Curtains is nostalgia and funny...accomplishments that pale in comparison to the achievements found onstage at Spring Awakening, which brings uncompromised sexuality (and sophistication) back to the New York stage in a musical that utilized its pop-rock score better than Hair or Rent...a truly iconic masterpiece that will stand the test of time.

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
Will Win/Should Win: Doug Wright, Grey Gardens
At first glance, this category might seem to be an easy win for Spring Awakening's Steven Sater, who was the brainiac and driving force behind that musical. But look deeper. Sater's competition is more formidable than you imagine: a well-liked Tony/Pulitzer winner, a hot Hollywood screenwriter, and a recently-deceased legend of the business. My guess is that Sater, the relative newcomer, will lose to Wright, who still has fans from I Am My Own Wife...and it doesn't hurt that the book is pretty good to boot. If Gardens is going to make a play in any category besides lead actress, this is the place.

BEST SCORE OF A MUSICAL
Will Win/Should Win: Duncan Sheik, Spring Awakening
One of the most solid locks of the night...Sheik's music is almost universally adored, even by those who are critical of the musical as a whole. His only real competition is nostalgia; icons Kander and Ebb are ending their 40-year career with Curtains, and Ebb's recent passing makes it easy for fans of Chicago and Cabaret to honor them one more time. (But not that easy...Sheik will be nearly impossible to ignore, and an upset would be a crime.)

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
Will Win: Journey's End
Should Win: Inherit The Wind
The sparsely-attending Journey's End has picked up all of the precursor awards, and its imminent closure makes it an emotional pick for those who enjoy its solid presentation and gripping drama. I thought that Inherit The Wind was more entertaining, but the piece never really caught fire with audiences despite generally warm notices. Also, don't count out Talk Radio completely; while many (correctly) think it is more noteworthy for its performances than its production, it is still a formidable piece of theatre with surprisingly tenacious producers at the helm.

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
Win Win: Company
Should Win: 110 in the Shade
In the four weeks since the nominations, this category has become something of a race, with a resurgent Chorus Line making the rounds of parties and press events. But at the end of the day, that revival still feels cheap and tawdry when put against the chilly elegance of Company, which remains the classiest night to be had on Broadway this season. And yes, I said classy...which is not the same as entertaining. For that, one has to give credit to the sublime Audra McDonald, who takes the rickety old Shade and burns brighter than sunshine.

BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Will Win: Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Should Win: Liev Schreiber, Talk Radio
My, how things can change in a month. On nomination day, this was Schreiber's award, plain and simple; his blistering performance in Talk Radio was the actor's triumph of the season. But today, the buzz has tipped strongly to Langella, whose overburdened portrayal of Richard Nixon has been met with rapturous praise almost everywhere (except here on my blog, where I thought it was musty and ham-fisted).

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Will Win/Should Win: Julie White, The Little Dog Laughed
By now, regular readers know how much I love, love, love Julie White, who blew my socks off with her turn as a hilariously bitchy Hollywood agent in The Little Dog Laughed. So I'm delighted to see the buzz around 42nd Street starting to fall her way; in a season where legends like Kurtz, Lansbury and Redgrave were headlining on marquees, it's a tribute to her tour de force that she's now poised to sweep them all. (It doesn't hurt that they all gave sub-par performances, too...but that's show biz!)

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Will Win: Raul Esparza, Company
Should Win: David Hyde Pierce, Curtains
It's going to be a very, very close race here. Esparza is one of Broadway's brightest young talents whose string of acclaimed performances in Cabaret, Taboo, Rocky Horror and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has many voters saying that he's long overdue. And many loved his sadly numbed-out performance this season. But Pierce, a TV star but relative Broadway newcomer (he debuted two years ago in Spamalot), accomplishes the more impressive feat. Pierce takes the erratically imperfect Curtains, hoists the entire show on his back, and carries it successfully over the finish line. If that's not the definition of a leading man, I don't know what is.

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Will Win/Should Win: Christine Ebersole, Grey Gardens
It's not even close, kids...Ebersole is the most solid lock of the evening. I'd be surprised if the trophy is not already engraved; it's probably being shipped to her house even as we speak. Ebersole's performance is one that will be talked about for decades; it's a masterful turn with plenty of showy moments, but enough texture and delicacy that you marvel at her dynamism. Someday, show queens will gather in their darkened dinner parties and ask one another, "Did you see Ebersole in the original production of Grey Gardens?" I will be thrilled to answer yes.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Will Win: Billy Crudup, The Coast of Utopia
Should Win: Anthony Chisholm, Radio Golf
In a truly remarkable cast of talented pros, Crudup stood out in The Coast of Utopia as the tortured, tremulous and slightly nerdy writer Belinsky, whose passion for his country inspired greater men to carry the vision forward. He sealed the deal with his remarkable, grandstanding monologue in the first play, Voyage. It takes nothing away from Crudup's performance to note that there was another iconic turn this season on Broadway; Anthony Chisholm's odd fireball Elder Barrow, whose mix of political impotence and personal passion was heartbreaking to experience.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Will Win: Dana Ivey, Butley
Should Win: Xanthe Elbrick, Coram Boy
Can the vocal minority of Coram Boy supporters turn enough voters onto Xanthe Elbrick or Jan Maxwell's luminous performances? I don't think so, but I hope so. Instead, I think the Coast of Utopians will carry the day, probably for Martha Plimpton over Jennifer Ehle. But at the last minute, I'm going to switch and predict an upset: Dana Ivey, the well-liked industry veteran who pulled a similar rabbit out the hat two years ago for The Rivals. In a year where the votes will be split, it'll be down to the wire. But by a nose, I'll go with Ivey.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Will Win/Should Win: John Gallagher, Jr., Spring Awakening
There's support out there for LoveMusik's brash Bertolt Brecht (David Pittu) and 110 in the Shade's veteran John Cullum. But I think the fidgety rebel of Spring Awakening might squeak through; certainly if anyone from the cast of that show has a shot at a solo win, it's him. And voters may give him bonus points for last season, when he made his memorable turn in the Pulitzer-winning Rabbit Hole. Another squeaker...we'll have to wait and see.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Will Win: Mary Louise Wilson, Grey Gardens
Should Win: Charlotte D'Amboise, A Chorus Line
In a category crowded with veteran performances, it's probably going to come down to who knows who; the Tony voters are numerous, but not THAT numerous. I'm guessing Wilson will ride some of the residual glory provided by Ebersole; it's the only performance among these five that received universal critical praise. But in a perfect world, you'd see the weary elegance of D'Amboise win on Tony night...her performance was spot-on, full of resignation, fear, and dazzling ability. (And here's a hot tip: don't discount Orfeh, who might receive support here from disgruntled Legally Blonde supporters, still smarting about being left off the Best Musical list.)

BEST DIRECTOR OF A PLAY
Will Win: Jack O'Brien, The Coast of Utopia
Should Win: Melly Still, Coram Boy
In the year's toughest category, it ultimately all comes down to size...and the biggest and showiest of them all was Utopia, whose phalanx of actors, enormous sets, and billowing design was used to great effect by Tony favorite O'Brien. The irony, of course, is that Melly Still did the same thing, only better, in Coram Boy. Since the show closed, her chances at a win have waned. But anyone who saw the show knows they witness not only a superb production, but the birth of a legendary directing career. (And kudos to Frost/Nixon's Michael Grandage and Journey's End helmer David Grindley; in any other year, you'd have walked away with the prize.)

BEST DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL
Will Win/Should Win: Michael Mayer, Spring Awakening
If the argument "it's his turn" ever applied to anyone, it's Michael Mayer. He's spent years toiling in Broadway obscurity, directing a wide variety of thoughtful productions (A View from the Bridge, Side Man, Thoroughly Modern Millie, You're A Good Man Charlie Brown, etc.). His dexterity with this odd-duck piece was the key to its success...knowing when to break through, knowing when to hold back, knowing when to get out of the way, knowing when to show off. It's stunning work, and deserves the recognition. No one else this year came close.

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY
Will Win/Should Win: Bill T. Jones, Spring Awakening
If we're judging solely on talent and accomplishment, there is really only one name for a voter to check on their ballot: Bill T. Jones. His nonlinear choreography was hypnotizingly beautiful and metaphorically resonant. But if Legally Blonde has a shot anywhere, it's in the nomination of Broadway baby Jerry Mitchell, who is much better known in the Broadway community than Jones and has suffered mightily from the nomination round. So who do you vote for, the Talented Guy or Your Friend (Who Is Also Talented)? On second thought, don't answer that.

BEST ORCHESTRATIONS
Will Win/Should Win: Duncan Sheik, Spring Awakening
I went back and forth on this one. Certainly, Duncan Sheik -- a composer who did his own arrangements (how fabulous!) -- was the undisputed overachiever of the season. But then I kept thinking about Jonathan Tunick, the legendary conductor and orchestrator who beat the score of 110 in the Shade into shape, and made thegorgeous Kurt Weill tunes of LoveMusik the saving grace of that bloated, misshapen piece. You can see that, in the end, I went with Sheik...but don't be surprised if Tunick's name is called instead.

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY
Will Win: Bob Crowley and Scott Pask, The Coast of Utopia
Should Win: David Gallo, Radio Golf or Ti Green and Melly Still, Coram Boy
Once you've seen that Kremlin-as-ice-chandelier, you never forget it. It's one of many powerful set moments in Utopia, which looked more gorgeous than any show I can ever remember at Lincoln Center (including at the Met). But Utopia's beauty sometimes exposed the weaknesses in the play...something that David Gallo's look-beyond-the-walls space for Radio Golf and Coram Boy's exposed chamber never did.

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Bob Crowley, Mary Poppins
A pretty easy call, considering the competition. Spring Awakening's set is marvelous but a little static; Grey Gardens is beautiful but clumsy; and High Fidelity is long-forgotten. That leaves Broadway favorite Bob Crowley, who made up for his dismal directing debut last season with Tarzan by creating the rooftops of London in Mary Poppins. I don't think it was brilliant work, but it's certainly the most award-able of the season.

And now, without comment:

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY
Catherine Zuber, The Coast of Utopia

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
William Ivey Long, Grey Gardens

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY
Brian MacDevitt, Kenneth Posner, and Natasha Katz, The Coast of Utopia

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Kevin Adams, Spring Awakening

And finally...

SPECIAL THEATRICAL EVENT
Will Win/Should Win: Kiki and Herb: Alive on Broadway
What, you thought I was going to pick the ventriloquist act? Honey, please...Justin Bond is the official Hero(ine) of Modern Fabulousity, and we are glad that drag queens are back on Broadway. Where they fucking belong.

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